Thursday, November 17, 2011

OMG: Reel Grrls' media justice videos now available on DVD and On Demand!

Remember how Reel Grrls made headlines last May when we tweeted about Comcast's hiring of then-FCC Commissioner Baker? Well, in case you missed the conclusion to the story, the youth in our summer apprenticeship program produced advocacy videos about media justice and reform issues in response to the dispute. The videos are AMAZING and now they're available on our compilation DVD, Generation of Consolidation!

This week our story has taken another interesting turn. We're excited to announce that starting this week, Generation of Consolidation is available on Comcast On Demand locally in Seattle and Spokane! After Comcast responded to the press coverage last spring by trying to reinstate the pledged funds of $18,000 for our program, our fearless leader, Malory Graham, declined their offer and instead suggested they support our freedom of speech by hosting our media justice videos on the cable network - and they listened. On October 27th, 2011, we signed a contract for our youth media to be hosted on Comcast from now until February, 2012. You can find the videos On Demand with this path: Get Local > Around the Sound > Reel Grrls.

We're so excited to expand the reach of our videos to living rooms across Washington State. Our next goal is to get Generation of Consolidation in as many schools and libraries across the nation as possible - if you want to see this happen too, consider a donation to help our distribution efforts!

This is a huge win for youth voices around the nation - we're so grateful for our individual supporters, Free Press, and MAG-Net who made these videos possible! #MediajusticeNOW!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from Reel Grrls!

Before there was Twilight, before there was True Blood, before there was The Vampire Diaries, there was Thicker Than Water!

Happy Halloween from the Reel Grrls team!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reel Grrls Countdown to Halloween: Day 3

Only a few days left until one our favorite holidays, Halloween! Today's video is Max on Max, a short horror film takes place in a movie theater and leaves you questioning who is sane and who is not...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Countdown: Day 4

Today's spooky movie is from our 2011 summer animation camp and created by 2 sets of twins ages 11 and 12! Watch the what happens to a cat burglar that hoards stolen goods in Bad Cats Die Young.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Reel Grrls Countdown to Halloween: Day 5

Today's spooky movie was created in the Centrum Young Artists Project Film Class in June 2009! This thriller follows three film students looking for a place to shoot their horror movie.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reel Grrls Countdown to Halloween: Day 6

6 more days until Halloween!

Today's Reel Grrls featured video is the truly scary Horror Movie (2007) which uses the genre to highlight the fact that most of the victims in horror films are women, perpetuating the abuse of women and girls in real life.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reel Grrls Countdown to Halloween: Day 7

Halloween is only a week away and this year Reel Grrls is celebrating with a daily countdown by opening our vault of youth horror videos for your terror/enjoyment!

Without further ado, we present you with The Lost Sister, created in 2009:

The Lost Sister from ReelGrrls Workshops on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

RG rocks the Film Festival scene!

Reel Grrls films have been invited to screen at some very exciting places recently! Here's a small sampling:

Last week RG filmmaker Shannon MacIntyre represented at The 15th Annual Tower of Youth Film Festival/North American Youth Film & Education Day in Sacramento, California. The animated film she created with her sister Kia MacIntyre and Jooniper Morales, Mamma Knows Best, was featured there and Shannon spoke about it afterwards at a panel that was televised live (check her out on the big screen in the photo below)!

This coming weekend, Reel Grrls is all up in the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (SLGFF)! On Saturday Oct 22nd at 12:30pm at Pacific Place Cinema catch Relativity, a short documentary exploring gender and gender norms. The video was created in last spring's Lights Camera Reel Grrls intro program, in which we partnered with NOVA highschool's social justice class. Filmmaker Angeline Blattenbauer will be in attendance, and if we're lucky we may also see co-directors Finbar and Ellen Vickrey in the Q&A session after the screening.

