#PDXFF17: Women Directors Share Insights About Their Work

Portland Film Festival 2017

59% of Portland Film Festival‘s program this year is directed by women. To honor that milestone and to continue our practice of celebrating the Worldwide Film Viewing Party together, even though this elyear Portland Film Festival has shifted away from their September dates, #DirectedbyWomen reached out to women film directors with feature films—narrative and documentary—screening at the festival this year and asked them to respond to one single question….

“Could you please tell us about a moment during the making of your film when you could feel your vision coming together or when you overcame a challenge in a satisfying way?”

Here’s what Alicia J. Rose (The Benefits Of Gusbandry), Amanda Kopp (Liyana), Amrita Pradhan (WE WERE ÍSLANDS), Athena Scotes (Last Song to Xenitia), Barri Chase (The Watchman’s Canoe), Bryn Woznicki (Her Side of the Bed), Elena Beuca (D-Love), Hannah Barlow (For Now), Jennifer Townsend (Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise), Jessica Scalise (Zilla and Zoe), Laura E. Swanson (Break the Chain), Leena Pendharkar (20 Weeks), Lesley Demetriades (Women & Sometimes Men), Maggie VandenBerghe (#Wanderlust), Margo Pelletier (Thirsty ), Marion Mauran (Run While You Can), Saila Kariat (The Valley ), Sarah Heinss (Instructions for Living), and Tina Krüger (Living Arthad to say about their filmmaking processes. 

Alicia J. Rose

Alicia J. Rose
Alicia J. Rose

When Courtenay Hameister and I wrote episode 9 “STD Day” earlier this year, we were inspired not only by current political events, but also by our own normal, awkward experiences going to Planned Parenthood—for free condoms, annual exams, STD testing—so we wrote it into the script having no idea if we could ever shoot there. Even though we aim for making gorgeous broadcast worthy television, we are a very local, very low budget production, but magic things can happen in smallish towns. A few months down the line, I ran into my friend Jimmy Radosta, a wonderful writer and activist in town who is now the marketing/communications director for Planned Parenthood Advocates NW and I pitched the idea to him. He was open to presenting it to the powers that be and ultimately after script and logistics approval we got permission to shoot for one day at my neighborhood chapter—Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette on NE MLK. On the day of the shoot, we were elated. We staged a protest with a very game group of extras and a tense scene between our two main characters Jackie and River in the colorful waiting room. The architecture and styling of the place—an actual Planned Parenthood—delivered a giant amount of production value to this labor of love that we couldn’t have ever hoped to fake. I think it adds a special element to the show to have an authentic representation of how most women and men utilize their wide range of services. We are thrilled to have had their support through this process and in releasing these new episodes of the show. Our cast and crew all stand with Planned Parenthood!

From a post about the show filming there on the Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette FB Page: “Accurate and authentic portrayals of sexual and reproductive health on TV are more important than ever as women’s health and rights are in jeopardy. Pop culture has the power to challenge stigma and change the conversation around sexual and reproductive health care.”

The Benefits Of Gusbandry directed by Alicia J. Rose – One woman, One man, a lot of weed, a little crying, and no sexual attraction whatsoever. Love is so gay.

The Benefits Of Gusbandry screens at Portland Film Festival…
11/3 – 9:15 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Alicia J. Rose is planning to attend the screening and will participate in the following events…
Portland Filmmakers Panel 11/1 – 6:00 pm at Tent A
DIY Fimmaking 11/3 –  12:15 pm at Tent B

Follow The Benefits Of Gusbandry on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on the film’s website and follow Alice J. Rose on FacebookInstagramTwitter and on her website.

Amanda Kopp

Amanda and Aaron Kopp
Amanda & Aaron Kopp

The moment during the making of LIYANA that we could both feel our vision coming together and overcame a challenge in a satisfying way was when we found our animation artist. We had been searching for two years to find the rare soul who could take on such a project. We had tested out other freelancers that didn’t fit, and we couldn’t afford to work with a big studio. Finally one day I searched the right term on Google, “African illustrator.” This led me to an article on African Digital Art with Shofela Coker, a Nigerian artist based in San Diego. His work was stunning, and his philosophy and values expressed in the article were very much in line with ours. We immediately contacted him and asked if we could fly to San Diego, take him out to dinner, and show him a rough cut of the film. He agreed.

