On Saturday February 8th 2020, Beantown Statie Productions in Lowell, MA hosted a sold out screening celebrating the works of seven talented local women filmmakers. The event was hosted by Chuck Slavin, Women in Film and Video of New England Board Member, a veteran of the industry with 10+ years of experience and a strong advocate for creating and highlighting more work for women. The screening included the works of Tannah Gillman (Writer & Director) – I Know You Are, I Know You Do!; Audrey Noone (Writer, Director, and Producer) What the Doctor Ordered, The Penis; Shara Ashley Zeiger (Writer & Producer) and Kaye Tuckerman (Director) Joe; Kathryn Shasha (Director, Producer) Wasted Justice; Janelle Feigley (Writer, Director, Producer. actress) Under Contract; and Charlie Alejandro (Director) The Trap.
Before the program, the room was filled with the warm and loud discussions, like a reunion of colleagues who were catching up on each other’s projects, bouncing ideas off of each other, and perhaps planning future collaborations. The screening opened with a highlight reel of all the badass women in film and pop culture, creating and heightening a feeling of pride, inspiration and “Heck yeah!” that echoed through the audience. Demo reels of the post production artists involved in the short films followed.
The films reflected a variety of genres. Director Kathryn Shaha based the short Wasted Justice on real-life case of an attorney at law defending a drunk driver who killed a number or people. Joe a romantic comedy of a young woman who meets a charming man whose affluency intimidates her leading her to hide her real self. Writer-producer Shara Ashley Zeiger and Director Kaye Tuckerman created this project as a proof of concept to pitch it as a pilot for a tv series or a feature length film. Inspired by a true-life anecdote, was the comedy The Penis. In this short, director and producer Audrey Noone, boldly and hilariously attacks the issue that women are not heard unless they whip out ‘extra member’ from between her legs! Throughout the screening, the audience navigated a wave of emotions and reactions. One minute they were entranced, the next they burst out in laughter, and in others, the room filled with concentrated silence.
To culminate the event was the short film The Trap, which marked the directorial debut of Charlie Alejandro. Alejandro has made a transition from “breaking the scene” as a police officer for 20 years to literally “making the scene” as a director and filmmaker. The Trap tells the story of the investigation of a series of child deaths caused by a serial killer who disguises himself as an ice cream man; one day he lures in the wrong girl and winds up entrapped facing his own demons. When explaining the process of the production Alejandro expressed that she “wanted the writer to be on set to be able to leave question marks everywhere.” Once the audience believed there was an answer, another question arose in the suspenseful thrill ride. “What you’re used to seeing happening it’s not happening”, explains the screenwriter of the short film Andre Hepburn. The theme of darkness and fear took over the screen. “I like shadows. It’s what scares us the most.” Says Alejandro as she explained how she and Mark K, the editor, and Ken Almquist, assistant editor, meticulously utilized editing to re-enforce the murky tone. What makes The Trap stand out is the alienation of using the typical expectation of fear; it doesn’t come from the would-be victim of the situation but rather, from the antagonist himself. “I didn’t want to ‘girlify’ the movie.” Alejandro remarked; she said her main duty as a director was to “focus on the story to tell the vision whether a woman or a man [did it.]”
After the screening, Charlie Alejandro revealed her feelings about the event and who she is as filmmaker in general. “I saw my name out there, that’s when it really hit me.” She continues, “Wow! We really made this happen.”
“I hope the people take away that things aren’t always as they seem and women aren’t as weak as they seem and you never know where inspiration is gonna come from,” Alejandro proudly voiced. “ As a filmmaker, I just wanted to say… that it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, it’s the story behind the script.”
Up next for Alejandro and her team? “We have a series coming up called The Diner, and it’s a challenge. We have 12 episodes, 12 guest directors, 12 guest writers and they don’t know who their actors are going to be, [there’re] 3 actors on each scene. We also have a short film called The Stillness of the Run and we’re going to be filming that in May.”
Chuck Slavin remarked on what these events mean to him: “They’re so important for people to come out and showcase their work and to inspire others…[to] do something that creates content or work for other people and it’s something that gives life to a vision or a dream.” He also expressed what he would like filmmakers to take away from efforts put into screening events :“I think that the biggest thing is to inspire others and to also to network because the more you network, the more in the industry that you will build connections … that’s what’s so important for all of us… to see the vision and to keep moving forward and you may get deterred … but the matter of fact is that you have to keep going you can’t turn around.” In regards of the work presented at the event, he was more than thrilled “… the talent tonight was incredible …the caliber was huge and that goes back to the underlying tone of inspiring others.” He excitedly continued “To see that talent on the screen and say “Wow! That’s something that’s achievable!” and also there’s great performances from New England.” Slavin also emphasized the importance of versatility in the film industry: “There’re so many great people in the industry who wear multiple hats, I like to call those people – “hyphens.”- [These] are people that may be a grip and then they’re also the camera person and they’re also something else and I think that’s where we need to go…. you want to have somebody in charge who knows all the other jobs because they know how to make your job easier…, they might be able to enhance what you’re doing and help you…it’s such an important thing to have a team alongside of you to help implement the vision.”
Overall the night flowed with ease and professionalism, appreciation and encouragement It is the strong belief and positive expectations that this community has for itself that is truly mesmerizing. Watching what New England has to offer only fills up those holes of doubt any newcomers may have, like me, an aspiring screenwriter and actress. It allows us to know that within this community, there are individuals who are more than welcoming and who are ready to lend a hand into bringing new vision to life. And what makes screening events like these more special, is its center piece goal: to support and push women filmmakers and to create jobs for women in the film industry. Screenwriter Andre Hepburn couldn’t have highlighted this goal any better saying “Women are super under-appreciated…New England has such a diverse group of people that need to come together as a community. The end goal is to watch strong leading women who are passionate about strong female characters. Hollywood has the big bucks but we have the big hearts and the big dreams.”
Féliz is a screenwriter and actress. She has participated in short films such as Mi Persona as the lead role and Stuck on Probation. Recently she debuted as a Co-Director of the comedy short Hollywood Hacker. She is currently in the writing process for a long narrative music video for the local Boston artist, Red Shaydez and is a columnist for WIFVNE.