Liane Brandon is an award-winning independent filmmaker, photographer, and University of Massachusetts/Amherst Professor Emerita. She was one of the first independent women filmmakers to emerge from the Women’s Movement. She is a co-founder of New Day Films, the nationally known cooperative that pioneered in the distribution of feminist/social issue films and videos.
Her photography credits include production stills for the PBS series American Experience, Nova, and American Masters, as well as Unsolved Mysteries and many others. Her photos have been published in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, New York Daily News, and many other publications.
Her classic films include “Anything You Want To Be”, “Betty Tells Her Story”, “Once Upon A Choice”, and “How To Prevent A Nuclear War”. They have won numerous awards and have been featured on HBO, TLC, USA Cable, and Cinemax. They have also been presented at the Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Chicago Art Institute, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and other venues. “Betty Tells Her Story” was nominated for inclusion in the National Film Registry and “Anything You Want To Be” was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Learn more about Liane at https://www.newday.com/filmmaker/42
Meet WIFVNE Member Liane Brandon!
How did you get started in the work that you do?
As a filmmaker: I was a member of Bread and Roses in Cambridge, one of the first “Women’s Liberation” collectives in the country. I realized that there were almost no films about the issues girls and women were facing — or about the lives of ordinary women. We needed films to expand and strengthen the Women’s Movement, so I decided to make them. When I started making films in 1969, there was no portable video and very few people had access to 16mm cameras and editing equipment. Film schools were few and far between and very few women were admitted. With no filmmaking experience, I had to borrow a high school football team’s 16mm camera in the off season and teach myself how to use it to make my first film.
As a still photographer: When one of my friends was shooting for the TV series “Unsolved Mysteries”, I got a call saying they needed a still photographer to document some of the stunts they were shooting, and since I had worked as a stuntwoman, they thought I would be good for the job. That led to work shooting stills for many PBS series including “Nova”, “American Masters”, “American Experience”, etc.
It’s challenging and creative: a mix of art, craft and technology. I get to work on interesting projects or explore subjects that I am passionate about.
I’ve been involved in so many different projects, it’s hard to pick a favorite. One of my personal still photography projects was documenting four women powerlifters who have won national or world competitions. They range in age from 27 to 62, and they are smart, interesting, strong women.
When I started making films, I was one of 3 women filmmakers in New England. There were virtually no outlets for political or social issue films, let alone films directed by women.
Distributors said there was no audience for films about women’s issues — so we started our own distribution co-op, New Day Films. We were told that we’d fail in a year. New Day is now 48 years old and a leading distributor of social issue films! Fortunately times have changed for women filmmakers, but there is still a long way to go.
I’ve mentored many filmmakers over the years (and I taught filmmaking at UMass Amherst).
Learn as much as you can. Work hard. Persevere.
What are some things you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry?
Ageism: the stereotypical portrayal of older women in film and TV as nagging, befuddled, meddling, cranky, etc. We need more portrayals of wise, thoughtful, active, courageous older women.
Less graphic portrayal of violence against women in film and TV shows.
What can you share about what you are working on now?
Two projects: Working with Duke University to preserve my early films of the Women’s Movement and to archive the history of New Day Films. And new photo project…
I’m a member of WIFVNE because of its support and advocacy for women in the industry. Having been a member since its beginning over 35 years ago (!) I’m so proud of WIFVNE for its long history of empowerment of women filmmakers.
Liane’s interview was conducted by WIFVNE intern Dina Klein.
1. Liane Brandon: photo by Boyd Estus
2. Still from “Anything You Want to Be” (c) Liane Brandon
3. Powerlifters Series (c) Liane Brandon
4. Alcott Poster photos (c) Liane Brandon
3. Poe poster photo (c) Liane Brandon