Shofela CokerShof had a great job with a video game company at the time, but we made it clear to him that he was “the one” for our film and convinced him to quit his job, take a pay cut, and work crazy hours for us for almost 3 years. That weekend, late at night, Shof sent us a draft 3D digital sculpt of Liyana’s face. He was excited enough about the project he couldn’t wait to get started! We were flabbergasted. He had found our character. She was perfect. Years later as we tour at film festivals with Shof, we are so thankful that events aligned such that we found a collaborative partnership, and friendship, more wonderful than we could have hoped for.

Liyana directed by Amanda Kopp and Aaron Kopp – Five children in Swaziland collaborate to create an original African tale about a young girl on a dangerous quest.

Liyana screens in Documentary Competition at Portland Film Festival…
11/5 – 7:15 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Follow Liyana on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on the film’s website.

Amrita Pradhan

Amrita Pradhan
Amrita Pradhan

Making a first feature film is pretty daunting in and of itself, and I was definitely overwhelmed and uncertain in the early stages of development. After my search to find the perfect producer proved fruitless, I decided to undertake the responsibility myself (thereby compounding my overwhelmed and uncertain feels). Since I was already directing and acting as well, I knew that throwing producing into the mix could yield disastrous results, especially since I’d never produced a feature before. Wearing so many hats on my film made the actual production period pretty hellish for me, but I’m ultimately so glad I did it. In being my own producer, I expanded my skillset by learning how to work with SAG (not anywhere as bad as I thought it’d be), create line budgets, and coordinate third-party payroll services, amongst many other things. The best part was that I didn’t have to relinquish my creative control to anyone in the process, which was crucial to me. I’m hoping that I won’t have to do the majority of producing work on my next feature film, but doing so this time around helped me fully understand what a great producer brings to the table and the production at large. I’m happy to say that what initially seemed like a monumental challenge ended up being a very valuable and empowering opportunity for growth.


WE WERE ÍSLANDS directed by Amrita Pradhan – Strangers to lovers to strangers again.

WE WERE ÍSLANDS receives its World Premiere at Portland Film Festival…
11/3 – 11:30 am at Laurelhurst Theater

Amrita Pradhan is planning to attend. Follow on WE WERE ÍSLANDS on Facebook. Explore Amrita’s earlier work on Vimeo.

Athena Scotes

Athena Scotes
Athena Scotes

The making of this film was a challenge from day one. The main character of the film, my grandmother, Vasiliki Papachristou-Skoutela-Scotes, was a 103 year old folk-poet, who was part of an ancient oral tradition. She was a person not remotely interested in fame or fortune—least of all becoming the central character of a documentary. She didn’t even want to meet the President of Greece who wanted to honour her for her book…

As her granddaughter, I needed to understand what it was that she wanted to say, what was important to her in these last days of her life and then find the means to convey this in a poetic manner.

I discovered that removing all preconceived notions and staying very much in the present moment was the best way to tell this story. This was a rather nerve wracking creative decision but well worth it. In other words, I had originally believed that this documentary would be a Greek version of the Buena Vista Social Club as I knew my grandmother was scheduled to go into the recording studio in Athens with famed folk musicians Lakis Halkias and Georgos Kostinis to record songs from her book of folk songs. What I discovered, however, is that this film was more than just a documentary about my grandmother keeping an ancient oral tradition alive and passing on these songs to the next generation.

When we arrived in Greece in June 2010, Greece was beginning to unravel due to the economic crisis that became the focus of world news in the ensuing months. It dawned upon me that many of the songs my grandmother sang and wrote herself were about xenitia (living as a stranger on foreign lands, the Greek word for immigration). It also occurred to me that my grandmother had left Greece in 1931 during the Great Depression for the United States and now the youth were once again faced with the prospect of having to leave home and journey to foreign shores. Seeing that history had come full circle, I decided to provide my grandmother with opportunities to respond to the economic crisis by coming into direct contact with the youth via her music. In so doing, she was able to give them a message of courage and hope. She was able to pass on what was meaningful to her and what had sustained her when Greece faced a similar crisis back in 1931 and she had chosen to immigrate to the United States.

