INTERVIEW- Barbara Ann O’Leary, creator of #DirectedByWomen, a worldwide film viewing party

img025Artwork by Chloe Leeson
Back in March you may remember we interviewed Marya E. Gates, creator of ‘A Year With Women’, recently, through Marya’s twitter we discovered ‘Directed By Women’, cited as a ‘worldwide film viewing party.
Directed By Women is running from the 1st till the 15th of September and aims to expose the world to as much women-directed film as possible. This could range from watching one film by yourself directed by a woman and tweeting/blogging about it, doing the full 15 days by yourself (my personal choice!), clubbing together with friends in a house, setting up a screening in your local hall/cinema/library/school, and spreading the message as far as possible. After a little digging and much excitement, we caught up with the creator, Barbara Ann O’Leary and discussed her intentions and the different ways people should get involved!
Hi Barbara, so when did you first get involved in film?
Oh… I’ve been enthralled by film since I was a little girl.  My parents grew up loving movies and they raised me to always be on the lookout for engaging film viewing possibilities.  I love to pass that feeling along, inspiring vibrant film appreciation wherever I go.
What was it that sparked the idea to create #DirectedByWomen?
A few years back I was making myself a little list on IMDb.  Well, I THOUGHT it was going to be little.  I just wanted to watch more films by women directors as a way to balance my film viewing. And I thought it would help to have a list to refer to.  But it got WAY out of hand… as I kept noticing more and more women directors.  By the time I had several thousand on my list I really started wondering why I was becoming aware of so many women film directors but the story I heard over and over again was that there are hardly ANY of them.   Eventually I moved the list to a web page and  started adding links to social media and film related information to help myself and others become more familiar with the directors and their work.  Right now there are over 7,000 women directors on the list, but it continues to grow.  Every day I discover more and I expect that to continue. I’ve been appreciating people who are helping out.  I made a simple Google form to make it easy – Hint! Hint!  I am deeply curious to discover about the work women film directors are making.  Share your knowledge!
I find celebration and appreciation really help mobilize attention and invite shifts in awareness, so I thought why not invite the whole world to engage in a Worldwide Film Viewing Party?  If we could get people all around the globe watching and learning and sharing about women film directors – as MANY women film directors as we possibly could – that would not only be a lot of FUN but it could really be an eye opening experience for people who don’t know about the rich diversity of films women have been bringing into being since the very earliest days of cinema.  I thought a party like that needed to have room to stretch out, so I thought we’d give ourselves 15 days, but the real power is in concentrating attention so this is really going to work best if we get a HUGE flurry of nonstop activity that will make it hard for any film lovers on the planet to miss out. Let’s get everyone involved.
So… this September 1 – 15 we’re throwing #DirectedbyWomen, a worldwide film viewing party… and everyone’s invited to create events to make this a truly joyous occasion.
So why do you believe it’s so important to elevate the voices and stories of women creating film?
One very simple reason:  I think it’s important to NOTICE what creative people are making and it’s clear that the world is NOT noticing a great deal of the creative outpouring of women film directors.  So let’s practice the simple acts of noticing, being curious, appreciating, celebrating, sharing and falling madly in love with films #DirectedbyWomen.  I feel like film lovers are missing out on enormously vital cinema… and I don’t want anyone to be deprived.
Have there been any women film-makers recently you think we should be keeping an eye on?
There are SO MANY.  I’m not going to name particular names because I think that would be a disservice to the #DirectedbyWomen celebration.  Instead I invite film lovers to visit the #DirectedbyWomen website, look around at some of the Film Viewing Possibilities or choose one of the over 7,000 women directors from the Directedby list and get hold of her work. Discover something new!  Look with fresh eyes.  Talk about the experiences with friends.  And make plans to celebrate during the September 1 – 15th global party.
How are you hoping people will engage with #DirectedByWomen?
Great question.  I’m hoping people will feel inspired to create their own #DirectedbyWomen Film Viewing Parties.  That could be as simple as one person choosing to watch a woman directed film on their own once during the 15 day celebration.  It could be a Family Movie Night.  Maybe have some friends over for a house party or invite a movie theatre, community center, library, bar or other venue to team up to make films #DirectedbyWomen available to the local community.  Something I think could be a lot of fun is to host a Virtual Film Viewing Party by setting an intention to watch a specific film (or a few films) at a particular day and time within the 15 day window.  Create Facebook Event Page (or something similar) and invite film lovers around the world to watch the same film at the same time!  Maybe live tweet during or hold an online conversation afterwards via Google Hangout. The film director might even be available to participate.  It wouldn’t hurt to ask.
