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PRODUCERS AND FILMS: LIANE BRANDON- BETTY TELLS HER STORY

30 Dec 2022 10:16 PM | Sule Kiziltas (Administrator)

When I started making films in the late 1960s, it was the beginning of the Women’s Movement. At the time, there were few women making independent films and even fewer who were dealing specifically with women’s political issues. I was one of the three independent women filmmakers in Massachusetts. Film equipment was scarce and expensive. Fortunately, I had a friend who was an MIT student taking a film course. He introduced me to the legendary Ricky Leacock who graciously loaned me his converted Auricon camera and sound equipment to shoot my film” says the producer Liane Brandon.

WIFVNE Member Liane Brandon (below) is an award-winning independent filmmaker, photographer, and University of Massachusetts/Amherst Professor Emerita. Her film Betty Tells Her Story was one of 25 films inducted into the National Film Registry in 2022 by the Library of Congress.  

Liane was one of the first independent women filmmakers to emerge from the Women’s Movement. During that time, she was a member of Newsreel Film Collective and Bread and Roses, one of the earliest women’s liberation groups in Boston. She is a co-founder of New Day Films, the nationally known cooperative that pioneered in the distribution of feminist/social issue films and videos. She was also a founding member of FilmWomen of Boston and the Boston Film/Video Foundation.

Liane Brandon Receives Grant to Restore, Preserve Early Feminist Film : UMass Amherst

When I made Betty Tells Her Story in 1972, it was very different from traditional non-fiction films about wars, historical events, male heroes, travel, inventions, and so-called ‘primitive’ tribes. Most were made by men. Very few, if any, were concerned with the lives of ordinary women, or with the issues of culture, standards of beauty, clothing, and identity. I thought it was important to make films that allowed women to tell their own stories; stories that reflected their own experiences.”

Betty Tells Her Story - LianeBrandon

Brandon’s groundbreaking films Sometimes I wonder Who I Am (1970), Anything You Want to Be (1971) and Betty Tells Her Story (1972) were among the earliest and most frequently used consciousness-raising tools of the Women’s Movement. Her films, which also include Once Upon A Choice and How To Prevent A Nuclear War have won numerous national and international awards, and have been featured on HBO, Cinemax, and the Criterion Channel.  Both Anything You Want To Be and Betty Tells Her Story have been restored with grants from the Women’s Film Preservation Fund.

When Betty Tells Her Story was released, it was considered innovative- even radical- for some reasons. One was its subject. It was one of the early non-fiction films to give voice to an individual (not famous or glamorous) woman. Betty simply tells her story in her own words. There was no commentary interpreting her. The form was also controversial. Betty is not an actress. She tells her story twice. There are no cuts in either of the stories. Each time Betty tells her story, she does so in a single take. This went against all conventions of filmmaking.

Even though there was strong demand for this film (and for Anything You Want To Be which I made the year before) commercial distributors were still reluctant to handle women’s social issue films. So in 1971, Julia Reichert, Amalie Rothschild, Kim Klein and I created New Day Films, the nation’s first filmmaker-run cooperative dedicated to the distribution of feminist and social issues films-still going strong after 51 years. In the following years, the film received a great deal of acclaim. It was selected to appear in more than 20 festivals and it has been screened at prestigious venues including the First International Festival of Women’s Films in Paris and Mumbai, La Femme& Le Film International Film Festival, Toronto, the Museum of Modern Art, the Robert Flaherty International Film Seminar and the Mary Pickford Theater at the Library of Congress. Following its registration in 2010 with a grant from the Women’s Film Preservation Fund, the film continues to receive recognition and use. It is regularly screened in documentary courses, film study programs, women’s studies, journalism, psychology, sociology, and anthropology courses.”

Liane is the recipient of the Boston Society of Film Critics Award and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston University. She has served as a juror for the Emmy Awards, the Evvy Awards, the Student Academy Awards, and as an education consultant for WGBH-TV. She was named Pioneer Woman Filmmaker by CineWomen of New York. Liane's work has been profiled in The Boston Globe, International Documentary Magazine, Variety, The Chicago Tribune, Film Library Quarterly, Documentary Storytelling for Film, Videomakers, and many other publications.

In addition to her role as a Professor at the University of Massachusetts and Chair of the Educational Technology Program in the College of Education, she was the Director of UMass Educational Television. The College of Education became the first educational college in the country to produce original educational programming for cable/home audiences.

Liane’s historic films and papers are now part of the New Day Films Collection in the Archive at Duke University. Her films are in active distribution through New Day Films.

More notes:

- Before becoming a filmmaker, Liane experimented with several short careers, working as a ski instructor, file clerk, high school teacher, and professional stunt woman.

-Liane was the producer, director, camerawoman and editor of Betty Tells Her Story. Betty was a school teacher and curriculum specialist (not an actress).

- For more on the other films inducted into the National Film Registry, please see this press release from the Library of Congress



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