In summary, as a Greek girl growing up in the diaspora, my grandmother embodied for me all that was beautiful and powerful about Greece. It was my goal to reveal and share this with others. By providing opportunities for Vasiliki to have direct contact with young people in a variety of settings, i.e. concert of her music as well as the gathering of the Aganaktismeni (Non-Partisan demonstration opposing austerity) in June 2011 she was able to communicate her message in her own way and thereby reveal her inner beauty and strength of character.

The challenge of finding a way to tell my grandmother’s story solved itself when I got out of the way, so to speak, and allowed the story to tell itself—in other words, not to impose a vision but rather allow the process to create a vision which naturally emerged. It became a process of weaving together the threads of my Grandmother’s poetic vision with the story that was unfolding around her in Greece at that time. I discovered that my work was to bear witness and provide the space and time for this story to come to light.

Last Song to Xenitia directed by Athena Scotes – Centenarian poet journeys to Greece endeavouring to pass on an ancient oral tradition to the next generation.

Last Song to Xenitia screens in the Documentary Spotlight at Portland Film Festival…
11/2 – 6:45 pm at  Laurelhurst Theater

Follow Last Song to Xenitia on the film’s website.

Barri Chase

Barri Chase
Barri Chase

There wasn’t one specific moment when I could feel my vision coming together. It happened throughout the process, if that makes any sense. Let me explain here.

To be honest, since this was my first feature film, I really tried to focus on connecting with “magical” moments each day in the entire process. Staying focused on story, keeping the set “zen” and remaining mindful of the process of all crew and talent. The goal was to keep everyone feeling motivated during this wonderful collaboration through pre-production, production and post. To honor and respect everyone involved on the project, yet engage as the captain of the ship.

The word “magical” was used all of the time by talent and crew as each day we chose to flow like water. The extra time we spent on pre-production and in post really paid off in the end. We learned to not rush, set realistic goals and fortunately always made our days even with largely a kid cast. We are extremely proud of the final product of The Watchman’s Canoe. We hope everyone will come enjoy and experience this “magical” film.

The Watchman’s Canoe directed by Barri Chase – A young girl of mixed caucasian and indigenous descent moves to a reservation where she struggles with local bullies.

The Watchman’s Canoe screens in Competition and in the Indigenous Voice strand at Portland Film Festival…
11/1 – 7:00 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Barri Chase is planning to attend. Follow The Watchman’s Canoe on Facebook and on the film’s website.

Bryn Woznicki

Bryn Woznicki
Bryn Woznicki

There were so many challenges to overcome while making Her Side of the Bed. Murphy’s Law was in full swing, and it seemed whatever could go wrong did go wrong. We lost an important location on the first day of filming, our DP was called away for a visa issue a week before production began, and there was a huge stretch of time where we didn’t have the money to continue shooting. On several occasions it seemed we’d reached an impasse—that the challenges were insurmountable. But I never gave up. To each challenge I said, “What’s the solution here?” We learned. We adapted. We grew. To overcome all of these challenges, to not back down when it seemed all too much, and to complete a film (for many of us, our first feature) that we are proud of: that is the most satisfying feeling.

Her Side of the Bed directed by Bryn Woznicki – When two best friends share an intimate night, everything changes.

Her Side of the Bed screens in the Narrative Spotlight at Portland Film Festival…
11/3 – 9:20 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Bryn Woznicki is planning to attend. Follow Bryn on her website and follow Her Side of the Bed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Elena Beuca

Elena Beuca
Elena Beuca

The post production part of making the film was the most challenging part for us. Because our movie is music heavy, we had a lot of good music that we needed to find and it’s hard to find good music that would fits the tone of the movie and that you can afford—good music costs a lot!

Initially, I fell in love with a song that we wanted to use at the end of the movie, but the publishing company was dragging their feet in giving us an answer whether we could use it or not and we were just a few days away from locking the picture.

