Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Awesome Example of Multimedia Storytelling

Today I got to take a day away from the Reel Grrls office to talk about visual storytelling at a two day Bootcamp put on by the folks at Fusionspark Media up on lovely Whidbey Island.

While the world of journalism is turning on its head, and many of us are scrambling to figure out how to get paid while doing the work that we love, there are incredible new (and old) voices out there producing amazing work. So today I'd like to share a story produced by Mediastorm - check them out if you've never visited the site before - they don't throw new stuff up there every day, but they have been an inspiration to me for many years.

This story, which they did in collaboration with National Geographic, looks at elephant migration patterns and poaching in the Zakouma National Park in Chad. Check it out:

Ivory Wars by J. Michael Fay and Michael Nichols

Zakouma is one of the last places on earth where thousands of elephants roam together. But as perennial rains arrive to replenish the desert landscape, some 3,500 elephants seek better forage outside the park perimeter, where poachers await them. See the project at

YA Books to Movies: A Lifetime of Disappointment

Originally posted by Mary on the fantastic Rip It To Shreds!

Seeing the glossy promotional posters for the new Ramona and Beezus movie starring Selena Gomez as Beezus has renewed the anger I felt as a tween when my beloved young adult books were turned into shiny, boppy movies that totally ruined everything about the books themselves.

Now when I re-read YA books, particularly those from the 70's and early 80's, I'm truly surprised at how spare and realistic they often are. The endings are often abrupt and unresolved, and instead of a lot of cheesy poetic editorializing, we often get the straightforward narration of a young person. Read Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, and be struck by the dark undercurrents of her post WW2 life coupled with her naivete and adolescent awkwardness, all told through her eyes. And what about Harriet the Spy? I knew that book was totally weird even when reading it as a kid- her relationship with Ole Golly and the line drawings of Ole Golly's mother terrified me. Roald Dahl is another one whose work clearly has a sinister, if kooky, edge (which was actually pulled off in the first Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! And maybe The Witches? I can't remember.)

Even as a kid (though I was a little too old for the movies when the rash of 90's era ones came out) I was disappointed in these movies, which, distinctly, lacked any of the bite of the originals. I knew that Harriet was supposed to take place in the 1960's, that Matilda and her story were intensely and irrevocably British. I was aghast to see the girl cast as Sarah Crewe in The Little Princess; this was a character who was repeatedly described as odd, weird-looking, and a little off-putting. Sure, she had a kindly heart, but she wasn't supposed to be a child model.

And when I think about Ramona, I think about her overworked parents who struggled with money, her house in Klikitat street in the rainy Pacific Northwest, her so familiar hatred of staying with the babysitter or at another kid's house because of aforesaid working parents, and Beezus feeling horribly awkward and embarrassed about everything. This shiny, allergy-fighting pharmaceutical commercial-esque sunniness and Gomez' airbrushed face seem to have no relation to the original characters.

Taking the protagonist and giving her shiny hair and these ease of a one-dimensional popular girl is a common theme in movie-making, and somehow I can't imagine film executives pouring over Barthe DeClements oeuvre and saying, "Do you think we made this twelve-year-old girl character realistic? Do you think we picked up on the dryness if the original text?" Instead we get the Hannah Montana phenomenon, where everything for kids is glossed up and filled with ridiculous distractions, all made with the assumption that children cannot pay attention to anything for more than 20 seconds. They are probably thinking, "Little girls like glitter, hair extensions, pink, and commercial tie-ins!' We can take men and sometimes women seriously, but the media is clearly uninterested in how children might really think, act, and feel, even though we were all children once and of course can trace the route of our grown-up insanity from childhood.

Of course, this movie also comes after the recent trend of making movies ostensibly about little girls, but are really about the director's "vision," including The Fall, Tideland (do NOT see that one) and even the slightly better but still under the same category Pan's Labyrinth. These films featured young female protagonists only as innocent foils to the fucked-up goings on around them.

I love good YA because, at its best, it is simple, painfully realistic storytelling, as opposed to the meaningless jerking-off that makes up the work of so many "real" authors, who mostly seem interested in little girls sexually, or, again, merely as innocent foils. Is there a coincidence that the most famous "real" novel featuring a little girl is probably Lolita? I love good YA because it says, "These stories are not trivial." Believe it or not, realistic honesty in art if often more meaningful than obtuse truths and hidden themes. And because they are about kids, particularly little girls, the genre will probably never get its due.

PS: Ohmygod.
PPS: For more on this subject, read my The Golden Compass review!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday: Audio Shortcuts

Okay, Final Cut Pro users, it's time for another Tech Tip Tuesday for ya!

Audio equalizing is one of the very last steps of finishing up any editing project. Unfortunately, it's time consuming and a total pain in the neck! That's why the day I learned about this tech tip–keyboard shortcuts for quickly lowering and raising audio levels–I thanked my lucky stars.

