Michele Meek of Rhode Island – Founder, NewEnglandFilm.com and Writer/Filmmaker/Professor
Michele Meek, Ph.D. is a writer, filmmaker, and an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at Bridgewater State University. Her most recent book Independent Female Filmmakers: A Chronicle Through Interviews, Profiles, and Manifestos is available for purchase via Amazon and Routledge. She also recently presented her TEDx talk “Why We’re Confused About Consent—Rewriting Our Stories of Seduction.”
What’s the best part about your work?
I love taking on challenges. Probably the biggest challenge this past year was giving my TEDx talk “Why We’re Confused About Consent—Rewriting Our Stories of Seduction”—it was one of the most invigorating and terrifying things I’ve ever done. I’m a person who likes to manage several projects at the same time, and I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to do that. Sometimes I do feel a bit like I haven’t decided what I’ll be when I grow up, but that’s ok—maybe I haven’t! I love to teach and to write, and so I spend much of my time doing those two things. But I also am entrepreneurial, and I love being able to support creative people and to implement my own creative ideas.
What challenges have you’ve faced in this industry as a woman? (Or otherwise)
It’s impossible to quantify the discrimination that I’ve encountered in my life or career. I had the benefit of strong female role models in my life—my mother, grandmother and aunts—so the challenges I’ve faced have much more to do with how as a society we limit what we imagine women can do. We are often not conditioned to cultivate the swagger and confidence that leads to commercial success.
In the age of #MeToo & #TimesUp, what do you hope to see happening in the future for women in our industry?
There’s no doubt that #MeToo has been transformative, and it’s incredibly satisfying to see the widespread discrimination that has been part of so many industries finally being brought out in the open. Of course, we still have more work to do. What I hope is that women can coalesce and insist together on equality in the film industry—in all of its facets. Without a major movement, I do not think it will change very fast. The Wrap reported that Hollywood will be releasing five times more films with female directors this year, which is incredible. But that still means only 18 percent of films from six major Hollywood studios will be female-directed. So we need to be glad for the gains we are making, but not accept less than full equality until we get there.
What’s one way you would suggest people “Change the Lens”?
I think all of us can play a role in re-examining our own film history, which has not been kind to women—to say the least. When you see a list like American Film Institute’s “100 Greatest Films of All Time” and there’s not one female-directed film on the list, it hits you—women have actually been making films since the invention of film, but their legacy is in danger of being forgotten. Looking forward is not enough. We also have to change how we look back. Making sure we remember the groundbreaking and amazing work women filmmakers have made throughout the years is as important as making sure women today can produce and fund work. It’s one of the reasons that I worked on the book I did.
What advice would you give to a new female filmmaker?
There’s no magic potion for “success” and making it as a filmmaker is not easy—no matter what your gender, race, etc. But you must always do what you are passionate about. If you truly love filmmaking or writing, you should pursue it—not because it will make you rich or famous (it likely won’t) but because to pursue it is the only way for you to be happy. Once you’re “all in,” then I suggest you seek out mentorship wherever possible—we all need that support and advice to forge ahead. One way to do that might be to form your own mastermind group. I’m currently part of a “Mastermind Failure Club” in Providence, RI, and it has been absolutely life-changing. It combines the concepts of a mastermind group—incorporating peer creative and business support, accountability, and brainstorming—and a failure club—a challenge to pursue what you want to do despite the high likelihood of failure. If anyone is interested in learning more, email me, and I’ll send you the how-to worksheet on how to start one (it’s free).
What goals do you have for this year?
I’m working on another book—actually, about failure! I’m also overseeing some exciting changes at NewEnglandFilm.com. We’re going to be launching an award for a marginalized New England filmmaker this year, which I’m excited about, and I’m considering doing some online webinars that will help filmmakers and actors with topics we get the most questions about—funding, grants, casting, etc. I’ll also be working on the Online New England Film Festival, which is currently taking submissions at https://filmfreeway.com/newenglandfilm
What women in the region (New England) inspire you?
Work that Alecia Jean Orsini Lebeda has done with Women in Film/Video New England. I’m most often inspired by those who are working to be change-makers. It’s hard to think regionally in this way—but I’m grateful for the work of Melissa Silverstein, Stacy Smith, Martha Lauzen, Geena Davis, and Maria Giese who have been instrumental in raising awareness about women in film.
Upcoming Events or Announcements? What are you working on?
I just released my book “Independent Female Filmmakers: A Chronicle Through Interviews, Profiles, and Manifestos,” and I’ve been doing a series of events and interviews to promote that. Next week, I will be in Seattle for an event with Women in Film there as well as presenting at the Society of Cinema and Media Studies Conference. I also just published an op-editorial on Salon “It’s not just the Oscars: the Library of Congress fails women filmmakers too” at https://www.salon.com/2019/03/05/its-not-just-the-oscars-the-library-of-congress-fails-women-filmmakers-too/
How can your fans find you!?
My social media: https://www.instagram.com/michele_meek/