The night before we had to deliver the film my husband Dave who wrote the film, myself and my friend Billy Howerdel from A Perfect Circle, who scored the movie and was my music supervisor, were in the studio, scrambling to find a song that would be good for the end, and we stumbled by mistake onto the Carina Round song “You and Me.” The moment we heard it we just knew without a doubt that that is the song!! It fit so well, it hit all the beats of the movie as if she wrote it specifically for us. I was so happy and grateful to God that I started to cry of happiness!!

Ironically, the next morning we got news from the publishing company of the song that we initially wanted who gave us permission to use it, but by then thought we didn’t needed it anymore, cause the new song was much better than everything else that we could have hoped for!!

D-Love directed by Elena Beuca  – Not all who wander are lost.

D-Love screens in Narrative Competition at Portland Film Festival…
11/4 – 11:30 am at  Laurelhurst Theater

Elena Beuca is planning to attend. Follow D-Love on Facebook, Instagram, and on the film’s website.

Hannah Barlow

Hannah BarlowWe shot For Now on a shoestring budget whilst traveling from LA to San Francisco, via Yosemite, in 7 days with a cast and crew of 7 & all crammed into one minivan. The whole film was improvised upon a treatment—which meant everything from the acting to the cinematography was spontaneous. So we faced a lot of challenges and really could have returned to LA with nothing.

An example of what our shoot felt like was Day 4. We woke up and the rental car was broken into, which meant we had to go back to Enterprise and hire a different car, which meant our continuity, budget and shooting schedule was thrown out of whack. We had to drive to Yosemite that day, with a lot of scenes to shoot and had only had 4 hours sleep the night before. Yay indie filmmaking!
I thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of the experiment we concocted and to be honest, I had no clue if it was going to work. But I did know on some level that it wasn’t failing, because no matter what, we all got up each morning, committed to it and met our goals, so that’s how I knew our vision was coming together. It was incredibly satisfying sitting with my partner Kane in our little apartment in LA and piecing together the footage for months after.

For Now directed by Hannah Barlow & Kane Senes – Four twenty somethings take a road-trip through California, only to confront their relationships with one another.

For Now screens in the Narrative Highlight at Portland Film Festival…
11/5 – 2:30 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Follow For Now on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on the film’s website.

Jennifer Townsend

Jennifer Townsend
Jennifer Townsend

My documentary, Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise, grew out of letters that were written by filmgoers who saw Thelma & Louise in 1991. I knew which people I wanted to find and interview, but I didn’t know who I would locate and whether they would be willing to be part of a documentary. I didn’t know what they would say, what their personalities would be like, how they would come across on camera. It was a leap of faith. I went forward, thinking, “I’ll just collect what footage I can and then figure out what to do with it.”

This means that structuring the film would come later. I wanted to present the subjects’ feelings about the characters and the storyline of Thelma & Louise, as well as how they were emotionally impacted by the film. My editor and I wrestled with how to put the responses together in an entertaining and cohesive way. We brought in a consulting editor and the three of us discussed possibilities. Once we hit on the idea of following the general storyline of the film, the pieces began falling into place. I began to think of Thelma & Louise as a tree and the subjects’ recollections and personal stories as ornaments hanging from the branches.

Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise directed by Jennifer Townsend – Revisit the extraordinary journey of Thelma & Louise through the lens of viewers who saw the namesake film in 1991 and wrote about the feelings it engendered at that time. Twenty-five years later the same viewers share their present-day perceptions, comparing them with their original reactions.

Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise screens in the Documentary Spotlight at Portland Film Festival…
11/3 – 4:20 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Jennifer Townsend is planning to attend. Follow Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise on Facebook and on the film’s website. and follow Jennifer on Twitter.

Jessica Scalise

Jessica Scalise
Jessica Scalise

We are thrilled to be opening the Portland Film Festival. ZILLA AND ZOE was inspired by and 100% shot in Portland, with Portland actors, well-known Portland locations like Voodoo Doughnut, and a lot of Portland spirit. I love filming here because it’s a city that values art, creativity, individuality and independence.

