by Jaime Davis
The Fixer at Moviejawn
The first time I spied an issue of Filmme Fatales, a zine about feminism and film, I knew I had stumbled upon something special, something I would most certainly feel a kinship for. The writing is witty and fresh and, more than anything, accessible. As a bright-eyed, impressionable film school student, I often found film theory daunting and hard to understand. Filmme Fatales reminds me why I love movies, why I watch movies, and why I continue to write about movies. Pieces about Reality Bites or an interview with Gillian Robespierre might be sandwiched between art highlighting Kirsten Dunst’s career. This month, MJ salutes Brodie Lancaster, the woman who makes each issue of Filmme Fatales come alive in beautiful, vibrant fashion.
Jaime Davis (JD): How did Filmme Fatales come about?
Brodie Lancaster (BL): It’s going on four years now since I started putting the pieces together for the first issue. I knew I wanted to make a zine; I’d been working as an editor for an online magazine for about two and a half years and I knew I didn’t want to have a website. I really wanted to have some kind of control over the stuff that I was writing about and getting some of my favorite writers and artists involved. I was always interested in film – I always loved writing about it and talking about it, that was my favorite part of my old job, getting to interview people and keeping up to date with what was going on with new movies. Filmme Fatales was this idea I had because I knew that anything I wrote about cinema was going to have this feminist bent to it. I was reading feminist magazines, I was reading film magazines and I wanted to combine the two. I’m a really big fan of this British film magazine, Little White Lies. And I wanted something that was very considered and beautiful like Little White Lies does, so I was very inspired by them from a design/visual perspective. So I kind of started putting the pieces together of the first issue to fill the hole that I saw in film writing and in feminist writing, that kind of crossed the two over. I studied cinema at university and I felt very alienated by the language of film criticism and film theory. I wasn’t interested in that academic language because I feel like it creates a barrier between the work and the people who can access it. I know about film but even I was like, “I don’t know what this means.” So I wanted something that was really accessible, funny, and felt like anyone could read it.
JD: What are some of the operations behind the zine?
BL: Editorially, it’s all been me. I taught myself InDesign for the first four issues. So the four earlier issues don’t look as good as issues five through seven (laughs). On issue five I started working with a designer. I started putting more color into it and working with a designer and the vibe I got from people was that it was a real step up from the previous issues. I felt that it had really grown by issue five. With issues six and seven The Good Copy came on board to help and they pay for printing. It’s really helpful because it means I can make more of them and more people can access them.
JD: Do you wish you had more time for any one of the things you work on (Filmme Fatales, your upcoming book, The Good Copy, freelance projects, etc.)?
BL: I don’t have a good work-life balance, it’s mostly work (laughs). Right now, my focus is on the book I’m writing and it’s due in two months. So it would be really nice to have more time on that but I guess when you have limited time you tend to use it well, even though I’m easily distracted. Filmme Fatales is coming to a point where I can’t dedicate the time it needs to it so I’m thinking issue eight might be the last one at least for the near future. I got my job at The Good Copy because the editorial director had read Filmme Fatales and I started writing for Rookie because Tavi Gevinson had read it and writing for Rookie opened up some doors to other things as well. So it’s coming to a point where I don’t have a lot of time I can dedicate to it so I’m going to put it on pause for a little while at least.
JD: Who would you say is the core audience of Filmme Fatales?
BL: I’d like to think that women are finding it thoughtful. Even though I make it in Australia and many of the writers are from Australia, I make a point to give the zine a global focus. But I don’t really know who the core audience is – I’ve never done a survey or anything like that. It seems to be largely women, some men, young-ish I guess? Although I know a lot of people who buy it and are interested in it don’t necessarily fit this image that I have in mind.
JD: There have been a lot of discussions recently, primarily in Hollywood, about how there’s a lack of female diversity, especially on the directing front and also regarding the gender pay gap. What are your thoughts and do you think this has anything to do with The Likeability Trap that you’ve talked about before?
BL: The two might be related for sure. There’s a group also called Film Fatales and I interviewed the founder of that group in issue six or seven. We had a really great conversation about this because the morning that we spoke was also the same morning that The New York Times released that big article about women in Hollywood (“The Women of Hollywood Speak Out”) – producers, directors, actors, writers, studio heads – talking about the rules placed in front of them because of their gender. I think what it comes down to is that the people who are allowed to make decisions about who gets money and who gets press and who gets opportunities are largely men and there’s an unconscious bias towards people who are like them or understand them or make them feel represented and they don’t consider the fact that what they can relate to may not be what everyone relates to. Maybe they see people as younger versions of themselves and they have a bias towards the people who remind them of themselves. I feel like the fact that women are not being given opportunities has nothing to do with skill level or the work that they’re making; it has to do with the fact that the people making decisions aren’t considering anyone else. On the likeability side of it, there’s a definite connection between the way women behave and the opportunities given to them. I remember once Diablo Cody said that after writing Juno all the studios wanted to take meetings with her and when she went into meetings she had to get her hair done, her makeup done, she had to wear heels, she had to wear beautiful clothes. She had to really look like a put-together woman you would trust to take your money and make something with it yet she would leave meetings and the next guy waiting to go in would be wearing a hoodie and jeans and sneakers. A woman has to be brilliant to even get her foot in the door. So there’s definitely a level of expecting women to perform and be likeable in order for them to even be considered for an opportunity.
