Tag Archives: women

Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, 2012

Love women? Love comedy? Then what better place to see both than at the first annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, which took place from June 6-10, 2012 at Stage 773 in Chicago, IL.

The female version of the long-running Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, CWFF was started by Jill Valentine, Stacey Smith and an awesome crew of mostly other females. Broadened to encompass a wide range of comedy styles, including sketch comedy, stand-up, musicals, one-woman shows and improv, the festival packed in 400 female performers from all over the U.S. for days of solid, bitch-talking, knee slapping, crazy female hilarity at its best.

The following account is my own experience as an out-of-town solo female performer, for which I performed as my alter-ego old man character Buoj iz Jeb, who has a knack for taking his clothes off in: Buoj iz Jeb Summer Swimsuit Edition 2012. Ahem, more about that in a bit.

Tech:

I arrive at the theater after a walk from the red line Belmont stop on a sizzling hot Chicago Saturday morning with a suitcase full of bathing suit props and a homemade man-suit.

Stage 773 is an impressive local theater joint, just down the street from the center of Belmont with its hip vintage clothing stores, funky bagel shops and fancy supplement joints.

Stage 773 breathes the sketch comedy scene that Chicago is famous for. Upon entering the theater, the first thing you come upon is a bar: something that all theaters should strive for if they haven’t already.

Audience + Alcohol = good, fun theater.

Brimming with three unique performance spaces, Stage 773 seems to have it all.

I leave my suitcase and man-suit in the green room of the Cabaret space, an intimate, small-stage performance space with glossy red theater couches and chairs at mini-tables. I am in love. What better place to peel off one swimsuit after another than for a beer-and-cocktail toting audience, to the beat of woozy Hawaiian music and sexy techno? Chicago, I have arrived. Or, better yet, Buoj iz Jeb has arrived.

Pre-audience. The place was packed later in the day!!

Panel: “Being Funny is Serious Business: A 360* Perspective of Women Doing It”

Sitting out in the lobby waiting for the Saturday, 2pm panel to start, I observe the crowd. A small group of mostly beautiful women, I’m impressed by the laid-back, friendly vibe. Jill Valentine greets me like an old friend: I admire her adorable bleach-blonde hair and pink-and-black striped tights. The ladies filter in wearing summer dresses and their free performer passes, along with a few men in jeans and t-shirts. The theater is a cool, welcoming environment off the sweltering Chicago concrete street.

The general style/air of most of the women present is creative, expressive and confident. One group of four practices a cheesy Chicago song while taking candid shots of themselves, while others participate in animated conversations. This much is clear: To be a funny woman requires confidence. And the willingness to fail.

In the Cabaret space the panel discussion begins. A group of successful and inspiring women sit at a table on the stage. They include (from left to right): Panel host Brian Posen (Executive Producer – The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival), Susan Messing (co-founder of Annoyance Theater and Improv Master), Ana Belaval (WGN News), Beth Kligerman (Director of Talent – The Second City), Marisa Paonessa (President/Agent), and Charna Halpern (co-founder of iO) . The panel discussion put the entire CWFF into context, and offered a unique perspective Chicago comedy scene.

 Here are some of my favorite quotes from the panel:

Question: What is comedy?
Answers: “Everything you relate to that makes you laugh.”
“You know it when you see it.
“It doesn’t have to be cruel, but risk-taking.”
“Throw it in the middle of a room and paint it red. If you fail, you fail.”
“Dealing with pain: humor & sarcasm (i.e., it’s personal).”

Question: Why now an emphasis on whether or not women are funny?
Answers: “It fluctuates.”
“We here in Chicago don’t talk about it that much.”
People are funny.”
“People just need something to fucking focus on again.”
“There are women in comedy, stop saying there aren’t.”
“They want funny women, Chicago’s where it’s at.”
“Women are dominating now (i.e. women are smarter).”
“In general, there is a bigger variety of people/colors onstage. Which is good.”
“We can play just as dirty as they can.”

