December 21, 2014 13:30 UTC

Entertainment

Women Grow Their Roles in Independent Film Making

Music from Justin Timberlake and a teen artist plays at South by Southwest

Movie director Kathryn Bigelow on the set of her film "Zero Dark Thirty"
Movie director Kathryn Bigelow on the set of her film "Zero Dark Thirty"

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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
 
I’m June Simms.
 
Today we hear about Justin Timberlake and play songs from his new album, “The 20/20 Experience.”
 
And, we hear from a young singer/songwriter who comes from Austin, Texas -- the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World.”
 
But first we have a report about women in independent film.
 
The Rise of Women in Independent Film
 
Independent films made history this year. For the first time, women made half of the American dramatic productions shown at the Sundance Film Festival. The festival took place at the same time as the release of a study on women in American independent films. Kelly Jean Kelly has more.
 
Ava DuVernay loves making movies. She has directed three documentaries and two feature films, also known as narrative films. All were independently produced. She says finding financing is often difficult for women.
 
“In some cases, male-run institutions or male-run organizations or companies find it challenging to wrap their arms about, ‘I’m giving all this money to a woman to make our thing.’”
 
Ava DuVernay’s experience appears to confirm the findings of a study about women in independent film. University of Southern California researchers studied films shown at the Sundance Film Festival between 2002 and 2012. The research team found that close to 40 percent of documentary film creators were women. But only about 25 percent of feature films had women in top positions.
 
Stacy Smith was a lead investigator of the study.
 
“Females were perceived to be not as trustworthy leading a crew. They were perceived to be not as confident handling not only financial matters but also leading the production of the set.”
 
There have been exceptions, like Kathryn Bigelow. In 2010, she won the Academy Award for Best Director and Best Movie for “The Hurt Locker.” Her film told about American soldiers in Iraq.
 
And Zoe Kazan was able to find financing for her film “Ruby Sparks,” which was released last year. She wrote and starred in the film.
 
The USC researchers spoke with about 50 film industry leaders and content creators who detailed the barriers women face in movie-making. Most of those questioned are women. Again, Stacy Smith.
 
“One of their chief obstacles is convincing male-dominated financiers and male-dominated decision-makers of their ability to helm a project and carry it through to commercial viability.”
 
Narrative films depend on financial support from producers or investors who are seeking to make profit. Documentaries often get financing from non-profit groups and investors who care about the subject of the film. Women are more successful in getting funding for documentaries.
 
Keri Putnam is with the Sundance Institute. She says there are plans to train women about finance.
 
“Understanding the financing models, understanding how to ask for money, having the courage, the familiarity and the experience going in and teeing up for funding, that’s something training can provide.”
 
The study suggests people should be educated about the inequality between men and women in independent feature films. It says this could help more women reach the success and critical praise enjoyed by Kathryn Bigelow.
 
Boy Musician Plays at South by Southwest
 
The city of Austin, Texas, calls itself “The Live Music Capital of the World.” Austin supports a large number of local music artists. One of the newest is a teenager. William Graham is the 13-year old-son of Jon Dee Graham, a well-known local musician. The boy made his first public appearance at the city’s “South by Southwest” festival.
 
The Saxon Pub put established Texas singers and their musical children together on the same stage.
 
“Please welcome John Dee Graham and his son, William.”
 
Being with well-known musicians seems natural for William. His father says he grew up among them.
 
“His first question, when he was learning to talk and he would meet someone, he would go up ‘what do you play?’ because he thought everybody was a musician.”
 
William Graham is now a skilled guitar player and writes his own songs.
 
“I have always been around music and I have always loved going to shows and listening to music.”
 
But he also enjoys some quiet time in one of Austin’s nature conservation areas. There he has time to think about his music, his writing and his other interests.
 
"Architecture and engineering and environmental architecture.”
 
William Graham has taken classes in these subjects at Northwestern University’s program for gifted and talented youth. But he has also had to deal with a bone disorder that kept him out of competitive sports.
 
“It has been hard living and not being able to do the things that other kids have done and I have always observed the world in a certain way and it just gave me all this different stuff I wanted to write about.”
 
William Graham has shown understanding for people suffering from difficulties and abuse. One of his songs is about children trapped in wars in Africa.
 
“It is raising awareness about African child soldiers and the children who are being taken away from their homes and given guns to go and fight in an army.”
 
William credits his father for some his musical creations. But, Jon Dee Graham says he provides little guidance to the teenager.
 
“As little as possible because, as an artist, he needs to find his own way, and he is, and as a kid, he has to find his own way, and he is.”
 
Together, the Grahams carry on a family music tradition.
 
Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience”
 
Not surprisingly, Justin Timberlake is holding the number-one position on Billboard’s Top Two Hundred albums chart for a second week. The 32-year-old artist released his new album “The 20/20 Experience,” last month. Christopher Cruise has some news about the singer and plays some of the new album.
 
“The 20/20 Experience” is already a platinum-rated record. More than one million copies of the album sold before it was even on the market two weeks. The success of the first single from the album helped push sales. Here is “Suit & Tie.”
 
Timberlake worked with one of the industry’s major powers, Jay-Z, on “The 20/20 Experience.”  In a recent interview, Timberlake said he and Jay-Z have always had a great relationship.  He said they had similar personalities. “Very relaxed. Easy-going,” he said.
 
Justin Timberlake has made only three albums in his 11-year solo recording career. However, he is still hugely popular. Along with his success in the music industry, he has won praise for his acting in several Hollywood movies.
 
Timberlake will hit a new high next week when he performs at the White House. He will be among several musicians honoring one of President Obama’s favorite singers, Al Green. The concert takes place April ninth. It will be broadcast on American public television, April sixteenth.
 
We leave you with “Mirrors” from Justin Timberlake’s latest album, “The 20/20 Experience.”
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