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We are looking to diversify the voices and experiences of people on the site. If you have a story, experience, or idea and you think it would make a good guest post, this is your opportunity to get your voice heard. It is imperative that we get diverse voices of women working in the field out to the world so they can see the great talent that often goes overlooked.
Here are some keys and rules for guest posting.
- Focus on one topic. Think carefully about what your post can offer readers and how it relates to getting people interested in your film/TV show/other projects.
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- Titles (of films, television series, etc) should appear in quotation marks “Like So.”
Guest posts should be submitted via email to email@example.com in a Word document.
Keep in mind that submitting a post is not a guarantee that it will be used. All posts will also be edited. And there will be no compensation for guest posts.
Strong examples of different types of guest posts (advice for female creatives; think pieces; dismantling myths; how/why I made my movie) are included below.
Strong Examples of Guest Posts
Advice for Female Creatives: Secrets to Success in Hollywood (For Women) by Rachel Feldman
When I first came to Hollywood and started taking meetings, I was sure it was my high-pitched voice and curvy figure that were placing obstacles in my path to success as a film director. I had a lot of great meetings, but very little of them amounted to more than learning how to navigate the City of Angels. My mother suggested lowering my voice. I stopped wearing make-up and tried to suppress smiling or laughing meetings.
I found myself second-guessing myself at all times. I didn’t know whether to comment on the photos, toys or art in executives’ offices — or get right down to business. I didn’t know whether to sit on the giant couches that were made for tall men or choose the hard chair across the room where I could perch higher but was oddly out of range. I rarely felt comfortable in my skin, always measuring, evaluating, worrying about every micro-decision that might or might not kickstart a career.
More than a quarter of a century later, that voice of anxiety can still well up in my head, but maturity and experience have taught me a variety of skills that I’d like to share with you.
- Be in the moment. There will be easy meetings and there will be difficult ones, but you can only do your best if you are fully conscious and honest with yourself and others.
- Be who you are. There is no right or wrong. For some jobs you’ll be a perfect fit and for others you won’t, but twisting yourself into a false version of yourself will only serve to sabotage things in the end. Be willing to fight for a job, but also be okay with walking away, maybe even suggesting someone else you know who might be a better fit. Another woman, of course.
- Set the long goal. Life is long. The journey to a career rarely happens overnight. I cannot stress enough that you must enjoy where you are right now. It’s important to set goals and work hard for them, but you will never be at peace if you can’t enjoy what you have right now.
Recently, I was working with an Academy Award-winning producer who was considering working with me as a director on a film I had written. I’m a highly organized person. I’m prompt, responsible, responsive and I prepare endless materials regarding my work, including look books and various director preparation visualizations, so that producers can share my vision for a project.
As a DGA member, a mother, a film professor and a general member of the adult human population, I’m fairly certain that serious hard work is a commendable attribute. But this producer thought otherwise. She told me that I was “too organized” to be a good director, that the great directors she worked with were “hot messes.”
The point is, unconscious bias comes in many insidious forms. As women directors, we are constantly told that the body of our work is not enough. Too much comedy, not enough drama, too much episodic work, not enough action. Just like I thought it might be my voice or my clothing, the fact is that sometimes “you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” It’s a crap shoot. The person behind that door can be a fool or an enlightened, like-minded soul.
Women directors will succeed when those in charge tap into their intuition instead of relying on an antiquated, patriarchal paradigm where one’s credits must align with standards few women can hope to prove. Not many women have already directed studio tentpoles, but many women are fully capable. Very few of us have the sample reel that will satisfy precisely what a producer believes they need to see. But skill, talent, character and imagination can be evidenced by sitting down with us, getting to know us, hearing our vision and learning about our experiences.
Until then, the only secret to success you need — is you. Remain loyal and true to your voice, your brand, your vision. It’s the only thing you’ve got.
As we turn into a new year, I wish all my fellow female filmmakers grand success and fulfilled dreams in 2016. Okay, the guys too. May all our dreams come true.
Rachel Feldman is a director, screenwriter, and activist for gender parity in Hollywood. You can follow her @womencallaction
Thinkpiece: Why “Maleficent” is the Rape Revenge Fantasy We Need by Robyn Bahr
Warning: Lots of Maleficent spoilers ahead.
Not since I Spit on Your Grave have I seen such an intrepid and compelling rape-revenge film.