Question: Is there a different between women & men funny?
Answers: “No.”
“Men laugh at men things (i.e. peeing in the bathroom). 

Question: How do you judge funny?
Answers: “It’s instinct, taking risks. You just know. Some are just natural.”
“A good team player, a wild one.
“Is it good writing, is it timely..”
“There’s so much talent.”
“How are they improvising, writing, acting, are you funny? (i.e. was there laughter in the room?)”

Question: How do you stay successful?
Answers: “What is success?”
“Go with the flow. Embrace different opportunities and enjoy it.”
“We get to make up shit. That’s successful.”
“There’s never a 3-year plan, just keep loving what you’re doing.”
“It keeps feeding itself.”
“In Chicago, it’s one big community.”

Question: Words of the wise?
Answers: “It’s Chicago, they don’t come here for stick-figure models.”
“They want you to succeed (i.e. are desperate for someone to go onstage and have a good time).”
“Try it all, go with your gut.”
“Put it out there in any shape or form (youtube, etc.- not tv or stage only).
“The more you relax yourself in the moment (as opposed to tensed up and ‘ready’), the better.”
“Failure: something better could happen (one door closes, something else opens).”
“Be nice!”
“Don’t look to your right or left (i.e. put your blinders on); don’t compare yourself to others.”

Performance:

I got so wrapped up in my own performance after that, that I didn’t write anything about it, and in fact would prefer instead just to show you the pictures and video clip below and let you judge for yourselves. The performance took place at 6pm in the Cabaret Space on Sunday, June 10. There was an audience of approximately 20 people, and the bill was shared with Chicago performance artist, Becky Poole. My performance lasted approximately 28 minutes. I will say that it was a LOT of fun:

Buoj iz Jeb Summer Swimsuit Edition 2012:

Video Excerpt (5 minutes of a 28-minute performance):

Images:


A Few Final Thoughts:

I’m so glad I participated in this event. It was fun, laid-back, and full of great women and amazing performers. Furthermore, in addition to performing and watching other performances, I also had a great time people-watching at the Chicago beach 🙂

WOMEN ARE FUNNY!!!!

Hey all,

This is a shorter post prelude to a longer post. I’m in Chicago now, preparing to perform at the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival (CWFF): http://www.chicagowomensfunnyfestival.com/. All I can say right now is that it’s a fabulous event, and WOMEN ARE FUNNY!!! Not that you didn’t know that already, but just a gentle reminder that, indeed, WOMEN ARE FUNNY! Did I already say that? Well I mean it!

As a pre-ode to my next posting, which will be a review of CWFF and personal account of performing at it, I’m going to dedicate this post to a few of my favorite female comedians. Here you go:

Lucille Ball:

SO FUNNY!!!!

.

Carol Burnett:

Great physical comedy!

.

Gilda Radner:

Ha!

.

That’s all for now. I will post more soon. Time to get ready for the show!!!

An Ode to Female Horror Directors

So, now that I’m making my first real film, I’ve been watching a lot of movies for inspiration, and reading a lot about the film directing process. One of the first things I realized, that never really stuck in my mind until I started working toward my own film project, is that there is a serious imbalance of attention paid to male and female directors. In the horror film genre, I have yet to watch one horror film while being aware that it was directed by a woman. Through my research, I now know there ARE women horror film directors out there, a few of the well-known female-directed horror films being “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “American Psycho” and “Pet Cemetery”. But most of the film history books reference male filmmakers. Seriously, before doing my research for this blog post, I have read lists and lists of classic and contemporary horror films directed by men, but NONE by women. To quote Rebecca Keegan, who wrote for the L.A. Times on February 1st, 2010:

“A woman is more likely to hold a seat on a Fortune 500 company board (15%), serve as a member of the clergy (15%), or work as an aerospace engineer (10%) than she is to direct a Hollywood movie (7%).”

“In 2010, women were most likely to work in the romantic comedy, documentary and romantic drama genres, and least likely to work in the horror, action and comedy genres, according to (San Diego State’s ‘Celluloid Ceiling’) study.”

