Girls On Film talks to Grace Barber-Plentie and Maria Cabrera of the Reel Good Film Club about privilege in the film industry and the ethos of Reel Good. Plus, a step-by-step guide of how you can set up your own film club, girl power style.
We love film, but let’s face it; we love free film even more. So isn’t it nice when girls decide to put on free film screenings, well, just because they want to? Meet Grace and Maria, two parts of the three-piece girl gang that co-founded the Reel Good Film Club.
Why did you start Reel Good?
Maria: “There is a film festival that runs in London called Scalarama, which wants to support small film clubs by putting them together into a larger festival with renowned organisers such as the British Film Institute. So, we had to put on a screening to meet a deadline for entry. The first film we screened was Sidewalk Stories by Charles Lane, which we were so honored to watch. The reason we picked it for the Scalarama festival was honestly because we wanted a chance to see it. The people that bought the rights to the film were also donating profits to a charity that helps marginalised communities put together their own films, so we felt passionate about that as well.”
What is the ethos behind Reel Good?
Maria: “For me I feel that you always see world cinema in art house, which I find really strange. I think world cinema is always seen as really primitive or astonishing because these people managed to make a film in a third world country. The people that go to these art house screenings can afford the high price tickets and I doubt they really relate to the films at all. I think we also wanted to make a film club that wasn’t like that and could use a whole spectrum of films, from low budget to Hollywood blockbusters, just any film in which we consider their representation as important.”
What are your next few screenings going to entail?
Maria: “The theme for our next few screenings will be a focus on female friendship. I think it’s important to have positive images of female friendship rather than friends who fall out over boys.”
Grace: “We were talking about the TV series Girls earlier and how it’s a really toxic representation of friendship because they all hate each other and bitch about each other. It’s the least positive representation of friendship I’ve ever seen.”
Maria: “Additionally, Boyhood was described as THE universal story, THE most human film and how we are meant to relate to this because we’ve all experienced growing up. But we didn’t really connect with it. So, we want to create a season that is kind of appropriating Boyhood but using women of colour, from their early stages all the way through to old age. And I’ve definitely never seen that before.”
Grace: “There are definitely female friendship films but not one that includes the whole experience like with Boyhood so we thought we’d make our own version of that by showing a season of films that show a progression.”
So what films can we expect to see in the female friendship series?
Maria: “We have loads of films we could choose for teenage female friendship such as Our Song, Girlhood, Ackee & Saltfish and a film like Girlfriends for the late twenties, but unfortunately we’re still searching for a film of old women hanging. The film Bag Of Rice has the friendship between a small girl and an old woman so we will probably include that.
How do you think other girls can create their own film clubs?
Maria: “In the UK, you can apply for funding through the British Film Institute, however it’s quite intimidating because only one or two clubs receive funding. So our project has been entirely self-funded. It’s easier if you have connections.”
- “Get in a group. That way, if you do need to fund it yourself, you can split the cost.
- Go talk to people in other film clubs and see if you can get involved. Even if you don’t want to be part of that one, it can give you the confidence to start your own once you’ve had some experience.
- You have to get going. If you get turned down by one venue, which happens a lot, just keep going, you will find somewhere eventually.
- Branch out of film spaces as well. Galleries and pubs often have venues to lend. “
You’ve mentioned the BFI. Do you think that it is effectively representing women and minorities?
Grace: “I feel like the problem lies with Sight and Sound Magazine, some journalists have addressed it. I think there has only been one female director on the cover, ever.”
Maria: “I think if you go to the BFI and look in the audience, that says it all really. It’s not cheap. Most of the films they show there are amazing but so expensive. Last year I went to A Story of Children and Film by Mark Cousins and all the films were about kids but every ticket was £8. And, how do you take a kid to the cinema when the rest of the audience is so old?”
As film fans and students, what are your issues with the film industry?
Maria: “We want to see more women of colour everywhere really. Studying film we’ve only had two black directors on the curriculum in the last two years. And the sad thing is that some teachers really want to teach us about racially diverse film makers, but they cant get it on the curriculum, so instead they cram it in in references. In terms of filmmaking, I think a lot of my young female friends find it really intimidating. I’m personally so freaked out by the camera, it’s such an internalised fear that I usually just ask someone else to take control. Then usually a boy will take over and start clicking all the right buttons, knowing exactly what he’s doing.”
Grace: “We’re always told, if you aren’t seeing what you want to see in cinema, go out and make it yourself. Is it as simple as that?”
Maria: “I think there is a stigma for women about being a failure, because it is a privilege to make films. And often only the privileged succeed.”
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Grace: “That’s probably why there are so few female directors. You make one film and it isn’t received well, that’s basically the end of your career. I agree, it is a privilege thing. If you are a guy you’ll probably get a job straight out of University and end up as the next Scorsese””
Where do you think the open access is for women?
Grace: “There is probably more of a chance for women to get into academics but that’s not what everyone is interested in.”
Maria: “Women are always put in organisational positions. So if they are lucky they maybe land a producer role or editor is another role aspiring female filmmakers take. Curation, as well. I always thought that Curation was a job with quite an even gender ratio. But actually it’s still male academics that dominate in that field. “
This year’s Oscars have been dubbed “the whitest Oscars” of the past decade. How do you feel about this?
Grace: “Should we care about the Oscars?”
Maria: “It’s so much part of culture in general, and even people that don’t care about film will talk about it. For people that don’t go to the cinema that much, they are going to be influenced by what’s “good”, what’s winning Oscars and the mainstream audience will keep watching the same stuff. And if a film is doing well at the box office they will keep making the same sorts of films, which right now is predominantly white and male centric.”
Grace: “The people in power need to start acknowledging the issues, because so far it is only the people affected, i.e. women and people of colour that talk about the problems.
Lastly, who are your top 3 female directors of the moment?
Both: “Gina Prince-Bythewood, Ava Duvernay, Cecile Emeke.”
Image courtesy of the Reel Good Film Club