The Artemis Women in Action Film Festival is dedicated to honoring female driven action films, the men and women who pioneered them, those who contributed to the success of the genre, and the undiscovered talent of the future.
Interview with Founder Melanie Wise
Why did you begin the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival?
My team, and festival co-founders, Sean Newcombe and Zac Baldwin, are long time female action fans as well as creators of female action films. We’ve been producing films with strong female leads for some time and have struggled with finding ‘good homes’ and decent distribution support for them (though our emerging digital means of distribution is making a dent on this front for indie filmmakers as a whole). One day, we just decided if we wanted to see more female led action films, we needed to create a space for them to play.
Let’s face it, save specialty festivals, unknown makers of films featuring physically powerful women have no real venue. Most festivals focus on documentaries, dramas, and comedies – much tamer fair. And generally festivals do not program action, horror, or sci-fi. These types of films are not real contenders for awards anywhere, indie or studio. For some reason, they fall into the ‘not important’ category, yet, if you want to see the great earners, these are the genres to examine.
This year will be the second year of the film festival. How has the film festival grown since 2015?
Both in terms of size of following and popularity, we’ve been surprized and touched the growth of the festival. Our social media following has quadrupled in size. The number of filmmakers we’ve gotten to know who really want to support female action stories has been incredible.
What we’ve also seen is a change occurring in the marketplace and the way these types of films are viewed. With the focus that has been placed on women in film because of various controversies over the last year and a half, we’ve seen female action films being taken much more seriously. We hope our voices have been a meaningful addition to the conversation.
One of the things we wanted was for the festival to be a home for filmmakers who wanted to show strong, empowered images of women. What we’ve seen from year 1 to year 2 is that filmmakers realize that they now have a haven for female action characters and are now creating the content for that haven.
Do you also accept and screen documentaries?
Some of our best films are documentaries! We had films submitted about military history, sports achievements, wilderness training, Native American women, log rolling, aerobatic pilots, combat fighters, extreme dancing, as well as many other subjects. The films have been incredibly well done and very profound.
The array of subject matter is actually mind-numbing and completely stretches the ‘standard view’ of what women are ‘supposed to do’ in life. In the past two years, documentaries have been the backbone of some of our best programming. We show both feature length and short documentaries.
What type of feedback have you received so far about the film festival?
Our feedback has been almost uniformly positive. When we first announced the festival in 2014, we were shocked by the passionate response from both women and men. A common question we’ve received is, “Why hasn’t a festival like this been done before?” So many people have been waiting to celebrate women in action and many are delighted to see so many of these films in one place at one time.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Yes, the feedback has surprised us because of the uniform nature of it. When we launched the festival, we were pretty sure we would receive some strong opposition to the festival. Any negative response has been very sparse. This has made us even more confident that our mission to show physically empowered images of women is timely, as well as needed.
Another surprise has been how deeply committed people have become to championing the cause we’ve focused on. We’ve been fan-backed for two years, people have made video in support of our cause and have reached out to newspaper and blogs on our behalf, etc.
What are you looking to achieve by having information about the film festival more visible on this platform?
From the beginning, we’ve had a strong international following and we want to continually reach out globally. We want to inform filmmakers of our existence so that we can showcase their works. We want fans of female action films to have a place to see new, unusual, fascinating works.
We received films from over 25 countries and we’ve has a particularly strong response from both the UK and Australia.
Who do you need to come on board (audience, publicity, media) to amplify this film festival’s message and audience?
We could certainly use more media exposure and publicity. We are a young festival with a very good potential to spread the message of physically empowered women in film.
We are working very hard to continue growing our audience for the festival. We also spend much effort to expand our social media presence.
Every week we host #WomenKickAss twitter parties, Thursday 7-8 pm PT. A twitter party is essentially a running conversation where many twitter peeps convene and participate using the same hashtag. Each week, our parties having a different theme in the area of strong women.
What type of impact would you like this film festival to have?
We’d love to be part of the voice that positively changes the perception and image of women in film and culture. Our mission is to encourage more filmmakers to create these stories, more actresses to play empowered roles, and to inspire audiences with an entire host of empowered visions of the potential for women.
We believe the fastest path to social change is in the education of our young people. If even one little girl gets to see a new opportunity for herself, we’ve done our job.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about your film festival?
Why is the industry so adverse to showing a range of voices of women in film, particularly physically empowered ones?
Interview April 2016