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Ariel Dougherty, Script for New School Talk, March 5, 2012

Feminist Media A Part of Life: The Next Forty Years


A Celebration of the 40th (43rd) Anniversary of Women Make Movies

Thank You: Jennifer Baumgardner, New School Gender Studies Program, Sheila Paige for focus; Jean Shaw, Judy Arcuna, & Harriet Kriegel for use of their prints, and a big thanks to Alexandra Kelly for creating her Youth Media Map and producing this event. 2 Last December [2011] I did a net search Film Club and this photo appeared!! This is Young Filmmakers Foundations (YFF) after school film teaching storefront which they started in 1968. It was on Rivington Street. Sheila Paige taught in this space I taught a number of Saturday programs in this storefront. These experiences of ours with YFF were the educational and aesthetic roots of Women Make Movies (WMM).

4 The City Wide meetings of the WLM were the political roots These are the three Founders of WMM: Sheila Paige Ariel Dougherty Delores Bargowski 5 This photograph was taken in the Fall of 1969 by Rodger Larson, one of YFF Founders. Im with Jaime Barrios, another YFF founder. Lynn Hofer was the third YFF founder. Jaime and I lived together 1969 to 1975.

DeeDee Hallecks contribution to youth and independent media is so VAST we would be here all week discussing all she did. She organized the very first youth media conference in 1976. More recently she facilitated Democracy Nows move into television. She is the mother of all youth film teaching as far as I know, having started Movie Club at the Henry Street Settlement. When we were coming up with names for WMM I distinctly remember Sheila Paige sitting upside down in this high back chair at my loft. When we settled on W-M-M- we called DeeDee because it was borrowed from the title of her first film, Children Make Movies (1961). DD wrote about us calling her up some years back on a document on the internet. 7 Jaime and Bob Polin, who ran Youth Film Distribution Center, edited at the basement of YFF uptown offices on 53rd Street. Testing Testing How Do You Do? an early short of Sheila Paige, Mother America and The Womens Happy Time Commune were all edited at Film Club on Rivington St. 8 For a number of reasons this is one of my favorite photos on the Youth Media Map! What do you all see? [Its all girls watching!] My first position with YFF was teaching at John Bowne HS in Queens. I had 150 students over the course of a day. We worked in Super 8 and regular 8, relying on home cameras of the kids. The projector automatically self threaded. But still I would almost bodily have to pick up girls to get them to the projector to put on their films. They were so intimidated learning even the most basic technical skills. Having women film teachers was critical to provide a role model for young girls. Valerie Petrak, on the cover of Young Animators was a student of Scott Morris and mine in a program for high school students that we conducted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Apart from our teaching, Sheila and I continued to work on our own films. This is the crew for my film Sweet Bananas. Cabell Smith, in the middle, shortly after this became the first sound woman at NBC. On the far left is Marion Hunter who has become a highly respected film editor. A group of us under the umbrella of WMM tried during the Spring and Summer of 1971 to get the Womens Silver Screen Roadshow rolling. But we could never get any support.
In 1972 Sheila and I applied to the New York State Council on the Arts. That March we incorporation WMM as a 501(c) 3. We were awarded $9000 to start a workshop specifically to give community women, everyday women the opportunity to create their own stories on film. In large part this award came because of Sheilas and my track record with YFF. And because I had experience conducting a number of start up projects and reporting on their activities. While Sheila and I scouted several different neighborhoods in Manhattan for the workshop, we selected Chelseain the 1970s a very different community than it is today. It was a socioeconomically diverse community. And I lived there. For a while we called the workshop Chelsea Picture Station with the hope of one day becoming a head end community TV channel. High Hopes!! in those first days of cable and community access. We set up our workshop in a church basement, a space we shared with AA meetings and other community groups. It was St Columba on West 25th St in the middle of all the ILWGU buildings. Flyers were pasted up in supermarkets and laundromats. And women came. We figured for about every 3 who came, one stayed to actually make a film. Five shorts were finished that first year. The filmmakers attended an international womens film festival in Toronto in June 1973 and talked about the making of their films. Sheila and I encouraged that speaking with the films was as important as making them. This image of Jean Shaw at the tripod, directing her actors in her short, Fear , was published in Der Speigel. In fall 1973 I flew into Berlin with fifteen hours of US made womens films including all the workshop movies. The photo encapsulates the essence of WMM. It made it into German MSM media, but never into US MSM.
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15 From the time we incorporated WMM we started distribution. Of our own films distributors said, women arent an audience. Second, we knew having a good earned income was critical especially if feminism became unpopular.
Clipping from Detroit based Michigan Chronicle

