August 25, 2008

What's Your Point, Honey?

It's the week of the Democratic convention and in that spirit we are going to cover some political topics this week on Women & Hollywood. While I may still be smarting that Hillary Clinton's 18 million voters are relegated to just a roll call vote, I know that it's important to get excited about Obama and Biden. I 'm just having a hard time getting it up. Are you?

One of the reasons I think I'm feeling so bereft is that I just don't see who's coming next. The pipeline for future female political leaders seems so damn short. I mean, really, what other women is going to be able to get 18 million primary voters?

what's your point, honey? is an attempt to change that paradigm. It tells the story of several young women who participated in a program with The White House Project and CosmoGirl to start them on the road to the presidency so that we have will have a pipeline so that many women will be ready to run for the highest office in the land.

Check out the trailer:

Girl power fuels what's your point, honey?. It's co-directed by Amy Sewell (who also did the awesome Mad, Hot Ballroom) and Susan Toffler. Sewell took some time to answer some questions about the film.

Women & Hollywood: What made you decide to make this film?

Amy Sewell: My filmmaking partner, Susan Toffler, wanted to really start a conversation about gender inequalities. And at the very most, we wanted our movie to serve as a marker in time, during a year when a first for history was within our reach. In 20 years, if the statistics at the end of our movie do not change, we will have a much bigger problem than anyone thinks. We have a big problem now but getting young women to realize this is quite the feat! No one wants to talk about it – hence starting the conversation to give it a push.
We felt that young women do not know they are not equal. We felt it was time for younger women to realize where they will end up if they don’t wake up and take a stand. We are 69th in the world in women’s representation in government. I mean, you read these stats and you have to be embarrassed that we don’t demand equality now! It’s illogical that we are not equal. Completely ridiculous.
W&H: What do you want young women to get out of the film?
AS: In September of 2005, right after my first film, Mad Hot Ballroom, had its run, Toffler and I decided it was time to address this tough topic (one that Hollywood won’t touch with a 10-foot pole) – feminism – and wrap it up somehow, making it entertaining and heartfelt, to make it palatable to not only younger women but the masses. And so we wrapped it around the metaphor of a woman running for president. We got lucky when Senator Clinton ran, luckier when the press crucified her in ways they wouldn’t have a man, and luckiest (bittersweet luck) when she dropped out of the race, helping us drive our point (“honey”) home. The one top slot never even gotten close to by a woman until this year – and now we don’t know when we’ll ever see that again! It might take until 2024!
W&H: Now that Hillary Clinton has run for president do you think that girls and young women will see things differently?
AS: Well, that one is a tough question because while they saw a woman run for president and get pretty far, she still didn’t get the prize AND was subjected to extreme hate for it. Only time will tell whether women will have the guts to keep taking it on. I think we do. I hope we do.
W&H: You are distributing this film in a non traditional way? How are you getting the word out about the film?
AS: The first word out of a powerful female decision-maker in Hollywood about our film was “You have to understand….I’m one woman in a room with 10 men.” That said it all. We just decided to do it ourselves. Sell direct. We took cues from Radiohead in the music industry.

But this baby was different. We didn’t want it in theaters for a week up against Hulk, Hellboy, Iron Man and Batman and then put on a shelf. We are hand-holding it. It’s bigger than just the concept of a movie. This is a mission. Add to that, I can only say that we also tried to approach Michael Moore (he had given me a quote for my book two years ago and we are both Michigan “kids”) to put this feminism movie out under his name as a joke on the industry. We thought for sure if he would do it, he would be hailed a genius -- “bold and brave” -- to take on the topic of feminism in such an entertaining and subtly poignant way.

Regardless, we have a good movie about an important topic that all mothers and fathers, grandparents, young people – all ages, should see. We have the ages 8-80 crowd-pleasing social justice cause film of the year and you can order it right off our website. You can also download a crossword puzzle we had Will Shortz’ #2 person do for and about the film. Each DVD comes with a HONEY Viewers Guide (think Readers Guides for book clubs) to help start the conversation. We also have two Study Guides – one for College and one geared to middle and high school students; both written by kick-ass professors/teachers.

