Giving Woman the Power - by Amy Hobby
Giving Women the Power
by Amy Hobby
Those who know me can attest that I am a woman of action. I love to set goals and check things off a list. I’m less good at self-promotion and I hate talking about what we should have done differently. I like the feeling of Onwards! So, what can we do to move the needle?
Planting the Right Seeds
Anne Hubbell and I founded Tangerine Entertainment in 2012 as a production company and community builder for women directors. Working out of a literal closet donated to us by the supportive owners of Final Frame, we discovered and were shocked by the statistics (that year only 9% of Hollywood films directed by women- up from 7% the year before!) and decided to make gender equity the heart and soul of our company. In 2012, our new-found guiding lights were Melissa Silverstein’s blog Women and Hollywood, the work of Stacy Smith at UCSD who would spearhead the The Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative and Martha M. Lauzen’s The Celluloid Ceiling.
Our mandate from the outset was to work only with women directors, including female identified and trans women of course. A hard and fast rule helped us focus on who needed amplification in the space most.
Our theory of change is that altering who tells the story will make a more sustainable difference. In doing this, we made a particular choice to be content agnostic. Films by women, empowering new viewpoints on stories, can result in a true sea change in our society. And these new viewpoints, sometimes radical, sometimes subtle, will be received by audiences and in turn foster a new generation of citizens who go into the world with ideas of complex women who are equally awesome and flawed as men.
We were off to a good start with films like Lucky Them (director Megan Griffiths), The Last Laugh (director Ferne Pearlstein), Keep the Change (director Rachel Israel) and Paint It Black (director Amber Tamblyn). We found that women directors hired more women crew people. The stories had more complex women characters. Our impact was limited to the number of films we could make with our boutique company but luckily other companies joined us in the effort – Gamechanger Films also out of New York was announced a few months later, followed by numerous companies in Los Angeles.
The Antidote to A Tree Falls in the Forest
By the end of 2014, Anne and I had done a lot of press (Wall Street Journal, Indiewire) talked on panels and listened to war stories. But another question loomed large. A lot of everyday women (and men) would hear the statistics and stories and were asking, “What can we do? We hear we should go support films and buy tickets to films directed by women but we don’t even know how to find them!”
During the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, we sat on our twin beds in our shared condo room and said “what can we do?” A rough deck emerged two weeks later with a plan to build a ticketing app that promoted films by women. The only hitch? We had little skill set for getting it done. We produce movies!
We heard about another team in Seattle who had similar ideas about building audiences for female driven content and a lot of knowhow around building and marketing our dream tool to connect audiences to female driven content. Emily Best, founder of Seed and Spark ,the only crowdfunding and streaming platform devoted to diverse storytelling, rocked our world by suggesting rather than competing, we might join forces! Melinda Fox and Shane Carwile of Echo Media Mobile and Tangerine hammered out a deal and started the work that gave birth to Tanji. Today you can download a white label version of the app here that we are doing for limited film festivals. We are currently fundraising for the next iteration to launch in theaters, but we already see how this tool has the potential to move the needle in a really big way. Anyone and everyone has a simple action point for gender equality at their fingertips.
In January 2017, I became the Executive Director of the Tribeca Film Institute. I carved out a way to continue with Tangerine and Tanji as our work has only begun with those initiatives. With TFI, I am able to broaden the scope of my work to change who gets to tell the stories in our culture. TFI’s mission is to promote gender, racial and economic equity in the film and media space. TFI and its sister organizations Tribeca Film Festival and Tribeca Enterprises are places where powerful women flourish. Jane Rosenthal and Paula Weinstein are icons and create an environment where all initiatives revolving around gender equity are taken with complete seriousness.
In 2016, the number of women directing Hollywood films was down to 7% from 9% when Anne and I started Tangerine. So why am I (cautiously) optimistic? Because in the past five years the issue has fully come out of the closet, along with Tangerine who now has its own office on 27th Street. Once, on a panel, somebody asked Anne what would Tangerine do when 50% of films are directed by women? Anne, “we’ll shut down the company.” Let’s hope for early retirement!
Academy Award® Nominated Creative Producer Amy Hobby is the Executive Director of the Tribeca Film Institute, Principal and Co-Founder of Tangerine Entertainment, and often mentors for Stowe Story Labs.