Covid-19: Pushing Creatives to Think from Inside the Box
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, many professionals have been left with many questions about what comes next. Businesses have been forced to close, resulting in the loss of jobs for millions including the entertainment industry. So, at times of total social isolation many wondered what is there to do? Fortunately, one of the biggest perks of being part of the entertainment business is the ability to think outside the box, or in this case of quarantine, from inside of it.
Creatives have utilized the power of the internet. Stepping into online platforms, many initiated collaborations on screenwriting projects through shareable documents, table reads via conference call, holding parties via Instagram live and hosting online interview segments. Benjamin Zidel, a New England based producer and admin of “Channel 14”, a PA and filmmaking job posting group on Facebook, became one of those creatives with a plan. Zidel quickly jumped into action on Facebook urging the “Film Fam” (film family) community to post their projects.
Sure enough, within minutes the community overwhelmingly responded by sharing projects they’ve written, directed and starred in. The trick Zidel was hiding under his sleeve? To create an online film festival! “The New England Quarantine Festival” described as “The first and hopefully only Quarantine Online Film Festival, a welcoming space where all can gather to experience the local storytelling talent this region has to offer.” Benjamin Zidel curated the festival which received over 160 entries in total. It’s split up on two playlists, one on YouTube and one on Vimeo. As he explains “Not everyone’s art is in the same place, so I was hoping to do my best to consolidate them for the easiest viewing experience.” And of course, its needless to say that this festival is open to the general public, so anyone can access it to support and appreciate their fellow filmmakers while holding their spirits high in this time of seclusion.
On how he came up with the idea, Zidel responded “The idea was that a lot of entertainment workers are now sitting at home not creating, how could we be useful with this time? So, the premise was to collect as much local New England talent as possible, assemble their work in one place so with this newly found time on our hands, we can get familiar with the creators around us.” He also hopes that this festival leads people to “connect once quarantine ends [so] we can see some new beautiful work come of the collaborations.” And when it comes to the actions taken in the community Zidel hopes “the community sticks together, help when we can be by donating goods or volunteering to pertinent causes or simply sharing funny videos to distract us. [ And to] search inside ourselves about why storytelling is important to us. Let this time be made useful by expressing gratitude for things that may have [been] taken for granted. And maybe find an amazing story to tell from all of this.”
Quick, creative and decisive action such as Benjamin Zidel’s ingenious online film festival only shows that despite hardships, and moments in which time takes a halt, there is no need to forget our roots as creators; utilizing our gift of creativity to find productive pathways in the most unlikely places.
Joan Cassin – WIFVNE Member
Former President of WIFVNE & Founder of Boston Production Moms!
What do you love about your work?
So many things! Because I’m both a director and a producer I get to tik off a couple of boxes at once. I love that I get to be creative in a way that lets my imagination loose and also creative in a problem solving capacity that feels like flexing a muscle. I also love that filmmaking is a team sport so you get to add your brain to a bunch of other amazing thinkers and become greater than the sum of our parts.
What is your vision for yourself, female filmmakers, or the media industry in 2020?
My vision for myself this year is one of action, moving forward, and taking all the next right steps to get me where I want to go. Essentially I want to just be doing more more more of what makes me happiest and sets me on fire and the only way to do that is action. I want the media industry to reflect the real world around us and to me that means I want to see more women on my sets, more people of color on my sets, and I want to see more of all of our stories in front of the camera as well.
What’s one way you would suggest people “Change the Lens”?
The easiest things for us to do is support other filmmakers. Follow them on social media, promote their work and accomplishments, GO SEE their work when you can, and also show up for yourself. It can be hard to promote ourselves sometimes but put your own work out there to be seen as well. You’re worthy. Mentorship and support is huge too. We can always reach back and pull others up with us and reach forward for the hands that went before.
What advice would you give to a new female filmmaker?
Keep going and don’t be afraid to suck. Think of how many shitty male made things there are out there that are forgivable because of the shear volume of male created work. I heard once that we’ll know we have equity when a female made film that sucks is just not a big deal because there are so many other female made films that are great. Rashida Jones said something in passing in an interview about directing once that I’m sure was small to her but made a big impact on me. “I think that women just need to keep failing – just keep failing, you know? – and then eventually, it’s not a failure,”. Just keep failing until you don’t.