So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to your new best friends:

ctrl and -                  lowers your clip's audio by one decibel
ctrl and + (aka = )     raises your clip's audio by one decibel
ctrl and [                  lowers your clip's audio by three decibels
ctrl and ]                  raises your clip's audio by three decibels

I know it doesn't seem like much, but I guarantee you that if you try out these keyboard shortcuts the next time you have that tedious audio equalization task ahead of you it will not only save you tons of time, but tons of hair pulling as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Reel Grrls Guide to SIFF 2010!

SIFF 2010 is here! We are going to be walking the red carpet at the Opening Night soiree in just a few hours! We love SIFF, not only because it is the biggest, longest-running, and best-attended film festival on the continent, but because we Seattlites benefit from their tremendous programming year-round. We heart their educational outreach program (especially Ed Outreach Coordinator Dustin Kaspar - an opera-singing cinephile!), and SIFF has brought amazing filmmakers to visit us at Reel Grrls - always super exciting.

Everyone in Seattle has something to say about SIFF - check out The Stranger's Guide; The Seattle Weekly just posted their Picks and Pans; our favorite Sparkly Indie-Pop Press, Three Imaginary Girls, has tons of SIFF info updating all the time, including this preview post. The Northwest Film Forum's blog is another good resource, check out this post about two locally-produced films premiering at SIFF this year.

But do any of these resources focus on amazing women-directed films? How about films that are awesome for teen audiences? Films with positively represented female protagonists? I didn't think so. That's why we're here.

I give you: The Ultimate Reel Grrls Guide to SIFF 2010!
5 SIFF Suggestions for Grrl Media Makers

1. I SAW U. Dir. Maile Martinez and Lane Stroud. [Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion Ahead!] This short documentary was created entirely by Reel Grrls staff and mentors! That's right, all of the writing, directing, producing, shooting, lighting, editing - everything on this film - was executed by women filmmakers. It was selected for the opening night of Shorts Fest Weekend, SIFF's short-film-festival-within-a-festival. We really encourage you to see it on the big screen, but if you can't make it, you can watch it here. Please take the time to vote for it - I SAW U is eligible for an audience award from the International Documentary Challenge.
Friday, May 21, 7:30 PM, SIFF Cinema. Click here for tickets and info.

2. Winter's Bone.
Dir. Debra Granik. This excellent film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, as well as the CICAE Award at Berlinale. It features a brave, independent, and intelligent (though under-educated) young female protagonist, Ree Dolly. Ree is raising herself and her two young siblings in extremely impoverished circumstances in the Ozarks. When her meth-cooking father goes missing, Ree's quest to find him is part thriller, part epic journey, part sociological portrait of rural America. A must-see.
The Egyptian Theater: May 28, 7:00 PM; May 30, 1:30 PM. Click here for tickets and info, and to watch the trailer.

3. Betty. Dir. Heather Ayres. I have been wanting to see this film since I interviewed its director, Seattle local Heather Ayres, over a year ago. The film was shot on 35mm, and features a gripping performance from Seattlite Davie-Blue (who recently moved away, but who is also the older sister of Reel Grrls participant Summer!). At 14 minutes long, this film screens before Bass Ackwards, a locally-produced feature film co-written by and also featuring Davie-Blue!
The Harvard Exit, May 21, 9:45 PM; May 23, 3:45 PM. Click here for tickets and info.

4. Dear Lemon Lima, Dir. Suzi Yoonessi. Dear Lemon Lima was filmed in Seattle a few summers ago, and a number of Reel Grrls participants helped out as PAs and extras. We have been dying to see it ever since, but the few screenings it has had in Seattle have been totally sold outally! It takes place in Alaska and features a half-Yup'ik protagonist as well as some snazzy-looking animation.
The Neptune Theater, June 1, 7:00 PM; June 2, 4:30 PM. Click here for tickets, info, and to see the trailer. *Special Note! Reel Grrls has some free tickets to the June 2nd screening. Email maile at reelgrrls dot org with Dear Lemon Lima as your subject line and one reason why you love Reel Grrls in your email, and I will hook you up!

5. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Dir. Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg. This feature-length doc takes viewers on a year in the life of Joan Rivers. It was a highlight of the Hot Docs Film Festival for me - a fascinating look into the inner workings of an obsessive workaholic whose life has played out in the tabloids - often because she makes it so. The filmmakers get behind Joan's red-carpet persona and illuminate the sharp wit and business savvy that has made this woman a groundbreaker in comedy for decades. Created by the female duo behind The Devil Came On Horseback and The Trials of Darryl Hunt.
Uptown Cinemas, May 30, 9:30 PM. Click here for tickets and info.

It goes without saying that this post describes only five of the 382 films screening at SIFF this year. We hope to be able to add more suggestions as the Festival goes on. But here's a start - see you at the Festival!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday links round up

Cover of "Whip It"Cover of Whip It

We thought maybe the Seattle rain had let up for the season, but instead were stuck with actual storms. STORMS, people! Time to curl up with a good internet, and avoid going outside until mid-June.