Heres where we viewed: Fear, For Better or Worse, and Domestic Tranquility 16 By Fall 1973 we had outgrown the church basement. With a $14,000 grant from NYSCA in our second year we tasked Dixie Beckham with finding us our own space. We discussed use of the basement at the Eglin movie theatre. C aty-corner just in from 8th Ave on 19th was an old carriage house set back in off the street. We rented the former hay-loft for a little over $100 a month. One of our media makers who made the video tape By and Four Artists, Mary Harrison, rented the basement, the former horse stalls, as her pottery studio. Once in the new space we could combine office and workshop. And accomplish more. Anne Sandys was hired part-time to teach. Sheila and I had always thought that educational films on womens issues like a womens sports film as made by graduates of these first films could be engaging. However try as we did, we could never secure funding for the sports film. 18 While a strong sense of community among participants had already evolved, this new space of our own fostered interaction and activities that had not been feasible before. There remains among many of us today a deep awareness and appreciation for community that was unique and compelling from that time and experience. Wed having dancing parties, pot-lucks, other social get togethers.

Angela Lifsey views footage in WMMs freshly painted hay loft studio on W 19th St.


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A personal health trauma of one of the filmmakers, combined with skills of another, lead Jane Warrenbrand and Denise Bostrom to team up on a documentary about womens health clinics and self-help. Denise recently explained as we walked around the lake in Oakland that she saw this as her graduate school experience, a hands on approach sans the academic. Two plus years, which sounds modest compared with many feminist film projects today, of dedication on the part of Jane and Denise, and $13,000 that we managed to raise, enabled WMM to complete the Healthcaring From Our End of the Speculum in 1976. Before the production was completed, WMM hired its first distributor, Susan Eenigenberg.



Jane and Denise wanted to celebrate the ending of the film with a final film shoot of a large group of women singing an Andrea Gillespie song in front of an institutional building. Healthcaring has had a very large audience over the years. One of the early purchasers of the film was the South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission showed the film just as we intended before community groups to help women be better informed about their health care. But conservatives in the state thoroughly disliked this image. In a two-year struggle by conservatives in SD, they finally had the film removed from the direct active role of the Commission. By 1980 the print of Healthcaring was essentially locked up in the state library; it wasnt exactly that it was not available. But you had to go through more hurdles to get it. Sound familiar?? Senator McGovern lost his bid for re-election that year. By 1983 the Commission was done away with. The ERA has thus far not been ratified by three-quarters of the states (38). We need more time to discuss this more thoroughly; dissect & understand the implications here. But understanding this is IMPORTANT.


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In his interview for the Youth Media Map, Mike Jacobsohn who recently retired after 30 years at ABC states, Im going back to a style I did 40 years ago. At the Film and Movie Clubs it was a group effort. You would help them; in turn they would help you. I would create some scenes out of my imagination and they would participate in it. It is kind of a documentary, but also a story. It is a blend.
Still frame from Young Braves (1969?)

Within WMM we called this fanumentary. In 1970 or it might have been 71 Rodger Larson did a series of film presentations here at the New School with a double projection. A DW Griffith film played on one screen and an Andy Warhol film on the other. Rodger showed how Warhol went back to Griffiths roots, setting up a stationary camera in which the action took place like a tableau before it.


25 Also in both cases Griffith and Warhol worked with ensembles, groups of creative, charismatic people. There might be a loose story line, but there was not a formal script. The narrative was carried by each characters own words and their interaction with one another.