I am talking, of course, about Disney’s Maleficent, the latest in a long line of revisionist fairy-tale epics to hit theaters in the last few years, though this might be the first one that I actually found personally inspiring. And it goes further in its exploration of sexual assault than any mainstream fantasy film might dare.
Maleficent presents the “untold” backstory of Disney’s classic Sleeping Beauty villain, portraying the dark fairy in her youth as a winged protector of a colorful, enchanted forest kingdom inhabited by a number of magical creatures. She is fierce and loyal to her homeland, relying on her magnificent wings not only as weapons for defense against invading armies, but as boons to surveil her personal paradise. They aren’t just instruments: they are a part of who she is and how she lives.
In a pivotal moment early in the film, Maleficent is raped. The rape is not via a sex act, though to be fair, rape is never about sex at all: it’s about power. And power, in this case, will literally be bestowed on anyone in the neighboring kingdom who can provide the crown with Maleficent’s corpse. After years of silence, her long-lost human love Stefan (Sharlto Copley) returns to her and they share the twilight together in the glow of wistful reunion. Maleficent suddenly slips into sleep; your stomach drops as you realize Stefan has drugged her drink. Your heart stops when you understand he intends to sever her wings.
Many commenters have debated whether this film is about rape at all and whether that subject matter, even veiled, is appropriate for young audiences. Others have reminded us that the filmmakers are putting thesubtext of the original story back where it belongs.
Instead of shying away from the connection, Angelina Jolie has thankfullyseized the opportunity to be honest about her intent: “We were very conscious, the writer [Linda Woolverton] and I, that it was a metaphor for rape,” Jolie said in an interview with BBC Woman’s Hour. The actress, an advocate for women’s issues around the world, recently spoke at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, commenting on the struggles of rape survivors in countries torn apart by war. Jolie knew what she was doing with this role: she was shining a light on the diverse emotional difficulties of women who are attacked, injured, and humiliated when they are most vulnerable.
But this is no Lifetime movie-of-the-week. Beautifully, it embraces its own darkness. Too often, rape on screen is at best denied and at worst, made to seem arousing. Stefan doesn’t wrestle with Maleficent or “take her by force,” the typical image we’ve come to associate with rape. (He may exploit her body, but the camera does not.) Nor does she change her mind in the middle, or consent and then regret it later. She is unconscious. Period. And when Maleficent awakes, Stefan gone and with him something so deeply ingrained in her identity, she cries out in physical and emotional agony for nearly a minute. It is brutal to witness.
But it is important to watch her pain, to see her suffering and how it manifests into the blackness she shrouds around her kingdom and her own body. She doesn’t cower, but instead chooses rage. Maleficent is not ashamed; she’s ready to inflict pain. Real-life survivors have many ways of coping with sexual assault, but there is something deeply gratifying about seeing a movie star, larger-than-life on the big screen, don a decadent black cape to confront the man who has stripped her of a piece of herself and simply fuck his shit up. It’s commonly brought up in feminist discourse that women are socialized to modulate our personalities to appear “pleasant” or “nice” and certainly undemanding. When Maleficent walks in her own anger, it is powerful to behold.
What makes this film truly audacious, however, is not its portrayal of Maleficent’s wrath or cynicism, but how it pushes the rape symbolism to include an aspect of sexual assault that is often ignored, denied, or papered over: pregnancy. Maleficent does not physically give birth to Aurora/Sleeping Beauty, but the girl is still a child of rape. When Stefan slices off our heroine’s wings and presents them to his king, he is given the hand of the royal princess and secures his place as next in line for the throne. Without Maleficent’s wings, he never would have been able to marry the royal woman. There is no Aurora had her father not violated the woman he claimed to love. There is no Aurora without Maleficent.
When Maleficent barges into the infant’s christening and curses her to eternal sleep upon the prick of her finger, she has no intention of true love’s kiss returning the girl to consciousness; she doesn’t believe in true love now that the illusion has hurt her. Yet she remains drawn to the child, even after three squabbling pixies whisk Aurora away to the woods for her own safety. Maleficent is fueled by her hatred, calling her “beastie.” She is fearful of her, disgusted by her. But even against her own rational judgment, she slowly begins to protect the child as she watches her from afar, using her magic to keep the curious little girl from harm. The audience begins to understand this is not just a story about revenge, but about the complicated mother-child relationship that can arise from violence.
