Celluloid Ceiling, Lexi Alexander, and Etheria Film Night

I've missed out on posting a lot of really cool news about women directors lately. I took a huge imaginary trip to Iceland and Spain and have been gone for 6 weeks, which has prevented me from blogging. But since blogging is my full-time, lucrative job, I felt I needed a mini-vacation to the realms of frost giants and Gaudi.

In the past two months, some amazing things have happened that I need to catch up on, and catch you up on. First, did you hear the amazing quotes from director Lexi Alexander (PUNISHER: WARZONE) about sexism in Hollywood? Her statements were re-posted on Indiewire's Women and Hollywood blog in January 2013:

There is no lack of female directors. Repeat after me: THERE IS NO LACK OF FEMALE DIRECTORS. But there is a huge lack of people willing to give female directors opportunities. I swear, if anyone near me even so much as whispers the sentence "Women probably don't want to direct," my fist will fly as a reflex action.

Side note: The previous statement labels me as "difficult".

Alexander's statement was prompted in part by the baffling treatment she had received earlier in 2013 when fans overwhelmingly supported her as the choice for the director of the all-female EXPENDABLES film. But partly she represents numerous women in the Director's Guild of America that feel they are given unequal treatment when it comes to hiring practices based solely on the basis of their sex. Alexander now self-deprecatingly jokes that she is the new "Gertrude Stein of filmmaking," but largely due to her outspoken attitude recently, and the diligent efforts and research of director Maria Giese and the Women Directors in Hollywood Blog, the ACLU is now conducting its own investigation into any sexism that women directors may face in Hollywood. Get ready for a lawsuit, sexists!

The ACLU's announcement was followed shortly thereafter by comedian Will Ferrell (I know, right? Who knew?)  launching a brand new division of his production company called Gloria Sanchez Productions to spearhead female-led film projects.  Now I have a reason to like Will Ferrell, which is really my one big take-away from this entire thing.

February 2014 was Women in Horror Month, and there were many awesome new film projects, film festivals, articles, exchanges, and artwork created in celebration. But since December 2013, I have been in the process of creating a new film festival (sort of). The Viscera Organization and the Viscera Film Festival officially disbanded in December 2013, with creator Shannon Lark and board member Lori Bowen finishing, screening, and promoting their new psychological-yet-gory horror film I AM MONSTER (you can check it out here at the official website: www.iammonstermovie.com). In January 2014, I decided to revamp the Etheria Film Festival, the science fiction and fantasy film festival that I had put together under the Viscera banner in Boston, Massachusetts, and move it to Hollywood, CA. The new Etheria Film Night will screen not only new science fiction and fantasy, but also horror, thriller, action, and even some comedy and drama – all directed by women. You can check out our official website here: www.etheriafilmnight.com. We'll be screening the selections at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California on July 12th, 2014 with the support of the American Cinematheque.

I also took that 6 weeks off to write a chapter in the film journal Celluloid Ceiling Spring 2014, thanks to the patience of my editor Professor Gabrielle Kelly, of NYU Tisch Singapore. It was fun. I wrote a lot about lesbians and feminism in European film history.

Hard at work on my book about women directors of horror films, I plan to finish that sometime before my 80th birthday. And no I continue blogging about stuff other women are doing. Carry on.

LONG LIVE THE KING – The New King Kong Documentary

I wrote about Trish Geiger's documentary BEAST WISHES last year for Famous Monsters of Filmland. Then, I saw that she and her co-director Frank Dietz were up to a new zombie mockumentary, which really looked awesome. Now, Geiger and Dietz are making a new King Kong documentary about the legendary monster icon titled LONG LIVE THE KING. Dietz is a well-known monster aficionado, and Geiger is an avid filmmaker with a keen interest in personalities, connections, and relationships, so I expect this documentary will touch on how the character of King Kong as well as the original 1933 film has shaped American pop culture, childhoods, and the history of monster movies. There are also some very talented interviewees such as Frank Darabont, Greg Nicotero, and Rick Baker. Perhaps even Peter Jackson, if they can pull it off!

Watch a bit about LONG LIVE THE KING in this fundraising video:

You can watch A ZOMBIE NEXT DOOR in entirety online, right here:

Kate Rees Davies Directs ALTERED PERCEPTION

Jennifer Blanc-Biehn is on a roll. She has about a million projects in the works both as producer and director, including the recent;y-completed THE NIGHT VISITOR, and she's about to produce another one: ALTERED PERCEPTION is a science-fiction thriller that will be directed by Kate Rees Davies.
ALTERED PERCEPTION is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that follows four couples as they embark on a clinical trial of a new medication that is designed to help users move past traumatic experiences by altering their perception. As the couples continue their treatment, they begin to question and doubt their memories and eventually their sanity.
Jennifer Blanc-Biehn promises ALTERED PERCEPTION will be a “ unique story line that will resonate with many viewers because of the quick-fix mentality of our characters  and  the science behind pharmaceuticals and government involvement."   Blanc-Biehn will star alongside Chris Meyer, Hallie Jordan, Matthew Ziff, Nichola Fynn, and Christopher Backus, and the film will start production soon.