For me, every moment of indie filmmaking is about overcoming challenges. When I write a screenplay, I try not to think about the logistics of how I’m actually going to shoot it, because I’d probably close my laptop and never write again. I think it hampers creativity if you have to limit what you’re writing about to what’s practical to shoot. Once the script is done, I take a few weeks off to regain perspective. Then I open it, read it from an indie-director-on-a-limited-budget POV, and promptly have a panic attack.

On ZILLA AND ZOE, we had a lot of challenges. There were child actors, special effects, an exploding Barbie doll, a ten-year-old jumping off a roof, etc. We had to dig two graves and build four coffins, and plan a wedding. My husband came home from work one day and found a jail cell constructed in our basement, because we couldn’t find a jail to shoot in, and we got kicked out of a church we were filming in when the parishioners found out that the film involved a same-sex wedding.

One of the most satisfying challenges that we overcame was the Poodle Challenge. In the film Zoe is a weird little girl obsessed with horror films. Her dad decides she’s getting too weird, so he forbids her to film anything except her sister Zilla’s wedding. In one of the opening scenes establishing Zoe’s character, Zoe kidnaps the neighbor’s dog and shaves off its fur to make a werewolf costume.

A scene like that is easy to write, and hard to shoot! For weeks, I became this scary, dog-stalking person who would go, dogless, to the dog park, and stare at other people’s dogs, trying to find a big grey poodle with realistic looking werewolf fur. Finally, one of our interns discovered that there is actually a Portland Poodle Club, and that its president owns a big grey poodle named Eva.

Eva ended up being in the film. Her owner did a very professional job shaving off half her fur, and our makeup artist attached hair extensions to the other half to enhance the contrast. It ended up being one of the funniest moments in the film. I believe there is always a creative way around every challenge… and I think it’s important to believe that or no one would ever direct an indie film!

Zilla and Zoe directed by Jessica Scalise – Zoe, age 10, turns her sister’s wedding week into a horror film to win a filmmaking contest.

Zilla and Zoe opens Portland Film Festival’s Narrative strand. The film is also part of Portland Lens.
10/31 – 6:45 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Jessica Scalise is planning to attend. Follow Zilla and Zoe on Facebook and the film’s website.

Laura E. Swanson

Laura E. Swanson
Laura E. Swanson

Labor trafficking – or forced labor – is not something most people associate with human trafficking. I believe this is because the media often documents cases of sex-trafficking, but not labor exploitation. I therefore decided early in the genesis of Break the Chain, that I wanted to represent survivors of both sex and labor trafficking. My vision for the film had always been to make the sex and labor trafficking parts equal, so that the film was inclusive to all aspects of the issue. I knew this would be a bit more of a challenge, but I was adamant that the film had to “break the chain’ itself by including these neglected cases.

Finding individuals to profile in a documentary can be a time-consuming and challenging process. I partnered with the Michigan Human Trafficking Task force, and was introduced to numerous sex-trafficking survivors who were empowered, and eager to share their personal stories about forced prostitution. However, finding someone who was willing to talk about their experience with labor trafficking proved much more difficult.

In the beginning, I made contact with a handful of individuals who had experienced labor trafficking, but one by one they each turned me down. Many said they were afraid of exposing their identities. Some labor-trafficking survivors made eye-opening statements, like:

“I don’t understand how I can be [considered] trafficked, when I entered into this contract [freely] and wasn’t raped or anything, like other victims.”

As my search continued, weeks turned into months, and production was delayed. Not one labor-trafficking survivor was willing to share their story publicly.

Then, one day, I received a promising email from Bridgette Carr, the Director of the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic. In the email, Bridgette wrote about a young man named Kwami who was brought over from Togo at the age of 11, and had been a victim of forced domestic servitude. Bridgette said this young man was very hesitant to appear on camera, and in previous interviews had always insisted he remain completely anonymous. Still, she had a feeling he might be ready to speak.

For months, Kwami, and I e-mailed back and forth about what an interview would mean to him, and how respectful we would be of his story. Slowly, Kwami began to trust us. He agreed to sit down for an anonymous interview with our team, as long as Bridgette was in the room as well.

