Ok, dear reader, cover your delicate eyes and gentle ears because profanity lies ahead in today’s blog by a usually better mannered Gita. So, you have been warned !
I was reading an online article today by ‘What Culture’ [WhatCulture.com] – an entertainment website dedicated to what’s hot or topical in film, games, sport, TV etc – aka ‘culture’.
It’s not BuzzFeed but it is high profile and has an international readership of 10 million, [unlike my poor and humble blog but you know, baby steps]
And it had a piece titled ’15 Australian Horror Movies you must see before you die’ by Helen Jones.
The tone of the piece seemed to be, to draw attention to Aussie films that might have been overlooked on the international scene.
And being the happy little [or not so little – hey I own my curves!] genre geek that I am, I lapped up each entry with a little thrill, smugly pleased that I’d seen most if not all of them, right up until the end – when I lost my shit.
I blinked at a couple – Picnic At Hanging Rock is a horror film ? Really ? REALLY ? Sure it’s eerie and I love it to bits – there’s a picture of Peter Weir on my bedroom wall [don’t judge me – the guy is awesome] – but I still wouldn’t classify ‘Picnic’ as a horror film. And yeah, The Babadook got a mention, though I’d argue that it’s an Australian horror film most international genre fans HAVE heard about, and probably seen, but it’s fantastic, so drawing more eyeballs to it = all good.
The list featured films such as; The Tunnel, Wyrmwood, 100 Bloody Acres, Andrew Traunki’s work, Greg McLean’s work etc – all great entries but as I got to the end of the article, the only female filmmaker we had was Jennifer Kent, whilst one other lady I was kind of expecting to see, a certain Ms Ursula Dabrowsky, and a very scary film called Inner Demon, was absent. And I just did the mental equivalent of slamming my head on a wall.
I couldn’t understand how a writer, who seems to have gone to some trouble to research and view some really great ‘under the radar’ choices, seems to have totally missed this one.
But you might now say – hey , Gita , that article was the writer’s personal taste, and Ms Jones listed ’15 Australian Horror Movies’ in her title not ‘every great Australian Horror film ever made’, AND it’s not every blogger’s responsibility to have to include women or minorities in every article they write, AND who the hell are you to dictate what kind of article folks should write you noisy wannabe filmmaker chick, feminazi stooge, super-entitled ivory tower princess who probably lives with a dozen cats blah blah [pick your favourite insult and insert it].
My answer to the above response would be : Yes, I know it’s a personal blog – witness Ms Jone’s inclusion of ‘Picnic’ as a horror film. Yes, you don’t have to do some sort of arbitrary gender and racial inclusiveness to everything you write BUT why not take advantage of the opportunity to broaden your horizons. It’s called research. Try it some time, you might find something that surprises you. And to the last point – I have one cat, I DO make films, and I dream of an ivory tower but can’t afford one yet. Why ? = filmmaking career. See struggling filmmaker trope 101.
Normally I wouldn’t blow a fuse over this, but this isn’t a one-off occurrence. It’s happening too much for me to ignore it anymore: Lady learns that genre films get noticed, lady makes a damn good film, lady gets ignored. Personal best lists don’t include her, critical notices do desultory mentions at best, the funding bodies shy away, lady gets overlooked in blogs and unmentioned in cultural curator websites because they don’t know and won’t find out.
So then you retaliate with : maybe Ms Dabrowsky’s film wasn’t good enough to get noticed.
Well, whilst all films are a matter of taste, there is a consensus on technical and storytelling craftsmanship that means a film has to be of a certain high standard to get into festivals and get distribution. Inner Demon got both. It got selected at horror genre film festivals around the world including Night of Horror Film festival, and Fantastic Fest. In 2015, it got picked up by Deadhouse Films, a production and distribution company specializing in sci-fi and horror content whose founder is responsible for another film that IS on Ms Jones list – The Tunnel. It has since then been picked up by Los Angeles based distribution outfit, Terror Films, who are releasing it on the 21st April this year ! And if you check out the trailer on Youtube – it’s cool scary stuff !
So what gives ? Why the blanket silence from the press denizens of the net ?
This treatment isn’t just doled out to Ms Dabrowsky. There aren’t many female horror feature directors in Australia at present, but my research does unearth a film called Johnny Ghost by Donna McRae, made in 2013. It’s a spook story genre feature in black and white. It got a good run and won some awards at indie film festivals such as Berlin Independent Film Festival, Melbourne Underground Film Festival. And after that – nothing.
So, then I tried to look up female horror filmmakers in Australia on google and got a dozen articles on Jennifer Kent and zip on Ursula Dabrowsky, and Donna McRae, until the 2nd or 4th page result. Too many people won’t click past pg 1.
And it made me wonder – What the f**k does a lady horror filmmaker have to do to get noticed in this joint ? You can’t get mainstream press attention unless you’ve done great box office, or get major critical acclaim – the bar is high – so that door is closed. And now it seems you can’t noticed by the big guns of the blogosphere either ?
It’s like there’s some black hole that swallows ladies up after they’ve made their film. [Unless they get tweeted by the likes of Stephen King, William Friedkin, or do gangbusters overseas].
Going back to Ms Jone’s list of ‘15 Australian Horror you must see before you die’ – I pondered – Maybe it’s a Netflix thing ? In that neither Inner Demon or Johnny Ghost are on it, whereas The Reef, Black Water, The Tunnel are. But I can’t see 100 Bloody Acres, or Road Games, or Wyrmwood on Netflix, and they got name checked. [I must confess here that as a law abiding citizen – I only have access to Netflix Australia – not the comprehensive Netflix of the USA – so god knows what’s on their film menu].
At the end of the day Ms Helen Jones, and any other blogger, can choose to include or exclude whatever film they want from ‘must watch’ lists. No list is going to please everyone. No list is comprehensive. And she’s not the only one guilty of overlooking films by women that are worthy of inclusion. Ms Dabrowsky’s work is, at the least, on par with The Tunnel, and Andrew Traucki’s films – but you won’t find her in any of the widely read Aussie horror film lists online. Micro bloggers like me, try to redress the balance but I’m not ‘What Culture’ or BuzzFeed. No one is obliged to include what their reader’s whine about.
But when you’re one of the few female filmmakers trying to carve a niche in a male dominated world and you’re constantly ignored, that’s gotta sting, and worse discourage others from entering a field where the stakes always seem against you.
So, bloggers, for f**ks sake try harder !
PS – I note that this years WIFT run film festival, rebranded FFS [For Film’s Sake] Festival has a Fright Night full of Horror flicks made by woman. I’d recommend checking it out. And let’s hope one day soon in the future – there’ll be a night full of Australian made entries amongst them.