And, in order to pay it forward, 30% of our net DVD profits are split up equally among The White House Project, Ms. Foundation, and Girls Inc.

We’ve also partnered up with Women Count, anyone who signs up with them (it’s free) get a promo code to get 20% off our DVD.
W&H: Why does the title - what's your point, honey? work so well and make me want to beat someone up?
AS: It’s funny. Good! It should! That is the collective way all of us women should feel, the way our souls should really feel, after 6,000 years, of being treated as less. I’m advocating the use of our minds and souls to finally stand up and demand what is rightfully ours – respect -- along equal pay, ownership of our bodies, and corporate or government consideration for child and elder care.

The title is actually from a Jim Borgman cartoon from the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hillary (Clinton) is pointing to a world chart where the names of the numerous other countries have had women leaders and Uncle Sam is saying “What’s your point, honey?” It kind of summed it all up for us for our film. Our logline is “It’s not about one…..” – which we think drives it all home – in many, many ways – both literal and figuratively.
W&H: Do you think we're going to have a woman president before 2024?
AS: No. Sorry. I wish I could say yes. I’d like to say yes, but I don’t think we’ve seen the beginning of this backlash yet from Senator Clinton running (it’s strong, invisible and deadly). But I do think we are on our way. I think more and more women will go into local, state and federal government to start feeding the pipeline of the choice we need to get there.
I don’t think we’ve seen even the tip of the next wave of feminism. It is coming and come hell or high water, I’m fighting all the way to my grave to see a day of equality. I used to say it was for my daughters – this fight in me – but you know what? It’s for me. They are learning (they are 10) but they will have to fight for what they think is right. Right now, I’m in it, I’m in it deep, and in it to win. I don’t know of any other way.
We’ve got to build the army. Women who have the time and privilege need to fight for our sisters who don’t have the time or maybe have to first fight racism and/or religious persecution. Look, I’m happy to hold at 77 cents to get my sisters of color caught up to that pay level – then we can all march on for the equal buck together. This is not a fight to get fragmented about – we are ALL women.

And overall, the goal is NOT just to have a woman president – what does that matter if she is not going to bring our issues to the table? The goal is to someday have just as many women as men run for president so we can PAST gender to agenda. That’s when the issues will be a given at the table. We are looking for equal representation at all levels.
W&H: Where can people see this film?
AS: We continue to have benefit screenings for women’s groups around the country and you can find out where by checking out the “now playing” section on our website.

But we emphasize buying the DVD and getting the Viewers Guide. Host a screening party – start the conversation! Pass it around! Show 100 people! Approach your local art house theater cut a deal and invite the community! Show it as a fundraiser a local women’s nonprofit you support! We own the rights and therefore, we advocate having everyone and anyone serve as screening “ambassadors.”
W&H: Women directors seem to do much better in the documentary world. Why do you think that is the case and why are there so few fictional female film directors?
AS: We don’t have to depend on Hollywood to help us with the money. I just read your column today – look, we have to take responsibility of where we are – not blame anyone. If that means giving box office to women directors, let’s do it. If that means “girlcotting” companies that don’t speak to us, let’s do it (god forbid, here comes the “she’s not a true-blue American capitalist” – know that I am – more than anyone knows!). If it means only doing business with other women or men who are pro-women, then so be it. There are ways we can show our power. We are 80% of the purchasing power in this wonderful democratic country of ours! But a true democracy means equality for all – so let’s get to that!

I’d love to see all the female directors get the key fiction films. I think we haven’t seen enough of they way we can deliver a movie to an audience. I’ll tell you another thing, I think our margin for error to fail is too great. Men seem to be allowed to fail in this industry with nine or more lives attached to them to come back and make more money. Women directors get one chance. That’s crazy. We get boxed into being the perfect girl, much like looking for the first female president – I fear we are only given room to look for the perfect girl. That perfection is killing us. Toffler and I joke that the day we are truly equal is the day when women can be gross-gut-bustin’, TV-watching, scratchy, “I’ll deal with the garbage later,” beer-drinking, crotch-itching, slacker guys and be revered for it! We are looking forward to that day!