The final night of the Arkansas Cinema Society’s recent Filmland cinema celebration included a premiere screening of “A Period Piece,” created for teen girls by the ACS Filmmaking Lab.
“How great are our girls looking on the red carpet in filmland?” said ACS executive director Kathryn Tucker on Faceook after the screening. “The audience had such a loud applause after the premiere and we are so proud of how hard these girls worked over the summer.”
The eight-week lab is a partnership between ACS and Girls of Promise, an initiative of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. The goal is to provide girls with opportunities and mentorship in science, technology, engineering and math to increase the number of women in higher STEM courses and careers and guide them to economic security.
The lab’s 2022 short film (vimeo.com/764960304/2a1821c0cc) was filmed at Central High School and tells the story of Tampon 2.0, an eco-friendly herbal remedy for menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) that student Charlotte (Ana Brandon) creates and in which it penetrates a science competition.
When she seriously explains her project to the teacher Mr. Adams (Ed Lowry), one of the judges of the competition, he stops her: “Charlotte, are you serious? … This topic isn’t even appropriate … and cruel project off my face.” Then, to add insult to injury, he tells her to pull her jacket over her sundress; “You’re just asking for detention.”
Charlotte is discouraged but not dissuaded; With the help of other women, she puts together a presentation that shows that periods can be beautiful. That inspires the judges.
Lab members gained hands-on experience in all aspects of filmmaking, including directing, producing, hair, makeup, wardrobe, photography, sound mixing, lighting, and actor auditions. Mentors include Kathryn Tucker (director), Gabe Mayhan (photography) and Christina McLarty Arquette and David Arquette (producers) with the help of masterclass filmmakers including director-writer Jeff Nichols, producer-writer Josh Miller, and visual effects artist and Cutter Les Galuscha.
For those who dream of following in the footsteps of actress/director Regina King, filmmaker Chloé Zhao, costume designer Ruth Carter, editor Sally Menke, cinematographer Reed Morano, director Kathryn Bigelow, and other cinematographers, set designers, editors, and screenwriters to kick: Participation in the free lab allows girls between the ages of 16 and 18 to experience all aspects of filmmaking. No prior filmmaking experience is required and participation is free.
Each year’s participants develop a three- to five-minute short film focusing on women’s empowerment and STEAM during the eight-week program under the guidance of experienced film professionals. The finished films will premiere during ACS’ annual Filmland festival.
“These girls learned all the different roles; a coed crew might have made that more difficult, with boys gravitating towards jobs like grip – maintaining and making rigs for camera support – and girls gravitating towards hair and makeup artist or producing jobs.”, said Tucker, a 1996 graduate of Central High, in a story about Film Lab that appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2019. “I try to encourage girls to consider all options in a non-gender situation.”
Of the 100 top-grossing films of 2018, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, 4 percent were directed by women, 3 percent had female cinematographers, and 15 percent were written by women.
“There’s a tremendous shortage of educated women in the industry,” says Tucker. “A lot of people are looking to Hollywood to lead in this progressive, diverse way, but it’s so behind the times.”
Arkansas has developed a talent pool for film and television, Tucker says, and these girls are now up for grabs. “There is a thriving film community here. It’s part of our mission to give new filmmakers a place and a voice. That’s why the girls’ shorts are screened at Filmland so they can be seen in the same room with other Arkansas filmmakers. It all starts with that.”
Applications for the 2023 Lab will be open shortly. To learn more, visit arkansascinemasociety.org/educational/filmmaking-lab-for-teen-girls.
Karen Martin is the editor-in-chief of Perspective.