In that same program, you'll also see The Cherdonna and Lou Show: the Movie, a film created by Reel Grrls staff and mentors for last year's International Documentary Challenge (a timed filmmaking competition). This lively experimental doc was featured as a finalist in the competition, and tells the story of two Seattle dancers that defy classification. Buy tickets to "Local Produce," the Saturday screening featuring both films, right here.

But that's not all!! On Sunday at SLGFF the films created this summer in Reel Queer Youth, a partnership program between Reel Grrls and Three Dollar Bill Cinema that teaches filmmaking to queer and allied youth of all genders, will screen at 12pm at Pacific Place (tickets here). The filmmakers will be in attendance, and Reel Queer Youth Tshirts will be on sale. These films are truly incredible, you do not want to miss them!

Next month, Reel Grrls also has the honor of being featured in the Teen Division of the Young People's Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. Five of our films will be screening there, including the animated Girl With Birds and the short documentary Who We Are:

Who We Are from ReelGrrls Workshops on Vimeo.

Who We Are was created in our very first Documentary Arts Camp last spring by five young women from Mt. Vernon. In the film, the girls tell their stories of what it's like to be a migrant worker. They're currently in the process of expanding these stories into a longer documentary. We can't wait to see it when it's finished! With the support of their community, all five Mt. Vernon filmmakers will be traveling to Portland to attend the festival. Dova Isabel Castañeda Zilly, writer and co-creator of Girl With Birds, will also be in attendance there. It should be awesome!

We hope to see you at one of these upcoming festivals. Thanks for supporting grrl-made media!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Have you been following the Reel Grrls/Comcast story today? Here's our side of the story, in case you missed it:

Get further details from the Washington Post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nikita was no Charlie's Angel

"I think that the best way to judge movies is 10 years after they're released. I don't think that the Academy Awards necessarily get it right. I think they get it wrong more often than they get it right."
-- Academy Award Winner, Matt Damon

Last week I had the honor of being a presenter for the 20/20 Awards a ceremony held in Seattle that annually revisits the Academy Awards, using the advantage of 20 years of hindsight to re-evaluate the choices made two decades earlier.

Now in its second year, the ceremony has consistently stripped previous Academy Award winners while also donning new awards to some films that weren’t even nominated 20 years earlier. I loved the concept when I first heard about it from my friend and 20/20 founder Kris Kristensen, but then became a complete convert last year when the award for Best Documentary was given by 20/20 to Michael Moore’s “Roger & Me”—a film that wasn’t even nominated by the Academy in 1990 yet completely changed the landscape of documentary filmmaking from that date onward.

So last week, I got the opportunity to present the 20/20 award for Best Foreign Language Film. And again, the 20/20 voting syndicate stripped the original winner of this award (Journey of Hopeever heard of it?) in favor of the French film La Femme Nikita.

La Femme Nikita wasnt even nominated in this category 20 years ago, yet it not only has endured as a stylish piece of cinema but it opened the door for a new genre of the female action hero.

I loved this film when it came out in 1990. In 20/20 hindsight of my own life path, this film not only inspired me to launch a career committed to women being represented in the media both in front of and behind the camera (Yay Reel Grrls!) but also inspired my 20+ year training in the martial arts.

However, the film critics hated Nikita. The LA Times called it An ultra-violent imitation of an American high tech urban thriller. Entertainment Weekly called it The Terminator re-imagined by French Vogue.

While La Femme Nikita is a violent film (it is secret agent thriller after all) I believe that the real criticism was fueled by critics and audiences not being used to seeing women exercise power in the action genre in a very raw and unapologetic way. Nikita was no Charlies Angelshe was scrappy, tough and morally ambiguous. She was punk. Nothing like the saccharin, botoxed male-fantasy female action heroes that have been spawned by Hollywood since then. In the same way that the music industry has tried to co-opt strong women musicians, indie grrl bands like Sleater Kinney blazed a trail that cant be commodified. Punk in sheeps clothing doesnt fly. Hollywood may say it likes Bad Girls but really it likes Good Girls who wear spandex.

