There is always a time when the topic of Female Directors becomes pertinent. Kathryn Bigelow winning her Oscar for “The Hurt Locker” certainly raised the subject. But that was seven years ago. Now, Patty Jenkins’s recent “Wonder Woman” success is picking up the topic. The problem seems to be continuing the trend. In an effort do just that, writer/producer Ryan Murphy (“American Horror Story,” “Feud”) has started a new fellowship aimed at supporting the cause. The HALF Initiative begins November 1st and one of its first recipients is filmmaker Kristin Fairweather.
Fairweather is no stranger to the creative process. In 2012 she produced“Future Weather” (see my review for ScreenComment), a feature film selected at Tribeca. The film, which starred Lili Taylor and Amy Madigan, was ahead of its time. Its environmental narrative would bring up the subject of climate change well before it became a political topic. Not surprisingly, it was also directed by a woman. According to Fairweather, she met its director Jenny Deller on Craigslist when the two collaborated on a business proposal. Eventually, filmmaking became the topic of conversation and their next collaboration would be the short “Save The Future,” a precursor to the Tribeca feature.
Fairweather’s next produced feature, 2015’s “A Rising Tide”, was a coming-of-age story during Hurricane Sandy. The story of how an Atlantic City family deals with the destruction of their restaurant became a personal experience for Kristin. “We were shooting in New Jersey during the one-year anniversary of Sandy.”
For the feature “Namour,” Fairweather took on the role of executive producer for the first time. The film went on to win 2016’s LA Muse Award.
Eventually Fairweather would take the knowledge she learned on film sets and get behind the camera herself. She directed her first short film “Grace” which was an official selection in the Love International Film Festival. This led to her directing the current PSA for American Airline’s Bonnie Award which is given annually to help aid female directors. Included in the spot are various women including the aforementioned Patty Jenkins, whom Fairweather was able to interview during a “Wonder Women” press junket. “She was great!” Fairweather said to me.
Ironically, before a career in entertainment, Fairweather made her living in the equally cut-throat world of politics. When asked which is tougher she mused “They’re both hard in different ways.” Subsequently, in recent years as the two fields have melded, Fairweather’s previous experience certainly thickened her skin for when navigating the male-dominated world of film production.
When asked if she’s offended by the title Female Director as opposed to just Director, Fairweather claimed “No, in fact, when I hear a movie has been directed by a woman, it makes me want to see it more.” However, she feels it is harder for women to get noticed as the perception of a director is still by and large “the dude in the baseball cap.” In their defense, Fairweather believes a woman behind the camera may offer more empathy toward actors but admits that their leadership style may be different. Fairweather feels that women do have to work harder. But at the same time, they’re up for the challenge.
Fairweather’s upcoming film projects include her feature directorial debut with “Little Monster/Mississippi Girl” and an option to the life story of civil rights activist Jane Elliott. However, her immediate attention will be focusing on her upcoming fellowship in Ryan Murphy’s HALF Initiative. According to Fairweather, the only way the success of female directors will cease being sporadic, is by opportunity. Thankfully, people like Ryan Murphy are offering just that.
So, in the moviemaker marathon, Kathryn Bigelow lit the torch, Patty Jenkins ran with it and Ryan Murphy may be helping her hand it off. To Kristin Fairweather, perhaps?
Rudy Cecera is senior contributor to ScreenComment and the author of a number of articles about women in cinema, from Mabel Normand to Ileana Douglas (@rcomwrit22)
See also: HALF INITIATIVE