Julie Louis-Dreyfus playing the VP of the United States in Veep

GLOWING: with laughter and admiration at this “high concept” Power Lunch article in last week’s New York Times, in which Julie Louis-Dreyfus of Veep and Nancy Pelosi of the US Senate sit down to talk about female leadership, charcuterie and all sorts of other delights.

FINDING MYSELF: unsurprised with this recent Women’s Media Center study which shows men still outnumber women in news media, especially as television anchors. We at NYWIFT are happy, however, to see that PBS leads the way for women in television news, “with 93% of its stories reported by female anchors.” And on that note, I am…

COMMENDING THE EFFORTS: of our partners over at the Writer’s Guild of America, who released this report to bring attention to the dearth of female and minority writers in film and television.

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday for her picks.

Birds are chirping and spring bulbs are blooming, and that means it is Spring Membership Drive time!

This is your opportunity to join New York Women in Film & Television, the preeminent entertainment industry association for women in New York, now through Monday May 5 and get 50% off our initiation fee.

NYWIFT brings together nearly 2,000 women and men working both above and below the line. NYWIFT is part of a network of 40 Women in Film chapters worldwide, representing more than 10,000 members.

Already a member of NYWIFT? Refer your friends and win fantastic prizes! It is a win/win situation.

Just a few of the amazing reasons to become a NYWIFT member:

  • Exciting panels & workshops led by industry experts
  • Screenings & events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Discounted tickets to red carpet events like Designing Women and the Muse Awards
  • Crowdfunding support and fiscal sponsorship opportunities for your projects
  • Advocacy & job listings

Learn about more benefits on the NYWIFT website.

So what are you waiting for? Join today, and help spread the word about this fantastic opportunity…through the grapevine!

image

Jane Pauley, 2012. Photo credit: David Shankbone.

Journalist Jane Pauley leaves NBC to join CBS News

New SNL writer Katie Rich has witty insight on male comedians’ success.

Women’s Media Center updates its Status of Women in the U.S. Media report. 

Pam Dawber, TV’s original “Mindy,” to reunite with Robin Williams.

Persistence pays off for Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz producer Nira Park.

TFF adds Chelsea Clinton’s interfaith docu-short Of Many, directed by Linda Gills, to its lineup.

Only five days left! This quick list of tax deductions may increase your return.

— KELLY GLOVER

The award-winning web series Blue stars Julia Stiles as a single mother moonlighting as a call girl. It’s a case study of a successful drama series on the web.

Blue premiered on WIGS, one of the first premium original content channels funded by YouTube and launched in 2012 by director Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, In Treatment) and Emmy Award–nominated director/producer Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Less Than Zero).

WIGS focuses on stories about women. A valid critical question on why it took two male producers in Hollywood to create a successful digital channel aimed at women could be asked. Still, the fact remains that Garcia and Avnet proved that a digital channel with a female character central to all of the narratives can be successful.

Below are excerpts of my phone interview with Garcia and Avnet:

Can you talk about why you decided to launch WIGS, an original content channel aimed at women?
GARCIA: Jon [Avnet] and I had lunch a few years ago where we were discussing, why on earth the stuff that was on the Internet had to be—especially back then, we’re talking 5 or 6 years ago, it was such low quality—why can’t it have a certain level of quality storytelling. We wanted to tell stories. Both Jon and I had had success separately and together that had women in the center [of the stories], and we wanted to base our channel on that. Not only did it interest us, we thought the female demographic was a fast growing one on the web, but very underserved with original programming. So we decided to cast our lot about the lives of women and female characters and Blue was one of the first ones we worked with.

And what was the inspiration for Blue?
GARCIA: I am always interested in families where the family members keep secrets from one another. They live and love each other, but also hide things from each other and I thought Blue’s lies were a good starting point for a series.

You have penned scripts with very strong female characters starting with Things You Can Tell Just by Looking At Her and now Blue. How are you able to write such great stories about women?
GARCIA: I’m interested in women, their choices and how they live their lives … I like how they face their struggles, that they are more emotionally exposed than men. I’m not a woman and have no idea what it’s like to be a woman. I have a strong imagination as to what it could be like and I base the characters on that. But beyond whether they are female, it’s their plights and their problems and their family relationships, their secrets—that’s what interests me. I think it’s just a matter of how can I dramatize these ideas best, and often for me it’s with female characters.

Why do you think you have been able to get such great actresses like Julia Stiles (Blue), America Ferrara (Christine) and Jennifer Beals (Lauren)—actresses used to working in TV and film—to be involved in a web series?
AVNET: Rodrigo and me have done so many movies together where there is a female lead. Or what I would say you follow a story into a female character. We have worked with so many women over so many years … the women would read [our scripts] because we’ve worked with them already or because their agents have, or somebody would take the time to read what we sent over. Our material is character-centric … How many women [actors] get to have those kinds of roles?

