Logline: The 21st World of Women’s Cinema – WOW Film Festival is a film festival that promotes and awards the talents of women directors, producers, writers, editors and cinematographers in the Australian film industry and internationally. It is a festival that offers emerging and established filmmakers the opportunity to screen works giving a thematic perspective of … “seeing the world through the eyes of women”. We are moving stories will help spotlight the selected WOW films in an extended feature here on our platform. Read and enjoy!
About Sophie Mathisen: a director of films and now festivals as well as the co-founder of British-Australian production company Little Sure Shots. Their first feature, Drama, directed by Sophie, was the first Australian film to work with a self-imposed 50% female engagement quota across all departments. Drama will be released in late 2016.
Interview with Festival Director Sophie Mathisen
1. When and why did the WOW Film Festival begin?
The first WOW was in 1993 and was started by Lois Randall as an extension of Metroscreen TV. Interestingly at that point in time, Australia had a higher percentage of female driven content than it does now. I applaud her for her insight and am privileged to helm WOW now, at a point in time where it is more necessary than ever before.
2. This year will be the 21st year of the film festival. How has the film festival grown since 1995?
The film festival has traditionally been a shorts festival but this year I’ve expanded that to include six feature screenings. It’s important to acknowledge a lot of emerging filmmakers aren’t making numerous shorts before attempting a feature. I’d love to inspire more of that kind of creative risk-taking by creating a platform for filmmakers to showcase their work, be it longform, shortform or digital.
3. Can you discuss the special events you’ll organise for the anniversary?
I’m so excited about what we have planned. The WOWFF team have unveiled three new talent development opportunities with a focus on emerging and mid-career filmmakers. I spent a lot of time on the festival circuit last year and from my experience, the best festivals were the ones that encouraged participation beyond simply being an audience.
POW-WOW is a series of industry-led panel discussions covering topics about online marketing, feminism and maternity as well as content creation and distribution. The old rulebook about how to make and distribute a film is now not the only way, and potentially not the best either.
I’m still new to this industry myself and there are a lot of questions I’ve yet to get answers for, so this part of WOW is really about tackling the challenges and inherent possibilities in the changing front of the film industry.
KAPOW is a series of masterclasses on freelancing (with the very wonderful Monica Davidson from Creative Plus Business), film financing (with the incredible Andrena Finlay) as well as how to nail a self test (with Steppenwolf teacher Julia Grace). Again, these are boot camps to provide participants with a greater skill set after the festival.
Lastly, ON THE TABLE, is a programme very dear to me. The initiative is a screenwriting competition for an emerging female screenwriter in which the winner will workshop their script in front of an audience with some of Sydney’s most experienced and respected actors.
Actors, particularly theatre actors develop such a strong ear for language, rhythm and flow that they are incredible assets to the process of development. I’m excited to give a new script and writer a chance in the sun and it’s my desire that this can be a small step on the road to production for the winning entry. With regards to our film schedule there's a lot happening too. Like any 21st celebration, it's important that someone brings out the baby photos to show where you have come from.
Screening My Brilliant Career is an incredible honour. As an Australian woman, and director, this film is a strong emblem of the critical and commercial viability of female driven work.
Written, produced and directed by women, the film had an incredible reception domestically and abroad and launched the careers of its crew and cast. It's not hard to see why - it's funny, honest, topical, meaningful. And I'm thrilled to be able to screen it and humbled that Gillian Armstrong is acting as Festival Patron this year.
Thelma and Louise is another important milestone in feminist cinema and we will be making a big fuss over it on Saturday the 30th April. I think that returning to T&L to show the strength and pertinence of its message is important but also, we want to make it fun. We have the girls from SKITBOX doing some in-cinema trivia prior to screening and of course, we want everyone in muscle tees and jeans.
4. What type of feedback have you received so far about the film festival?
The feedback has been resoundingly positive. I’m thrilled by how much excitement has been generated by ideas that have been in gestation for a while.
5. Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It’s cemented how important platforms like WOW are and how critical it is to innovate and push boundaries. Festivals are community events and it’s important to engage multiple communities, not simply the film industry within this experience.
I want WOW to appeal to those working in film but also those who potentially are thinking about having a crack at making some content either on their iPhone or 5d.
6. What are you looking to achieve by having information about the film festival more visible on this platform?
I want to profile the incredible filmmakers and their works more fully, beyond what we at WOW HQ can achieve just through our social networks. I was really staggered by the quality of films that were submitted and from where they came from. We have films from all corners of the world and from filmmakers at very different points in their careers.
It was a beautiful experience to put in DVDs with hand written tech specs on them because that was me just a year ago. I have an immense respect for the women who submitted, it can be daunting to put yourself out there creatively so I’m thrilled that another female start up (We are Moving Stories) is supporting their endeavours as well.
7. What type of impact would you like this film festival to have?
I think there’s a misconception that the festival is just for women or female audiences. If you take a look at the program, it’s incredibly diverse and crosses a number of demographics and genres. I did this deliberately to break down those preconceptions because we have content to satisfy whatever film tastes you have. Love horror? Yep, we have it. Animation and gaming? Got it. Comedy? Uh huh. Docs? Narrative? Yep and yep.
We have the length and breadth of the filmmaking spectrum because women don’t just make one kind of film. They make everything and they make it well. We have secured four international premieres for this festival and I honestly can’t believe that bigger festivals passed on those films.
On that point, I would like to really spotlight the need for films, like any product of human labour and endeavour, to be answerable to quality control with regards to their production methodologies. We prefer free trade coffee and chocolate so it’s safe to say that there is a raised awareness of ethics in industry.
That needs to extend the film industry as well. Women not having an equal place in film is purely and simply discrimination. WOW is important in showing that there are great films doing things the right way.
8. Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about your film festival?
The statistics of female engagement in filmmaking speaks volumes – just 16% of narrative content is directed by women. So the question therefore is - Do you really think that the industry as it stands is fair? If the answer is yes, it’s important to interrogate further and find out why it is you feel that way. If it’s because the current state serves you, all that says is that you are invested in keeping an unequal system afloat.