The Women of Tribeca

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Film festivals afford you an opportunity to meet filmmakers from all over the world who are involved in the industry in many different capacities. And this year, at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, I spoke with writers on the red carpet, watched Q and As as an audience member, and literally bumped into or by chance sat next to talented female filmmakers. Their stories and creations are all different, but together they represent a strong voice and perspective. Here are the women of Tribeca and what they had to say.

Who: Hannah Bos, cowriter of “Driveways,” Red Carpet

Changes for women in film

Hannah Bos

I mean I think it’s getting better. I think people are listening more to female stories. I mean there’s still a loooonnnnggg way to go with everything, but I’m also a mom now so I write both a lot of material, but also in a limited amount of time. And now time works differently for me so it’s sort of a double-edged sword where I have different interpretations of stories and I have so much more to write about and I have less time and I have less support through the government and there’s no space for moms to write. I’m trying to sort of carve that out and figure that out. But it is getting better; I feeling like it’s moving in a better direction.

Collaboration with cowriter Paul Thureen

Bos: We’re playwrights and we collaborate on all of our projects and we have since college so we’ve sort of grown up together. And in the same way we’re figuring out what it means now for me to be a mom and a partner in writing and what that means because our time is different now. Like we both get up earlier now because I get up earlier.

Thureen: She gets up really early, takes her kid to daycare, walks to my place, we write all day, she picks up her kid.

Bos: And I think we work harder.

Thureen: At 9 o’clock when her kid’s asleep, we’re on Skype, we’re writing. We’re more efficient with our time.

Bos: I think we work harder because I have to pay for a babysitter!


Who: Writer and director Ani Simon-Kennedy, Q and A of “The Short History of the Long Road”

Motivation

Ani Simon-Kennedy

I started writing this movie five years ago. It’s a traditional US indie movie and I’ve always loved road trip movies. I discovered the subculture of van dwelling where people move into their vans and turn them into tiny homes and was completely fascinated by that world.

Casting Sabrina Carpenter

I ended up meeting pretty much every young actress in Hollywood and wanted to find someone who could completely give themselves over to the character and just really dive in. I had this unconventional casting meeting where I just wanted to meet people who’ve read the whole script and just talk about the character. I wanted to see how they connect with the character—what they like, what they don’t like, before even getting into auditions.

American culture

It’s something that continuously blows my mind about living in this country where housing isn’t a right, which it is in France, and we also have a right to health care and you have a right to education, and this is the richest country in the world!

There’s something about the stopgap systems and safety nets that people build for themselves to fill these gaps and find ways of surviving. I had this fascination and curiosity about [it] so that’s been a huge part of what went into this story, and sort of all of these different people that Nola meets along the way are just trying to make the best of what they’ve got. Whether it’s Marcy and her composed family or Miguel and his garage, there are so many ways in which people are looking out for each other because there is no system in place.


Who: Writer, actress, and director Judi Beecher, the Lounge

Project in progress

Judi Beecher

As of now, it may be [called] “My Name is Ronia.” It’s about my mother who was a hidden child in the Holocaust. She’s eighty-two now. She’s still around and amazing, and the kindest and most loving person you could imagine.

She was watching the news and children were being separated from their parents at the border, and my mother was separated from her parents for five years. She was German and she was deported to an internment camp in France. They were together for a year and she was smuggled out of the camp and put into hiding.

She was four and a half when she was deported, five and a half when she was smuggled out, and six and a half when she escaped across the French-Swiss border alone. It’s a happy ending. She was reunited with her parents who escaped separately and went on their own journey. My grandfather recorded his story thirty years ago before he died.

[In the film] my mom, my sister, and myself, we find the escape route they used to escape the camps and we go on a journey, following my grandfather’s recorded voice back to Germany, back to Switzerland, back to France, to find out what really happened to them, to my mother.