The day we conducted Kwami’s interview was one of the most fulfilling and inspiring days of my life. I could tell he was incredibly nervous to share everything that had happened to him, but he kept pushing through. Our entire team was so proud of him and I finally felt like the film was coming together!

About a month after his interview, we sent him our first edit of the trailer, in which we had blurred his face. This was his response:

“Wow, wow!!! I love it! Whoever read my victim statement did amazing job! You are going to change lives with this documentary. Thank you!”

Shortly after that message, he sent me a simple, yet profound email, which said, “I give you permission to reveal my identity.” I was so honored that he wanted to take that leap with us and that our audience would be given a chance to connect with Kwami the same way they would connect with our sex trafficking survivor, Debbie.

With the release of the film earlier this year, Kwami has become a phenomenal advocate for human trafficking. He attends screenings, even when our crew cannot, and he joins the discussion panels and Q&A’s whenever possible. He even hosted a screening at his college, Walsh University, for the entire student body! Kwami has also joined forces with Debbie, the sex-trafficking survivor featured in our film, to work as peer support specialists, and help others that have been affected by human trafficking.

Kwami’s transformation has been an amazing thing to witness, and has given all of us at Break the Chain so much inspiration and strength. I know this film would not have been the same without him, and I am grateful for his contribution to public education and my overall vision and hope for the film. Kwami is currently a junior at Walsh University studying education. He is following in the the footsteps of the high school teacher who first recognized something was wrong with him, and helped rescue Kwami from his trafficker. Though Kwami has still not told his family in Togo what happened to him in the US, he hopes to finish college and visit them one day so he can share his story.

Break the Chain directed by Laura E. Swanson – Survivors of human trafficking provide a harrowing look at how this overly sensationalized issue hides in plain sight.

Break the Chain will screen in Narrative Competition at Portland Film Festival…
11/3 – 2:15 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Laura E. Swanson is planning to attend. Follow Break the Chain on Facebook and the film’s website.

Leena Pendharkar

Leena Pendharkar
Leena Pendharkar

Recently Leena Pendharkar engaged in a lengthy conversation with #DirectedbyWomen. Read the complete conversation Leena Pendharkar: Winding a Nonlinear Path through Difficult Terrain here.

Here’s an excerpt about her filmmaking process:

I really embrace the style of keeping a moving camera, which means that as we move through the scenes the camera is pretty much always moving. It’s almost shot like a documentary in a way. where there’s a kind of roving technique. The actors are acting, but we’ll move the camera around as much as is necessary. I mean sometimes I’ll cover people traditionally, but I’ll often walk around and get shots that are moving. I knew that the future would be the only scene that’s on sticks, that’s on tripod, that’s static. The rest of the movie is pretty much moving and we’re stitched together with these scenic shots and these ideas of what’s happening.

I definitely wanted to take that pressure off the actors, because the material is so intense and there were some days where before we were shooting the scenes each actor had to sit in a room by themselves, because they needed quiet to be able to deliver the kind of performances that they’re delivering, so having the kind of moving camera and the lighting setup that was a little more naturalistic gave me some freedom to really work with the performers.

20 Weeks directed by Leena Pendharkar – A couple must decide on how to move forward when their baby is diagnosed with a serious health condition at the 20 week scan.

20 Weeks screens in the Narrative Spotlight at Portland Film Festival…
11/4 – 2:30 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Follow Leena Pendharkar on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on her website.

Lesley Demetriades

Lesley Demetriades
Lesley Demetriades

I have found, as an indie filmmaker, that the ability to facilitate a project without becoming too attached to a particular outcome has really helped my creative process. For me, it hasn’t been as much about feeling my vision coming together as it has been about seeing the nature of the piece evolve to be what it’s going to be. I love working with actors, and it’s often an experiential process to find the soul of a scene together. Sometimes the vision I thought I had for a piece gets blown out of the water by the realizations we achieve through our collaboration. I love birthing things. I love bringing things into existence. I feel like the job titles “Producer” and “Director” have been perceived as masculine jobs for so long in our industry, but, if we think about it, the first person to put narrative context to motion picture was a woman. Women bring things into existence all the time and we pass on storytelling naturally. These are tools that feel very familiar to me.

