Tag Archive | fantasy



Over the past few years I’ve come know and love the feminist publication Agnès Films so I’m very happy to be joining them as a Staff Writer. Please check out my first review of THE TEMPTATION GAME.



Ocean Waif

In October of 2015, Women in Film Los Angeles launched a challenge that asked people to watch one film a week by a woman for a year and to share and discuss those films on social media. To date they’ve reached over 11,000 pledges and are still going strong.

What I’ve learned from my year of women-directed films is much the same as what I’m hearing from everyone else–namely, that you really have to dig if you want to consistently discover female filmmakers. Here are my observations from the year:

  • I wanted to watch current films, not just the standards that everyone already knows. It was much easier to find independent films with female directors; very difficult to find mainstream studio films. The Wrap recently released this stat:

    …of the 149 movies currently slated for a wide release from the six legacy studios over the next three years, only 12 have female directors. That means a whopping 92 percent of the major motion pictures due in theaters through the end of 2019 will be helmed by men.

  • Sometimes I couldn’t find a narrative feature at all and that’s when I started filling out my year with shorts and documentaries–both of which are much more prolific in terms of female directors. Once again, it all comes back to money and opportunity. What can you make when you have neither? I scoured other people’s lists to see what they were watching and the same films came up over and over again (as they will on my list too). There were limited choices; sometimes nothing appealed to me and I had to go outside the box to find something I wanted to watch.
  • This process of deliberately watching films from female perspective is what finally drove home to me how much of my life–and the lives of all women–have been shaped by the male gaze and point-of-view. Our stories are not being told and so, because we don’t see ourselves on screen or the potential for what we can be on screen, we often don’t see another choice but to accept and perpetuate the myths and stereotypes of what a woman is or what she can and should be. Of course there are many exceptions (thank you, new Star Wars franchise) and media is not the only thing that shapes a life but I’d never before realized just how critical a role it actually did play for me. What could the world look like for future generations of women if we were truly represented?
  • One of my reasons for taking the pledge was to find a director for my own feature project. I fell in love with a lot of new filmmakers but one issue remains: most of them don’t have the breadth of experience that male filmmakers have and may require a leap of faith. Years and years go by between most women’s first and second features…sometimes more years than you can believe and it’s actually tragic how long it takes for a woman to find the funding or opportunity to make one film, let alone several.
  • A highlight: Ashley Judd seeing my blog about her film Come Early Morning (one of my all-time favorites) and writing a lovely comment to me on Facebook.
  • I watched 35 Narrative Features, 8 Narrative Shorts, 6 Documentary Features and 3 Documentary Shorts.
  • My Top Five new films that I discovered and highly recommend are: Stray Dog (Documentary Feature) by Debra Granik, Into the Forest (Narrative Feature) by Patricia Rozema, Hostile Border (Narrative Feature) by Kaitlin McLaughlin & Michael Dwyer, Cigarette Candy (Narrative Short) by Laura Wolkstein and Emotional Fusebox (Narrative Short) by Rachel Tunnard.
  • I remain committed to working with women directors and am very inspired and excited by the prospect. I also remain committed to seeking out films by women on a regular basis and especially to supporting them at the box office and on social media–two places where it counts.
  • Join the movement and take your own #52FilmsByWomen pledge HERE.

The Films

LOVE & BASKETBALL (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood

OBSELIDIA (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Diane Bell

BLEEDING HEART (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Diane Bell

GAS FOOD LODGING (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Allison Anders

STORIES WE TELL (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Sarah Polley

COME EARLY MORNING (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Joey Lauren Adams

SELMA (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Ana DuVernay

STRAY DOG (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Debra Granik

ANOTHER KIND OF GIRL (Documentary Short) / Directed by Khaldia Jibawi

JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Amy J. Berg

I DON’T CARE (Narrative Short) / Directed by Carolina Giammetta

LIFE IN COLOR (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Katharine Emmer

ADVANTAGEOUS (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Jennifer Phang

THE INTERN (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Nancy Meyers

HOSTILE BORDER (Narrative Feature) / Co-Directed by Kaitlin McLaughlin & Michael Dwyer

