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“We want to invite the whole world – this is our mission”

Industry Report: Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Eliza Subotowicz • Co-founder, HerArts Film Lab

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Cineuropa talked to the co-founder of the HerArts Film Lab, a new, week-long residential development workshop focused on content created by women

Eliza Subotowicz • Co-founder, HerArts Film Lab
(© Ksawery Zamoyski)

Located in Paestum, Italy, the HerArts Film Lab (backed by the HerArts Association) is readying its first edition, set to unspool from 4-9 April. The workshop is aimed at female writer-directors, who will develop their projects under the mentorship of Gabriele Brunnenmeyer and Teresa Cavina. As Cineuropa found out from co-founder Eliza Subotowicz, this year’s participants are Elizabeth Chatelain (Løvset’s Manoeuvre, USA), Brittany Moore (The Lost One, USA), Tania Notaro (Elephant, Ireland), Alik Tamar Barsoumian (Song of Sorrow, USA/Armenia), Paige Wood (Haute to Death, USA), Enrica Perez (On Top of the Cliff, Peru) and Franziska Schönenberger (Paper Plane, Germany), all developing feature films, as well as GG Hawkins and Elle Roth-Brunet (Murder Podcast, USA) and Brooke Sebold (Interspace, USA), who will focus on TV series. You can find more information here.

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Cineuropa: With the HerArts Lab, you are focusing on women filmmakers. However, do you think you might be open to welcoming other participants in the future?
Eliza Subotowicz: We are certainly leaving that door open – we don’t want to close ourselves off to other opportunities. That being said, this place, Paestum, is very much connected to the idea of our workshop. Its name, HerArts, came from the fact that there are these beautiful ancient Greek temples – allegedly, they are among the best kept in Europe. One of them is the temple of Hera, who is the Goddess of Women. We would like our participants to get a little taste of the history of this city, which is expected to be a candidate for European Capital of Culture in 2024.

It’s a fully physical edition. You are not planning any online events, are you?
No – that’s why we decided not to organise anything during lockdown. We want everyone to be together, to create a small community. We are also thinking about other initiatives now because we would like to involve the local film community, which, unfortunately, is not easy, as all of the events will be held in English. Still, after this first edition, we will continue our talks with various Italian organisations, including Women in Film, Television & Media Italia, in order to promote upcoming co-productions and to connect the Italian film industry with the international one. That’s why we wanted one of our mentors, [festival programmer and script consultant] Teresa Cavina, to be Italian.

Where did you get the idea to focus only on women? Do you think that some participants might feel more comfortable because of that?
That was the intention: to support female writers and directors, and to create a place that’s comfortable and safe. A place where you can tell your own stories, without having to explain too much. After our selection was complete, I could see why these people had decided to approach us. Their stories are very personal, told from the female point of view, about “female” topics. There is clearly a need for that – for being among other women and discussing these subjects with them.

I’m a director and writer myself [Subotowicz’s thesis short Ben was awarded by the Directors Guild of America], and I thought that we were lacking such initiatives. After #MeToo, there was a lot of talk about what should come next. With my partner Gerry Guarino, who is the other co-founder of the event, we decided that this was the moment when we should not only talk about the future, but support it with concrete gestures. Personally, I am interested in such topics as female narrative and the female gaze, but we are not focusing on any particular ideology here. We are just saying to these women: “This is for you, and you can develop your stories here.”

Will the experts also be exclusively female?
For now, yes. I wouldn’t want to completely exclude men, because we would like to create a larger industry event. But when it comes to discussing projects, the idea is that you do it with other women. It’s a writers’ retreat, and many of them have said they really needed this “escape” from their everyday life and a chance to focus solely on their projects.

We are considering having a spring and an autumn edition, and we are open to different genres; this year, we will have dramas, comedies and even a fantasy-horror; we have feature-film projects and series. I think it could be very interesting for our participants, too. So far, we have no geographical limitations either. We have no public funding at the moment, but if we succeed, we would like to invite filmmakers from underprivileged regions or developing countries in the future. We want to invite the whole world – this is our mission.

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