Women & Sometimes Men directed by Lesley Demetriades – Sara has some questions.

Women & Sometimes Men receives its West Coast Premiere at Portland Film Festival…
11/2 – 4:00 pm at  Laurelhurst Theater

Lesley Demetriades is planning to attend. Follow Women & Sometimes Men on Facebook, and on the film’s website, and follow Lesley Demetriades on Instagram.

Maggie VandenBerghe

Maggie VandenBerghe
Maggie VandenBerghe

I knew filming in Hawaii would probably give us some weather hiccups.

One of the final scenes in the movie takes place when eight characters run outside to a drum circle and dance around a bonfire. We got the fire going, but right before we were about to shoot it started to rain.

Although I wanted to avoid filming in the rain, the fire was holding up, and our Hawaiian talent embraced the idea of shooting in the tropical rainfall.

My DP put water-housing on the camera and I gave some quick direction. We got the fire roaring, I called “Action!” and the cast ran out and danced in the rain—naturally playing out the scene. It was one of those movie magic moments—when things serendipitously come together in messiness and beauty. Like the characters in the movie, sometimes you gotta abandon your plan, just let go and dance.

#Wanderlust directed by Maggie VandenBerghe – Two friends set out on a Hawaiian adventure for Instagram fame, but ultimately discover deeper meaning in their lives.

#Wanderlust receives its WORLD PREMIERE at Portland Film Festival…
11/4 – 11:45 am at Laurelhurst Theater

Maggie VandenBerghe is planning to attend. Follow Maggie on Instagram and #Wanderlust on Facebook, Instagram,  Twitter, and on the film’s website.

Margo Pelletier

Margo Pelletier passed away almost a year ago after a three year battle with ovarian cancer. #DirectedbyWomen extends deepest condolences to Margo’s family, friends and all who worked on her film Thirsty. The film’s producer Lisa Thomas shared this statement…

Director Margo Pelletier on the set of THIRSTY
Margo Pelletier

As an artist Margo always was clear on her vision for the film, Thirsty. When Margo met Scott Townsend, a.k.a. Thirsty Burlington, I think she realized that she had found the perfect protagonist for the post-queer politics that she herself had been exploring previously in her former work. The fact of the matter is because Margo became a filmmaker rather late in life at the age of 48, not too many funders were willing to take a chance on her and her vision. The key often for any great artist to overcome lack of financial support in a way that keeps them in the game is to surround themselves with a strong support system. Margo did just that with key collaborators on this film whether they be her producing partner, Lisa Thomas, Laura Kelber, the co-writer, or Fabrizio Fama the film’s lead editor. At one point in post, Margo was working with a young editor who, while very talented, did not have the same passion for the film as Margo did. While this person was technically capable of doing the job, they did not approach it with the love and respect the film so deserved, so after many months of working with this person Margo sought out a new editor and ended up hiring Fabrizio Fama to complete her vision. If I can take anything from watching Margo’s experience as a director on Thirsty, it’s this, “Always pursue your dreams no matter how out of reach they may seem and never compromise your vision. Surround yourself with people who bring love and passion to their work and, if you do that, people will rise to the occasion for you beyond your wildest dreams.”

Thirsty directed by Margo Pelletier – A post-queer musical film as dramatic as it is entertaining.

Thirsty receives its West Coast Premiere at Portland Film Festival…
11/1 – 9:00 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Laura Kelber, the co-writer of Thirsty, and Lisa Thomas, the producer, will be present at Portland Film Festival. Follow Thirsty on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on the film’s website.

Marion Mauran

Marion Mauran
Marion Mauran

Every day filming Run While You Can was a challenge. Following a fast-moving hiker down 3,000 miles of remote wilderness trails is no easy feat. We quickly discovered our wireless tracking device was useless amidst the tall trees of the Pacific Northwest and learned to rely on maps, like we’d traveled back in time. Each day, we would estimate Sam’s average speed to calculate how much ground he would cover, then determine his location and arrival time. Using that estimate, we would load our film gear into our backpacks and hike into the trail to find him. My stomach would be in knots until I could see that lone figure approaching. Then a sigh of relief.

