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Guest Post: What It’s Like to Be a Fiercely Independent Woman Film Fest Director in the Trenches

Meira Blaustein

Guest Post by Meira Blaustein

When I co-founded the Woodstock Film Festival 18 years ago I had no sense of how hard the work would be, and how immense the positive influence on so many people, near and far, it would have. When you are deep in the process of developing something that requires you to give your all, you can’t always see what’s happening outside of your immediate vision.

Eighteen years after the festival first began as a fiercely independent, artistically driven event, I can look around and see the thousands of lives that it has affected and helped: young high school students and college interns who were inspired by the festival and have gone on to successful careers in film and media, such as Amanda Warman Naseem, who started out as an assistant at the festival and today is one of the top producers at Vice; emerging filmmakers who have developed into accomplished artists in their fields, such as Leah Meyerhoff, who screened her short film “Twitch” at the festival back in 2005, and today is a feature film director who also heads the internationally known grassroots women filmmakers organization Film Fatales; community members who have discovered new passion for the power of the arts such as Jen Dragon, who was a volunteer at the festival and now runs a highly successful art gallery.

Seeing countless stories like this makes the hard work and dedication worthwhile. I suppose it’s like giving birth each year — a long and hard pregnancy period ending with a beautiful baby that gives you the courage and the energy to do it all over again.

As a woman working in a male-dominated industry, I recognize that there is much work left to do. Each year as I program the fest’s film lineup, put together the panels, and select the special honorees, I find myself looking for a gender balance that is not always easy to achieve. As such I’m proud that we have developed an official Spotlight on Women in Film and Media whereby we highlight annually the works by some of the year’s most talented and courageous women filmmakers.

This year we are showing 54 feature films, and 19 are directed by women, which puts us at a higher percentage than most festivals. Moreover, we have made a conscious effort in our programming to pay attention to issues affecting women, as well as films featuring outstanding female actors. Among the female-directed films showing this year are first-time director Lillian Lasalle’s “My Name is Pedro,” filled with engrossing twists and inspirational lessons, Hope Litoff’s “32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide,” which explores the life and death of her artist sister, and Catherine Eaton’s “The Sounding,” a narrative of a woman’s struggle to maintain her independence and find her own unique voice, also written and acted by Eaton.

The 2017 Spotlight on Women in Film and Media includes titles such as “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” “La Chana,” and “This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.”

This year’s honorary Maverick Award, given for her outstanding artistry in acting and her long-standing commitment to the support of issue-driven films as a producer, will be presented to Susan Sarandon. In the past we have honored documentarian Barbara Kopple, producer Christine Vachon, director Mira Nair, and actor Ellen Barkin. In talks and events we have featured Vera Farmiga, Melissa Leo, Lucy Liu, Kyra Sedgwick, Patricia Clarkson, Parker Posey, Uma Thurman, Catherine Hardwicke, Debra Granik, Susan Seidelman, Katherine Dieckmann, Rebecca Miller, and countless others.

So while it is still a challenge to create gender balance, I’m glad that we can do our small part in tipping the scale towards equality. The more that festivals like ours offer opportunities to showcase and celebrate the outstanding works by women filmmakers, the higher the chances that those keepers of the gate in the financing and distribution universe will open their purse and greenlight female-directed projects.

The 18th annual Woodstock Film Festival runs from October 11–15. To download a pre-fest program of this year’s event click here.

Meira Blaustein is an arts entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience developing film organizations, entertainment, arts, and media events in the U.S. and globally. Blaustein is the Co-founder, Executive Director, and Head Programmer of the Woodstock Film Festival (Wff). Wff was launched in 2000 and has become one of the most respected and influential regional film festivals in the USA. Blaustein has been running it ever since its inception. As an international consultant Blaustein also co-founded and developed the Cabo International Film Festival in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The festival developed into what is now the Baja International Film Festival. A filmmaker by training, Blaustein directed, produced, and consulted on numerous feature films in various stages, from development to marketing.

Guest Post: What It’s Like to Be a Fiercely Independent Woman Film Fest Director in the Trenches was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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2013 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: Leah Meyerhoff’s I Believe in Unicorns

Just nominated for Gotham Awards’ Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ grant, Leah Meyerhoff (who we’ve profiled in our In the Pipeline series) is now in the eleventh hour with her feature debut. Previously, she has been to Park City with the Slamdance Grand Jury Prize winning short Twitch, and now that I Believe in Unicorns is done with its growing pains (the film community appears to believe in unicorns and embraced it from an Emerging Narrative Filmmaker Grant from the Ifp, the San Francisco Film Society and an All Access Grant from the Tribeca Film Institute) this might have a shot. The project stars Meyerhof’s mom, Natalia Dyer and Peter Vack (see above), and is rounded off by Julia Garner, Joshua Leonard and Amy Seimetz.

