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Tribeca Film Fest: Female Filmmakers to Watch and Other NYC Awesomeness

When Tribeca Film Fest finally showed up in rotation, Cheryl Laughlin was delighted to discover a festival shining a spotlight on a record number of female filmmakers.

When Tribeca Film Fest finally showed up in rotation, Cheryl Laughlin was delighted to discover a festival shining a spotlight on a record number of female filmmakers.

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Photo courtesy of Cat Stewart Photography

Tribeca Film Fest Wall Art

As screenwriters, we gravitate to film fests with that eternal “Wow, Someday That Will Be My Film” feeling. So, when the Tribeca Film Fest finally showed up in rotation, I was delighted to discover a festival shining a spotlight on a record number of female filmmakers. And since you are the change you want to see, here’s a rundown on the female voices amplified at this year’s Tribeca Film Fest for an extra kick of writing inspiration.

Tribeca Film Fest – Big Picture

First, a rundown of the big stuff to look out for…

- Love, Gilda – Gilda Radner documentary directed by Lisa D’Apolito. Gilda freakin’ Radner. ‘nuf said.

- All About Nina– directed by screenwriter Eva Vives, who turns the camera’s gaze on a female stand-up comedian with issues.

-Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie – written and directed by Andrea Blaugrund Nevins for a walk through 60 years of Barbie history up to her reinvention.

-Radium Girls – co-directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler, based on the book detailing the1920s female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with self-luminous paint.

- Netizens – directed by Cynthia Lowen who explores the lives of three women who face an onslaught of online harassment.

-All These Small Moments – written and directed by Melissa Miller Costanzo and starring Molly Ringwald, making this film irresistible to the ’80s girl in me.

Susan Kouguell Speaks with Unrest Documentary Director Jennifer Brea and Producer Lindsey Dryden

NYC bonus…

Hand in hand with all this female-strong awesomeness was meeting the co-founders of Women You Should Fund during the fest – NYC-based Jen Jones and Cynthia Schultz-Hornig. They’re creating women-powered crowdfunding to offer female filmmakers a new, targeted resource to fund scripts and films.

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Jen gave me the rundown on the fundraising numbers so far: “In our platform's first 12 months live, the women who ran campaigns with us – three of them filmmakers and the youngest being just 16 years old – collectively raised nearly a quarter million dollars for their respective projects.”

You can check out a Women You Should Fund success story with the documentary Big Sonia.

Keylee Koop – Finding HOME at Tribeca

Photo courtesy of Chuy Gutierrez

Keylee Koop Sudduth HOME Poster

Stumbling on the web series HOME, premiering in Tribeca’s N.O.W. Showcase, was a bona fide delight. Keylee Koop-Sudduth co-created a series with her husband Micah Sudduth to encapsulate the humor and heartbreak of a newly married millennial couple leaving small town Texas for the big city of Los Angeles.

Keylee admits to being nervous about directing but felt it was important to just stay true to a shared vision. Plus, she went the self-funded route, “so we could move forward and bet on ourselves.” Very Duplass Brothers vibey. (We’re all reading Like Brothers, right?!)

Deconstructing the Duplass Brothers: Like Brothers – Finally, A Book that Celebrates Failures in Filmmaking

With acting and improv under her belt, Keylee set out to use comedy to show how we all get through painful experiences with a bit of laughter. She co-wrote the series with her husband Micah over nine months and workshopped it with friends paid in pizza. They ultimately shot for 10 days in Los Angeles at an amazing 12 pages a day, with post production taking about a year.

Keylee Koop HOME Poster

Keylee and Micah even made it through being brutally honest with each other through the writing, directing and producing. They credit great communication and being comfortable yelling it out and moving on.

Then shocking – she simply submitted to Tribeca and made it into the Web Series competition, proving it’s possible to be unconnected and make it through the Tribeca gauntlet.

Ultimately, Keylee reminds writers, “It’s not about perfection but more about finding your voice. Find what’s special about your work.”

Check in on for updates on the HOME webisodes release.

Summer Shelton – Looking through the Windshield

Producer Summer Shelton was at Tribeca for her indie feature Maine and is no stranger to indie film fests, with Keep the Change winning Best Feature at last year’s Tribeca Film Fest. Plus, she’s received the Piaget Producers Award in the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Summer Shelton, Producer, Quote

Her thoughts on filmmaking sum up the spirit of serendipity and positive indie film vibes at the Tribeca Film Fest. Summer says being an indie film producer "takes lots of hard work and focus but also being open to letting life guide you a bit, through opportunities that may come your way."

That free flow guidance from the universe has taken her from producing videos for Lowe’s by day, to producing indie films after hours and on the weekends, to even newer movie ventures on the horizon.

Summer rounds up this advice for writers and director:

Summer Shelton Photo

“First, you’d be surprised what you can get done out of a car and with vacation time. Then remember, sometimes you have to say no to a project or assignment, that your cup runneth over, and that’s okay. Focus on what you want to accomplish.”

Actually, Summer conveys two more powerful outlooks. One is something she often reminds students, who can get mired in their phone screens and minutia, “Look up and out for your future.”

And two, she shares this Southernism borrowed from her older sister, “Are you looking in the windshield or in the rearview mirror?”

In talking with Summer, you can see she enjoys being an outlier. And her looking-through-the-windshield attitude is gracious inspiration.

So, let’s all try looking up and out more – past the fifteenth rejection or the long rewrites – and through the windshield. Maybe we have a Tribeca Film Fest just ahead, waiting for us.

More articles by Cheryl Laughlin
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