Month: May 2017

Everything, Everything…

‘Everything, Everything’s Women Of Color Aren’t Stereotypes, According To Star Anika Noni Rose

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Over the course of her career so far, Anika Noni Rose has played every kind of role under the sun, from a Disney princess (The Princess and the Frog) to an aspiring singer (Dreamgirls) to a fierce, uncompromising lawyer (The Good Wife). And in her newest film, the adaptation of the YA bestseller Everything Everything, she switches gears yet again, playing a loving mom who puts her daughter’s needs before, well, everything else. Rose has a resume filled with complicated, fascinating parts, but that’s not the norm for non-white female actors, a fact of which the actor is very well aware.

“I think very often women, in particular black women, are only shown a certain amount of things that they are welcomed into by the industry,” Rose says, speaking via phone in late April. But, she adds, “I’m hoping that that’s changing now. I think that [Everything, Everything] is very different, and not the way that you would generally see young women of color, including not just Amandla [Stenberg], but both my character and the nurse. You’ve got three women of color here who are not seen in the way that we generally are on screen, and I think that that’s a beautiful thing.”

Indeed, Everything, Everything features a cast that’s actually reflective of real life, with, as Rose notes, the three lead female roles played by women of color, and the majority of the parts in general being played by women. Nick Robinson’s Olly, the teenage love interest to Stenberg’s Maddy, is one of the only men to appear on-screen, and this reversal of the Hollywood norm is due in part, Rose says, to the film having both a female director and a female writer behind the source material.

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“It was wonderful to be on a set working directly with women and having conversations within the film, real conversations, with another woman, which so often does not happen,” the actor recalls. “There’s a statistic, just speaking on television: only 10 percent of those speaking roles are women of color, and that’s not even necessarily a conversation. You know: ‘Dr, your patient is here,’ or ‘Hi,’ or ‘Did you get the bread?’ That is considered speaking, and that’s not life on screen. That’s not real life. ”

“It was really amazing and wonderful to be able to have true conversation, not only with Amandla, but with Ana de la Reguera,” she continues. “It’s a gift.”

With a script full of roles that gave its female stars actual material to work with, Everything, Everything certainly stands out from so many of its big-screen peers. Its plot, as well, is unique; about a teenage girl who suffers from a condition that makes her allergic to the outside world, the film is a drama, romance, and suspense story all mixed in one. Rose, who plays Maddy’s mother and doctor, was drawn to the film’s originality — “it’s tender, it’s romantic, it’s intimate without being highly, overly sexual, as sometimes teenage films can be,” she explains — as well as its story of Maddy’s personal and romantic growth. “I’m interested in showing all facets of who we are as women, growing and morphing and changing and being affected by the world,” Rose says.

And luckily, she’s picking projects like Everything, Everything that allow her — and the many women of all different races and ages around her — to do just that.

 

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Disrupting Hollywood

by Sheree L. Ross

Over a hundred thousand scripts will be written in 2017, as well as tens of thousands of independent films made. Hundreds of contests will be entered and most filmmakers will not move very far towards their goal of a distribution deal or theatrical release.
What once seemed like the “impossible dream” has now almost become a thing of the past.  Yet, so many filmmakers go forward as they make their films like the magical payday myths of the industry still, if ever existed.
Most distribution deals and all of Hollywood have created an accounting system where only they get paid and the creative winds up with accolades (hopefully) but empty pockets. Crowdfunding has been a big move forward to help mitigate the ever shrinking traditional access to funds but after a film is made the blue print to a sustainable business model is rarely understood. It is especially hard for women and women filmmakers of color, where financing a film can be a Herculean event – as well as finding access to, and building an audience large enough to not only pay cast, crew, and themselves but make enough to distribute it and then do it all over again.
The industry has changed even for Hollywood. This change began decades ago but was solidified when the markets crashed in 2008, and demystified with access unprecedented with digital cameras, the internet, and streaming platforms. This is a new and ever more inclusive frontier yet so many indie filmmakers still structure their business model like it’s the 1970’s – still believing in the big payoff yet never realizing that filmmakers getting paid on the net receipts has been an inside myth perpetuated by industry media to entertain the public and string along hopeful filmmakers since time began.
The power of the industry is shifting but the new paradigm must be created by the independent filmmakers themselves. Big business has always had too much of a say and taken all of the profits. We, as creatives, are the reason they have built fortunes, mostly because we have wanted others to take care of the business while we concentrate on the creative. The other truth of many creatives is we haven’t developed the emotional and mental stamina for the business side of our filmmaking and have often blindly handed the responsibility over to others. This is a wake up call to build that muscle and take full control of our careers and creations. Owning our IP and figuring out how to distribute in a way that puts the rewards back into our own business is key to growing and maintaining a healthy and striving independent film ecosystem for all of us.

The Female Gaze

Thanks to the opportunities created by Peak TV, the once-elusive female gaze is beginning to emerge on the small screen. Below, directors, writers and producers reflect on the female gaze in their work and the challenges of working in a medium in which the male perspective has reigned for so long.

Melissa Rosenberg, creator, “Jessica Jones”

On not writing “female characters:” “It’s not like Jessica is a ‘female detective’; she’s a detective. When it’s a guy, you don’t say ‘male doctor.’ That’s really how I approach this. Certainly, her character is informed by her gender. You go through the world as a woman, you have a different experience, but I never approached it as ‘this is a female character.'”

Rashida Jones, executive producer-director, “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On”

On absorbing the male gaze: “We all have this internalized, unconscious bias because we live in a world that has primarily been seen through a male gaze. So we have also inherited a lot of that, and it’s really hard to break that habit. We live in a patriarchy and it’s really hard to escape that.”

Emma Frost, showrunner, “The White Princess”

On the male gaze: “The audience ought to be able to identify with a protagonist of either gender as long as that character is written as a human being. The problem has been, historically, the characters that have been constructed as human have always been the male characters. Female characters have been constructed as man’s other, a problem to be solved, a trophy to be won. Everything is about showing off the male prowess in relation to the woman.”

Jennie Snyder Urman, creator, “Jane the Virgin”

On objectifying men: “If we objectify anyone, we kind of make fun of ourselves for it. The humor is that we’re doing it to the men because it’s so often done to women. If we’re doing a slow-motion shot over [hunky male lead] Rafael’s body, it feels jarring because that’s something you normally see done to a woman. You’re so bombarded with what men think of beauty.”

On hiring women to direct 75% of this season’s episodes: “I always talk to the directors and I say this show goes through Jane. Covering Jane and how she reacts to everyone else is as important as what everyone else is saying because it’s filtered through her. … I hired the people who I felt understood that the most. A lot of them happened to be women.”

Moira Buffini, co-creator, “Harlots”

On sex scenes: “We feel a great responsibility towards actresses — and actors too. It is so intimate and invasive. You’ve got to be really careful and respectful of people. With female directors, we sort of knew without having to have the conversation that they would understand that delicacy.”

Ava DuVernay, creator, “Queen Sugar”

On the right way to think about women behind the camera: ”I can’t say what these women brought based on their gender. I just know that women have not historically had the opportunity to bring anything. The fact that they’re there and they’re bringing it is the story.”

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