All posts by Emily Blake

Emily Blake writes screenplays with lots of fight scenes. She is a vocal advocate for feminism, polyamory, kink, and sex positivity. She makes most of her money as a script supervisor for film and television, but she also makes cosplays for clients out of her little apartment in Los Angeles.

The Other Voices: The Babadook

I had no idea what THE BABADOOK would be about when I put it on. The impression I had from the Internet was that it was about a gay dinner guest in a jaunty hat. This was definitely a film where that lack of knowledge was helpful in making me very scared.

THE BABADOOK, an Australian film by Jennifer Kent, is about grief. It’s pretty easy to suss that out, which I like, because I can get really annoyed at films that have this allegory so complex that you need a PhD in Pre-post-colonial literature (an actual class I took in grad school) in order to understand them. Yes, I have a graduate degree in English. I have studied literature. I have been an academic. And I really hate having to use my degree to understand shit. Make your story deep and beautiful and artsy, sure, but make sure that at the end of the day, I can see what the central argument or point of the film actually is. Otherwise, what are we doing here.

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The Other Voices: El Mariachi

Many years ago, when I was a wee film baby, I read the book Robert Rodriguez wrote about making his first feature, EL MARIACHI. It was all about throwing caution to the wind, going for broke, and just making a movie with no money and a lot of moxie. He made this film with essentially no crew, which is why his book is called REBEL WITHOUT A CREW. I was inspired! Not to make a film without a crew, because that is exhausting and ill-advised, but to learn more about filmmaking and the work it requires.

Now, of course, I am film crew, and I’m a little horrified by the idea of making an entire action film with like, 3 crew members. I regularly see young filmmakers who seem to think it some kind of badge of honor to work with a tiny crew, like that makes them better. A filmmaker I knew even tried to tell me that script supervisors are an old-fashioned job that is no longer necessary in a world where you can shoot a movie on an iPhone. I can’t wait to find out how many continuity errors his most recent film has.

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The Other Voices: Girlfight

I was a very angry kid who got into a lot of fights in school. I went to a school full of nerds – and I was one of them – so fights weren’t going to lead to hospital visits and they were very short, but I had such a short fuse that I would just go off on whatever kid pissed me off that day. I really, really wanted to take martial arts. I finally did learn to kickbox with a trainer as an adult, but had to stop because of an injury. I’ve watched a lot of boxing and MMA ever since. So GIRLFIGHT has long been on my list of films I should have seen by now. Good thing I have a column that makes me watch movies directed by women and POC.

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The Other Voices: Eve’s Bayou

EVE’S BAYOU, the feature directorial debut from actress Kasi Lemmons, had a $6M budget and an entirely black cast. There are zero white people in this film – not even wandering by in the background – which seems like a pretty amazing feat for 1997 and an unknown director. At the time (and unfortunately for many years to come), conventional wisdom was that dramas strictly about black people simply couldn’t bring in audiences, but EVE’S BAYOU made almost $15M worldwide – more than double its budget – and is a critically loved film that people still talk about today. It’s number 99 on the highest grossing films of 1997, which may sound like a little number, but let’s put that in context. It came out the same year as TITANIC. And MEN IN BLACK. And GROSSE POINTE BLANK. Ok GROSSE POINTE BLANK didn’t do Titanic numbers (nobody did) but it’s a great movie and I’m not going to just skip over it.

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The Other Voices: The Kids Are Alright

Sexuality is a spectrum. You can be homosexual or heterosexual, bisexual or pansexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible…. That’s your business. And there are subsets of sexuality that describe HOW you feel attraction, not just who you’re attracted to: megasexual, demisexual, asexual, graysexual…. The list goes on. Some people choose not to identify at all, but all of these identities are valid, and sometimes fluid as we grow and change throughout our lives.

In the last couple of years since I became polyamorous, I’ve become more and more interested in the wide spectrum of sexuality and relationship styles, which is why my partner recently recommended I watch the 2010 film directed and written by Lisa Cholodenko, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT.

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The Other Voices: Twilight

Until this week, I had never seen TWILIGHT, so as it is one of the biggest box office hits of all time to have a female director, I decided to give it a go for this column. According to Box Office Mojo, it had a production budget of $37M and it made a global $393,616,788 in theaters, which demonstrated to Hollywood that yes, teenage girls do like to go see movies, so you should make more stuff for them. That discovery eventually brought us THE HUNGER GAMES, so for that, I am grateful.

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The Other Voices: Short Term 12

2013’s SHORT TERM 12 is a film student’s dream come true. It started life as a 21-minute short film in 2008 – available on Itunes for $2.99 – and became an indie feature with a cast that immediately blew up like crazy. The feature’s got Brie Larson, Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz, and LaKeith Stanfield (who was also in the short film) – all of whom were relative unknowns at the time.

So let’s give a shoutout to the casting department, because you should never underestimate their importance: Kerry Barden, Rich Delia, and Paul Schnee. Casting is always important, but in a film where the story is carried not by a MacGuffin or some attainable goal, it’s absolutely vital to have the best actors possible on board, since their choices will carry a lot of the weight of your film. These casting agents nailed it.

