Talking Head: Chyssanthi Kouri talks to us about the Film Fatales
Chryssanthi Kouri is a writer, director and blogger and member of the Film Fatales London chapter since early this year. Isabelle Sieb who is also a member of the group, screened her short film Mannequins (2014) at the Exit 6 Film Festival launch. Here, Chryssanthi tells us more about the all-female filmmaking collective.
As a woman filmmaker it’s easy to feel isolated in the industry, not only because directing can be a lonely profession in itself, but also because it is still very much a boy’s club. In an industry where women make up just 13.6% of working film directors, as indicated by a new report commissioned by Directors UK, structured support for women directors is as thin on the ground, as the work, funding and budgets available to us. Fortunately, thanks to private initiative, organisations like Film Fatales come to fill the void.
Founded by director Leah Meyerhoff in New York City in 2013, Film Fatales started as a grassroots community of collaboration and support for and by women filmmakers and has since expanded to include over two dozen sister chapters around the world. The speed in which the network has grown globally is a testament of how much such an organisation was needed. Film Fatales provides a network for women directors to support each other, share resources, and help get their films made and seen. It functions through peer to peer mentoring based on the premise that female filmmakers are in the best position to offer hands-on advice to each other.
The London chapter of Film Fatales was launched by Rebecca Johnson, Jo Coates, Nicola Mills and Claire Oakley in August 2014 and currently has over 50 members. Although primarily catering to directors, the group also hosts a separate writing group where members give each other feedback on their screenplays. As a collective focused on providing aspirational and positive support Film Fatales London also organises master classes in which a member teaches the rest of the group in an academic setting, group outings to theatrical premieres of member’s films, an internal database of shared resources, and an assortment of panels, workshops and industry parties.
I joined Film Fatales London two months ago and I immediately felt included and that I finally belonged in this industry. Why? Because here is a group of women, of different ages and career histories, who are all in the same boat as me, in every way. We are each trying to get a feature made and we all face the same practical, mental and gender struggles in filmmaking. I left the first meeting completely energised and with a renewed optimism in pursuing my career in film. I felt I had found a space where I didn’t have to struggle for my voice to be heard, within a group that offers mentorship, peer networking, direct participation and collaboration specific to my needs as a filmmaker.
The collective itself functions in a way that allows all it’s members to participate and be heard. The group gets together once a month and each meeting is led by a different member host and moderator. The host is responsible for bringing a topic to the table for discussion. Topics always relate to filmmaking and range from “how to work with actors” and “finding a producer”, through to “financing your film” and “how to pitch your feature film”. It’s an invaluable process as it allows each host to initiate a discussion on a topic that’s relevant to their career in the current moment and enables the group to give practical advice and share from their own experience. The discussion can get quite heated, in a positive way, and always gives extra food for thought to everyone present.
It is really refreshing to get into a discussion about issues that another professional faces in the same way as you. In the bigger picture, being able to have these discussions contributes towards a healthier environment for women directors to create their work and bring about a positive shift in the industry by helping each other. Case in point, at the end of each meeting the moderator asks everyone to state one thing they need help with in the upcoming month and then members can approach each other with solutions. And the give and take doesn’t stop at the meeting but continues via the Film Fatale email. Members can ask for help with casting, contacts, promotion of their films, and the emails serve to provide updates on issues that concern everyone.
It’s still early days for me in the group, but I can already feel the positive influence being a Film Fatale can bring to my professional life. Not only do I feel I have a sounding board I can call on for issues I face in my work, I also feel I belong to a community who can effect positive change in the industry I want to continue working in.
For more information on the Film Fatales organisation got to www.filmfatales.org. For information on the Film Fatales London chapter go to www.filmfataleslondon.tumblr.com, and on Twitter @FilmFatalesLDN.