In accepting the 20/20 Award for La Femme Nikita last week I assert that Nikita had something 20 years ago that hit a nerve and it hasnt been seen since. Final take-away? Nikita could kick Lara Crofts ass. Kudos to 20/20 for finally giving the icon Nikita the spotlight she deserves.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Getting ready for NCMR!

Here at Reel Grrls, we're getting ready to head to Boston for NCMR, the National Conference for Media Reform, a conference put on by Free Press that brings together activists, media makers, educators, journalists, artists, policymakers and students who care about the future of media, technology and democracy.

The last NCMR was in 2008 in Minneapolis, and Reel Grrls was there. Our students had recently completed Generation of Consolidation, a documentary about media consolidation and how it affects youth as consumers and media makers. Filmmaker Sami Muilenburg came with us and spoke on a panel about youth media makers.

She emphasized the importance of making "media that matters" and showed a clip from the movie. She also got to personally hand a copy of the film to FCC commissioner Michael Copps!

Three years later (aka NOW) Sami and Reel Grrls are on our way to NCMR again. Sami is coming down from New York to join us, where she is currently enrolled in the film program at NYU Tisch and is interning for the fabulous org People's Production House. This time around we will be hosting a hands-on workshop about integrating social justice and media justice issues into youth media work. We're excited to partner with two awesome Boston youth media organizations, Press Pass TV and ICA Teens, to make this happen. And we're especially excited to be presenting a workshop led by youth that is very hands-on. Attendees will get to learn and try out youth media activities, and we won't let them sit or snooze through our workshop!

If you're already attending NCMR, we hope you'll consider joining us for our workshop. It's called "New Faces of Media Justice" and is on Sunday April 10th from 10:00-11:30am. More info here:

If you're in the area and considering attending NCMR, don't worry if you haven't registered! You can totally walk in and register for the event on the spot. The presenter line-up for this year's conference is off the hook! We're excited to see one of our fave analysts of women in the media Jean Kilbourne, FCC commissioner (and net neutrality champion) Mignon Clyburn, playwright and performer Sarah Jones, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Hard Knock Radio host and hiphop activist Davey D, Laura Flanders of Grit TV, friend of RG and Center for Media Justice director Malkia Cyril and many many more (full list of presenters here).

One more shout-out: Reel Grrls is proud to be a part of MAG-NET, the Media Action Grassroots Network, a national network of community organizations working together for media justice. Members and allies of MAG-NET will be out in full force at NCMR this year, and they've put together this awesome list of events and workshops to check out while there.

That's it for now, but be sure to keep up with us via Facebook and Twitter for up-to-the-minute accounts of our time at NCMR. Stay tuned to this blog too for a debrief afterwards. And hope to see ya there!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

100 years of International Women's Day

Yesterday Reel Grrls Executive Director and Founder Malory Graham was recognized in a Proclamation from Seattle City Council and the Seattle Women's Commission as part of the city's commemoration of the 100th year of International Women's Day!

Malory Graham and her mother, Port of Tacoma Commissioner Clare Petrich, holding the International Women's Day Proclamation recognizing Malory's role in empowering young girls.

Malory, who has been empowering young women through media production for the past ten years, was in some very impressive company. Also honored in the Proclamation were other outstanding women who have been trailblazers during their careers and dedicated their lives to important issues such as women's health, race and social justice, domestic violence, and many others issues that affect our local communities, including:

  • The first and only Mayor of Seattle Bertha Knight Landes
  • The first woman recognized in Seattle for opening the doors of "power and public life" for women and people of color, Ruth Woo
  • The first woman firefighter in Seattle Bonnie Beers
  • Advocate for undoing racism to prevent infant mortality in communities of color, Elizabeth Thomas, RN
  • Former State Representative Velma Veloria
  • Advocate for peace and justice, Pastor Angela Ying
  • Former Director of Planned Parenthood, Lee Minto
  • Executive Director of the Women's Center at UW, Sutapa Basu
  • Seattle City Councilmember Jeanette Williams
  • Program Manager of the Victim Support Team, SPD Dana Lockhart
  • Former Human Services Director of the City of Seattle Ven Knox
  • Former Seattle Office for Civil Rights Director Germaine W. Covington
  • Seattle Office for Civil Rights Director Julie Nelson
  • With Women's History Month about to come to a close, we're so glad to have been a part of yesterdays commemoration of local women making a difference. Who are some of your local heroes?

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    White Oscars 2011

    Was this years Oscars too white? With a total of 2 african American woman on stage all evening. Is it the Oscars fault or the studios producing the films fault? Leave your comments. Tell us how you feel, leave a comment or two below.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    SXSW Film Fest & Conference!

    What's up all! Tech Director Lila Kitaeff here to tell you all about the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and conference in Austin, Texas which, thanks to Reel Grrls, I got to attend last week! Although a lot of people know of SXSW as a music festival, there are also film and interactive media conferences running alongside it, with a few days of overlap between them. To get you excited about all my festival babblings, here is one of the awesome "bumpers" (a short video created by the festival to run before screenings) that I saw there:

    This was my first time at SXSW and it was exhilarating and overwhelming and awesome and completely exhausting. There were SO MANY PEOPLE there, and there was stuff going on ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE! Huge conference rooms full of video games, food trucks giving away free stuff, impromptu street parades, corporate-sponsored parties in random venues on every block. After one late night screening I stumbled upon this guy, screening cartoons for free BBQ on a brick wall via his portable projector pack (I gotta get me one of those):

    Despite all the madness, unlike other big film festivals I've been to (I'm lookin' at you, Sundance) I found that SXSW film was able to maintain kind of an air of funkiness and somehow, a feeling of being not TOO big. Some of the theaters were quite intimate, and the majority of the film venues were within a few blocks of each other in the downtown area. The most preferred modes of transport between them was walking, followed by riding in a pedicab (if you haven't seen one, they're like a rickshaw behind a bicycle). The couple of venues outside downtown could be reached via a free film shuttle, something I appreciated a lot since I was staying right across from one of them. Austin is a really great town to check out in general, and the spring weather was a welcome change for this Seattle gal. Good stuff!

    Unfortunately, aside from the photo above the only other one I took at the fest was of this cute lamppost outside of downtown Austin covered with a hand-knitted cozy, because I was too busy going to movies!

    My first few days at the fest were spent dashing from one film to the next as I raced to squeeze in as many screenings as I could while figuring out the SXSW film systems (how you acquire seats for each film is a little different at every festival), learning where all the venues were, and trying to find as much free food as I could. I waited in a lot of long lines and held my breath a couple of times, but amazingly managed to make it in to every film I went out for.

    I have a bit of a rule for myself at film festivals: I try not to prioritize seeing movies that I could see in the theaters a few months later, just for the chance to say that I saw it first. I'm not trying to be a snob here; I am looking forward to seeing Super, BridesmaidsSource Code, and all the other big movies that everyone was talking about at SXSW this year. But to me this seems like sort of a waste of the precious time I get to spend surrounded by non-Hollywood films, so instead I focused on seeing movies that probably wouldn't get a wide release, like independents and shorts and foreign films. Of course, this approach poses its own problems as it's hard to tell in advance which movies are actually worthwhile, and which ones just sound good on paper. Some movies you hear about. You know–they've got that magical "buzz." But sometimes you've just gotta study up on that festival guide and take a leap of faith. Here's a few of the standout films I got to see at SXSW 2011:

    El Bulli: Cooking in Progress. This documentary about the Spanish avant-garde restaurant of the same name, named by many the "best restaurant in the world" profiled the strange and wonderful process by which the chefs put together their brand-new menu each year. The restaurant is open 6 months of the year and serves one meal a night to its lucky customers, who eat 30-40 small courses of mind-blowingly original and new simple little bites of food over the course of 3-5 hours. What impressed me most about the movie, aside from the subject matter ('cause I am a total food nerd), was its "cinema verité" style of storytelling. I'm always super impressed when a feature length documentary manages to tell an entire story without a single interview and very few explanatory titles. This film achieved that beautifully. I felt completely immersed in the world of El Bulli.