There is some great stuff on cable and great actresses doing phenomenal work, but it’s not the majority of the stuff that is out there. We’re still in a relative paucity and so people read our stuff and at first were like—a web series, really? Then after we had done 10, 15, 20 of them, the actors became our agents. Julia said to America, this is really cool. It expanded whom we did and didn’t know and now the actors and agents are aware of it and seeking opportunities or very open to it.

Can you talk about the partnership between the WIGS channel and the Black List script site? Are you looking for more female storytellers?
AVNET: We want material. We want women writers, yes. We want women directors, yes. In our first cycle, half the directors [on the WIGS channel] were women. Would we like to do even more than that? You bet. Anyway we get great material is great for us … we want to open up the door to potentially newer talent, voices that haven’t been established yet.


Listen
 to the full audio interview. Blue's third season is available now on Hulu and Hulu Plus. Writers and producers, you can submit your scripts to the Black List before May 1, 2014, to be considered for the WIGS Channel blind script deal. 

Agility in recognizing the opportunities digital media presents for female writers, directors, producers and executives to increase female representation both in stories and behind the scenes is paramount as digital media grows. 

— M.A ST JOHN

image

Photo via Go Into the Story.

Theme is the beating heart of the screenplay, the proposition about the human condition that your story explores—the big issues. Love. Faith. Resilience. Trust. Power. Courage. All the goosebumpy things.

The theme, that single, simple thesis that creates clarity and scope and resonance through the arcs of your story, is a gong that should be struck in every scene for maximum impact.

John August calls it genetic. If you cut out any one of your scenes, you should be able to plant it and grow your whole script.

This is accomplished with good scene work.

  • The B story is an echo of the A story. Relate them so that the resolution to both confirms the thematic question. Cuts your work in half, doubles the resonance.

  • Location, location, location. Make sacred spaces in your story to elevate and amplify important beats. Your breakup scene could take place in a Tunnel of Love, at a bus stop, in an elevator—which setting tells more of the story? It makes a big difference.

  • Get out your machete. Little suckers sprout from the main trunk of your story, bits and pieces of genius that pop up spontaneously in the writing process. Kill them. They may be good, but they belong somewhere else if they are not banging your gong.

Consciously choose theme when conceiving all the elements of your scenes. Find a way to make it ring.

ANNIE LABARBA 

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

Photo of Ellen Burstyn courtesy of Getty Images.

ANTICIPATING: the retrospectives of two amazing female figures in film. Though Dorothy Arzner’s career retrospective will take place in Spain at the San Sebastian Film Festival, we’ll be able to catch Ellen Burstyn’s nine film retrospective at BAMcinematek in Brooklyn (with the actress herself slated to appear on May 3). Arzner was a prolific film director and the first female member of the DGA. Burstyn is, as IndieWire points out, ”one short of an EGOT,” having won Emmy, Oscar and Tony awards.

EXCITED ABOUT: the slew of possibilities, as prominent cultural critics and writers respond to the news of David Letterman’s impending retirement with calls for a female host. Here are great opinions from Slate and The Daily Beast, as well as a few suggestions by Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker.

RELISHING: this telling analysis by Walt Hickey of the financial consequences of female exclusion in Hollywood. Read it yourself at statistics expert Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog.

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday for her picks.

(Edited on April 9, 2014, at 12:31 am EST.)

image

What is the real purpose of a budget? In my experience, it’s the road map of the production. The amount of money you have will dictate the majority of the decisions that are made in pre-production, principal photography, post-production and beyond (festivals, marketing, social media campaigns, etc).

You may have used a “development” budget, usually created to raise money or interest in the project. To ensure you do not spend more than you have, you’ll need to get tough and really dig into the details.

If you have the money, I suggest hiring a line producer who has a ton of experience breaking down scripts and creating budgets in your price range. A line producer typically charges $500-$3,000 for a micro-budget and/or low budget, depending on the scope of the project.

However, if you want to do it yourself, the first step is to break down the script. Here’s how to start.

Read the script and make a list of the following components:

  1. Locations: The type (street versus Plaza Hotel) and total amount of specific locations. The latter will determine how many company moves need to be made, the transportation of cast and crew, etc.

  2. Cast: How many principal cast and background cast members are scripted. This can help you decide if you should go union or non-union depending on the budget level.

  3. Stunts/SFX: Identify what type of stunts or SFX are required based on the script. That will affect your production budget as well as your post budget.

