Women of the Island (Aus)
Females continue to run the world, with Women of The Island (AUS), Resting Pitch Face (AUS) and Single Ladies (AUS) as three Official Spotlight Selections which showcase the magnificent rule of women.
Rebecca Thomson, filmmaker and one of the three founding partners of Women of The Island, unpacks the story of how the web series began simply from their want to “celebrate everyday women”.
“We are women telling women’s stories to address the historical lack of women’s stories in our culture and the telling of history,” says Thomson.
“If you take a walk around Hobart you will find statues, plaques and place names that tell us stories about men who are deemed to have made some contribution to the history of Tasmania. Women’s stories are far less visible, largely because it was men who were writing the history, and deciding which stories were of value.”
Thomson and the additional founding partners, Ninna Millikin and Lara van Raay, knew that as Tasmanians they were in a unique position to tap into the stories of the women who live on the Island.
When asked how they found the right women to participate, Thomson says, “Every time we do a call out for stories we get a HUGE response from the community which is one of the lovely parts of this project. People love nominating women from their community who they think are special or have an interesting story.”
“We wanted to try to tell a diverse range of stories from all over Tasmania – different ages, race, background, careers, themes,” Thomson adds.
“But we were also looking for stories that were inspiring in some way. They are not all ‘happy’ stories, sometimes the inspiration is simply in someone’s resilience or courage to share the story.”
We’re told that one of the best parts of the project was getting to explore parts of Tasmania and seeing other areas with a brand new perspective.
“For our film about aboriginal elder Lola Greeno, we got to take a small plane to Flinders Island which is where Lola collects her special shells to make her necklaces. I had never been to Flinders Island before and it was one of the most beautiful places in the world, and to be there with an elder who grew up on the island and watch her sharing her culture with her granddaughters was an experience I will cherish all my life.”
The web series effortlessly shapes how strong ‘ordinary everyday’ women can be, and Thomson proudly talks about Women of the Island and what she wants people to take away after watching the series.
“I want people to really hear these women’s stories, to value their stories, and to reflect on the ‘ordinary’ women amongst us who are in fact extraordinary. I want people to feel proud of these women, of their community and to understand the important contribution that these women make to our lives.”
Anna Dadic, Head of Development at Grumpy Sailor who created Resting Pitch Face, says the series was inspired by a need to address the extreme gender imbalances that exist in STEM workforces.
“The drop-off rates for women and their employment in STEM fields after completing their tertiary education is actually alarming,” says Dadic.
“Grumpy Sailor thought one great way to address and initiate cultural change would be through comedy. We racked our brains to think of another show that holds STEM women in the spotlight and we genuinely couldn’t think of any.”
Dadic and the team at Grumpy Sailor have been working on the series since 2016, saying, “Since , we have witnessed the #metoo movement and tremendous focus in highlighting women’s issues that are experienced personally, culturally and professionally.”
Unpacking sexism in a web series can be confronting, but the team at Grumpy Sailor manage to show the ridiculousness of this front through a comedic lens, by basing the series from real-life experiences. “Firstly, we talked to our female tech development team and our lead character Mahala is actually heavily based on the traits of one of our colleagues!” says Dadic.
“We sent out a survey to a number of female-oriented organisations, friends, family and industry colleagues and invited them to share their experiences with us. From this, we gathered a slew of hilarious and cringe-worthy tales that make up the fabric of the series.”
Another series that centres on something new is Single Ladies. Director Gemma Hall describes how the decision to focus on a sex-positive radio show was spawned from conversations between Megan (Catherine) and Alex (Nina) and writer Aaron.
“Nothing is more hilarious or traumatic than the pathetic and eventful decade that is your twenties…and it’s not over yet,” Hall says.
“It was important to us that while having a good laugh at it all, we are also opening up a forum to be transparent and honest about our experiences and put women at the forefront in a space too often dominated by men.”
When asked about the importance of the theme, Director Mimi Helm comments on the significance of having conversations that spark this type of web series content.
“TV series like Girls and Broad City created a space for sex-positive comedy series centred around women, however, we noticed that there was a distinct gap for this kind of content from an Australian perspective,” says Helm.
“Another integral theme for us is female friendship – we wanted to create a buddy comedy for women that is relatable to our audience. In a world which we see content where women are represented as either simplistic or overtly sexualised (and predominantly directed by men), this series gives its characters full sexual autonomy in a voice that is finally their own.”
Adding onto this conversation, Director Jacqueline Pelczart simply motions for aspiring creators, “don’t confine yourself to the title of a female filmmaker, just go out there and make films.”
Are you an aspiring filmmaker who wants to create amazing work like these ladies? Come and see these amazing official selection series live at Melbourne WebFest.