Meet Filmmaker Lindsey Dryden
Our ‘Filmonomics Filmmaker Profile’ series spotlights each of our 2015 Filmonomics participants, giving you an insight into their projects and working practice. This week, we chat to Lindsey Dryden about equal representation on film, the importance of saving up to make movies, and seeing the films you believe in.
- Why do you think you are a filmmaker?
As a child I was obsessed with listening to storytapes (and later making geeky DIY radio programmes with my fellow 8 year olds). I think I fell for storytelling really young, and always wanted to be involved in it in some way. It was a giddy sort of obsession. As a teenager my Spanish teacher revealed the wonders of Pedro Almodovar, and when I moved to London to do my BA at Goldsmiths, I discovered the staggering number of indie cinemas that I hadn’t known existed. That was it. I spent hours and hours in the dark with stories from indie filmmakers, especially from Latin America and Spain. My favourite stories were the intimate and unexpected ones; the ones that validated the points of view of people who were considered strange or somehow less valuable. There’s just nothing better than losing yourself in an incredible story, whether in the cinema or in a book. And I wanted to be involved in that.
- What is the project you are burning to make and why?
Can I have two? There’s BILLY, a hybrid fiction-documentary feature film about a jazz musician who led an incredible life as a gender outlaw. And a fiction film about a 30-something queer woman at breaking point, who’s visited by the crotchety ghost of her grandmother.
- Tell us about the latest film / exhibition / book / public figure / article to have inspired you.
Well, this is a tough question. How long do we have? First, Marielle Heller’s THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, based on the amazing comic book by Phoebe Gloeckner, is one of the most affecting things I’ve seen in years. Finally some real, complex female sexuality on-screen: a tender, complex girl-led alternative to the endless boy coming-of-age stories and male teen sex comedies. It’s full of ambivalence and contradiction, power and vulnerability, and that’s what makes it authentic for me. An amazing, creative, finely-directed narrative about a young woman’s hard-won autonomy.
Secondly, an upcoming film from inside Ferguson, MO, called WHOSE STREETS, by co-directors Sabaah Jordan and Damon Davis. It’s just extraordinary: http://www.whosestreets.com/#home
Thirdly, GIRLHOOD/BANDE DE FILLES, by Céline Sciamma and starring Karidja Touré. This little excerpt is near-perfect (turn it up loud): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsBRg2fs_3U
- What frustrates you about what you do? How do you overcome this?
Representation. Starting with gender, and expanding to race and sexuality and educational privilege. I’m so sick of going to film festivals and the ‘expert’ panels still being made up of white, middle-class, middle-aged men. The same goes for going to the cinema, or watching TV: where are the women, the people of colour, the disabled, the queer? The people who matter just as much as white middle class men? WMCM’s perspectives are valuable, yes, but there are so many other necessary and legitimate points of view. As brilliant writer Jes Skolnik said recently: “Someday I want to get to the point where we can talk about women in music without first talking about Women In Music.” The same goes for film. It’s exhausting (and obviously most filmmakers would rather be making their work than fighting for the space to do so).
I think the way to overcome this is fourfold.
For filmmakers, keep making great work, and do so in solidarity with others who you trust, admire and support. People of colour, women, the disabled, the queer, shouldn’t have to fight for the right for our voices to be heard, but while we do, do so with the power of solidarity.
For audiences, go and see the films you believe in: buy them, attend them, talk about them, spend money on them. That’s the way to demand which storytellers you want to hear from.
For decision-makers: be creative in how you leverage funds and relationships, and be daring in your choices. Yes, of course there’s a bottom line. But if you look at box office figures for films directed by women in 2015, for example, we aren’t as risky as we’re constantly told. Do decision-makers really believe that cinema is for telling people what they already know? That it should be the preserve only of the economically powerful? Because that’s the way we’re heading. There are some brave and creative decision-makers out there, but we need many, many more.
- What advice can you offer up to someone who wants to make filmmaking his or her career?
Save up! You’ll need some resources to give yourself some creative space. Be brave. Be honest. Learn everything you can from people more experienced than you: watch and listen. Find your colleagues and peers, and support each other. Find at least one (preferably several) mentor-types who’ve done this already, who recognise what your strengths and weaknesses are, and who have tools to help you. Get as much sleep as you can. Go to all the film festivals you can, and dance with your fellow filmmakers. When you show your films, spend proper time with the audiences who love them. Take up every possible chance to learn new things. Believe in yourself, but don’t be an arsehole. And take the afternoon off to lose yourself in the cinema – often.
Lindsey Dryden is an award-winning British director and producer. A Goldsmiths graduate, she specialises in telling intimate and unexpected stories about the body and the arts. Her work has shown at over 30 festivals worldwide, including SXSW, True/False, Sheffield Doc/Fest and the Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s Art Of The Real, and screened in Picturehouse Cinemas. With a background in TV documentary (Channel 4, BBC, History Channel, Current TV), Lindsey directed her first feature documentary in 2012. ‘Lost And Sound’ follows a dancer, pianist and music critic who have lost their hearing, as they try to rediscover music through the prism of their deafness. It premiered at SXSW and was nominated Best Emerging UK Filmmaker (Open City Docs) and Best Female-Directed Film (Sheffield Doc/Fest). Lindsey has been Filmmaker-In-Residence at Jacob Burns Film Center in NY, and is a Sundance Fellow. She is currently producing feature documentary ‘Canary In A Coal Mine’, directing a feature documentary about an iconic queer jazz musician, and making short films about art and artists with the Tate.