TOUCH (Narrative Short) / Directed by Jen McGowan

SPEED DATING (Narrative Short) / Directed by Meghann Artes

BELLE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Amma Asante

GIRLHOOD (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Celine Sciamma

ENOUGH SAID (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Nicole Holofcener

HOTEL 22 (Documentary Short) / Directed by Elizabeth Lo

MIELE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Valeria Golino

SEQUIN RAZE (Narrative Short) / Directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro

EMOTIONAL FUSEBOX (Narrative Short) / Directed by Rachel Tunnard

CIGARETTE CANDY (Narrative Short) / Directed by Lauren Wolkstein

WAITRESS (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Adrienne Shelly

THE PIG CHILD (Narrative Short) / Directed by Lucy Campbell

WATER (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Deepa Mehta

TALLULAH (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sian Heder

WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Gillian Armstrong

FANGIRL (Documentary Short) / Directed by Liza Mandelup

ALWAYS WORTHY (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Marianna Palka

STRANGERLAND (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Kim Farrant

BONESHAKER (Narrative Short) / Directed by Frances Bodomo

PINE RIDGE (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Anna Eborn

BRIDGET JONES’S BABY (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sharon Maguire

IMAGINE I’M BEAUTIFUL (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Meredith Edwards

BIG STONE GAP (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Adriana Trigiani

CERTAIN WOMEN (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Kelly Reichardt

SUFFRAGETTE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sarah Gavron

OPERATOR (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Logan Kibens

RED ROVER (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Brooke Goldfinch

INTO THE FOREST (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Patricia Rozema

BRIGHT STAR (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Jane Campion

ALWAYS SHINE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sophia Takal

IT HAD TO BE YOU (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sasha Gordon

AMERICAN HONEY (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Andrea Arnold

THE DRESSMAKER (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse

LEARNING TO DRIVE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Isabel Coixet

THE WINDING STREAM (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Beth Harrington

THE INTERVENTION (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Clea Duvall

DESERTED (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Ashley Avis

HER*STORY: Jo Hannah Afton

Hollywood especially is dog-eat-dog, and when the competition is fierce among the men, you know women will be required to fight like hell to get in the room. So fight like hell. And if you get in the room, open the door for another woman who is still in the hallway.

Jo Hannah Afton

Jo Hannah Afton / Screenwriter / Age 51 / Mars Hill, North Carolina

I met Jo Hannah Afton online over a year ago when I was looking for a feature film script to develop for myself. I read hundreds of log-lines, synopses and scripts over the course of a year and was discouraged by the material coming my way…until I found Jo. Her writing blew me away and we formed a pretty immediate connection in terms of our taste and passions.

The first writer that I really connected with was Sam Sheperd. I don’t know why, but his stark, simple sets and underlying messages about family, life and economic hardship resonated with me. I still enjoy reading his work. Even bumped into him in a deli years ago but couldn’t get the courage up to say anything. Now, I think I most admire the writing of Joel and Ethan Coen. Their complex stories, dark humor, and outlandish characters are fabulous.

Jo is a fierce advocate for women in film and writes wonderfully compelling female protagonists. She’s just started the second draft for my feature and I’m so excited about how it’s turning out.


LAYLAH (30’s), a hard-working woman in cowboy boots, 
steps out of the Chevy.

Her sweated-soaked hair clings to her neck. 
It could use a wash.

Sadie exits, her hands on her hips. 
She wears her muffin-top like a blue ribbon.

Jo Hannah has been incredibly inspiring to me as an artist because of the way she began to pursue her dream in earnest after her children were out of the house and for the sheer volume of work she has churned out over the past couple of years. She started taking screenwriting classes in 2014 and is currently being mentored by Chris Soth, who has consulted on our script.

I…largely gave up on being a writer while I was raising children. It wasn’t until I married my second husband, and he encouraged me to write again that I took it up in earnest (in my 40’s!). His support has been pivotal for me in making a full time commitment to writing… both financially and emotionally.