Run While You Can directed by Marion Mauran – Sam Fox’s quest to run the 2,650 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail to benefit Parkinson’s disease becomes a test of character, and a tribute to the fragile beauty of the American West.

Run While You Can receives its West Coast Premiere at Portland Film Festival…
11/4 – 9:45 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Marion Mauran is planning to attend. Follow Run While You Can on Facebook, Twitter, and on the film’s website.

Saila Kariat

Saila Kariat
Saila Kariat

When I wrote the screenplay, I did numerous revisions, based on feedback from others. I increased the length of the script by almost 30 pages in this process, and then cut it down some. During production I felt we were getting the raw materials for something really good—the performances, cinematography and locations were excellent. However, I really felt the movie coming together towards the end of editing. We had great footage, outstanding performances, and amazing music, yet something was not right with the final movie. I could feel it in my bones. It was still very long at 115 minutes, and dragged in some parts. I cut the movie down to 95 minutes, removed some scenes, and shortened others. This final edit transformed the whole movie. In many ways it was very close to the first versions of my script. The lesson is to know when to stop editing your script. I honestly feel that The Valley as it is now has captured the essence of my original vision.

The Valley directed by Saila Kariat – An immigrant entrepreneur seeming idyllic life is shattered by the suicide of his daughter.

The Valley screens in Narrative Competition at the Portland Film Festival…
11/1 – 9:15 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Follow The Valley on FacebookInstagram, Twitter, and on the film’s website.

Sarah Heinss

Sarah Heinss
Sarah Heinss

Instructions For Living delicately handles themes of love and loss, so it was dear to my director’s heart to handle the memories and flashbacks in our film with that same care. I remember a moment on set when the lighting was just warm enough and the close ups just tight enough that the characters of Mae and Levi really came alive. They looked at each other with the eager intimacy of a first love, while the hope of the future danced in their eyes. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m watching the inside of myself written on the heart of our film,” and it was magic.

Instructions for Living directed by Sarah Heinss – A depressed woman discovers the bucket list of her deceased fiancé and sets off on a journey to redeem his last wishes.

Instructions for Living receives its West Coast Premiere at Portland Film Festival…
11/4 – 2:45 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Follow Instructions for Living on Facebook and on the film’s website and follow Sarah Heinss on Instagram.

Tina Krüger

Tina Krüger
Tina Krüger

The entire setup of the film Living Art was kind of a challenge for me. First because the environment of the film is very familiar to me. I live in Mozambique and frequently go to the spaces where art is exhibited and made. Second because the protagonists of the film are friends and acquaintances of mine. I was afraid that my being so used to the spaces and people would cause me to not be able to have an open mind and eye about what is happening before my lens or that there would be a weird atmosphere between the protagonists and me because we know each other in other social settings, and that this would somehow show in the film. That being said I was a bit nervous before the first shooting.

What helped me overcome my insecurity was the clear focus I had set for myself from the beginning. I had done preparatory research about anthropology of art, contemporary art history and other related fields, and decided to focus my film on the aesthetics of the contemporary arts in Maputo. I wanted to make a sensory film, and had an idea of the kind of images I needed. I wanted to get up close—not zoom in—to be able to create a sense of intimacy with the art making and the artists. This preparation gave me confidence in what I was doing and helped me explain to my protagonists what to expect.

When it came to the shooting, it turned out that it wasn’t strange at all to relate to the people that are normally friends in a new setting, where they were the protagonists and I the cinematographer. Actually, I think our already existing relationship helped in a way that it wasn’t uncomfortable for them when I got extremely close with the camera. I was also more at ease and didn’t feel like I had to explain myself, so I could completely focus on observing closely through the camera. And I think this relaxed atmosphere between me, them and the camera is really sensible in the film, which adds perfectly to the sensorial experience I wanted to create for my audience.

Living Art directed by Tina Krüger – A captivating sensory journey into the art practices & aesthetics of seven contemporary artists in Maputo.

Living Art screens in the Documentary Spotlight at Portland Film Festival…
11/3 – 2:30 pm at Laurelhurst Theater

Follow Living Art on Facebook and on the film’s website.