Gist: This tells the story of a teenage girl who escapes her obligations to her disabled mother by running away with an older boy.
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In the Pipeline: Leah Meyerhoff (Writer/Director of Unicorns)

You don’t have to be Julian Assange to get the truth about Leah Meyerhoff. She’s not afraid to tell it like it is. She made a big splash on the film festival circuit with her honest Nyu short film Twitch. It was a very intimate and dark film that portrayed disability and love in a new way, her way. She let audiences see her true self at work in the docu-drama series, Film School, directed by Nanette Burstein (Going The Distance). Now Leah is at it again with her first feature Unicorns. About a teenage girl who falls in love with an older guy and finds herself in a destructive relationship, this film, like her last one, stems from Leah’s own true experiences. After a unique childhood that left her more responsible than some adults, Leah went to Brown University to study Art Semiotics and then later
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Music Video: Luff: Like Our Fathers

The eaters and the eaten have a jolly good romp in the music video “Like Our Fathers” by the Brooklyn band Luff. The lavishly decorated video is directed by Leah Meyerhoff, no stranger to making over-the-top productions for the Brooklyn music scene. She also directed the award-winning “Team Queen” for the (now defunct) Triple Creme. Actually, Luff’s Robin Pickering — who I’m pretty sure is the one wearing the extreme false eyelashes in the above video — was previously in Triple Creme. While both videos exhibit extravagant visual styles, they couldn’t be more different.

In addition to looking really great, I really dig this song by Luff, whom I’m completely unfamiliar with, but then again I don’t keep up with the current music scene. But, listening to great music is always a bonus when watching a video by a filmmaker I like. This video would probably look incredible set to any song,
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Underground Film Links: April 25, 2010

So, with this week, I’m thinking up and trying to implement new ways to pull links from more diverse sources, so that I’m not just linking to the same types of posts. Although some of my “regulars” are posting consistently interesting things, too. Let’s start mixing it up!

You might have to register for these, but first here’s a classic review from the 1975 New York Times by Richard Eder for a re-release of Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie’s Pull My Daisy, the notorious 1959 Beat film. Then, more recently, Dave Itzkoff interviews Chuck Workman, the director of Visionaries, a documentary about Jonas Mekas and the history of avant-garde film. The site Guest of a Guest also reviews Visionaries and includes an early — and I mean early — acting clip of Robert Downey Jr. in one of his dad’s films. Another blast from the past, Making Light
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Johanna E. Braddy and Kyle Gallner Are Unicorns

Johanna E. Braddy and Kyle Gallner have signed on to star in Unicorns, the indie drama from writer-director Leah Meyerhoff.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film will be produced by Frozen River producer Heather Rae and executive produced by Allison Anders.

Unicorns centers on an awkward teenage girl who escapes to a fantasy world when her first romantic relationship turns increasingly abusive.

First-time feature director Meyerhoff created the Student Academy Award-nominated short film Twitch and is pursuing a master of fine arts degree at Nyu.

The film is scheduled to enter production in the summer.
See full article at MovieWeb »

Duo seeing 'Unicorns' for indie drama

Duo seeing 'Unicorns' for indie drama
Johanna E. Braddy and Kyle Gallner have been cast as the stars of "Unicorns," an indie drama from writer-director Leah Meyerhoff.

The film is being produced by "Frozen River" producer Heather Rae and executive produced by Allison Anders.

"Unicorns" centers on an awkward teenage girl who escapes to a fantasy world when her first romantic relationship turns increasingly abusive. The film is scheduled to enter production in the summer.

Braddy, repped by UTA and Tower 10 Entertainment, has had recurring roles on the shows "The Riches," "Southland" and the ABC Family series "Greek."

Gallner, repped by Gersh and Management 360, was recently cast in the remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street."

Rae also has "American Tragic," starring America Ferrera and Melissa Leo, in development at Maya Entertainment.

First-time feature director Meyerhoff created the Student Academy Award-nominated short film "Twitch" and is pursuing a master of fine arts degree at Nyu.
See full article at The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News »

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