INTERVIEW: Marya E. Gates, creator of ‘A Year with Women’


Online writer/blogger Marya E. Gates took a different approach to her film challenge of 2015. This year she decided to create ‘A Year With Women’, an entire year watching ONLY women-made films which she documents and discusses on her blog ‘Cinematic Fanatic‘. To celebrate International Women’s Day we caught up with Marya and asked her how she’s getting on…..

Hey Marya, so, you’ve been blogging for some time now, what gave you the inspiration and driving force behind starting this project ‘A Year With Women’?

A few years ago I saw two documentaries Judy Chaikin’s The Girls In The Band and Sini Anderson’s The Punk Singer, and in both cases there were a lot of women creators talking about how they had no women to look up to in their art because they weren’t exposed to them and they never thought to seek out women creators and it made me realize that I was guilty of that as well. It also made me angry about how men are the default when it comes to teaching about pretty much anything, from science to art to literature to music to film-making and I really wanted to change that, at least for myself. So in early 2014, I started watching more movies by women. That’s when I discovered Susan Seidelman (Desperately Seeking Susan). All of her movies from the 80s are so amazing and somehow I had missed them for 28 years! So that’s when I started Female Filmmaker Friday, which was a weekly column I wrote highlighting one film a week by a female filmmaker. Then in June of 2014, I saw a list that had 10 films directed by women on Netflix on Indiewire I think, but it was really obvious choices like Kathryn Bigelow and Jane Campion (whom I love) and all “prestigious” films, so I made my own list with 100 films directed by 100 different women of all kinds of genres that you could watch on Netflix. That’s when I got the idea that I could do an entire year of nothing but film directed by women – and still keep up my pace of watching roughly a film a day. Living in LA, I have access to a lot of films that the rest of the country doesn’t, and I wasn’t taking advantage of that, so I wanted to not only dedicate this year to watching films by women on streaming services, but make sure I saw as many of the films directed by women that opened in theaters as I could. I also wanted to use my relatively large social presence make sure other people knew about these films as well. If you don’t know your options, it’s hard to seek out films by women and I wanted to do something to change that.


Prior to beginning your endeavour, who was your favourite female director and female directed film?

Probably my favorite film of all time is Gillian Armstrong’s Little Women. I also really love Jane Campion’s Bright Star.


Do you think there are any differences in the way that men & women create movies?

I think women tend to be more intuitive in their relationships with people in real life, and I think that comes across in films by women. Ava DuVernay for example get amazing chemistry from her actors, especially when they’re not saying anything. She’s one of the best directors at capturing interpersonal relationships. I’ve also noticed that women, especially when filming women, are often more tender in the way they treat their characters. Most of the films I’ve watched this year are so much more full of empathy for their characters than I’m used to seeing.


Would you say that, as a woman, female narratives are more appealing to you?

Oh, yes, definitely. I do a lot of video reviews and last fall I found myself saying “I DON’T CARE!” a lot in relation to most of the films I was watching because they just felt like they were telling the same boring stories about the same boring men and when you’ve seen almost 5,000 films (I’m gonna get there this summer!) it gets really tiring. But women have been so underrepresented in cinema for so long, that our stories still feel fresh and even when they’re not, I don’t seem to mind as much.


How do you feel about awards season and the gender bias within them?

Awards season has gotten so boring! I’ve been following the Oscars since Beauty and the Beast was nominated like 25 years ago and when I was younger it was so much fun, but as I’ve gotten older and the more films I see and the more I know about the inequality inherent in this industry, the more I just don’t care anymore. But, I *do* care! It’s this industry’s highest honor and if this last ceremony didn’t show us how broken it all really is, I don’t know what does!


A lot of people say that women can only write well about other woman, but do you have any favourite examples of women dealing with male stories?

Obviously, I love Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and Point Break. She’s sort of a go-to director when you talk about a woman who can tell “men’s stories”. I saw one in January that was all about a man – After The Wedding with Mads Mikkelson – and it was astounding. I do think that women can write women better than men and vice versa, but I don’t think that all women created by men are awful (Paul Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman is amazing). Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Johnny Dangerously), Martha Cooldige (Real Genius) and especially Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization 1, 2, 3, Suburbia, The Boys Next Door, Wayne’s World, Black Sheep) set the comedic tone for an entire generation of boys in the 80’s and early 90’s, and yet we still have people questioning what kinds of films female film-makers are capable of making? It’s very absurd.


What have been some of your favourite discoveries so far this year, and who are your women film-makers to watch?!

Omg I just watched Patricia Rozema’s Mansfield Park and I am OBSESSED WITH IT. I’ve watched it twice already in about three days. I also hastily read the book (they’re different but both great). Rozema’s I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing is also great. Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior is fantastic. Last year I really loved Obvious Child, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and The Babadook. I can’t wait to see more from Gillian Robespiere, Ana Lily Amirpour and Jennifer Kent.


Any advice to up-and-coming female directors and writers?

I would say just keep fighting the good fight, keep seeking out mentors and celebrating the women who came before you. Share their work they way you hope someone will someday share yours! And learn how to use social media! Social media is key for helping finance a film, make connections, and even advertise your film on the cheap once you’ve got it out there!

Here’s the link to everything A Year With Women related:

CHLOEChloe Leeson is 19 and from the north of England (the proper north). She believes Harmony Korine is the future and is pretty sure she coined the term ‘selfie central’. She doesn’t like Pina Coladas or getting caught in the rain but she does like Ezra Miller & Dane DeHaan a whole lot. Her favourite films are The Beach, Lords of Dogtown and Into the Wild. But DON’T talk to her about Paranormal Activity. She rants @kawaiigoff.

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