‘I’ve always loved writing stories and I’ve always been drawn towards fantastical stories and comedy. When I grew up I used to get quite frustrated with television because I didn’t see many female characters in the shows I used to watch. I write children’s television shows and I got to a point about a year ago when I had this opportunity to write and I just thought, it’s perfect - maybe I can help make a change - to try to even the playing field.
‘You don’t tend to see a lot of female main characters or even sub-characters on television. The shows tend to be about boy characters that are really great and fantastic and save the day. If it is a girl, they’re usually a sister or they’re in trouble or a bit of a sidekick.
‘It means that young girls don’t learn to see themselves as potential heroes. They think that adventures and journeys are for boys and that they’re maybe supposed to be the sidekicks.If you grow up seeing that message over and over again it must have some sort of impact on you.’
Did you have someone in your life that encouraged you to do what you want to do?
‘I have an awesome mother and also a super awesome grandmother. They’re both very strong women. My mother was a single mum - she’s a poet now. My grandmother was an actress, a director and a model before most women even had jobs. She was one of the first women on television back in Adelaide. I grew up around them and because I was exposed to women like that I never really doubted that I could do the same thing. There are a lot of girls that don’t have that growing up. It’s amazing how much just one role model can change that.’
What advice would you give to young girls?
‘Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do what it is that you love. It’s probably unlikely that people will give you that positive message so you’re going to have to discover the courage within yourself to believe that.’
For more on this subject, check out the excellent work being done by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: http://www.seejane.org/about/index.php
Earlier this year I made a short film with a group of local filmmakers for Tropfest on the subject of discrimination but you wouldn’t have seen it on the big night - it didn’t make the finals. After Sunday’s Tropfest screening and the crowning of the controversial winner (see here), I now have some insight into why we didn’t make the cut.
The short, set in the late 1950’s, is a fake propaganda film illustrating the dangers of being ‘Aquarius’:
"Barbara is sadly an Aquarius. She was born an Aquarius and has chosen to continue to have been born an Aquarius to this day."
I wrote the film to illustrate the absurdity of prejudice. I believe discriminating against someone because of the month they were born in is just as absurd as doing it on the basis of their race, gender, sexuality, etc.
"Don’t be Aquarian, be antiquarian!"
The short film stars local Sydney up-and-comers Adam Tuominen (Underbelly Razor, Power Rangers) as the films dramatic host and Susanna Dekker (Italian Spiderman, Danger 5) as the ‘unfortunate’ Aquarian.
Producer Debbie Steer and I have launched the video on Vimeo for the public to see that there are filmmakers out there offering a different viewpoint to the ones given so much attention at Tropfest. The film was made without any funding, only the support of talented filmmakers like cinematographer Emma Paine, Sound Designer Ines Richter, Composer Simon Hanna and Animator Amy Alexander.
Perhaps this film also serves to answer the question posed by Tropfest host Yumi Stynes on the night, “A lot of Twitter chat has been about the lack of female filmmakers here tonight… Look, if you’re gonna complain, why not go out and make a film yourself ladies?”
Picture this: You’re Dorothy, you’ve just squashed some stripy-socked wench with your house and a hord of munchkin villagers are prompting you to swindle her shoes… while her sister watches from the sidelines. Then this tarted up, flashy charlatan in a bubble tells you to trot your dead-lady shoes down the yellow brick road outta’ there. Easy-peasy Winkie-squeezy, you’re homeward bound! - If only writing was such a cinch!
Unfortunately, even the most committed aspiring writer can often find themselves utterly bewildered and confused on their hero’s journey, “Would someone throw me a flippin’ yella’ brick for once?!!!”… Alas, there is no Technicolor™ road towards enlightenment for us and we don’t get a ‘Glinda’ to wake us up when the noxious poppy gas knocks us stone cold.
BUT… Sometimes a gal’ can find friends to help her along the way:
I give you: 'The Narrative Breakdown', my newest addiction. A podcast exploring "the craft of creative writing, screenwriting, playwriting, children’s books, and literary fiction as discussed by Cheryl Klein and James Monohan."
Ok, fine - John Cleese: telling us how to get ourselves into a creative headspace in five easy steps:
1. Space: find a place for yourself that is free from disturbance- EG. The moon.
2. Time: Set yourself a start and end time, Cleese suggests a 1.5 hours is a good start.
3. Time: Give yourself more time to solve your creative problems- you’re not going to come up with the best and most original ideas straight away. Come back to whatever you’re working on as many times as is needed. AKA give yourself “maximum pondering time”.
4. Confidence: Have the confidence to make mistkaes mistakes.
5. Humor: LOL your way into the right headset- humour is the quickest way to get our noggins to move from ‘closed’ to ‘open’ mode. Open mode is good.