Jennifer Dean: Focus and purpose

My study of female filmmakers began when I was getting my MA at the CUNY Graduate Center and in my film studies endeavors delved into the stories of the incredible women of Early Hollywood.

This week #DirectedbyWomen conversed with Jennifer Dean about her filmmaking and her work in support of women in film.  She and some friends are throwing a #DirectedbyWomen Film Viewing Party on the Upper East Side in NYC again this year. I hope you’ll join them… in person or in spirit.

DBW: Jennifer, it’s so great to have you with us again for the 2nd #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party! Your Short and Fun in NYC Film Viewing Party last year had such good energy. I heard great reports from filmmakers and film lovers who participated. That’s what the party’s all about… weaving together the sense of community and fostering deep appreciation for women directors and their work. Can you share what inspired you to create last year’s event and talk about what you have planned for this year?

Jennifer Dean

JD: I used to run a Non-Profit when I was in California (LVE Productions) and we did an annual shorts festival of short plays and silent short films accompanied by live originally composed music. I loved putting it all together and since moving to New York have not done so much in terms of theatre production but thankfully my good friend Leah Abrams moved from SF to NYC and has been continuing to not only work with the SF theatre community with her company Custom Made Theatre but bringing work to NYC as well. CMTC hosts a monthly reading series at Ryan’s Daughter which I have participated in and always enjoyed. I approached her about the possibility of doing a film night in September as part of the DbW celebration and she was game! We had so much fun last year we had to do it again.

DBW: Are you still looking for films to screen at this year’s event? If so, how can women film directors contact you to share their films?

JD: We are done with the selection process. I am always interested in learning more about female directed films so if anyone wants to reach out and share their work with me personally I would love that (Facebook). But we had a slew of wonderful films to choose from for this year’s event. When I was gathering films for the LVE evening of shorts in SF I would scour the internet, using Craigslist and as many different forums and connections as I could find. Back in 2004 (which seems not so long ago but eons in internet terms) – it was much more difficult. Both this year and last I put a post on Film Freeway and got hundreds of entries very quickly.

DBW: I’m a big fan of the work you’re doing with The Second Sex and The Seventh Art/ Female Filmmaker documentary and web presence. Your daily bite sized blog posts each featuring a different filmmaker are great resources. And you are working on a documentary about women film directors! Any stories you can share about that process? What’s motivating you to create this resource? What’s surprised you the most as you’ve had the chance to talk with women directors about their work and about the film industry?

JD: My study of female filmmakers began when I was getting my MA at the CUNY Graduate Center and in my film studies endeavors delved into the stories of the incredible women of Early Hollywood. It’s part of the reason I was able to make a connection with you and decided to do this event! As over the top as it may sound the journey has given me focus and purpose. I have met some incredible people along the way and am consistently amazed at how generous people are with their time and how one connection can lead to another and the learning never ends. I have never been a fan of networking which is fundamental to not only the storytelling industry (I use that phrase instead of the Entertainment Industry because I am encompassing the larger independent film and theatre communities) but life in the work world in the US in general. This process has taught me how to network in a way that I enjoy. The bite-sized blog was what I thought would be a simple way to continue the process as I try to compile the footage and film work into a feature doc (which is less simple). It has proven to be a continued source of enlightenment as I am not only finding out about more films by women that I get to watch and enjoy but I also am appreciating more and more the many avenues from which directors come to making movies. There are definitely many roads to making a film happen – and many skills that prove to be an asset in the world of directing.

DBW: I don’t know where you find the time and energy for everything you do. You’ve also been making short films and sending them out into the world. What are you working on now? And what’s next?

JD: Well I don’t know that I have much energy… and I am constantly complaining about not having enough time for things – but that’s always going to be the plight of the human condition I think since we have more time now than ever before thanks to labor laws and modern inventions… so I’ll just keep working on harnessing energy so that I can fill my time with the things I love – like telling stories. I just finished editing Kurtis, a short film that I co-produced and directed with writer Julie Hays and my talented producer companion Eric Rice (who is also instrumental in getting this DbW screening together). We have submitted to festivals and are hoping to get it screened somewhere soon. I am determined to get together a feature of The 2nd Sex & the 7th Art edited and am dedicating as much time to that as possible. Then after that there are a few other projects in the works… stay tuned!

DBW: I’m really thrilled our paths have crossed. And that we’re able to celebrate together. It feels like the global film community is ready to make a big leap. Your persistence and your willingness to pour your time and energy into this work is truly valued.

JD: Not to interrupt here but I have to reciprocate those sentiments. One thing that does give me energy is interactions with others such as yourself who make a film community thrive! As exhausting as I can find the social media component of modern life sometimes I am very grateful to what it makes possible in terms of learning new things and meeting new people.

DBW: Thanks so much. As Ava DuVernay likes to say, “Onward!”


Directed by Women – Short & Fun in NYC 
Monday, September 12 at 8 PM – 10 PM
Ryan’s Daughter – 350 E 85th St, New York, NY 10028