Which women in the New England region inspire you?
Ugh. Which women in the NE region DON’T inspire me is a better question. Anybody out there doing what they love inspires the hell out of me. Margie Sullivan, Kristen Kearns, Amanda McGrady, Nikki Bramley, Mary Agnes, literally every single member of the Boston Production Moms group. It feels weird to call anyone out right now because there are so many..
What film or series are looking forward to watching this year? Why?
I can’t wait until the final season of DARK comes out. One of the best, most unique sci fi shows I’ve ever seen. Everything about it is fantastic. I’m also about 15 minutes into the show The Deuce and I’m already hooked. Jury is out on it but it’s been a while since something sold me in the first few minutes like that. A lot to unpack in that show.
How can your fans find you!?
Thato Rantao Mwosa – WIFVNE Member & Board
I love the fact that you can see and hear things in my head, put those voices on paper by writing a script and the film it to capture the vision. Seeing my vision on screen is like magic. That feeling never gets old.
My vision is to complete my film and share it with the world.
As women filmmakers, the films we make will not get the funding if people are not watching them. We need to support one another. Support comes in many ways. Donating to a crowd sourcing campaign, buying tickets to fill the theater, spreading the word about a female directed film and sharing your networks
I would say, make your film by any means necessary. Do not get discouraged. Find ways to make it happen with or without money. The good thing is that, technology has advanced and it has become cheaper and easier to make a film.
Lisa Simmons inspires me because she is truly the mother of black film in New England. She has nurtured and supported a lot marginalized filmmakers who often struggle to make their films.
I’m looking forward to Queen Sono, the first African series produced by Netflix.
Jennifer Potts – WIFVNE Member
Filmmaker & Professor
Independent Filmmaker (Self) and Regis College
I love the balance of teaching part time and having time to work on my own films/screenplays.
This year, I am focusing on writing. I am cleaning up two feature screenplays and submitting them to festivals and competitions, while also writing my first TV pilot. I am also trying to get funding for my first animated project. My overall 2020 goal is to sign with a screenwriting manager.
What’s one way you would suggest people “Change the Lens”?
I would suggest hiring and working with female-led films. If hiring a crew, hire women. I hire a minimum of 50% women on my crews. I also seek to hire women in lead roles like producer, cinematographer, editor, etc. I think it is also important to have men on majority female crews so that we change their “norm” as well.
Work hard, be authentic, and embrace rejection – it means you are working and putting yourself out there.
My daughters are my greatest inspiration. They are strong, politically and socially aware, and true to themselves.
I cannot pinpoint one film or series. There is so much great work out there right now and I try to take in as much as I can. I am thrilled about the role of women in television and try to watch as many female-written shows as possible.
Sharon Contillo – WIFVNE Member & Board
Director, writer, Producer
President, Middle Center Productions, LLC
The female camaraderie
More funded opportunities for female directors and more women in technical roles
More advertising of women directed or female-led films
Act like you deserve it because that’s what men do.
The brave women that started the WIFVNE chapter!
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, documentary. She’s a terrific artist and going through a difficult time with Parkinson’s. I like to be inspired by brave women.
Anne T Vinsel – WIFVNE Member
Freelance Editor, Producer, and Motion Graphics Artist
Being able to work in a creative field.
I would like to continue working on a documentary and other personal projects along with paying work.
See movies and programs that are out of your usual genre.
Don’t underestimate yourself and charge what you are worth. You are worth it.
Laurel Greenberg, Julie Kahn
Next season of Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Beautiful set design and editing.
Editorial and Advertising Photographer
I love being able to photograph such a wide variety of people. Every day is different. I photograph scientists, athletes, entrepreneurs, teachers, entertainers, politicians and everyone in between. I love being part of sharing these spectacular people’s stories.
I hope that the ratios continue to change to be more inclusive of all people, so that people of all genders have the opportunity to be behind the camera, telling the important stories of our time.