26 The Womens Happy Time Commune was shot in the Summer of 1970 in this genre. Directed and edited by Sheila and produced and shot by me, this not quite feature length movie (55 mins) remains one of the most unique films to emerge from the early days of the WLM. It is a feminist Western. About five years ago I showed it at Swarthmore and was struck by how relevant it remains today... discussions about religion, separatist living, moving West....banding together and not.....conflicts and differences.

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27 This 1975 article by E. Ann Kaplan underscores the uniqueness of the Womens Happy Time Commune in the context of the growing body of feminist film back then. The works back then were almost completely all documentaries or experimental works. Kaplan discusses feminist filmmaker and critic Claire Johnstons view: She calls cinema verite or documentary films the cinema of nonintervention, and argues that they are dangerous because they promote a passive subjectivity at the expense of analysis. Kaplan writes of Sheila Paige: Drawing on her teaching experience, where she had had success getting children to think through their personal stories, Paige wanted to allow women to enact dreams and fantasies that interested them...... An open, humorous attitude prevails. Whether consciously or not, the people in the film, and Paige, in her excellent editing, parody basic sexist institutions in our culture as well as stock, familiar, male/female stereotypes and classic situations in the Western film genre........ ....the film is useful in revealing to women the kind of mental world many of us live in..... The unresolved ending was fitting for Paiges overall intentions in the film: she wanted to help us understand the reality of our situation as women in a patriarchal culture, an understanding that is a necessary precondition for discovering strategies for change. In summary, the experiment of WMM early days is incomplete. Full creation of new a genre of film with feminist imagination, vision and fantasy remains before us. Still today there are far too few dramatic independent works by women. Very very few dollars are coming into feminist media of all kinds. Healthcaring was a critical and financial successproviding basic support for WMM for a number of years. I am delighted to say that an enterprising academic is currently engaged in a study on the vital role that this film played in sustaining WMM for a while both financially and emotionally. And I thank Deedee Halleck for passing on to me this information. HC was a significant model that needed to be duplicated. That was hard work. And leadership within WMM changed.
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In seeing WHTC again I came to see how I neglected my responsibility to encourage Sheilas talents to develop. Within feminism the work of organizational developmenta home to nurture our dreams, space and time for personal artistic growth and the possibility of financial stability have still yet to mesh. Sadly too WHTC no longer is in distribution as Filmmakers Cooperative where it was available has now folded. 30 On the other hand today there are a number of inheritor girl media teaching projects that have emerged. This is very exciting. The recession and arduous demands have already snatched a few from us. Like Chica Luna from here in NYC (pictured here), Third World Majority, and San Diego Womens Film Festival. 31 But Reel Grrls out of Seattle is thriving. Here they are featured in, Wonder Woman the Untold Story of an American Superheroine, which premieres in a few days at SXSW. Now over a decade old they have been able to secure important National Endowment for the Arts support. A Reel Grrls graduate has spawned a new project, imMEDIAte Justice in Los Angeles. It empowers young women from LA to share their experience of reproductive justice through film. Ilena Jemenez has a blog FeministTeacher about her experiences as a educator at Elizabeth Irwin High School. She offers courses on feminism, LGBT literature, Toni Morrison, and memoir writing here in New York City. 33 Listen Up is a national network for youth media, a lot of programs that have emerged out of schools like the one I taught at John Bowne, 43 years ago. While the site is no longer active is holds lots of resources on their site including a list of youth film festivals. runs an annual festival with many youth films. And connects many kinds of social-change media works and organizations.
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34 There are writing programs like Girls Write Now, here in NYC where girls are mentored by women writers. Or, New Moon Girls, a magazine for young girls 8 - 14 written by their peers. It also has a safe on line space for interaction of this community. The young women and girls of the Empowered Fe Fes and DIVAS use artistic forms such as dance, spoken word performance, and the media arts to examine and express issues of violence, abuse and disability rights with an eye on empowerment, creativity and independence. The videos of this disability rights group were made at Beyond Media Education in Chicago, another feminist media teaching organization. 36 SPARK was a Summit in 2010. Now SPARK is a girl-fueled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media. We're collaborating with hundreds of girls 13-22 and more than 60 national organizations to reject the commodified, sexualized images of girls in media and support the development of girls' healthy sexuality and self-esteem. Actress Geena Davis spoke at the SPARK Summit. She called upon the young women, Surround yourselves with empowering media. This is not only a call to young women, but young men as well. We all need healthy images in our lives. This is our collective challenge over the next forty years. How are we going to move the growing wealth of women created media that simmers in a subterranean plateau buried by a way over rich dominate culture into the forefront of our lives? Womens Film Festivals still are the primary way in which new womens film reach an audience. The Boyle Heights Latina Independent Film Extravaganza, has a mission to build a network of Latina filmmakers that will draw attention to the growing number of Latinas working behind the camera.
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Too, in order to expand outreach maybe it is time to revive the early WMM vision of the Womens Silver Screen Roadshow. There is so much media now that could travel into communities not just within the City, but across the country. Let us not forget the women and girls in South Dakota that were deprived of seeing Healthcaring 30 years ago. Further the technology is now so fascicle that new films can easily be made and edited along the way. This would serve to create a forum for local issues, as they vary from community to community. Here is how one set of women filmmakers did a recent series of screenings about one film on living in travel trailers. The screen is attached to the awning arms of a 23 foot Airstream.