With a little bit of research online I learned that there’s a good amount of support for emerging female directors. A few examples include the Birds Eye View organization in the UK (http://www.birds-eye-view.co.uk/2/home/homepage.html), the BleedFest in L.A. (http://bleedfest.com/we-are/), and the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant online (http://sjfilmgrant.wordpress.com/about/). The more I research, the more I discover- which is exciting!! But… women horror film directors? They are out there, but as Rebecca Keegan mentioned, they’re far and in between. An excellent article in the Guardian written by Emine Saner quotes Professor Barbara Creed, author of The Monstrous-Feminine, who examined women’s roles in horror films:

“Horror reflects society. What we probably need are more thoughtful horror films that speak directly to female experiences. There are plenty of bad taste, poorly-made misogynistic horror films around – as with all genres.”

Likewise, the article also quoted Caroline Cooper Charles, who is head of creative development of Darklight, an initiative to encourage female horror directors at the low-budget film studio Warp X:

“I think women have a different take on what people find scary. I love horror films but most I don’t find scary. Some of the ideas the women have come up with are scary, perhaps rooted in their own experiences. A lot of them have female lead characters. What we’re not getting is the standard horror film, where the only appearance girls make is to run around semi-clothed before getting their heads chopped off. The female characters are much more important in the narrative than in most horror films.”

Jennifer Eiss discusses women’s involvement with and contribution to the horror genre in her article “Do Women Prefer Psychological Horror?”:

“Women have been involved in horror since the conception of the genre, back when horror stories only appeared in writing and were given labels such as ‘Gothic fiction’ and ‘ghost stories’. Mary Shelley published her seminal Frankenstein in 1818, and it has become one of the most famous and iconic monster stories of modern times. Women such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Edith Wharton, children’s book author Edith Nesbit and many, many others were heavily involved in and lauded during the modern ghost story boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

But, you ask, WHO are these women horror filmmakers? And WHAT are they making? Well, I will reply, here are some of my favorite discoveries:

Helene Cattet: “Chambre Jaune”

.

Kerry Anne Mullaney: “The Dead Outside”

.

Jen & Sylvia Soska: “Dead Hooker in a Trunk”

.

Jackie Kong: “Blood Diner”

.

Rita Mae Brown: “The Slumber Party Massacre”

.

And I can’t not include this awesome trailer for “Zombie Girl”, a documentary about the now 18-year old Emily Hagin’s making of the film “Pathogen” at the age of 12:

Check out Emily’s production website, “Cheesy Nuggets” here: http://www.cheesynuggets.com/cheesynuggets.html

.

To discover more, you might start by visiting this link to ghouls on film, which featured a post titled “10 Female Horror Directors You Should Know”: http://ghoulsonfilm.net/?p=331. Also check the comments to the post, which list 10 more.

And with that in mind, I will continue to endeavor on my own horror film, Red Blob Massacre“. Coming SOON, to a theater near you. 🙂


References

http://www.bigvisionemptywallet.com/women-in-horror-month-%E2%80%93-lovers-haters-and-boobs (Women in Horror Month: Lovers, Haters and Boobs)

http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2011/03/28/do-women-prefer-psychological-horror/ (Do Women Prefer Psychological Horror?)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2007/apr/06/2 (Everything But the Ghoul)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12665443 (Damsels in Distress)

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/horror-show-women-horror-directors-to-watch (The Horror Show: Women Horror Directors to Watch)

http://www.afterellen.com/column/the-weekly-geek/what-if-horror-films-were-made-by-more-women (The Weekly Geek: What if More Horror Films Were Made By Women?)

http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2011/03/07/warped-women-the-emergence-of-female-horror-directors-in-the-uk/ (Warped Women: The Emergence of Female Horror Directors in the UK)

http://wellywoodwoman.blogspot.com/2011/03/horror-stories.html (Horror Stories)