Have You Seen The QUINTIPUS Trailer?

QUINTIPUS is a 1950s-style comedic sci-fi short directed by Victoria Angell, currently making the festival rounds (incidentally, she produced Karen Lam's award-winning horror short THE MEETING) about an alien that resembles a human hand. Yes, a human hand. The film is edited by director Ashley Lynch (LAST FLIGHT OF THE FIREFLY, CHLOE DIDN'T COME HOME LAST NIGHT).

It's kind of a riff on that whole disembodied-horror-hand-thing of yesteryear's horror films (the other film it reminds me of is Lark Arrowwood's 2013 Viscera Film Festival short PHANTOM LIMB, which I loved). Here's the QUINTIPUS synopsis:

The evil Metatarsal Empire marches across the galaxy, attempting to crush all opposition under their jack-booted heels. Corporal Carpal Quintipus, our handy hand-shaped hero, is one of the few who dares to raise a fist against them. But lacking arms to defend himself, he is shot down in battle and crashes to Earth. Wounded and hungry, he begins a desperate journey on this strange planet. Stumbling onto a lavish tea-party picnic, our hero is confronted with a lady hand in the clutches of peril. Will love escape his grasp?

Currently playing at 2013 fests like Broad Humor (with other films' I've written about before like ZOMBLEBEES and MAID OF HORROR and CODEPENDENT LESBIAN SPACE ALIEN SEEKS SAME)  in Los Angeles and The Toronto Independent Film Festival, it seems to be doin' alright. Can't wait to catch it in LA on September 22nd!

Heather Jack's Apocalyptic LET'S NOT PANIC

LET'S NOT PANIC is a sci-fi/comedy NYU Grad Film thesis short written and directed by Heather Jack. Jack says her new short will be, "optimistic, witty, and fun" despite being about an impending asteroid crash that will demolish New York City.

Recently, End-of-the-World comedies have been hitting the fan. Edgar Wright's THE WORLD'S END, Lorene Scafaria's SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, Michelle Steffes's 2011 short THE INTERVIEW, Jen Moss's short MY BROTHER'S KEEPER (OR HOW NOT TO SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE) and Drew Barrymore's upcoming THE END all take a romantic, comedic, ironic, and heartfelt-yet-dark-and-poignant look at what happens to people when, literally, their worlds fall apart. It must be some kind of post-911, 21st century phenomenon. It's poetic and yet hardboiled, an attitude of hope despite situations so horrifying they're laughable.

When an asteroid threatens to hit New York, Sadie, a neurotic and anxious 20-something, embarks on a quest from Brooklyn to Manhattan to reunite with her therapist, who she is in love with. She believes they can finally be together in a post-apocalyptic world since all social structures will be broken down and the rules keeping them apart will cease to exist. Along the way, Sadie accrues a small group of other modern, neurotic New York evacuees, Wizard of Oz style. As the group adapts to their new survival needs, looting an upscale restaurant and contending with newly-assembled bicycle gangs, Sadie emerges as their unlikely leader. But will the doctor be the ultimate source of their salvation, and can they reach him before disaster strikes?

LET'S NOT PANIC is currently raising funds and I'm hoping we'll be able to see it in 2014. (Thanks to Kate Tsang for tipping me off about this one!)

Lindsey Haun's NANOBLOOD

NANOBLOOD is a new "queer, sci-f-, neo-noir" short film directed by Lindsey Haun, currently raising funds, that she describes as "bold, avant-garde, and unafraid to be totally out there––sexually, and aesthetically."

Because she wanted to see a science fiction film where more intimate, mundane problems are affected by new and fantastic technologies (for good, or ill) rather than the giant, obvious, ridiculous spacescapes of films like ELYSIUM, Haun decided she'd have to make it herself. Like Liz Adams' SIDE EFFECT, Annette Slomka's THE SECRET LIFE OF SARAH SHELDON, or any of the FUTURESTATES shorts, NANOBLOOD seems to belong to that sophisticated, not-so-very optimistic vision of our future in which individuals pervert science on a very personal level.

