“It’s  the stories we choose to tell, how we choose to tell them and who we are telling them for.“-Filmmaker Wiebke von Carolsfeld

EL: How does being a woman influence your decisions as a writer, director and editor?

WVC: Well, all my life choices are influenced by the fact that I am a woman. Because I am a woman, I find women’s stories interesting. When I first started making films, I didn’t actually realize that there weren’t that many stories about women out there. And that most of those were told by men. It wasn’t until after I made Marion Bridge, that I realized how few female directors there are and how rarely we see the world from a female point of view. Since then it has been a conscious choice to continue making stories about strong female characters for a female audience. But there are consequences to doing that because it is not a mainstream choice to make. It’s looked upon as talking in a minor rather than major key.

EL: What would be the way for Canadians to make more room for female protagonists, writers and directors?

WVC: A shift might be happening. There has been a commitment by the major Canadian government funding agencies to be 50/50 within the next few years. Despite this, at the moment 96% of funding for films over one million dollars go to men, most of them white. It’s great that the funders are working towards parity, but I’ll believe it when it actually happens.

I also strongly believe in putting your money where your mouth is. So as consumers, go and support female storytellers. Go see female-driven theatre, watch movies by women, buy books written by women, be more cognizant of where you’re spending your entertainment dollars. Another thing we need to be keenly aware of is that most critics are male, as are a lot of programmers, and most of the main festivals are still run by men.

Recently, the Venice Film Festival had 21 films in competition, only one directed by a woman.

EL: That’s appalling.

WVC: If you make a film that doesn’t get into one of these festivals then you are automatically relegated to a lesser playing field. That’s another aspect of what I mean by working in a minor key. I think it’s important to raise awareness over these biases, where they come from and what the consequences are for our perception of what is worth watching and what is not.

EL: That’s a very good point to bring up for sure.

E.L: Another question I had was: How does the male gaze manifest in film and why is it important to subvert it or create alternatives to it?

WVC: There’s an amazing talk that Jill Soloway gave at TIFF a few years ago about the female gaze. It’s online and well-worth watching. Currently, most of the stories told are male stories and females are relegated to sidekick: mother, daughter, girlfriend, whatever. It’s also how we look at women. The way they get dressed, the way they are cast, the way they tend to get sexualized. There’s a specific look and age to women that we get to see on the screen. There’s a whiteness, a sameness, that is just not representative of what you see when you take the metro. If you open up storytelling to different people, not just to women but to women of colour, to women from elsewhere, if you open up the gaze then the stories that emerge will be different.

For example, I made a movie called The Saver, and for it we shot a sequence around a young woman getting her period. We had a really experienced crew but they had never dealt with a period on camera. Women deal with this every month. How come it is something you never see on camera?

EL: The functions of women’s bodies deserve a certain air time.

WVC: The way the prop person did it initially was like gushing blood. It’s not because he was bad, in fact he was fantastic, but it was because he did not know how getting your period actually works. So when you open up the gates a bit, when you allow other people to tell their stories, then you might actually get stories that are telling something new. Something that might be insightful, surprising and different instead of an endless repetition of the male hero story, which, in many ways, has run its course.

EL: I don’t think a lot of men are interested in these same  constructed narratives either.

WVC: That’s right. Mainstream storytelling has become quite stale and predictable. That’s what happens when you have the same kind of characters in different outfits rather than representing the world that we live in, which is extremely multi-cultural, which is 50 percent women, which has people with different opinions, different ages, different body types and different lived experiences.

EL: I don’t think a lot of men are interested in these same  constructed narratives either.

WVC: That’s right. Mainstream storytelling has become quite stale and predictable. That’s what happens when you have the same kind of characters in different outfits rather than representing the world that we live in, which is extremely multi-cultural, which is 50 percent women, which has people with different opinions, different ages, different body types and different lived experiences.

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