JD: For Filmme Fatales you’ve interviewed some really amazing women like Mae Whitman, the director of Appropriate Behavior, Desiree Akhavan, and actress June Diane Raphael. When you go into these interviews do you ever get nervous interviewing someone that you’re a fan of? Do you ever want to fangirl with them or do you try to keep it professional?
BL: I was too nervous to interview Mae over the phone or Skype so I just emailed her interview questions. I get really nervous and it’s always hard because the stuff that I want to know is not necessarily the stuff that a reader wants to know. And with Mae it was like “I love all of the things you’ve been a part of and I just want to talk to you about them all.” I do get nervous a lot. I interviewed Desiree Akhavan when she was here for the Melbourne Film Festival. I saw Appropriate Behavior and loved it and then read a lot of interviews of her before our meeting and was very conscious of all the things she’d been asked a number of times so I got a little wrapped up in my head about it. I was talking to a friend at work who writes a lot of profiles and I said I’m really nervous because I love this person’s work but I don’t want to ask the same questions and annoy her. And he just said talk to her like she’s a person and ask her why she became a director. Just have a conversation – a conversation is so much nicer than ticking off a list of questions you have in front of you. So it went really well – she’s a person and you’re a person talking to them about their work. It was really helpful advice and it’s helped me a lot before going into other interviews as well. Sometimes my instinct is to make sure when I go into an interview that they know how well-versed I am about them and their work. Like, “These are the facts I know about you!” But that may not be as interesting as asking questions that are more in service to the reader, which are the details about how they got where they are, what the steps were. And it’s important because someone reading the article may not know the answers, even though I might know the answers.
JD: Are there any female movie characters who are personal heroes to you?
JD: How about real life females who are heroes to you?
BL: I love Maggie Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, Gabrielle Union. My friend Danielle Henderson is working on the new HBO series Divorce. She’s just a real life human who I look to for advice. Fran Drescher as well.
JD: Favorite director?
BL: Nicole Holofcener is probably my favorite. Every movie she’s ever made I love. I also really liked The Fits, directed by Anna Rose Holmer – I just saw it recently. Gillian Robespierre, who made Obvious Child, which is one of my favorite comedies and she’s just great.
JD: Favorite film?
BL: I have a lot: I love Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. There’s an Australian teen comedy called Looking for Alibrandi which is one of my desert island movies. The Breakfast Club is one of my favorites. Adaptation and American Splendor are the movies that got me interested in film and learning more about movies because I hadn’t seen anything like them before. I also love Marie Antoinette. And Stranger Than Fiction. I have a really strong love for movies where male comedians go serious and emotional. Stranger Than Fiction and Dan in Real Life are two of my fave films that will destroy me and I cry every time I watch them. I also love You’ve Got Mail and everything Nora Ephron does. You’ve Got Mail is really close to my heart. I also love Muriel’s Wedding and Heavenly Creatures.
JD: Do you have a favorite movie theater to go to or a favorite way to watch movies?
BL: I watch most movies on my computer and very rarely on my tv. But there’s a cinema near me called the Palace Cinema Westgarth and it’s this beautiful old cinema that Palace, the cinema chain, has taken over. They play new movies but also it’s a venue for film festivals and they do reparatory film so it’s a really nice mix between new stuff and art house stuff and only a 15 minute walk from my house. There’s a really beautiful cinema in Melbourne called The Astor Theatre. Everything they play is a double feature and they have a 70mm projector – it’s a really great experience but it kills you to sit there for five hours! In the States I love the Alamo Drafthouse.
JD: Favorite movie theater snack?
BL: I love getting popcorn and putting some Malteasers into the popcorn so when you eat it you have warm popcorn with this slightly melted, chocolatey Malteaser.
In addition to editing Filmme Fatales, Lancaster is a senior editor for publishing house The Good Copy and has contributed to Rookie, Pitchfork, MTV News, Rolling Stone, and Jezebel (to name a few). Her first memoir, No Way! Okay, Fine. will be published by Hachette in 2017.