41 We need more women owned television and radio stations. But first lets get Laura Flanders back on the air. Lets build out what women are already doing. Internet tv show like Sister Outsider, HomeGirlTV, feminist community video sites like There are hundreds and hundreds. 42 We all have a role to play in making this happen. Make sure that you are watching women made films, aim for 50% of the time. Are womens books being reviewed in your local papers? If not write a letter to the editor. If you are frustrated by the testosterone levels of a Charlie Rose or The American Experience on your PBS channel, find out when their next board meeting is. Attend and tell them what you think. That is not only your right, its an obligation. Assist in enacting the womens media policy statement from the NCWO.

Download Policy:

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43 A gendered analysis of all kind of media and its function to advance womens issues is critical to improving the life of women and girls; as well as men and boys. The academic community needs to step up to the plate and become much more active to study, analyze and report on 1) the wealth of women made media and those organizations, projects and outlets that foster its development; and 2) analyze corporate medias systematic failure in serving women. 44 While it is not the only stumbling block, MONEY is a big one. Investors, donors, funders and foundations all need to understand the purpose of women directed media and vastly expand support for this community of independent media producers. We also need more organized support through crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Its estimated that women donors do now or in the near future, will control between two-thirds and three-quarters of all planned giving assets.*
Katherine Swank

45 It is equally critical to have women-identified women on panels awarding money. My observation is a number of fundssay of filmsstay away from any strongly feminist content. It is fear? Denial? Ignorance? Without supporting feminist content we are stuck in what Johnston said 40 years ago: We only promote a passive subjectivity at the expense of analysis. In an organic, intuitive way WMM in its early days tried to provide a filmic view through this....

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In a recent article by Judith Marquand, on Economics as a public art, she unmasks neoliberalism and its role in the global market collapse: She writes: ......But uncertainty is different. It arises when you do not have enough experience of the phenomenon in question to be able to calculate it statistically. It arises when you are concerned with a particular instance rather than with the generality of cases..... ......We need to recognise that the practice of economic policy is an art, and that it needs to be a very public art, widely debated in every democratic society. We need a public literate in a revised economics, who can take active part. This is also my view on women directed media. Our challenge is to create the pictures about the economies of womens story telling.

49 The year 2046 will be the 150 anniversary of Alice Guy Blanches first production, The Cabbage Fairy. Let us honor this first woman director in film production. We can target that year, a little under forty years from now, as a goal for achieving full media justice for women in the United States.

Sheila will be 100 and Ill be 99! Thank you!


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