Using figures based on a variety of films from the 2017 Women’s Independent Film Report, we can observe how women seem only to direct a mere 4% of titles. However, this isn’t the case across every genre and in the Indie category specifically, this figure has increased to 7% since 2008. Although the figure may not appear a triumph as such, it is the speed of the increase shown in this one category that demonstrates the potential—and feasibility—for figures to be able to change in favour of more women directors being made visible. To get an idea of how to break into the industry as a female filmmaker and to celebrate their successes, I spoke to two exceptional women who have first hand experience of the industry.

Katharine Emmer is an example of someone who has managed to build and maintain her dream career despite 7 years of constant let downs. The NYU graduate attempted for years to get the roles that she wanted—ones whose stories really touched her and that she could act meaningfully—but had missed successes continually. Deciding to to take the matter into her own hands, Emmer adopted an attitude that said, ‘no one is casting me, so I could write and give myself the role I wanted to play.’ 

A couple of years after college, she wrote and starred in her debut film Life In Color which has gone on to screen at South by Southwest Film Festival and win multiple awards. Emmer managed all of this on virtually no budget, having taken a massive risk that thankfully paid off. As the graduate of an immensely prestigious university, Emmer spoke about how she believes certain institutions are better able to help you make connections with businesses and potential collaborators. However, Emmer credits every filmmaking skill she learnt to her asking questions of people with experience of creating film content, along with her watching a serious amount of low budget films and working with a producer who attended film school. 

Emmer truly believes that having a college degree is not necessarily conducive to success within the film industry and that it is your perseverance in pursuing the craft that better prepares you for acting and directing. Of course, there are often big (and sometimes financial) risks involved with setting up a project such as Life in Color. Emmer gives this advice to any young creatives out there who may be thinking of starting their own film project: ‘Live in the moment. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Of course you need to plan and be organised, but when you are going through actual shooting, don’t create problems before they arise. Conserve your energy and take each moment as it arrives.’

Emmer is among many commendable women creating opportunities for themselves in filmmaking. I also had the chance to talk to the incredible Victoria Negri, who released her debut film Gold Star in the US in November 2017. The story is loosely autobiographical in that it is based on Negri’s experience having been one of her fathers caregivers after he suffered a stroke. The film follows Vicki, a young music school dropout who is struggling to make sense of her seemingly futile life. 

I spoke to Negri about the community of women in film who are working to build each other up—it appears that if you want to make it as a female in the industry, having people around you that are able to both support and understand you is key. Negri is a member of female filmmaking collective ‘Film Fatales’, which originally began in New York and has since grown to see the establishment of communities worldwide. 

Both Negri and Emmer spoke about how important it is for women to support each other from within the industry, and networks such as 'Film Fatales’ provide women with the spaces which allow for them to be propelled to the frontline of the scene through global support and encouragement. In a statement which speaks volumes about the importance of female solidarity in the arts, Negri says ‘I’ve learnt so much from the women in this group, and have felt an incredible amount of support.We should all learn from each other and support one another. We are stronger together.’

Negri also speaks about how inspiration is something of great importance to her creative process, and how it can stem from experiences both positive and negative. She described how the driving force of inspiration behind Gold Star was her father and his incapacitated condition: ‘To spend a year not being able to speak and still be determined to recover is very admirable. It made me realise that I could make a film. I felt like I could and should do anything.’ 

Filmmaking, like many other creative disciplines, can be a difficult and isolating business when ideas are scarce. Trying to find inspiration in the everyday can keep you going, even if it is not for the purpose of your work. Speaking to this idea, Negri says, ‘Do not be alone in your art. It can be a lonely process, so find motivation outside of yourself to refresh your passion.’ She also talks of how it is easy to get burned out, which is easily done when your career choice is something you are so passionate about. She suggests meeting up for coffee with someone whose brains you can pick about the creative process in order to return to your craft feeling refreshed, inspired and having gained a new perspective.

Female filmmakers are some of the strongest—it appears you have to be in order to survive in such a relentless industry, as evidenced by the proponents of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. More than ever, films created by women are succeeding and proving they have dedicated audiences (as evidenced by the successes of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman and Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird). It’s not all about having copious amounts of money and and a prestigious education. 

In the world of film, it seems gaining experience in the field and asking questions is the way to get your foot in the door. Don't be afraid to ask for advice from others because they’re usually more than willing to help, as evidenced by the increasing number of female collectives which encourage female empowerment in the arts across the world. In 2018, women should feel better able to create careers for themselves that they are passionate about, regardless of the constraints of their chosen trade. It may be a risk, but it seems to be one worth taking—if you have the enthusiasm and drive, there are ways to actualise your dreams. Having built their own projects from the ground up, women such as Emmer and Negri only prove that sometimes re-writing the rules - by which we as women usually play - this can lead to female success in the industry.