Interesting news today that Drew Barrymore has signed on to direct a sequel to the Wizard of Oz, titled Surrender Dorothy. We at Reel Grrls loved her directorial debut with Whip It, so we've got some pretty high hopes. Unfortunately, Drew has a bit of a strange history when it comes to women oriented media. I loved Charlie's Angels, which she produced- it was a great example of what a female driven action blockbuster can look like, despite it's shortcomings. But she also produces the very mean VH1 series Tough Love. So, what do you think, will this new Wizard of Oz movie be any good?

Our friends Youth In Focus are recruiting youth for their summer photography classes. Learn photography for free in this great program!

Anne Elizabeth Moore is a very cool writer and activist. Recently, she received a fellowship to teach self-publishing to young women in Cambodia. Her new little book about the experience, Cambodian Grrrl, is available now.

Bitch Magazine is pretty much the greatest magazine publishing today, in my humble opinion. And they have a new issue out! You can visit their website now to read some of the articles.

Finally, I have to say that I am really digging this extremely silly video today. It's the staff of NPR lipsyncing to Gaga and Beyonce's Telephone. It's probably not nearly as funny if you aren't an NPR fan, but if like me you've been listening to Robert Seigel's voice every morning for years, seeing him read absurd pop lyrics may cause you to go into hysterics.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Powerful films filled with Girl power in action...

Join us for the premier of the "Year of the Girl Director," a collection of short films created by participants of the Reel Grrls Program in 2009-2010. It's our Spring Showcase, Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 4 pm, at Market Theater in Downtown Seattle.

The films are from a wide array of styles including animation, music video, autobiography and narrative. Some are by the first-time film-makers and others by advanced groups, but all of the content is written, shot, edited and directed entirely by young women ages 9-20.

Please check more information about the screenings and reserve your seat at
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High tonight with us & Lindy West!

Tonight we'll be wrapping up our screening series at the Central Cinema, Awesome Movies You Never Knew Were Directed by Women. Lindy West of The Stranger will host us to the early 80's vision of fabulousity that is Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Directed by Amy Heckerling in 1982, Fast Times was billed as a comedy, but only kinda, sorta fits that genre. Spicoli, the school's biggest stoner surfer, provides a lot of the laughs- he gets pizza delivered to class, he hits himself in the head with his new checkered vans, he falls on his face getting out of a smokey VW bus at school. Spicoli, played by a young Sean Penn, was certainly one of the most memorable characters. But the film also dealt with a host of important teen issues, which are still relevant today- virginity, hormones, rude teachers, the humiliating effects of the service industry on young workers, and abortion (among others).

Lindy will certainly have far more funny things to say tonight about it than I can think of... So I highly recommend you join us! Only $10, and proceeds support Reel Grrls- buy your tickets here. See you there!

Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Hosted by Lindy West of the Stranger
Central Cinema
1411 21st Ave
Wed, May 12, 7pm, $10
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Here at Reel Grrls, we like to keep track of what the Federal Communications Commission is doing and how it affects our lives. When the FCC came to town a couple of years ago to hold a public hearing about Media Consolidation, a bunch of RG participants went down to testify and dress up like zombies (media zombies that is). They even made a film about it:

Lately the biggest thing going on in Media Justice is Net Neutrality: creating the protections that will allow for a free and open internet, one in which no one would have greater or faster access to distributing or receiving information based on $$ or anything else. Clearly, this is an issue for the FCC, our national consumer-rights commission that handles all things communications-related. Right? Wrong.

This weekend, mere days after holding a community hearing in Seattle in which community members demanded regulation for a free and open internet, (Obama-appointed) FCC chairman Julian Genachowski made noise about plans to keep broadband services deregulated. Say what?!?

Our friends at the Center for Media Justice elaborate:

According to yesterday's Washington Post, Chairman Genachowski is buckling under industry pressure to side against open Internet protections. The Post cites several sources within the FCC who say that Genachowski “is leaning toward keeping the current regulatory framework for broadband services in place.”

But the “current regulatory framework” is unacceptable, because an appeals court ruled in April that the FCC lacked authority over Internet access issues. The court was simply responding to a problem of the agency’s own making: Under the Bush administration, it undercut its own authority over the Internet by classifying broadband as a Title I "information service" rather than a Title II "telecommunications service." The Obama FCC can now fix this bad history by simply reversing the decisions made during the Bush era.

So, what does this mean? If the FCC does not reclassify broadband as something they ha
ve control over (and they should have control! If not them, who else? Self-regulating big communication companies??), they are basically saying it's not their problem, and hence they are taking the idea of creating the oversight for Net Neutrality that would allow us access to an open internet OFF THE TABLE.

The good news: This decision is not finalized and has not been officially announced. So NOW IS THE TIME to push back!! Call or email chairman Genachowski at (202) 418.1000 or and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at (202) 418.2100 or Let them know that we need an Open Internet, and that reclassifying broadband as a Title II/communications service is important to our communities.