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A little over a year ago, we did a deep-dive with the brilliant Caryn Coleman about her career in film, including her role as Director of Programming/Special Projects at Nitehawk Cinema, and her work as the Founder of The Future of Film Is Female. Clearly a lot has changed in the world of cinema since then, and we wanted to catch up with Coleman about the state of things, at least in her immediate realm.

In our digital chat we talked about the shift to virtual screenings and events as a result of Covid-19, how FOFIF is working to ensure female representation during this time including an amazing STREAMING platform, as well as ways to support FOFIF that go beyond the financial. We also spoke about what she predicts various aspects of the industry will look like moving forward (which is admittedly hard without a crystal ball), what she’s been watching lately and more, so read up on all of that below.

Also, this Sunday (June 28th) at 8pm ET she’ll be presenting a live-streamed, Shayana Filmore-moderated Q+A with Josephine Decker, director of SHIRLEY. (If you haven’t watched the film yet, catch Nitehawk’s special screening Saturday night.) Should be a fascinating talk, and you can stream it over on Neon’s YouTube channel:

First of all, again, I hope you’ve been doing okay all things considered. (The 2020 catch phrase.) Starting off with a no-brainer question, how have you been doing the past few months? 

My family and I are healthy so, in that sense, we’re good. But the past few months have been a mix of challenges and successes, rage and sympathy, depression and optimism. As I’m sure we all do, I have my days when the world seems too overwhelming but I keep trying to see this moment in time as one of possibility in creating a new, better world. More specifically though, I have been here in Greenpoint, homeschooling my son, working on The Future of Film is Female, and reading a lot about Cecil Beaton.

On a similar note, what’s been happening for FOFIF lately? I see you’re working towards a 501-c3 status, which is great! The online streaming also is fantastic // would love to hear about the curation process! 

Since everything closed in mid-March, I’ve been using my time to work on all the things done I haven’t had the time to do for The Future of Film is Female. Things like creating the board, filing for our non-profit status, concretizing our mission statement, and figuring out new ways in which to support our filmmakers during this time. That includes our STREAMING platform! 

One of the ways in which FOFIF believes change in the industry will happen is through exhibition of films made by women and, so with theaters closed, we want to ensure that this representation can continue. In terms of curation, the first shorts program included films by filmmakers who have received FOFIF funding; some were the films we helped fund while others are previous works. Now this summer, we’re doing a mixture of FOFIF filmmakers along with other short films from the past year that we loved. That program runs from July 7 – August 5. We’ve also been doing selected theatrical releases; usually ones that have a more limited release where we can work more closely with the filmmaker and distributor. 

(Also, I know a lot of people are cash-strapped at the moment due to unemployment or etc., so is there anything specific that those people can do to help support FOFIF right now which doesn’t necessarily require a financial contribution?)

SPREAD THE WORD! Honestly, the more people who are aware of what we’re doing and the films we are showing, the better. We’re building an army! So please, follow us on Instagram, sign up for our Newsletter, watch our films. Plus, all of our shorts screenings are free and we’re also a part of many free events (like the SHIRLEY Q&A this Sunday and an upcoming Q&A for RELIC with IFC on July 13). 

This event on Sunday sounds super exciting; SHIRLEY looks INCREDIBLE (I haven’t watched yet but the trailer was ace), so what will be some of the focuses (non-spoiler, clearly) of your conversation? I have only read Shirley Jackson’s writing, I don’t know that much about her life, so I’m super amped for this take.

SHIRLEY is incredible; Josephine Decker is an incredibly special filmmaker. The film is based on Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel so I’ll be asking about the decision to base the film on this narrative rather than a straight biography and the challenges of portraying such an important figure in literature (and horror) who people “know” but aren’t familiar with. We’ll also be talking about the cast who, simply, are magnificent.

I know you’re already a huge horror enthusiast; have your feelings about the genre evolved in any way due to the current global climate? (At a very basic level, I know a lot of people who have always cited it as a great stress reliever, and some of those friends of mine are bringing that up again now.)

I haven’t been able to watch many movies at all during this time and definitely not horror. I have never found horror to be cathartic but more of a way to explore my anger at society. That said, July is going to be a super special month for horror with three stunning features directed by women being released: SAINT MAUD, RELIC, and AMULET

“Everything will, and should, change.”

Moving into specifically Covid-19 territory, I think there are a lot of obvious challenges that have been faced specifically by the cinema industry due to the pandemic, but are there any hurdles that have been especially unexpected, at least from your perspective?

Let’s just say the film industry has been burned down except not everyone has noticed. Everything will, and should, change. That goes from representation of the films being made and who makes them, exhibition, and how the industry itself operates. People aren’t taking shit anymore and that’s a very beautiful thing. 

Of course, going to the movies will not be the same for a very long time and I think that’s ok. Being able to explore virtual experiences allows us to open up what we do to larger audiences and the freedom to take risks (and to prove that those things no one thinks will work, actually will). Everything is a hurdle but we still have the two things that matter: filmmakers and audiences. 

On the flip side of that, has there been anything that seemed like it would be an insurmountable task that people have managed to navigate better than initially anticipated? (Aside from just general resiliency?)

All the virtual talks, panels, screenings. It’s territory no one is an expert at doing so it’s been a generous space to be messy…and it’s ok! I think we can all be done trying to be perfect.

“Independent films just might save us!”

What, in your opinion, does the movie theater experience look like moving forward? I imagine there are so many factors that need to be considered, from the physical safety stuff to the cost-effectiveness of putting on a safe in-person production, but obviously it differs when you’re talking about indie theaters vs. big chains, so I’m curious about your perspective on that.

I truly do not know but I don’t think anyone does (and if they say they do, they’re delusional). Besides the obvious social distancing and face covering aspect, I would expect art house cinemas to do more virtual screening integration into their programming. Independent films just might save us! 

And I don’t know how much you can speak to this, but I’m genuinely curious what film and TV production looks like, too, at least until there is (hopefully) a vaccine; clearly there are a lot of films and shows that already exist and can be retrospectively explored and/or rewatched, but especially in recent years, the sort of immediacy with which things are produced…I imagine that is going to be a strange thing to navigate moving forward safely, and I wonder how that will be when certain new material begins to “run out”? Do you think that’s still a realistic thing to worry about now that there have been a few months for people to reimagine, or am I overblowing it in my head? (And if I’m not, what are your feelings? Have they changed or evolved at all since the beginning of the shutdowns?)

I can’t speak to television but I do think about this a lot in terms of film. There are so many short and feature films that have gotten pushed back during Covid that I don’t think we’ll have a deficit in the near future. Moving beyond that could be a challenge though, likely more so for tv.

Finally, on a lighter note, what have you watched (or rewatched) lately that you love and would recommend? 

Ok, I cannot recommend Alice Wu’s THE HALF OF IT (on Netflix) enough. I have also watched FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR, a childhood favorite, with my son two times this week. Also, I urge everyone to read Andre Leon Talley’s THE CHIFFON TRENCHES and then watch Kate Novak’s documentary THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE. Like, right now.

Photos by Lexie Moreland

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