March is Women’s History Month and—as a woman running a film festival for a history museum—I feel a wonderful connection with that phrase. Of course, I’m not in this endeavor as the lone woman: in addition to my silent partner, a very talented man, Jerry Taylor, and another great guy, Stephen Evans, who runs our website (and more), the Longleaf women include my (spiritual) right arm, Cassandra Bennett (who doesn’t even work for the museum any longer), and get-it-done, always-there coworkers Chelsea Weger, Jessica Pratt, and Emily Grant (and, yes, they all have full-time museum jobs, too).
Women in Film/North Carolina
“Women in film” generally refers to women filmmakers. One of them, Mabel Evan Jones, was superintendent of Dare County schools when, in 1921, she wrote, produced, and starred in an educational silent film about the Lost Colony that she “succinctly” titled The Earliest English Expeditions and Attempted Settlements in the Territory of What Is Now the United States, 1584–1591. To direct the five-reel, 50-minute film, she hired another woman, Elizabeth Grimball.
However, men soon dominated the commercial film industry, and moved women out of the director’s chair. Still, women continued to work as actors and to find places in production—as set designers, prop managers, costumers, and in other aspects of film. Many Tar Heel women were involved in those roles, also, from the industry’s earliest days.
More recently, however, women filmmakers have once again picked up the megaphone and started to create amazing films—in great numbers.
In Longleaf’s short history, we’ve been honored to share the work of dozens of women directors and producers. And, we’re especially proud of our category for middle- and high-school filmmakers—including multi-year winner Morgana McKenzie (Gifts, Ellie, and Atlas World), award-winning animator Azure Allen (One Day on Carver Street and From Dogs to Wolves), and award-winning documentarian Alexia Salingaros (KERS)—the work of these young people inspires.
In addition to the women filmmakers screened at Longleaf, we are grateful to women who are involved behind the scenes, some for creating our award tiles—potters Laura Weant, Elise Atkins, Mary Ferrell, and Meredith Heywood—and others for participating on Longleaf’s advisory board—including members Nicolle Jones and J.A. Steel.
Women in Film/Community
In 2014, when planning for Longleaf first began, I was a total newcomer to the film festival world, and an entire community of folks regularly supported me and our efforts to share independent film in this place that recognizes the connections between our pasts and presents. Yes, this community includes some terrific men (looking at you Nic Beery, Lance Bacon, and Steve Neilson), but I have not been at all surprised by the number of creative, intelligent, and collaborative women in the local film community who offered support and encouragement.
The number of folks in this community has grown since then, and the women in this “village” have answered 899 questions and have listened, shown up, and participated, giving their time, advice, and support beyond measure. I am naming a few of these amazing women (because names are important, and I enjoy meeting with them regularly):
- Camden Watts, founder of TriFilm Society;
- Dr. Marsha Gordon, film historian and guiding light;
- Laura Boyes, film curator for the North Carolina Museum of Art;
- Vivian Bowman-Edwards, director of Alice Fest, a festival of women filmmakers;
- Kristy Breneman, programmer for Alamo Drafthouse Cinema;
- Joy Ennis, program supervisor for the Cary Theater;
- producer and filmmaker Lana Garland, program director of the Southern Documentary Fund;
- Dr. Alisa Johnson, professor and organizer of Meredith College Documentary Film Festival; and
- Lani Simona, production co-director, and Michelle Benham, marketing manager, of Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
To this Women in Film community: thank you for being you. And for welcoming me. We get things done.
May 11–12 at the North Carolina Museum of History.
Film, Fun, and Community.