What is Storyhive? Storyhive is a western Canada Telus-sponsored initiative to find and fund local original programming content. In their own words, "There are three pieces to Storyhive: the creators, the fans, and the funding. The creators pitch video projects that they'd like to make. The fans support the projects that they want to see. And Telus takes care of the funding with our Storyhive Production Grants, as well as distribution on Telus Optik TV On Demand and online." The webseries pilots I worked on - 'Codependent Ghost Girl', 'Plight: A Comic Book Rock Opera', and 'Victor' - were all successful recipients of the initial Storyhive Digital Web Series voting process that awarded them $10,000 each to make the pilot episodes. While none of those won the second round of voting that granted more money to continue the series, I felt incredibly fortunate to be part of such an accessible filmmaking opportunity.
That brings us to 'nightwalk', whose poster is pictured at the start of this post.
The most recent Storyhive initiative is focused on female directors. All the projects that have pitched ideas and are currently available for you to vote on must have a female director at the helm to qualify. I have been tapped to be AD (assistant director) and makeup designer for a project called 'nightwalk' that is the brainchild of writer/creator/director Andrea Beca of Kissing Habit Films. Andrea explains her motivation behind 'nightwalk' and this particular female director initiative in a lovely blog post here: Kissing Habit Films and 'nightwalk'. Do read it, it explains what 'nightwalk' is about and why we really want this funding. The link to watching the pitch video and voting on 'nightwalk' is included under the poster image, too.
I want to talk about why a female director initiative and, indeed, any women in film initiative is a very important thing to support. Let's start with a little quote statistic about Hollywood:
Even more depressing, in the 88 years of Oscar history, only four female filmmakers have been nominated for their directorial achievements: Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker). Bigelow is the sole winner to this day. - Vogue, Feb 22, 2016
Understand, women are making films all the time. Off the top of my head, without any research, Amy Heckerling and 'Clueless', Mira Nair and 'Vanity Fair', Sofia Coppola and 'The Virgin Suicides', Anjelica Huston and 'Agnes Browne', Jennifer Phang and 'Advantageous', Mary Harron and 'American Psycho', Ava DuVernay and 'Selma', Penelope Spheeris and 'Wayne's World'... so many brilliant women and those are just in the Hollywood pool. Nevermind TV and independent and foreign markets. But what women don't get is a leg up the way their male counterparts do. Consider one example: Colin Trevorrow got handed the reins to 'Jurassic World' - a multi-million dollar sequel to a billion-dollar global franchise - after the moderate success of his 2012 indie flick 'Safety Not Guaranteed'. Prior to that he'd made exactly three other films: a short, a documentary, and a TV movie. "Well good for him," you're saying. "I liked 'Jurassic World' and I think he did a good job." Yes, let's say he was competent and 'Jurassic World' was a good film. That's not the point. The point is that there was nothing in his resume to suggest he'd be either capable of handling or succeeding at directing a film of that magnitude. But the Hollywood boys' club ensures that he's not a one-off. This sort of meteoric male rise especially in the arena of directors is commonplace. Women, on the other hand, do not get handed multi-million dollar franchises off even their successful films. Consider that Jane Campion's 'The Piano' is one of only four films helmed by women to be nominated for a Best Directing Oscar. But after that success Jane Campion was not tapped to helm, let's say for argument's sake, 'Independence Day'. Nor was she given 'Scream' or 'Mission: Impossible' to kickstart into franchises. She directed the beautiful and haunting 'The Portrait of a Lady' but she wasn't handed a billion dollar franchise by Hollywood. Kathryn Bigelow, after winning the Best Director Oscar for 2008's 'The Hurt Locker', and making history in the process, has likewise fought to make acclaimed but individual films and at that, only has four credits after 'The Hurt Locker'. But Zack Snyder can make critically panned big-budget DC movies that perform underwhelmingly at the box office seemingly without check. A woman would need only one flop to see her career decimated. Indeed, a woman can direct an Oscar-winning film and still struggle to work at all alongside the boys.
Hollywood is increasingly also called out on a lack of pay equity with top tier big-name actresses speaking out about the pay disparity they've suffered in comparison to equally-billed male co-stars at the peak of their earning. Gillian Anderson as compared to David Duchovny on 'The X-Files' movies and show re-boot. Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams as compared to all their male co-stars on 'American Hustle'. Patricia Arquette spoke out about the subject at the Oscars and Meryl Streep jumped to her feet in support. These are big name actresses. If they are struggling to earn equally, what hope is there for the up-and-comers, the women yet to make a name for themselves onscreen or behind the camera? When you then consider intersection and the lack of opportunities for anyone who isn't white and straight in front of and behind the camera, the disparity grows even wider.
To say Hollywood is a boy's club is understating things to a massive degree.
All this is to say how very vital positive supportive steps in this arena are. Each step towards encouraging women (and indeed all minorities) to a place of equality in their art and visibility is a step much-needed and vigorously encouraged. Storyhive and Telus are taking that first step by providing the platform and funding for female directors. Kissing Habit Films is committed to working with as many diverse women in the production of the film as possible and mentoring others on set if they succeed in obtaining funding for 'nightwalk'. And it's at the community levels where a trickle-up effect will start to happen. If enough indie support groundwork for women is laid, Hollywood will be forced to reconsider its stance as all the new talent they seek to choose from is increasingly diverse and on equal opportunity footing.
Supporting Storyhive and the female director initiative is imperative. Start locally. Start NOW. Check out all the projects on offer at Storyhive.com. Vote. Vote on the female-led projects that move you. Vote every day until voting ends. Don't let this chance to support something vital pass you by.
- Corinne Simpson