Just a quick head-up: For those of you in the Los Angeles area, next weekend, April 22-24, marks the occasion for the second annual Artemis Women in Action Film Festival, playing at the newly refurbished Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. This festival, a labor of love project from athlete-actress Melanie Wise and writer-producers Sean Newcombe and Zack Baldwin, highlights the cinematic contributions of women in movies, in the stunt field as well as actresses in the realm of action cinema, and also highlights real-life women who have made significant, pioneering contributions to the furthering of women in sports and other traditionally male-dominated arenas.
Wise, an actress, athlete, aspiring filmmaker and one of the founding members of Artemis Motion Pictures, the group behind the festival, remembers her days auditioning for countless roles in TV and movies that amounted essentially to helpless women in peril. But being six feet tall herself, often towering over the people making the casting decisions, she often found herself losing out on jobs because she was taller than her lead actors. On one audition for the Nash Bridges TV series, she found herself in an imaginative quandary which led to an epiphany of sorts. “I can’t sell this,” she said about pretending to be in quaking fear of the bad guy, and set out upon focusing on methods, including making her own films, to impress upon disbelieving producers that women in strong action roles would be something audiences would flock to see.
She says she and her partners hit upon the idea of a female-oriented action film festival as a way to make just such an impression, and to give actresses who have been essential in making credible inroads into what has typically been seen a male-centric endeavor their due spotlight. “These are women who have skipped way past the confines of the roles we typically see them in,” Wise says, recognizing that for many females, actresses as well as viewers, broadening that scope can be an eye-opening experience. “Women can have a very narrow view of themselves and the possibilities they see open for themselves,” noting that when seeing women in roles traditionally assumed suitable only for men, they may see new dimensions and lifestyles they’ll find appealing. “Their whole worldview can change,” Wise notes, not without a glint of hope in her voice.
Thusly, the Artemis Women In Action Film Festival hopes to introduce to an audience already familiar with the great leading ladies of physical filmmaking to some of the long and fascinating history behind their favorite stars, but also to get that audience a peek into what might be just ahead in terms of the international talent that will be cresting the next wave of female action films. And in this second go-round the AWIAFF has lined up some impressive talent to grace their red carpet ceremonies Friday, April 22, including appearances by Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids, Spy and the upcoming female-centric Ghostbusters reboot, actress Yancy Butler (Kick-ass, Hard Target, Lake Placid), and an impressive lineup of top-tier stuntwomen including Jessie Graff (Supergirl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Dayna Grant (Mad Max: Fury Road, Ash vs. Evil Dead), Heidi Moneymaker (Captain America: Civil War, Hail, Caesar!) and Zoe Bell (Death Proof, Double Dare, Camino).
The Artemis Women in Action Film Festival is a great time honoring women in all aspect of the movies, and I hope you can join me for some of the many great programs and panels that will be available. (For a full rundown of the schedule, click here.) I’ll be there Friday night with my daughters, and throughout the weekend as well– for the second year in a row I’m a festival judge. But don’t think that will prevent me from falling at the feet of Zoe Bell in worshipful reverence. Despite what James Brown would have had you believe, Artemis proves that it’s no longer just a man’s world.
(And here’s my piece at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.)