USC Women of Cinematic Arts held the third annual Feminist Media Festival last Sunday. The select showcase featured eight short films, varying in genre from comedy to horror to romance. The film that placed first in the festival was “Hardcover.”
In “Hardcover,” Carrie Austen (Morgan Paupaw) moves to a new neighborhood and joins a book club seeking companionship and community. But she soon discovers the club is nothing like she expected. Writer Gillian Annis, a USC alum, brilliantly challenges expected gender roles by satirically parallelling a book club to fight club.
A far cry from typical wine and gossip centered gatherings, these women use each other to get out their inner frustrations of motherhood and depict a different side of female empowerment.
“I didn’t want the women to be pitted against each other, they’re really just using each other as punching bags,” said Annis.
Inclusivity was a focus in every aspect of the film’s production process. In crafting the members of the club, Annis wrote about their personalities, not looks, and utilized a blind casting process. This resulted in a diverse cast of women with a powerhouse skillset.
Annis wanted to create a story that allowed women to play fleshed out roles and made the audience view female relationships in a new light.
“It’s nice to be in the industry in a time where it is changing,” Annis said, “but even better to be one who can facilitate that change.”
Since 2005, WCA has connected alumni and current students through networking, fellowship, and professional development opportunities. In addition to screenings, the Feminist Media Festival consisted of workshops specifically for women in the industry in areas like writing and animation.
Another film screened was Kathryn Boyd-Batstone’s drama, “Untitled. ” Victoria Ortiz plays a nonbinary character who is discriminated and verbally abused in the film for their gender identity. Ortiz explained they were immediately captivated by the script and the opportunity to play a character they have yet to see on screen. Each film screened at the event sparked an honest conversation about feminine roles and helped display the ever-growing presence of women in the film industry. According to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, 40 of the 100 top films of 2018 featured a female in a lead role; an 8% increase from the previous year.
Despite increased visibility, there is still room to improve acceptance in the industry and beyond. “I knew I wanted to be a part of something like “Untitled” because I’ve been in the situation where you’re walking around and someone calls you a fag or calls you dyke and not in the friendly way,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz wants to see even more diverse stories in the media.“There are so many things I haven’t seen that I want to see,” said Ortiz. “All it takes is one writer to be like f— it, I’m gonna write it down and make it happen.”