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Development: the movie

February 2, 2010

Stills from Development,

A few months ago, renowned filmmaker Jane Campion urged women filmmakers “to put on their suits of armor and get going because we need them.” Now she’s spoken out again. This time, she targeted people who greenlight films:

I think women should be given 50% of the films to make. I’m not kidding! It’ll change the world overnight. Women see things differently so it’ll be better for everyone…it’s not fair. It’s about human rights…I want equality.

Jane Campion was born in New Zealand, the first country in the world where women gained the right to vote. But even here, the statistics aren’t good. “Getting going” with our armor on, means coming to terms with the reality that over the last seven years, women wrote and directed only one in six (16%) of the feature films that the New Zealand Film Commission—the state film agency—funded. In a country that’s proud of its human rights record, this is an equity issue.

With Jane Campion’s support, we’re making Development the movie, a feature film about women filmmakers in Wellywood, New Zealand’s Hollywood, outside the state system.

Development is first of all an entertaining story, possibly the first about women filmmakers since Sally Potter’s The Gold Diggers (1983). The main character of the film is Emily, and to get a glimpse of the film’s plot:

Emily’s very old, her battles for justice behind her. All she wants is to regain her full mobility and to help her daughter Louise, who is losing her memory.

But then her best friend Iris draws Emily into a Wellywood web, where women filmmakers love and learn as they tangle with Louise’s husband Jeffray-the-Black-Widower, Henry the Golden Boy, with unsupportive Queen Bees, and with one another.

And when Emily finds she has nothing left to lose, she takes on one last campaign—

…and the rest can be told in the film.

Development is also a project that relies on the transformative power of storytelling. It aims to touch audiences’ hearts, so they can identify with the women filmmakers and then understand more, and care more, about the diverse and complex problems that all women filmmakers face. Just as, for example, Nancy Meyers’ films show us what it’s like to be a particular kind of middle-aged woman.

Beyond the story, we’re using Development to test a sustainable model for contemporary women filmmakers, informed by

  • Our knowledge that—globally—women as audiences are hungry for more films that address their diverse experiences and that the internet is a great way to reach them and to create a dialogue with them;
  • The potential of a low—$100,000—budget through using inexpensive digital production and free, web-based, delivery;
  • Women Make Movies’ (New York) fiscal sponsorship model—the Victoria Foundation is our fiscal umbrella, and able to provide donor tax benefits in NZ, UK, US;
  • Our firm commitment to paying everyone for their work, which we view as especially important for women— i.e. we will not use the unpaid or deferral models common in low-budget feature and short film projects;
  • Sally Potter’s practice in The Gold Diggers of paying everyone equally, in our project $150 per day;
  • Our belief that an all-women core crew may facilitate a production experience that enhances the final product.

Four generations of multi-talented women are committed to the project: accomplished writers, actors, artists, filmmakers. The story and characters resonate with them. We have achieved endorsement from women’s organizations and now a prestigious law firm, to give us credibility and to help us network with possible donors. We are also networking on Facebook and Twitter and exploring commercial sponsorship, for example with a large supermarket chain. Women do 80% of supermarket shopping, there’s so much drama in supermarkets, and we’ll be filming an important sequence in our local supermarket.

We want to complete filming before our winter. We need money to do this, so every little helps. We also value expertise from people around the world, who can help us promote the project, raise the money, and refine our model to make it the best it can be for future use by other women filmmakers. We welcome your participation, as a Facebook fan, as someone with expertise, or as a donor who will enjoy this film, just as soon as it’s available on our website:

By Marian Evans, writer and producer of Development. Marian was part of the Spiral Collective that published Keri Hulme’s Booker prize-winning the Bone People, and then a lawyer. She’s just finished her PhD about opening space in the New Zealand film industry for more features that women write and direct. In 2003,  Evans and Erica Duthie (also a producer of Development) organized Mahi Ata Mahi Ahua Women’s Work in Film and its associated website. They see Development as a performance piece, an opportunity to try a new filmmaking model. Evans also blogs at Wellywood Women.

One Comment
  1. February 10, 2010 2:04 am

    This will be exceptional. From a woman who has created a model from a huge experiential background that includes some of this generation’s most thoughtful projects involving New Zealand women.

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