The official synopsis:

Gary is a painter recently out of a day job, and his wife Lisa is a graduate student in nanobiology whose funding is contingent on her participation in an experimental trial to replace her blood cells with microscopic robots: nanobots. But when they decide to rent Gary’s painting studio out to Toby, a mysterious visiting scholar also participating in Lisa’s clinical trial, their bodies begin to change in unexpected ways, and sexual desire begins to emerge in unexpected places. The bots, it seems, have a mind of their own…

They filmmakers made a clever fake commercial for the fake product, Nanoblood:

I can't help be reminded of this little gem, which I really really wish was real:

THE NIGHT VISITOR Poster Art Revealed

Jennifer Blanc-Biehn's directorial sci-fi/thriller feature film THE NIGHT VISITOR has a new poster and teaser art. It's got a very CLOSE ENCOUNTERS/1980s sci-fi vibe to it.

Blanc-Biehn's film is found-footage-style, and involves (I think) aliens. I really do.

When a suburban couple hires a new age spiritualist to help with their troubled marriage, her advice to video their lives 24/7 to help reunite the family, turns out to reveal their son is having conversations with an unseen entity, calling itself the Night Visitor.

I think that sounds like aliens, not ghosts.

In any case, check out the new images below:

The Night Visitor Poster
The Night Visitor Poster

Rachel Talalay's TANK GIRL Blu-Ray Release

Rachel Talalay's 1995 fantasy/action film TANK GIRL, based on the British comic book of the same name, is getting a long-overdue Blue-Ray release this November, 2013. Starring Lori Petty as the title character and Naomi Watts as her sidekick Jet Girl, they navigate an assortment of post-apocalyptic eclectica (is that a word? Can it be, please?).

The year's 2033 and since a humongous meteor hit earth, the world just hasn't been the same. No Movies, No Cable TV, NO WATER!!! A mega-villain, Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell), the leader of Water & Power, holds the world in his grasp since he controls all the H2O down to the last drop…or so he thinks. Two colossal enemies stand in his way: (1) The Rippers – an army of half-men/half-kangaroo people whose sole purpose is to bring down the W & P, and (2) a chick with a tank and tons of attitude – a.k.a. Tank Girl (Lori Petty). Kesslee had better get a grip on reality and his water jugs because not even a run in her stocking is going to stop her from saving the planet.

TANK GIRL, both as a comic and a film, exemplified that fleeting and daring post Riot Grrl, 1990s-era GIRL POWER sentiment that I nostalgically and passionately miss in this new millennium. Tank Girl was a shit-kicker, a tomboy, a powerful girl, a punk rocker, a misfit, and full of spunk and sass. Perhaps outdone only by The Spice Girls themselves (I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want), Tank Girl was a maverick woman in a sea of Pamela Andersons on Melrose Place: someone teenage girls with brains and dreams could emulate and epitomized 90s feminism and creative empowerment. And also, sci-fi.

No word on the special features except that we are being denied any new official commentary by director Talalay. But hopefully we'll get some behind the scenes stuff that has lain dormant until now.

Also, 2033 is really not that far away, and I'm a bit worried. Is the US government going to do anything about the whole kangaroo-people issue?

Here's some TANK GIRL to enjoy along with the Blu-Ray cover, which director Talalay says is "properly formatted and color-timed" with "no lame sexist tag line."

tank girl blu ray

SLEEP, WAKE, FORGET From Ariel Vida

Directed and written by Ariel Vida, SLEEP, WAKE, FORGET is a new feature thriller/sci-fi film that takes place after the – you guessed it – apocalypse. Vida says she was inspired to make SLEEP, WAKE, FORGET by films like 28 DAYS LATER and THE ROAD, and the basic setting of the film (a lonely future where individuals must stick together on perilous journeys) is definitely inspired by those films and others like them:

Years after civilization has fallen, Sleep, Wake, Forget follows the story of two brothers who were able to survive their destroyed world due to a unique gift – the ability to look into the minds of others. Through collected memories of a past they never knew, they learned how to survive on their own… and how to defend themselves against the creatures that mankind had become.

The dangers of this world, however, cannot be avoided forever. The infected are uncontrollable, deadly – anyone bitten must be killed immediately. But when tragedy strikes, one brother casts aside these rules, stopping at nothing to try to save his only family.

SLEEP, WAKE, FORGET was shot between August to November 2012 in  Michigan, USA in areas such as Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Jenison, Lansing, Detroit, and Ann Arbor. There's currently a finishing-funds fundraiser going on to get the film in final ship-shape order. You can watch a bit of the footage and Vida herself and assistant director Beth Berens discussing the film here:

Vida previously directed a short fantasy film called OUT OF WONDERLAND, which is a retelling of the ALICE IN WONDERLAND tale. I haven't seen the whole things, so I can't tell you what it's like, but check out some of the gorgeous colors going on and watch some scenes from the short.