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The Other Voices: Monsoon Wedding

2001’s MONSOON WEDDING was an international co-production. Writer Sabrina Dahwan wrote it while she completed her MFA at Columbia in the States, it takes place in New Delhi, and the dialogue is a blend of English and Hindi. It was produced by IFC films with a budget of $7M, and released by Focus Features, to a successful worldwide gross of over $30M. It was nominated and won a lot of awards, and has been released as part of the Criterion Collection. It’s also been turned into a stage musical.

Here’s the trailer:

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The Other Voices: Fast Color

I’m a sucker for stories about unrealized potential finally being realized. Any story about someone who thinks they’re not worth anything and then finds out they’re super special – that’s my very favorite kind of story. FAST COLOR is one such story, which is why I’ve chosen to make it my first in my new series on films directed by women and people of color.

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The Other Voices: On Films Directed by Women and People of Color

When Once Upon a Time in Hollywood came out, there was a lot of Tarantino blowback, which created Tarantino blowback blowback, and before too long, everyone was arguing over whether or not Tarantino is racist and/or sexist once again. Nobody has come to any generally acceptable conclusions, and nobody is going to change Tarantino, so I thought.

OK. What if we all just stop worrying about whether or not Tarantino is a racist or a sexist? What if we just kind of watch his movies or don’t, depending on what you’re into. And instead of arguing about it, what if we all just vowed that as we watch Tarantino films, and Scorsese films, and Spielberg films, and the films of a thousand other genius white cis male directors – what if we also make a conscious effort to watch films by women and people of color? That way, yes, you’re getting your white boy director fix, but you’re also exposing yourself to some voices you didn’t know about before, and helping to support material from artists who have a harder time getting funding for production and marketing.

The truth is, when a director is a woman or a person of color, they are far more likely to hire women and people of color to work on the cast and crew, and that’s good for everyone. And even though statistically, films with diverse casts do better box office numbers, we still suffer under the delusion that only white men really know how to direct. Women and people of color simply don’t get the same level of exposure.

Here’s an example of it at work. It’s a TV staffing example, but an example nonetheless. I LOVE Rick and Morty. OBSESSED with Rick and Morty. Watch Rick and Morty over and over again all day forever. Here’s me at Comic Con in my Rick and Morty coat I made, so you know my bona fides.

But if you listen to the commentary on season 1 episodes, it’s cringeworthy. It’s so BROEY. While Justin Roiland is talking about pretty graphic things he’d like to do to Summer, you also hear stories about using binoculars to watch women walk around on the lot below. You can hear the discomfort in Dan Harmon’s voice in an attempt to convince the listener that they really tried to get women onstaff, but no women happened to be interested. And maybe they did. I don’t know – I wasn’t there. But I do know that most people in the TV writing community like to pull from people they already know, and if you are a guy who graphically describes what you’d like to do to a female cartoon character, you’re unlikely to be the kind of guy with a whole lot of platonic female friends. They probably didn’t personally know a whole lot of women writers who wanted to be in a room like that. I know that if I could be sure that the room was a safe space, I’d LOVE to be on the Rick and Morty writing staff – but would I feel safe there after hearing that commentary? Absolutely not. But fast forward, and sure enough, eventually they found women to write for the show. The point is, they probably didn’t look very hard in the beginning. Sometimes people will ask one woman and say well, we tried. But they don’t actively search – they just look around at the most obvious people around them – and the truth is, because it’s so much harder to get exposure as a woman or a person of color, sometimes YOU HAVE TO SEARCH. It’s not a meritocracy. Cis white men are taken more seriously, whether they deserve it or not. They will always be the most obvious candidates. But they won’t always be the best ones.

So.

I Tweeted my proposal:

And you’d think I’d ask some white dudes to rip their own arms off. They were offended at the idea that I’d ask them to do any work. “But I am enlightened!” They said. “I judge a film by the quality, not the skin color or gender of the person who made it! How dare you suggest otherwise! This is an outrage!” (I am paraphrasing).

They were seriously so mad. I argued at first, hoping I could reach a few, but almost every conversation ended in either a block or a mute, so eventually I just started pre-emptively muting all of them.

Some of them were enraged that I hadn’t told them what to watch, so I decided to follow my own advice and started my own deep dive into films directed by women and people of color. I tweeted out a request to my followers to give me suggestions, and I got back an avalanche of recommendations, both foreign and domestic, and it’s still growing:

And that’s what I plan to do next. Once a week, I’m going to watch one film by a woman or person of color, and then I’m going to write up my thoughts about it and tell you where to find it in case you want to join me. Every week, on Monday, you can find my article and the assignment for next week here.

I encourage you to engage if you’d like. You can email me about this here to give me your thoughts on this film or suggest one:

Or comment below. I’d love it is this became a conversation, not just me blabbing on. However, anyone commenting in a negative way about the existence of this column/project overall, or saying anything sexist or racist will automatically be deleted. I’m not having that crap here (TheOtherVoicesATH@gmail.com). But meaningful thoughts? Always welcome.

Hopefully, we can all be introduced to some films we never would have seen otherwise.

We’ll start next week, on Monday, with director Julia Hart’s recent release, FAST COLOR, which you can currently find on Amazon, ITunes, Vudu, Google Play, Redbox, and Fandango.