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Guest Post: The Film Fatales Inspire DIY Chapters

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by Elizabeth Orne
May 29, 2014 11:03 AM
1 Comment
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Film Fatales panel (L to R): Deborah Kampmeier, Paola Mendoza, Leah Meyerhoff, Malika Zouhali-Worrall, Ry Russo-Young, Danielle Lurie
Elizabeth Orne Film Fatales panel (L to R): Deborah Kampmeier, Paola Mendoza, Leah Meyerhoff, Malika Zouhali-Worrall, Ry Russo-Young, Danielle Lurie

On Tuesday night, a full house of Independent Filmmaker Project members gathered at the Made in NY Media Center in downtown Brooklyn to meet the Film Fatales face-to-face. Earlier this month, Filmmaker Magazine published an article entitled "A Collective Will" by Danielle Lurie, which spoke of an almost magical troop of female filmmakers who were banding together to help empower each other to get their films made. "Instead of dwelling on statistics and waiting around for people to give us money, we decided to all get together and help each other make our own films," said Leah Meyerhoff, founder of the Film Fatales, whose first feature film I Believe in Unicorns premiered at SXSW festival earlier this year.

Joining her in the discussion were Filmmaker Magazine contributor Danielle Lurie (director of "In The Morning"), Ry Russo-Young (director of Nobody Walks, which she co-wrote with Lena Dunham), Deborah Kampmeier (writer-director of Hounddog), Paola Mendoza (co-writer/director/star of "Entre Nos"), and Malika Zouhali-Worrall (co-director/producer of Call Me Kuchu), all members of the Film Fatales, which is now 60 women strong.

The Fatales started the evening by explaining how their group works. "It's like having a dinner party with twenty of your closest filmmaker friends, only you just haven't met them all yet," said Meyerhoff. On the first Monday of every month, they hold a casual dinner party at a different member's home, but it's not a regular, freestyle hangout. The women credited the deliberate structure Meyerhoff created with the group's resonance. 

Every Fatales meeting starts with the women going one-by-one around the room saying their name, the project they are currently working on, and one positive thing that has happened in the last month. They then have a half-hour discussion on a topic chosen by the host, and finally they wrap up by going around the room and one-by-one asking for something they need. Often times, they say, someone in the room is able to solve their "ask" right there on the spot. Russo-Young credited the meetings with giving her a "weird high," stating that in spite of struggling to fit the meetings into her busy schedule, she often leaves feeling like "the world's a really good place."

Out of the monthly meetings have come a Fatales Writing Group (where they workshop each other's scripts), quarterly master classes (where they teach each other new skills, i.e. how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign), and resource spreadsheets (an ever expanding list of resources they recommend to each other, i.e. DPs, lawyers, etc.)

"It's vulnerable when you are making your first film," said Russo-Young, "You don't want to get ripped off." They all credited the collective with being "a safe place to be honest" where you can ask enough questions to move from being an amateur to understanding the landscape with minimal growing pains.

Beyond networking, the Fatales is fostering strong friendships. Mendoza spoke about the competition and solitude of the industry and how this group fosters a sense of community. "There's a great joy in helping someone else," she said as the other women nodded. "I loved it from the first meeting," said Zouhali-Worrall. "This is a group of highly ambitious women used to getting stuff done alone, coming together." "The world is ours when we get together," added Lurie. "I've been waiting for a community like this for 15 years," said Kampmeier. 

And indeed that sentiment is striking a chord. Other chapters of the Film Fatales have already sprung up in Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, New Orleans, and most recently London. The response has been so strong that Meyerhoff has even put together a do-it-yourself packet for starting your own local Film Fatales Chapter. "If you email us, we will email you back with materials -- soon. Our inbox is overflowing right now," Meyerhoff said with a laugh, gracefully trying to meet the needs of women filmmakers everywhere, while also currently managing an international festival tour for her film.

If you're a female filmmaker interested in starting a local chapter of Film Fatales, email the Fatales at filmfatalesnyc@gmail.com.

Previously: NYC Women Filmmakers Mentor Each Other


Elizabeth Orne was recently named a "New Director" to watch by SHOOT. Her short film "Crazy Glue" was nominated for the Student Academy Awards, was an Official Selection at the Telluride Film Festival, and aired nationally on PBS in 2013 as a part of the series Film School Shorts. 

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1 Comment

  • ilalib | May 29, 2014 1:57 PMReply

    This sounds like an amazing and supportive group of people. I wish I met people like this while I was in school, maybe I wouldn't have made so many mistakes.

    Go Film Fatales!

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