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Sticking Together

Features
by Olivia Silver
July 22, 2013 2:00 PM
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Having recently completed my first feature film, Arcadia, I'm occasionally asked in q&a's what my experience has been directing a feature as a woman. In truth, I don't often consciously think of myself in terms of my gender - growing up with two sisters and a brother, I was never taught that my potential was any different than that of my brother. But it's hard to ignore the stark statistics about the dearth of women directors actively working in the industry, and it does increasingly make me wonder what can be done about it, and at least how to maintain optimism and a fighting spirit as we try and get our work out there.

As a graduate film student at UCLA, I was one of six women in the directing program out of a class of 21. This wasn't necessarily the norm - many of the classes in other years had a more equal parity between men and women. But our small band of female filmmakers felt a bit like it would feel later, in the "real world", where few women are hired to direct feature films.

For the most part, there was a special camaraderie between the women. We enjoyed each other's company and supported each other's films - in writing groups, on set, and in post. Now, years later, many of the six of us keep in touch despite being flung all over the world. Film school is a bonding experience for many, especially a program as intensive and long as that at UCLA (4-5 years at the time!) But in retrospect there was something unique to being a woman in what sometimes felt like a man's world, even if just by dint of the fact that we were a minority. Our films weren't treated any differently than those of the men - in fact men and women alike worked on, tore apart, and applauded each other's efforts. But we knew that things might change once we graduated - the black and white statistics on women directors were hard to ignore even within the protected halls of film school.

Especially after the blood, sweat and tears it took to make Arcadia, I now realize how important it is to bond together in the rough world of indie filmmaking, whose mercurial forces batter male and female directors alike. The invaluable support you get from peers can make all the difference while you're toiling away on a script or knocking on industry doors that often stay closed. The film school model of reading each other's scripts, working on each other's sets, venting over drinks, and enthusiastically  supporting the fruits of each other's creative labors is well suited to all indie filmmakers out there, but especially women directors. We didn't choose an easy career path for a reason - but we can certainly use the support of peers to make it through relatively unscathed.

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Olivia Silver directed Arcadia, starring Academy Award nominee John Hawkes and winner of the Crystal Bear at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival, among other festival awards. Arcadia was based on Olivia's short film Little Canyon, which premiered at Sundance in 2009.  The film is available on DVD on July 23. Join Silver for an advanced online screening tonight at 8p ET, including a live Twitter chat at #ArcadiaFilm, here.

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