  4. Production Design: Identify key props and art elements, including picture cars. This can help you define the size of your team and the flow of the day in regards to your schedule.

After you finish your initial breakdown, take time to interview the creatives (writer, director, executive producer) to determine the project’s genre and to get an understanding on their vision, their experience level, and how they intend to shoot the project (e.g., handheld versus long dolly shots, practical shots versus SFX done in post, the type of camera they want to shoot on). From there, you’ll know if the creative force attached to the project can execute the vision on the actual budget. Know who you are working with. Build a team that will honor your budget.

After the first pass you can always suggest changes to the script that will reduce costs while keeping the original vision intact. Remember, this is only the first pass. From here you can develop a detailed budget. Film and TV production is a collaborative art.

As Orson Wells said: “A writer needs a pen, an artist needs a brush, but a filmmaker needs an army.”

Stay tuned for a follow-up post on budgets and line items.

CLAUDINE MARROTTE

It Felt Like Love, by first-time feature director Eliza Hittman, follows 14-year-old Lila (a perfectly cast Gina Piersanti) as she pursues an older teenage boy.

There are a few passing similarities between It Felt Like Love and Andrea Arnold’s similar themed Fish Tank. Hittman distinguishes herself with intimate closeups and following subjects with tracking shots through parties and wooded areas of outer Brooklyn.

This coming-of-age drama premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and is a recipient of the Nancy Malone Marketing & Promotion Grant. It was fiscally sponsored by New York Women in Film & Television.

It Felt Like Love is playing at the IFC Center in NYC. 

— M.A. ST JOHN

The Peabody Awards gave 43% of prizes to projects that featured a clear female protagonist or were made by a woman creator. 

Jennifer Lee’s 'Frozen' becomes the top-grossing animated film of all time.

AFI’s superb Directing Workshop for Women turns 40. They grow up so fast! 

Variety’s Power of Women luncheon debuts in NYC — meet the honorees.

Amy Schumer tackles the second season of her hit comedy series.

Yahoo will launch other “digital magazines,” but for now, Shine is no more.

Arianna Huffington discusses her journey and “the third women’s revolution.”

— KELLY GLOVER

image

Photo via Go Into the Story.

You drove 20 miles home in heavy traffic and don’t remember any of it. That’s the dissociation you use to deal with the sameness of your commute.

It also happens when you read your script. Your brain fills in what’s supposed to be there and you blow right by your mistakes.

Typos, missing words, wrong character names, insubstantial motivations, and scenes we need to see but don’t. They’re there. Lurking. Ready to trip readers up like a rake in the lawn.

You literally can’t trust your own eyes. Three or four other pairs are usually enough to catch them all, but the more the merrier. Pack that car full of people. You won’t miss a thing.

ANNIE LABARBA 

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

image

Anita playing at the Film Society of Lincoln Center

Thought-provoking: and powerful, Freida Lee Mock’s Anita is my must-see of the week. Twenty years after Anita Hill sought to confidentially report Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for sexual harassment, the archival footage (and new contemporary interviews) still feels startling relevant to gender inequality in the U.S.

Anticipating: an amazing time at the Women in Film & Television International Summit, which will be held May 16-18, 2014 in Pittsburgh, PA.

Trying to put down: these quizzes over at Buzzfeed! From women-written books to strong female characters, I am learning a lot more about myself than intended.

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday for her picks.

image


Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of my auditions have been improv/ad-lib. Although I still receive a character breakdown, research the players of the project (via IMDB, Google), and do my best to get a description for any new shows, the question remains, What am I going to do in the room?

I love sides, which give me a structure that I can hang my work on, whereas during improv my mind can go blank. So, I have found that certain questions help prepare me for what might go down in the room during an improv audition:

  • Who am I?
  • What is my relationship to the other character in my scene? This gives me a specificity and history
  • What am I doing?
  • What’s my point of view?
  • Where am I? Your relationship to the space you’re in will have an effect on your body, which will lead to behavior
  • Then, I imagine myself in different situations. What other places would be truthful for this person to live in? I will play these out so I’m ready if any of them are thrown at me in the audition room

Asking these questions and doing prep work gives me a sense of confidence by getting me out of my head during the audition. This allows me to be free in the moment to make specific choices about my character instead of playing an idea. I can have an actual experience as opposed to showing one.

If you feel like you’re flying without a net when it comes to improv and want to learn more, check out these top NYC improv schools:

Now, go book that job!