My advice to female filmmakers and photographers is to lean into the qualities that make you “you”—even if those are stereotypically female qualities. At times it can feel like being a woman in our industry is an obstacle—but so many of the qualities that are stereotypically “female” can really be a benefit on a film or photography set.
Too many to count! Kim Nguyen is an extremely talented director in L.A. who has been a big source of support for me over the years.
I love watching stand-up comedians. Often when I’m editing photos for a client, that’s what I listen to while I work. I love hearing their stories.
Caitlin McCarthy – WIFVNE Member
As a screenwriter, I get to “be the change” by creating inclusive stories with diverse casts. It all starts with the script!
I’m hopeful that female filmmakers (especially women of color) will continue to grow in power by hiring, promoting, and mentoring each other. When we band together, we are unstoppable.
Every time we pay to see women directed and/or written movies, drive up ratings for female led TV shows, or talk up women directors and screenwriters on social media, we are changing the lens. Hollywood notices how we spend our money and time.
Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise!
Marianne Leone is the Queen! She’s not only incredibly talented as an actor and writer, but an incredible human being.
WONDER WOMAN 1984. Gotta love a feminist superhero.
Attending any film festivals or events, and why you are attending them?
My thriller A NATIVE LAND has won Best Feature Screenplay at the 2020 George Lindsey UNA Film Festival. As part of the prize, I will be flown to Alabama to attend the festival and its Awards Show, which will include a reading of a select scene from A NATIVE LAND.
Kathryn Taccone – WIFVNE Member
Co-Founder of Open Pixel Studios
I love creating relationships with clients, and seeing or hearing their reactions to a completed project. Animation is a universal medium that can translate your message to a wide audience, and I love animating characters that help bring that message to life. It’s a wonderful feeling to have the opportunity to explore, imagine, and create every day.
Within my company, I have big plans for this year! I aim to have our first internship opportunity, and provide more educational engagements with students. Being in the five college area of Massachusetts, I want to give back to the area as much as I put into the business. I am a UMass alumni and would love to help inspire others who are interested in pursuing animation as a career!
I think change will come as more men and women are informed of the problems and come up with ideas together on how to solve them. The way I try to inform is through teaching, as I want young women to be aware of what to expect in the industry. We can give talks that include stories of our past experiences, as a way to empower, not discourage. Opening the door to productive conversations will help to create a better future for everyone!
Be kind to yourself! Too often I hear artists talk negatively about their own work, as if the piece had no value. In reality, every piece you work on will teach you something new, whether it’s about yourself, the industry, or the tools you use. Forgive yourself for the mistake you think you made, as it’s what teaches us how to be better. Let’s start appreciating the mistakes we think we make more often!
There are so many wonderful small, women led businesses and organizations in this region like Yahaira of Baked Cakes 413. She and many other women are helping to shape a more inclusive future and are incredibly open to conversations around making our workplaces better for all. They inspire me every day to work hard, give back, and care for myself as much as others.
I’d love to see more honest and grounding films directed by women, like A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood directed by the incredibly talented Marielle Heller. In a time where the world feels a little more chaotic and tense, it’s great to have films and series that allow people of any age to give conscious thought to their emotions, to understand themselves and the people around them more clearly.
Lyria Garcia – WIFVNE Member
Lyria Garcia Photography
I came from a family of strong women and it shows in my photography and the characters I write. Empowering and encouraging women is a mission for me and I love that.
I really like to make a short film I wrote about undocumented Brazilian immigrants here in Massachusetts.
There’s a lot of competent filmmakers out there, some doing great work, some taking baby steps inside of the boys club. I say keep going, we are here to stay, let’s promote each other by spreading the news of your project, let’s support each other anyway we can.
This is our time. Let’s hold hands and go.
Wonder Woman 1984 directed by Patty Jenkins. Because it’s a empowering story made by a director I respect and performed by an actress I admire.
Attending any film festivals or events, and why you are attending them.
I attend any chance I have. It’s a great way to meet people with the same interest and be inspired by their stories and creativity.
IG = Lyriagarciaphotography
Site = Lyriagarcia.com
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