More news as it comes! I expect SLEEP, WAKE, FORGET will be in film festivals shortly…

Pamela Green's Alice Guy Documentary BE NATURAL

Director Pamela Green is embarking on an ambitious, but thought-provoking, documentary film examination of the life and work of Alice Guy Blache, the first woman director, titled BE NATURAL. Guy was a French woman who, in 1895, was one of the first people to shoot moving pictures for a major company. Guy is also the first woman to direct a horror, sci-fi, or fantasy film, as well as possibly the first person to shoot a narrative film (that's debated widely).

The Alice Guy documentary BE NATURAL will explore exactly why Guy disappeared from the mainstream film scene in the early 1920s, as well as her legacy. Watch Green's trailer, (narrated by director Jodie Foster):

Appearing in the film are female directors Diablo Cody, Catherine Hardwicke (TWILIGHT), Floria Sigismondi (THE RUNAWAYS), Cheryl Hines (SERIOUS MOONLIGHT), Julie Delpy (THE COUNTESS), Julie Taymor (THE TEMPEST), and Guy biographer Alison McMahan. The film is currently raising funds, and I can't think of a better way to waste 20 bucks today (first world problems).

Guy is a big part of the first chapter of my taking-forever-to-finish book about the history of female horror film directors. Guy directed the first fantasy film in 1895, LA FEE AUX CHOUX (THE CABBAGE FAIRY):

As well as the first horror/comedies:

Her 1906 film LES RESULTATS DU FEMINISME (THE CONSEQUECES OF FEMINISM) and her 1912 film IN THE YEAR 2000 (unfortunately, that one is now lost) were both set in science fiction futures in which gender roles were reversed with interesting (and at the time, humorous) results. Check out LES RESULTATS DU FEMINISME:

Guy also was responsible for adapting the gothic tales THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and DR. FAUST, as well as Edgar Allan Poe's THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM to some of their first film versions. She also dabbled in mystery, thrillers, and comedies.

Jennifer Blanc-Biehn Hires Brianne Davis & Barbara Stepansky

Jennifer Blanc-Biehn (AMONG FRIENDS) is fresh off of directing her feature sci-fi thriller THE NIGHT VISITOR, but she's already planning to  direct her husband, Michael Biehn, along with Evie Louise Tompson in a new sci-fi thriller called THE GIRL.

Blanc/Biehn Productions and Lony Ruhmann are producing a series of female-directed horror and science fiction films together, which is monumentally exciting.

Brianne Davis (who also starred in AMONG FRIENDS and was the lead in THE NIGHT VISITOR) will direct the sequel to THE NIGHT VISITOR, called HEATHER'S STORY, which picks up right where THE NIGHT VISITOR leaves off, with the  Stevens family and their son, Ricky, dealing with horrific otherworldly events, but adds a story about a neighbor named Heather who is having her own strange encounters with the phenomenon.

And as a double-whammy, Barbara Stepansky (FUGUE, FINAL RECOURSE) is directing two features for Blanc/Biehn Productions: THE NIGHT VISITOR 3, and CALLS FROM DEAD PEOPLE. CALLS is about a woman that receives a strange phone message from her dead husband from beyond the grave. She attempts to solve her husband's murder, discovering a secret life he led outside their marriage. THE NIGHT VISITOR 3 centers on the "Phoenix Lights" sightings in the night sky over Phoenix, Arizona, and how they transform the life of a teenage girl when she starts to receive messages from extraterrestrial beings that give her hope to escape her abusive home environment. But it might just be a hoax by a potential killer. So, drama/aliens/horror. Cool.

To top it off, Blanc/Biehn Productions is making a feature film that features a female director as a central character. Directed by Richard Gunn, NIGHT MAIRE is about a director and her leading man, who get stranded in a desolate film location and are forced to stay at a bed and breakfast that may have supernatural horrors within. Cool, again. I mean, anytime you have a female director as a character in a film, I count it on a separate list somewhere in my brain as something awesome.

Davis, like Blanc-Biehn with THE NIGHT VISITOR, is stepping into directing for the first time with genre (as did Danielle Harris, who directed them both in AMONG FRIENDS). Barbara Stepansky is a veteran at this point. I'm so excited to see women directing these movies, I think I'll make a whole blog devoted to just writing about women who do that and call it "Planet Etheria".

I'll be keeping tabs on Jennifer Blanc-Biehn and her new directors. I haven't even seen the first THE NIGHT VISITOR yet; how can I hold out when I know she's making three more? And with Barbara Stepansky? Crazy.