Having babies was my biggest obstacle to writing. It’s hard to write when children are underfoot. As Virginia Woolfe reminds us… we need a room of our own. I tried. I wrote a novel and began a screenplay during those years, but rewriting, concentrating and getting the mental space to think without distractions was impossible. So I gave up and enjoyed my kids while I had them with me, and that was a good decision. They’re grown now and I miss them like crazy and don’t regret setting down my personal ambitions to be a Mom.

And oddly, the largest challenge I’ve had to date – the financial crisis of 2008 and the loss of everything I owned and my business – turned out to be exactly what I needed to start over as a writer. It was like a giant punctuation mark on my life that begged me to re-invent myself. And so I did.

As the Dalai Lama says… sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of good luck! So to answer the question about how I deal with obstacles is this: I deal with them by seeing them as opportunities, not obstacles. There is something to be gained in every life situation. I like to look for that something.

A friend asked me if we’d set a deadline for our second draft and I basically said that Jo doesn’t need deadlines because you can’t stop this woman from writing. A prime example: during one of our conversations she told me about some scheduling conflicts that would prevent her from writing for a week or two…and then the next day she sent me 50 pages. 

Right now, I write a new script every two to three months and that feels like a healthy goal to have. But I’d let myself off the hook if I was busy on a film project or if I needed a vacation for a bit. I don’t punish myself with strict deadlines but I don’t slack either. I don’t prescribe to the “write every day no matter what” either. Some days I need to sit still. Or visit with family. Or stare off across the horizon and daydream. The writing comes easily to me and I don’t get “writer’s block” so to speak. And I think that’s because I’m fairly relaxed about how I go about it… and I don’t let excuses stop me from going about it. If that makes any sense.

I asked Jo how she handles those times when nothing seems to be moving forward, as well as the limitations and lack of opportunities that confront women in our culture.

I just love to write. I’d do it regardless at this point. Even if everyone I knew told me my work sucked and walked away from it, I’d still write.

I spend as much time as possible becoming a better writer. And then I tweet #stormthegates on feminist film articles. Lol. I also make my own opportunities, and try to involve and support other women in their projects as much as possible. I donated to more than 10 film projects in the last year, and am hosting a women’s only writer’s retreat at my house next month. I think it’s important that women help each other through the process instead of competing with each other. So, I’m doing that.

Have there been any women in your life who have set examples for you?

My mother, of course, was a good example for me in many ways. She values creativity and free expression herself, and is never short on encouraging me to live my own dream. My younger sister has been a fascinating example for me in perseverance and feminist grit. She might say the same about me, I don’t know. I think we both inspire each other to keep going. My other sister is an artist, and she’s been a good example for me as I watch her navigate her own challenges related to her career in the arts. I also had a friend years ago who taught me to write something every day just for me… she playfully created poems for fun and to share with others, and she was a tremendous lesson for me in learning to create for my own enjoyment, as opposed to writing for the purpose of publishing or earning money from the work.

How does Jo Hannah define success for herself and what does she have her sights set on in the future?

I measure my success by my happiness mainly. When I write, I’m happy. So, there is never anything to regret about doing it. But I also would like to see one of my scripts made into a film someday, and that would also make me happy. So I’ll say that any day I wake up and write for a short bit or a long bit, is a successful day, but my goal is to be produced someday.

I would like see my work produced, and when it is produced, I would like the people that watch it to enjoy it. That’s all. And if it gives them some insight into their own lives, or causes them to pause and think about life a tad more deeply, then that will be icing on the cake.

Which actress, dead or alive, would you like to play you in the movie of your life?

Oh Dear God. Please don’t let there ever be a movie of my life.

What are you working on right now? Do you have any current projects you’d like to talk about or promote?

I have four optioned scripts right now and you’re going to star in one of them! That’s all I can say about those, but I can say that I’m working on a tent pole fantasy for girls right now to help me showcase my imaginative side. If anyone would like to read my latest script, EMERALD QUEEN: RIVER OF TEARS, a fairy tale for girls, please message me privately and I’ll send it out when it’s done.

To learn more about Jo Hannah or to contact her about her work, please visit her website: www.johannahafton.com


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