HIFF champions women filmmakers, honors ‘E.T.’ writer Melissa Mathison

It’s not too late to head out to the Hamptons this week for the 26th annual Hamptons International Film Festival. The four-day festival takes place from October 4 to the 8, with Alec Baldwin and Randy Mastro serving as co-chairmen.

Okay, first things first. I’m a little disheartened that one of the co-chairpersons is not a woman, so I hope that changes going forward since there are so many women in the industry who could represent the festival. However, that being said, the Hamptons International Film Festival does state that their representation of female directors with films in the festival has grown year over year for the last three years.

According to their statistics, this year it’s 45 percent, while it was 36 percent last year and 35 percent in 2016. However, this is a complete festival total, which includes shorts, and is not broken down further.

“Film festivals aren’t really in control of how many films are made by women each year,” said Anne Chaisson, the festival’s executive director. “Unless, of course, the festival has a filmmaker fund or screenplay development. For example, we’ve had a screenwriters lab for about 18 years and we’ve developed at least three to five scripts a year.”

In addition, the family of the late Melissa Mathison — an accomplished tv and film writer who was known for writing the screenplays for The Black Stallion (1979) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) — chose the Hamptons Film Festival to bestow a fund in her name which went toward a female writer every year at their screenwriters lab.

“Our first recipient was Cathy Yan, the director of Dead Pigs which is playing our film festival,” said Chaisson. “So that 360 degrees of choosing a female-driven script, making sure it gets some air, making sure we do a screenplay reading and invite the industry around it, making sure it gets made, making sure it gets seen and making sure it gets accepted, etc. has all come true in the past two-and-a-half years. So that’s our contribution from the script development side.”

Additionally, the Hamptons Film Festival has a partnership with New York Women in Film & Television, an organization that advocates for equality in the moving image industry. “We partner with them and do a wide search for films from women,” she explained. “We pull all short films from women and select a certain number to showcase at the film festival.”

If you’re an up-and-coming filmmaker attending the event, Chaisson said that there are free morning talks with breakfast that everyone who attends the festival is invited to attend. “It’s an ample opportunity for you to meet each other and industry people,” she said. “We do something for filmmakers every evening too, so you will certainly meet other people who are here not just your fellow filmmakers, but the industry as well.”

The opening night film is The Kindergarten Teacher by Sara Colangelo, who is also a screenwriters lab alum. “That’s very exciting for us,” said Chaisson. The Kindergarten Teacher stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and screens on October 4 with  Gyllenhaal in attendance.

Also playing are Eva Trobisch’s All Good; Ísold Uggadóttir’s And Breathe Normally; Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum; and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me. Many documentaries are also female-driven, including Alexis Bloom’s documentary Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes; Ghost Fleet by Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron; and Too Late to Die Young by Dominga Sotomayor.

If you’re attending the festival not as a filmmaker, but as a film lover, as a film lover, Chaisson said there’s something for everyone. “Get a ticket, get a pass,” she said. “We’re the least expensive thing you can do in The Hamptons. You’ll probably run into a star on the street and you will, most definitely, see something that will be vying in the awards season. Walk into a film that you may have never heard of and you’re probably going to experience something that will blow your mind.”  

For more information, visit http://hamptonsfilmfest.org/

© Lisa Iannucci (10/01/18) FF2 Media

Photos: Melissa Mathison on the set of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial; Dead Pigs; The Kindergarten Teacher

Photo Credits: IMDb

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