From Snow Whites to sexpot preteens, there’s no shortage of images on the silver screen that make girls and their advocates groan. On top of that, there’s Hollywood’s seeming addiction to churning out mindless macho thrillers. “Ever go to a movie and leave wondering who on earth that film was made for—because it certainly wasn’t YOU?” wonders Allison Anders, who has directed Gas Food Lodging and other films.
One effective, fun solution: Put girls themselves behind the camera. More girls are doing just that, spurred by factors such as a desire to create alternative images and stories, technological advances that make equipment easier to use and more affordable, a surge in classes, youth film festivals, and other girl-friendly resources, as well as an increase in parental interest.
There’s a delightful side effect, too. “When girls begin using media-making tools themselves, they get much better at being able to see the problems with popular media images,” says Mary Celeste Kearney, professor of feminist media studies at the University of Texas and author of Girls Make Media (Routledge, 2006).
Girls will take off running once they have access to the equipment, notes Kearney, who also founded Cinemakids, which annually hosts an international kids’ film festival and production workshops. “Often, the impetus comes from parents who believe in the importance of girl-created media and who will search out resources,” she notes.
Parents may find resources readily in some cities, such as Seattle-based Reel Grrls, Chicago’s Real Extraordinary Females, and San Diego’s Divas Direct. Sometimes they’ll need to beat the bushes a bit. “Be sure to ask around at the local schools, community groups, or libraries,” says Kearney. “They may have some equipment available for use, and space to have an informal class.”
Solo movie-making is a smart first step, with a do-it-yourself movie -making book such as Andrea Richards’ Girl Director (Ten Speed Press, 2005). This engaging, girl-friendly guide covers the waterfront. Equipment can be cheap—a used Super 8 camera at a yard sale, or video cameras at deep discount through the Internet—or even free, if beginning filmmakers can talk someone into a loaner. Cellphones with cameras can do fine short footage, and movie-making software is readily available.
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