WFF ’16: Women Filmmakers Make Impact

By: Senior Contributor Lisa Iannucci

At last year’s Woodstock Film Festival in New York, Sasha Gordon debuted her movie It Had to Be You and it was extremely well-received. This well-done romantic comedy centers on Sonia, a neurotic jingle writer who’s always dreamt of a big and exciting life. Sonia is surprised by a sudden proposal and subsequent ultimatum from her easy-going boyfriend, Chris. As a result, she has to decide whether she’ll join the ranks of her married friends or take a leap and pursue her fantasies.

Gordon is a music composer who has scored more than 30 narrative features, documentaries and shorts while continuing her graduate studies at New York University’s Film Directing program. So how does a music composer end up debuting a feature film at a festival?

“I was an art and music major in college and when I graduated it seemed I had to choose so I went to conservatory,” she says. “I started working as a composer and found myself missing using the visual part of my brain so I decided to apply to film school. I was already doing scoring and I figured at best I’d come out of there as a filmmaker. At the very least, I’d meet a lot of directors and expand my scoring.”

She’s done more than that, making an impact in an industry that has been notably short on women filmmakers and screenwriters. As a matter of fact, The Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film at San Diego State University just released their findings that female filmmakers directed just nine percent of the top 250 movies in 2015. The year before, 85% of films had no female directors, 80% had no female writers, 33% had no female producers, 78% had no female editors and 92% had no female cinematographers.


Whether it was conscious effort or not, Gordon has made her mark. “I guess I did make a conscious effort, but not so much from a political/social activist perspective, but more because I just felt I wasn’t seeing the kind of movies I wanted to see particularly when it came to romantic comedies,” she says. “It seemed to me that with the advent of Judd Apatow comedy and rom-coms to a certain leap into a more modern comedic space and I wanted to see films that had that same raunchy frank humor, but from a female perspective. At the least, I wanted a main character as real as say Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, but a woman. So I wrote my movie because I wanted to see my movie.

Gordon says that since she wrote her movie, the void has definitely begun to be filled by women such as Mindy Kaling and Amy Schumer. “I’m a huge fan of their work,” she said. “I think women like Amy Schumer, Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling are making a huge difference in how female characters are written and perceived by writing honest, flawed, hilarious roles that resonate with real people.”

Looking back at her experience at the Woodstock Film Festival, Gordon says that the festival was amazing. “It was the first time I got to see my film on the big screen with a real audience” she says. “I was insanely nervous but the nice thing with a comedy is that you can tell pretty quickly if it’s working or not. So once people started laughing within the first few moments of the film I was able to relax and really enjoy it. It was a fantastic audience and an incredibly gratifying moment. Also the festival itself was just fantastic – meeting all the other filmmakers, seeing great movies – it was a perfect start to our festival tour.”

This year, the Woodstock Film Festival runs from October 13-16. Visit for more information.

This week, the Alice Initiative was launched, which highlights 30 promising untapped talents, as voted on by more than 40 top industry players. The list includes 20 women who have directed at least one (non-studio) feature and 10 who have earned attention for their work in TV or short films.

Keep an eye out for Sasha Gordon.

We will be profiling other women screenwriters and filmmakers at this year’s Woodstock Film Festival.


© Lisa Iannucci FF2 Media (9/12/16)

Top Photo: Cristin Milioti in It Had to Be You

Middle Photo: Sasha Gordon

Bottom Photo: Woodstock Film Festival logo

Photo Credits: Austin Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival

Lisa Iannucci has been writing about film and entertainment for years. She has interviewed hundreds of celebrities and is currently working on a film and travel book.

Tags: Alice Initiative, Amy Schumer, Cristin Milioti, Female Directors, It Had to Be You, Judd Apatow, Sasha Gordon, Seth Rogen, The Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, Tina Fey, WFF, Woodstock Film Festival

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Brigid Presecky began her career in journalism at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. In 2008, she joined FF2 Media as a part-time film critic and multimedia editor. Receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Bradley University, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked in development, production and publicity for Berlanti Productions, Entertainment Tonight and Warner Bros. Studios, respectively. Returning to her journalistic roots in Chicago, she is now a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and certified Rotten Tomatoes Film Critic.
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