Later, Aurora finds her “fairy godmother” and Maleficent is entranced by her metaphorical daughter and consumed by the guilt of cursing her all those year ago. It would be easy to dismiss the film as sentimental by the time Maleficent discovers that only she can provide the “true love’s kiss” of her own doing, even politically conservative for seemingly suggesting the birth of a child from rape could be rewarding. But that would be diminishing the beauty and power of that moment and of this rare mother-daughter action film.
I loved Maleficent because we need images of women’s sexual trauma and anger, not for the sake of fetishism or torture porn or sexual thrill, but to show that there is just as much pain in “invisible” violence as there is in the assault narrative we normally see portrayed. We need them to fuel activism and to strengthen the voices of those who are hesitant to reveal their experiences.Maleficent is loud and proud and making hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. Frozen, ostensibly about the dangers of suppressing your feelings and personality for the sake of others, is now the fifth highest grossing film of all time. These movies are making money. People are responding.
Robyn Bahr is a writer and humorist who lives in Cambridge, MA. She tweets@RobynBahr about television, pop culture, and fat politics.
Dismantling Myths: Gender Parity in Documentary Filmmaking Is A Fiction by Victoria Cook
Over the holiday break, I read many of the Oscar predictions that litter not just the trades but the various general interest “papers of record” this time of year. But I hardly saw a single list that predicted a woman director to win in the Best Documentary Feature category. That got me thinking about the misperception that the documentary world is more inclusive, less sexist and less racist than other parts of the film and television business.
There has been a lot of long-overdue talk recently about the underrepresentation of women and people of color as directors in the entertainment industry as a whole (e.g., the multiple articles in the New York Times this past fall, culminating in the November 20th Sunday Magazine cover story by Maureen Dowd; the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation; the coverage in Variety, Fortune and Forbes, among many other major publications about the fact that in 2014 only 7% of the top 250 movies were directed by women, etc.). Much of the public conversation surrounding this issue has paid particular attention to the underrepresentation of women in the major categories at the Oscars. But there has been no similar outcry about this also being a pervasive problem in the documentary category, despite the fact that in the past 20 years only one female director (Laura Poitras) and one female co-director (Zana Briski) have won in the Best Documentary Feature category.
In fact, the documentary community tends to view itself and to self-identify to others as not being afflicted with the “isms” that plague the rest of our industry. Part of the misconception might be due to the fact that documentaries themselves often tell the stories of the underrepresented and involve issues of social justice, which may make it feel like it is a more inclusive category but does not actually make it so. Especially because as far as the award winners are concerned, the Oscar rarely goes to these kinds of films. Instead, they go to the documentaries that are about global politics or economic issues or broadly accepted to be significant historical events (which are documentary subjects I love by the way, but there are also tons of great films about personal or “small” stories that are just as important and often deal with those very same subjects, albeit in a less explicit and more metaphorical way).
Perhaps we have bought into this utopian version of equality in documentaries because there are reportedly just as many women directing documentary films as men. However, when you compare documentaries to Hollywood features, it is important to note that the typical documentary is made at a fraction of the budget of a Hollywood narrative film, so this surface appearance of parity is more likely a result of the fact that the point of entry is less policed as a general matter. This is especially true in a world where the funding for these films often comes from a cobbled together from a combination of grants, public funds and donations from friends and family, as opposed to institutional financiers or commercial investors. However, as the budgets climb and the awards races start, fewer and fewer women are left in the mix.
Maybe we believe that the documentary world is more inclusive because the documentary branch of the Academy itself is reportedly 40% female. Notwithstanding the legion of women in the branch, the dismal statistic that less than 10% of the winners in the last 20 years have been women demonstrates that even a branch with many women voters still fails to hand the statue to other women, let alone to people of color. The very fact that it is a more diverse voting group by gender may more likely reflect the fact that in the days before documentaries were seen as commercially viable and were viewed by the Academy as an “eat your spinach” or more academic category, women were not shut out from the higher echelons. But as documentaries have become big business, the doors immediately started closing, even by other women.
In a business where winning an Oscar can mean being paid higher fees on the next film, having more creative control and being given the ability to cross over into directing fiction or commercials (or electing not to because with an Oscar, the career of documentary filmmaking itself becomes more sustainable), winnowing down the category to 90% white men is outrageous. I know in my bones that in the last 20 years, many of the best documentaries have been directed by women, but the lack of recognition for their work prevents women directors from having bigger and more profitable careers.