    Blacktino. This was one of those "buzz-worthy" films, and I managed to see it on opening night! It's "a dark teen comedy about an overweight half-black, half-hispanic nerd." How could you not want to see that?

    blacktino SXSW Trailer from Aaron Burns on Vimeo.

    Although I felt like some of the acting performances were a little wooden, I appreciated the interesting, though somewhat stereotyped, characters (a goth girl with depth! a best friend with muscular dystrophy!), and it was great hearing people talk about race in a real way, in what still manages to be a pretty funny highschool comedy. The film ends with a musical retrospective of a non-whitewashed version of our country's history that is awesome.

    SHORTS! I got to see a selection of narrative and documentary shorts at SXSW, and they were some of the best-programmed short films I've ever seen, and really just some of the best stuff I saw at the whole fest. Usually when I watch a shorts collection, there's one or two that are so excruciatingly bad that I walk out of there feeling like, "hoo boy. I am never going to get those 12 minutes of my life back," but that was not the case this time around! I was particularly fond of the documentary shorts, and not just because I am a documentary shorts filmmaker. In fact, I walked in to the screening ready to not like them, since my filmmaking collective's short doc entry to the fest this year didn't get in. But I couldn't help myself! They were all incredibly awesome and filled me with lots of inspiration and ideas for my own future work. Of particular note was former RG mentor and my college buddy Annie Silverstein's "Night at the Dance," a profile of the last days of a Czech dance hall in rural Texas and the old-timers who come there to polka.

    Also, "My Big Red Purse," a doc that couldn't have been more than 2 minutes long but still managed to tell a complete, incredibly heartwarming and funny story about a fashion accessory belonging to the filmmaker's mom when she was a kid. The re-enactment of that story was spot-on, right down to the hair, fashion and cars of the time period. What a great example of one very simple idea done very well.

    Apart from all the amazing movies there are to see at SXSW, there's a whole program of interesting panels as well. Sadly, I missed the Catherine Hardwicke (director of Twilight, Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen) Director's workshop. But I still got to check out a few of the professional filmmaker's panels, which covered everything from emerging technologies to industry stumbling blocks to strategies for shooting and editing. My favorite panel was definitely "The Female Funny: is it Different for Girls?," moderated by Rachel Sklar of the awesome changetheratio blog, and featuring writers and comedians working in the industry as well as Irin Carmon of the also awesome jezebel. Not only did this panel dive right in to the questions of why it is harder for female comedians, especially those over 35 and/or those who do not conform to our ridiculous standards of beauty, to succeed in the industry, but it did so with grace and many many laughs.

    Most of the people in the room had just seen the SXSW sneak preview of Judd Apatow's Bridesmaids, the first ensemble comedy film in recent Hollywood history with a cast of females in all leading roles. There was a lot of talk about how great and funny the movie is, and how important it is for everyone to "vote with their money" for female-led comedy when the film is released this spring. I know I am planning to see it. But people also talked about the fact that Judd Apatow movies normally cast women as the stable, adult characters that the wacky, childlike guys get to return to at the end of their adventures. Apatow basically made Bridesmaids because people were pointing out to him the fact that women comedians are not centered in our film culture, which just goes to show that women in any male-dominated industry need to speak up for ourselves!

    So that's the update from this year's SXSW film festival and conference. It was great fun to go, and I hope I get to bring some Reel Grrls there in years to come! Perhaps a SXSW youth media panel is in our future...