News broke yesterday that more Twilight is coming our way. Gross. But, there’s a twist. According to HitFix, Lionsgate has announced that this project is a collaborative effort between Facebook, Women in Film, Tongal and Stephenie Meyer, and is a contest for female filmmakers to win a shot at directing Twilight-based short films. “The Storytellers — New Creative Voices of the Twilight Saga” comes complete with an advisory panel which includes Meyer, Kristen Stewart, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Jennifer Lee, Catherine Hardwicke, Julie Bowen and Cathy Schulman, president of Women in Film.
The five winning films selected by the panel (to be financed through “production advances”) will then debut exclusively on Facebook next year. In addition, one grand prize winner - selected with the help of fans engaged through the Facebook and Tongal platforms - will be rewarded with “a cash prize and career opportunities.”
Lionsgate CEO and vice chair, Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns, call this “part of our commitment to female empowerment in front of and behind the camera.”
On one hand, fantastic, a major effort to increase and promote the presence of woman in the entertainment industry, a monstrously, upsettingly male-dominated world.
So why do I feel unenthused regarding this project, one that seeks to increase that and features a panel of truly impressive, powerful women?
Because its focus on women is its only upside. Everything else is absolute, utter garbage, implying that female filmmakers can only, would only want to participate in the furthering of a massively female-depowering film and book series. Or that there aren’t already existing, working female directors who shouldn’t have to participate in a Facebook contest for work like it’s a free T-shirt. That women are only worth a job if they literally fight each other to have it. That these minor morsels of something really mean anything. As Lexi Alexander, a female director who only makes distinctly un-Twilighty films, noted, this is an insult.
It's going to make me very depressed if people actually believe this is an opportunity, not an insult: http://t.co/RAw2YgeMUe— Lexi Alexander (@Lexialex) October 1, 2014
But you know what the saddest part is? Much like when John Oliver pointed out that despite its lies and misgivings, the Miss America Pageant still truly is the biggest scholarship provider for women, this is one of the few mainstream projects seeking to provide women jobs as filmmakers. There are women working so hard to make it, and for some, their best shot truly is this insane competition wherein their grand prize might be to make a short Twilight film that might make it to Facebook.
And the thing is? I completely understand why women would and will want to participate in this. It’s the same motivation one has for signing up to perform, say, free at a book signing event, or taking a non-paying writing gig with a major publication for “exposure.” Despite the pithy tweets of those in ultimately correct but cruelly phrased opposition, people who take on these kind of exposure-based projects are not stupid or naive. They are artists who know what they’re up against, willing to do whatever it takes to somehow make it. The high road of self-importance can only take you so far, and, when you’re an artist and someone who is already marginalized based on gender or color or sexual orientation or the myriad other reasons society deems you less than, it is so, so easy to think, “screw it, I guess this is my only way in.”
“Accessing Hollywood is a momentous challenge, especially for aspiring female filmmakers, so I’m thrilled that Women In Film has been invited to join Stephenie Meyer, Lionsgate and Facebook to empower new storytellers with diverse voices,” added Women In Film President Cathy Schulman. “Women In Film is proud to help recruit and mentor female filmmakers as part of a project that illustrates the power of a beloved book and movie franchise to lessen the gender gap in our film community and provide a platform for women’s perspectives to be seen and heard.”
Chimed in Meyer:
“The female voice is something that has become more and more important to me as I’ve worked in the film industry. I’m honored to be working with Women In Film, Lionsgate, and Facebook on a project dedicated to giving more women a chance to be heard creatively.”
Read that again. “The female voice is something that has become more and more important to me as I’ve worked in the film industry.” That was said by a woman. The female voice is not, never has been as important as that of its male counterparts. Unless it’s telling the story of a young girl who tries to kill herself to get her boyfriend’s attention, under the grand delusion that it’s a glorious love story.
If a female filmmaker wants to make that movie, fine. But it should not be her only opportunity to get her foot in the door.
We need women to get a stronger foothold in the film industry. This project aims to do that. But dammit if that foothold isn’t awfully slippery when they’re making you wear sparkly stilettos with a broken heel.