When figuring out whose work to celebrate don’t forget to look around among personal friends.  Many people actually KNOW a woman film director and may not be aware of it.  Not every film director makes that her full time job.
Whatever people choose to do, I hope they’ll share about it on our GLOBAL MAP and spread the word on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or whatever social media spaces they like to hang out.
Are there any #DirectedByWomen events you know of currently that might be cool for our readers to check out, or are you hosting any film-viewing parties yourself?
No matter where people are there’s a way to engage the celebration! We are planning heavy social media activity during the 15 day party just to be sure that we all stay connected. Every single woman film director on the list will be tweeted about and we’re dreaming up Twitter chats to focus on all kinds of different films #DirectedbyWomen.  That’s something everyone can participate in and help co-create.
At the heart of this celebration is the weaving together of everyone’s experience.  Wherever you are, that’s perfect.  Make something happen in your location…. and share about it.  Reach out online and connect with others who relish films #DirectedbyWomen and are excited to pool their energies to help the world get truly excited about the work women directors are mobilizing.
I work as Social Media Specialist at Indiana University Cinema. When I thought this idea up, I invited the cinema to participate.  IU Cinema has always demonstrated strong commitment to women film directors, so I was not surprised they wanted to be part of the celebration, but I was blown away when they announced the intention to screen ONLY films #DirectedbyWomen during the entire 15 day period.   I can’t reveal the program details yet, but plans include several exciting guest filmmaker visits and films by a diverse group of directors. Another example in the US: MOT Film Society in Delaware has teamed up with their local cinema Westown Movies to hold a 3 day #DirectedbyWomen Film Festival with a blend of blockbuster, classic and indie films.  Movie theaters like to co-create with their community members.  Keep that in mind when thinking about possibilities.
In Spain a collective of women filmmakers, Liberula Verde Films, are diving in to create #DirectedbyWomenSpain events in Barcelona AND Madrid. The focus will be on women film directors living in Spain.  They have a call out for films. Deadline is July 31st. I love that kind of ambitious thinking!  There’s more. Lots more.  Some events are starting to show up on the Global Map, but more will surface in the coming days.. especially if readers of lively blogs like Screenqueens feel inspired to co-create with us and invite others to join in.  Let’s get the entire global film community engaged.
So say one of our readers wanted to set-up a film viewing party, how should they go about that, whether it is in a house or a public space?
Teaming up with people is a great way to set up a film viewing party.  Look around for cinemas and other places that regularly offer film screenings and talk with them about joining the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party.  Let them know that the events will be listed on our Global Map and get social media attention.  It’s a goodwill event.  It’s fun.
Get film programmers involved if you can.  They have expertise in securing screening rights – which is essential.  But it’s also possible to start from scratch and make something happen. Here’s a resource that could help people who want to create film screenings and related events.  It’s called “I WANT TO BE A CINEMA“.
I really love the saying “I WANT TO BE A CINEMA!”  That’s the idea. Let’s make lots more film viewing possibilities available in all corners of the world.  This blog resource is put together by our friends at Scalarama, who spend every September encouraging film lovers to screen films and who have teamed up with #DirectedbyWomen this year in support of the Project 51 initiative to gender balance their programming!
Other possibilities include finding local filmmakers and asking them to co-create events with film screenings followed by Q&As or panel discussions or receptions, etc.  Reach out to colleges, universities, and high schools to connect with women filmmakers and to see about possible screening spaces.  Classrooms, residence hall lounges and dining halls, libraries… there so many places to watch movies together.
As someone with such a vast knowledge, what’s been your favourite women directed film of the past year?
Ah… it’s hard to narrow down to one.  I’ll name a few films I saw in the past year that resonated with me:  Jennifer Phang’s Advantageous, Kelly Daniela Norris’ Sombras de Azul (Shades of Blue), and Cherien Dabis’ May in the Summer. Soon as I write that I think but how can I not include… and many more come to mind… but that’s the whole point isn’t it?  We need to celebrate them all.
And finally, a question we ask everyone, what are your top 3 films?
A this moment these 3 come to mind as highly resonant in my memory:
Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere
Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break
Eliza Hittman’s It Felt Like Love
Thanks for taking time to communicate with me about #DirectedbyWomen.  I can’t wait to celebrate with you and your readers… Last thing I want to say before we wrap up. This is to all the women filmmakers out there.  I just want to say THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!  We deeply appreciate your work.

Directed By Women runs from 1st-15th September, WORLDWIDE. Keep up to date on facebook, twitter and rummage through their website. Click ‘attend’ on Facebook. Spread the word via #DirectedByWomen.

By Chloe Leeson


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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