MARISA VITALI


Can
, a groundbreaking documentary that intimately portrays the experience of an Asian-American family dealing with mental illness, will screen on Tuesday, April 29, at 7 pm, as part of the New York Women in Film and Television’s Member Screening Series, held at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Avenue, NYC).

Directed and produced by NYWIFT member Pearl J. Park, Can follows Can Truong, a refugee who was among the millions of boat people who fled Vietnam in 1979, as he searches for healing, dignity and recovery from depression and bipolar disorder. As Truong becomes active in the mental health consumer movement, a national civil rights effort by people with mental illnesses, he embarks on a healing journey marked by determination and self-advocacy.

Shot over three-and-a-half years, the 65-minute film has propelled Park and Truong into the national spotlight on Asian-Americans and mental illness. They are frequent speakers on the topic at health care forums and higher education conferences across the country. Last year, Truong participated in a Community Panel at a White House briefing on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health. During the discussion, Park, who was an invited guest at the briefing, was recognized for her film. 

Motivated by the experience of having a family member with mental illness, Park, who is Korean-American, made Can to bring attention to the issues in mental health care for Asian-Americans. 

"Through the film, we hope to educate audiences about the experience of mental illness from an Asian-American perspective, and to inspire meaningful dialogue about this taboo topic in Asian-American communities," Park said. "By dispelling the taboo power of mental illness, we hope to dissipate the denial and shame surrounding the subject."

The screening of Can will be followed by a Q&A with Park, and then networking at a nearby bar. Tickets can be purchased online (NYWIFT member discount) and at Anthology Film Archives.

APRIL HATTORI

(Edited on 3/29/2014 at 8:56pm EST.)

image

1980s cartoon Jem (Hasbro).

 
A Jem and the Holograms is being made—by men. #JemTheMovie

Amazon Studios wants your comedy or children’s series.

The PGA is stepping up to promote gender equality behind the scenes

Journalist Maria Bartiromo has a new show and three rules for success.

OWN headquarters leaves the Windy City for the bright lights of LA.

FreemantleMedia has acquired SallyAnn Salsano’s company 495 Productions.

The WGA-E pushes for NY tax breaks for diverse writers’ rooms.

— KELLY GLOVER

image

Photo courtesy of NASA.

New York Women in Film & Television’s events for April 2014:

Power Player Breakfast: Jana Bennett, President, A+E Networks’ FYI & LMN
Thursday, April 3, 8:30 am 
Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, 488 Madison Avenue, 10th Floor
A+E Networks executive Jana Bennett, who manages two of the company’s fastest growing networks, will speak about her broadcasting career spanning global markets at A+E, BBC, TLC and Discovery.

Writing Seminar: Engaging the Feminine Heroic
Monday, April 7, 6:30 pm
Writers Guild of America, East 250 Hudson Street
Author Dara Marks will dig into the creative process, exploring female characters and the interior terrain of strong storytelling. While many writers are familiar with the Hero’s Journey, its counterpart, the Feminine Heroic, is often lost or distorted when employed in literature. The former aims to discover, defend and declare; in contrast, the feminine aims for communion and connection. Attendees will discuss these themes as related to narrative devices and developing effective stories.

Documentaries for Television: Extending Your Reach
Wednesday, April 9, 7 pm
Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, 20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor
With the growing demand for documentary content in broadcast television, questions emerge regarding the acquisition process, connecting with television executives and producing successful, appropriate content. Join the folks behind Mysterious Human Heart, Detropia and Mondays at Racine for a panel on how network partnerships can expand a documentary’s reach. 

The Ultimate Confidence-Building Workshop
Thursday, April 10, 12:30 pm
NYWIFT Office, 6 East 39th Street, Suite 1200
Does a lack of confidence hold you back in your entertainment career? Do you feel intimidated at networking events? Whether you’re just starting out or looking to take your career to the next level, this workshop by Jim Arnoff, a certified career coach and television packaging agent, will give you the insider’s technique to embrace your strengths and pitch with confidence.

Go Green! Greener Alternatives for Your Production, Your Home and Your Life
Tuesday, April 22, 6:30 pm
NYWIFT celebrates Earth Day with a Go Green! panel featuring women at the forefront of today’s environmental issues. They will discuss what we can do for a greener planet. From NYC neighborhood initiatives to greening film and TV productions to the future of the rain forest, Go Green! will be a lively and informative conversation.

NYWIFT Member Screening Series: CAN
Tuesday, April 29, 7 pm
Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue at 2nd Street
How does one heal from mental illness? Pearl Park’s documentary CAN follows Can Truong, a war refugee who was among the millions of boat people who fled Vietnam in 1979, as he searches for healing, dignity and recovery from bipolar disorder. A Q&A will follow the screening.