CHICAGO – When faced with adversity, the best way around it is to somehow break into song. That is the feeling behind the Brown Paper Box Co.’s “Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret,” running April 7th and 8th at Mary’s Attic in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The event features company member Kristi Szczepanek as host, and presents song stylings by other company members, including Anna Schutz, plus some special guests. For details and ticket information, click here.
Interview: Oriana Oppice of Women in Film Chicago & Their Open House on Jan. 26, 2017
CHICAGO – Women in Film Chicago (WIFC) continues its role as one of the best resource and advocacy groups for women filmmakers and their supporters. The organization has roots to the 1970s, when the first WIFC group was formed in Los Angeles, and the Chicago chapter has experienced strong growth, both in numbers and what it offers to its membership. The WIFC will be celebrating all of this with their Open House, January 26th, 2017, at Columbia College in Chicago (details below).
Much of WIFC’s success has been due to their dedicated Executive Board, including Director of Programs Oriana Oppice. Ms. Oppice is an award-winning director, actor and producer through the independent film circuit. She has directed award-winning films including “Camp Belvidere,” “Lobster fra Diavolo,” and “Lost and Found,” which have screened all over the world and scored prizes at major film festivals. She is currently in pre-production for her first feature as a writer/director, which will be shot half in Chicago and half in Sicily. HollywoodChicago.com spoke to Ms. Oppice via phone, to talk about the goals of WIFC and their upcoming open house.
Women in Film Chicago
Photo credit: WIFChicago.net
HollywoodChicago.com: You’ve just completed a year as Program Director for the WIFC. What were the organization’s accomplishments in 2016 to improve the member experience?
Oriana Oppice: We developed programs that went beyond just networking. The programs we developed were substantive, with a couple of purposes. One was to teach – whether it’s about about taxes or contracts or other aspects of the business – and the other was forums, basically roundtables where people could get together within their areas of expertise. Producers, directors and other like occupations in the industry could get together and talk about what is relevant for them today. The roundtables also developed leaders, because it empowers members to bring in the speakers and formulate the topics.
HollywoodChicago.com: What major changes is the organization anticipating for 2017?
Oppice: One of the newer programs is employment resources. We’re looking for someone to act as a liaison between the vendors and production houses to show how qualified our members are, assist them in finding employment, and facilitating a way for them to get those jobs.
Another goal is collaboration with other film organizations in the city. Too often we all separately try to reinvent the wheel, and I think we can do more resource sharing through the programs that we do and what they do. We’re open to that, and we hope other organizations will join us.
HollywoodChicago.com: Where do you see the most growth for both local Chicago filmmaking and opportunity for women in that arena in 2016, and how does that bode well for this year?
Oppice: I hope that the energy we saw over the past weekend [the Women’s March of January 21st] has hit a button, both for women to step up and take a step forward, and for men to not be shy about standing behind those women and helping them as well. That’s the energy that we’re trying to promote for 2017, for our members to take a chance and do what they want to do. I hope that shows up in the projects they work on, and that it affects Chicago in a positive way.
Along with that, and what I want to personally work for, is making the investors feel that they are empowered to take a chance on a filmmaker. Because that is the only way Chicago is going to grow as a real force in entertainment and media.
HollywoodChicago.com: You are a filmmaker, and understand the importance of a female voice in that art form. How does your experience as a director and an actor inform your opinion about the contributions of women to the art of cinema?
Oriana Oppice, WIFC Director of Programs
Photo credit: WIFChicago.net
Oppice: The stories that women can tell have been missing. Often, I am presented with scripts from a male point of view, and the female characters are either not there or submissive. We need more story lines with intelligent women, to go beyond just good looks.
I am on the frontline of the industry, and I see firsthand how women are not treated equally there. Usually, I want it to be known that I’m a filmmaker, and not necessarily a ‘female filmmaker.’ But more and more, when I observe there was actually a drop in women filmmakers behind the camera last year, that means I do have to take action and recognize that gender is driving inequality. There’s no good reason for that, and I’m going to fight against it.
HollywoodChicago.com: The country has just elected an executive leader who has proved his anti-woman rhetoric through both words and actions, and represents a political party who has trouble reconciling equal rights. How can women continue to fight this power in the arts, or in society, in your opinion?
Oppice: I think we need to ‘grow a pair.’ [laughs] There is a large number of intelligent, creative, articulate and strong women in our industry, but I’ve noticed we don’t feel empowered to ask for the same things that men think they are empowered to receive. We don’t feel as confident asking for money, or telling people that we know our films will be successful.
I would like to do a study about how different men and women pitch projects. I go to pitch sessions all the time because I’m fascinated with how that process works, and men are more assertive with their egos than women. I’m hoping that the Women’s March has inspired more strength, and that we can take that strength into our working lives.
HollywoodChicago.com: Finally, who can interested parties contact to join and participate in WIFC, and what did you hear from membership in 2016, that will lead to direct changes in the organization?
Oppice: First I want to say that our organization is completely inclusive. We value diversity, and encourage both women and men to join. I’m extremely grateful for the men we have as members, because women need to hear that men stand behind us too. Go to our website (click here) or email me at Oriana@WIFChicago.org, and we will help you get involved.
As for the second part of the question, the best feedback I heard is that our programs really can help change the direction of someone’s career. While networking is great and necessary, I also believe that expanding a skill set is important, and Women in Film Chicago provides an environment to do that. That feedback is the driving force behind our programs for 2017.