Given that the new year is a time to try to make positive changes and that the first step in doing so is to take an honest view of what our problems are in the first place, it seems like a good time for the documentary community to recognize that it suffers from the same problems as the entertainment business as a whole. I hope that in 2016 we see a change across our entire business that is more inclusive of all different kinds of filmmakers (including different types of filmmaking itself that continue to get shut out, like “The Act of Killing” last year or “The Wolfpack” this year). And I especially hope that this change is driven by the documentary community, whose spirit has always been a deep desire to tell the stories of those that have historically had no voice.
Victoria S. Cook is a partner at Frankfurt Kurnit and a member of the Entertainment Group. She focuses on motion-picture and television work, representing award-winning filmmakers, writers, directors, actors, television producers, film financiers and television networks.
How/Why I Made My Movie: The Aerial Cinematography and Fearless Living of “Sunshine Superman” by Marah Strauch
As I write this, my documentary “Sunshine Superman” has been out in the world for a little over a year. We have played at over 40 festivals worldwide and had a limited theatrical run with Magnolia Pictures. Last Sunday the film premiered on CNN, which is thrilling.
“Sunshine Superman” traces the history of BASE jumping through the love story of Carl and Jean Boenish, who invented the activity of BASE jumping — jumping with parachutes off four types of structures: “building,” “antenna,” “span,” and “earth.” The Boenishes invented this sport in the late ’70s, leaping from Yosemite’s large granite cliffs. It was and still is to a certain degree a marginalized sport. The media often describes the participants as “crazy” and having a “death wish.” The footage and the activity itself, however, is undeniably beautiful and epically cinematic. This is not a perspective most people will ever see in their own lives, so we wanted to show the audience what it felt like to BASE jump.
Lucky for me as a documentary maker, Carl Boenish was also a masterful filmmaker and documented the birth of this sport in 16mm film. He mounted cameras to the jumpers’ heads and captured their bodies falling next to the objects — well before the invention of the GoPro.
Carl was a true pioneer in the sport of BASE jumping, as well as in aerial cinematography. He was the cinematographer of the film “The Gypsy Moths,” directed by John Frankenheimer in 1969, before he ever dreamed up the idea of BASE jumping. He was strapping cameras on the skydivers and showing the jump from the air, in real time. This was revolutionary, and I think working with Frankenheimer forever influenced how Carl showed movement on the screen. It was like ballet, elegant and beautiful.
BASE jumping was not a topic I was familiar with; I by no means have an extreme sports background. What I discovered about the history of BASE jumping, though, was the fascinating backstory of its founders. I felt that Carl’s films had some things in common with such films as Werner Herzog’s “The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner.” The activity of human flight was shown as transcendent. I was mesmerized by the graceful and almost existential nature of BASE jumping. The poetic moment of leaving solid ground and falling.There had never been a feature-documentary film on the topic, and I knew I needed to make this film.
I wanted to make a film that would be a visceral experience for the viewer. “Sunshine Superman” gave me a wonderful opportunity to engage the audience directly in the camera movement and really use the theatrical space. We attached cameras to the BASE jumpers’ bodies. I wanted to give a sense of what it feels like to fly. We did this though large-scale helicopter work and really shooting this documentary like a feature film. I also placed a huge importance on sound design and creating a soundtrack that merges you in the ’70’s-’80s.
The film at its core is a love story. I was enthralled by Carl and Jean’s relationship and their unusual and dynamic pairing. A remarkable athlete, Jean Boenish has been given very little credit for her contribution to this sport. Her role in the story is so heroic. Even if you have zero interest in BASE jumping, their love story may pull you in. I was excited to see an example of a couple that worked together creatively in such a passionate and pure way.
When people get to know Carl and Jean in the film, I believe they will see a glorious example of what it means to live an authentic life, regardless of what the consequences may be.
I hope people will walk away from the film inspired, not necessarily to BASE jump, but to take risks in their own lives, whatever those may be. I hope that “Sunshine Superman” will continue to inspire people to dream passionately and to go forth without fear.
“Sunshine Superman” debuted on CNN on Sunday, January 17. It is available to stream via CNNGo until January 24.
Marah Strauch is a filmmaker and visual artist; after graduating from Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in glass art, she studied filmmaking and screenwriting at NYU and The New School. She recently attended Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film.