Bridging the GAP: Getting girls in film
Update: As of Sept. 7 around 6:30 p.m., GAP has reached its goal of raising $5,000 for the program.
*Editor’s note: One direct quote from Alex Klein was paraphrased for clarity.
In 2017, women only represented 18 percent of all writers, directors, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films, according to the 20th annual Celluloid Ceiling report of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film from San Diego State University. Two local institutions in Winston-Salem are working to change that statistic by starting with high school girls in the community.
A/perture Cinema and Sawtooth School for Visual Arts are teaming up for an afterschool filmmaking class called Girls And Production. Girls through GAP will be exposed to a feminist film curriculum and technical filmmaking skills so that they can nourish their passion for film at an early age. The overall goal of the program is to get more women and representation in the film industry.
Gray Gordon, education director and special programming coordinator at A/perture Cinema and Alex Klein, the vice president of operations at Sawtooth are both spearheading the program. The two got together and realized that they both had similar visions for the program. Gordon said he drew inspiration from his former employer, the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville and its afterschool program called Strong Leads. Gordon said Strong Leads was more of a scholarly and discussion-based program whereas, GAP will focus on discussions as well as production. He said a key difference between Strong Leads and GAP was the technical aspect that Sawtooth provides.
“Ours is a different topic every week and more formatted like a college course rather than a film club,” Gordon said about the GAP program. “It doesn’t look like anything else that exists in the country. Arthouse and indie cinema all have robust education programming, but the reason why our partnership with Sawtooth is so great is because there really isn’t anywhere else in the country that is doing this or doing it in a way that looks like GAP.”
Klein said GAP is broken up into two semesters. The first semester will focus on watching various feminist films and clips at A/perture while Gordon instructs and moderates the discussion. While Gordon admits that he is a cisgender white man teaching a class on feminist film studies, he invites and encourages any women who have studied in the film industry field or who have taught film studies before to come by, sit in and participate to be part of the discussion. (As a film studies minor myself, I plan to accept his invitation enthusiastically.)
The curriculum will look at Laura Mulvey’s “The Male Gaze,” the construction of gender, masculinity as a spectacle, female characters in films, and the intersectionality of identity and gender in film. The second semester will take place at Sawtooth and will have a “filmmaking 101 crash course,” where the girls will learn composition, directing, editing and sound design.
“The really awesome thing about this program is that it will culminate with a film festival so that these girls can all screen the movies they made during the spring semester,” Klein said. “This is the pilot program; our hopes are that it is super successful and that we can do another one next year at a different level. So next year we can offer GAP intro and then like an intermediate level so that girls that graduate from the first level have something else to do.”
Klein said since this is the pilot program, GAP will only accept 12 students. Klein and Gordon agree that finding a diverse group of students is a top priority for GAP.
“We are trying to get at least 50 percent of our students from lower-income families and schools–like from Title I high schools, which is a pretty big percentage,” Klein said. “We felt that it was important to have a really good mix of backgrounds so that these girls can learn from each other’s experiences and make films that represent women from all walks of life.”
“The program is targeted to serve girls that have an interest in film that needs to be nourished and cultivated,” Gordon said of the importance of diversity in GAP. “Because a student that is already in this world is going to have nourishment, and we want to include them to a capacity, but like we said, the majority of the students we want are the ones that need the program to nourish their interest in movie making.”
Klein believes this program is essential to potential future filmmaking students because of her own experiences in the field. She went to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for filmmaking and said that many of her female colleagues wanted their concentration to be in directing but they did not apply because they felt like they couldn’t compete with the men.
Since GAP is only a pilot program at the moment, Sawtooth and A/perture are still raising funds to get the program going. Micah Brown Media (the videographer for Sawtooth) made a promotional video (for free) to help sponsor GAP. Klein and Gordon said they were very appreciative of Micah Brown Media’s generous donation to the cause.
“One of the reasons why we are raising money is because we have never launched a film program before,” Klein said of the crowdsourcing page for GAP. “We don’t have the equipment that we need for a film program, and the only way we can really do this is through a partnership by having a technical filmmaking program that is robust enough to teach these girls the technical skills that they need.”
Gordon and Klein said that they are a little over $1,000 away from reaching their $5,000 goal and are extending the crowdsourcing deadline to Sept. 14. GAP is a free afterschool program with a one-time $50 registration fee. Klein said there were also scholarship options for the registration fee and the deadline for applications is Sept. 7. The fall semester begins on Sept. 26 at A/perture Cinema and the spring semester takes place on Jan. 6, 2019 at Sawtooth.
For more information about GAP, visit the Sawtooth website.