And while we’re on this journey, all these serendipitous things happened to us as they did to them on their journey back during WWII. On their journey, they were going to be arrested by guards and police, and they had a change of heart and they ended up helping them. The film is about on our journey, my mother meets with refugees, Syrian and Afghan refugees, and they tell her their story and it’s similar.

Motivation

I don’t know how she turned out as good as she did, but she’s like my mentor, my role model, my hero. Super sweet, she can put herself in anybody’s shoes, compassionate and loving. I’m making this film because it’s a passion project because of the rise in hatred around the world in the last few years, and it breaks my heart.

My hopes are people will see this story and learn what the warning signs are, how people are all the same, and the importance of helping someone in need, the importance of stepping in and helping your brother. Making that choice, making that decision; you have a choice to help someone or not and really making that choice to help someone. Your little deed that you do might save their life.


Who: Writer and director Lilian Mehrel, “Water Melts,” the Lounge

Motivation for immersive short film

Lilian Mehrel

In my twenties, I experienced a person I loved most in the world getting a terminal diagnosis and I realized that when you’re told you’re going to lose someone you love, time just becomes this desperate struggle to hold onto the moment. … I was looking for stories. I think my go-to therapy is movies and television. I think other people go through this and I couldn’t find any stories about it.

My cocreator, she was going through something very similar and the two of us wanted to collaborate because we’re both filmmakers, traditional filmmakers as well as immersive film and we wanted to collaborate for a long time. The Tribeca Film Institute and Google were putting together a competition for stories that had something to do with the elements of nature.

We were thinking about the transformative quality of water and we started playing around with that and it became about what we were going through with grief, being with your loved one and wanting to be in the moment. We both like to write poetic comedies and we started playing around with the idea of a sad romantic comedy. …

We feature three stories. One is these two women, a couple having a picnic on the beach and they’re fighting about nothing. They’re fighting about who forgot the salt. Something we wanted to show in times like this, you might think it’s very dramatic, that you’re constantly crying and holding hands, but actually nobody knows what to say when you’re faced with life and death and so you end up bickering about nothing and you end up laughing and crying. … We follow that couple, we follow a mother and a son and a father and a daughter. The whole thing is tied together at the end. We also shot live-action but we have hand-painted animation over top in these moments to evoke what it feels like to be living with something surreal on top of your real life and the subtext of your emotions with the animation.

Changes

In 2011, I entered NYU Tisch Grad Film [School] and I was surrounded by a lot of incredible female creators in school. It was 50-50 in terms of class representation. We realized that once we started putting our stuff out there and seeing our stories being told, you realize there are one or two spots for you. There’s a niche that only one woman of color can fill this.

Anytime I would pitch a television concept it would always get compared to “Girls” like no matter whether it had anything to do with it. However now, I feel like there’s so much more … we start to feel a little more welcomed. Both my cocreator and I are daughters of immigrants. Whenever we cast, we always want to say we’re all about representation, but also emotional representation which is what this film is about.


Who: Writer and director Jennifer Reeder, “Knives and Skin,” phone interview

Teen perspective

Jennifer Reeder

I deeply respect young people and I think that those in real life and in films, they often don’t get credit for how engaged and smart and connected they are. We have a tendency to treat young people like idiots or criminals or a combination of the two.

I wanted to make a film that was a kind of love letter to young people and specifically to young girls, adolescent girls who I think even more so in terms of media content are given very inauthentic images of themselves. And images that can be problematic at the least if not destructive. I think it’s hard enough being a teenage girl navigating your daily life if you’re not having to then confront media images that are prescribed to you as to how you should look and act.

Today’s adolescent

It has to be harder now. I can’t even imagine the pressure of social media. Social media did not exist when I was a teenager yet there were still ways that in specific girls could be very cruel to each other in a public forum so I can’t even imagine now… I wanted to make a film that showed there’s interaction outside of social media. And certainly I wanted to make a film that suggested that the magic of the universe is embodied in young women. And that there’s power in female friendship and that friendship is truly the most effective form of survival.

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