Pauline Kael

Pauline Kael (June 19, 1919 – September 3, 2001) was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. Earlier in her career, her work appeared in City Lights, McCall’s and The New Republic.

Kael was known for her “witty, biting, highly opinionated, and sharply focused” reviews, her opinions often contrary to those of her contemporaries. She is often regarded as the most influential American film critic of her day.

She left a lasting impression on many major critics, including Armond White, whose reviews are similarly non-conformist, and Roger Ebert, who has said that Kael “had a more positive influence on the climate for film in America than any other single person over the last three decades.” Owen Gleiberman said she “was more than a great critic. She re-invented the form, and pioneered an entire aesthetic of writing. She was like the Elvis or the Beatles of film criticism.”

Kael was born on a chicken farm in Petaluma, California, to Isaac Paul Kael and Judith Friedman Kael, Jewish immigrants from Poland. Her parents lost their farm when Kael was eight, and the family moved to San Francisco, California. She matriculated at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1936; she studied philosophy, literature, and the arts but dropped out in 1940 before completing her degree. Nevertheless, Kael intended to go on to law school but fell in with a group of artists and moved to New York City with the poet Robert Horan.

Three years later, Kael returned to San Francisco and “led a bohemian life,” marrying and divorcing three times, writing plays, and working in experimental film. In 1948, Kael and filmmaker James Broughton had a daughter, Gina, whom Kael would raise alone. Gina had a serious illness through much of her childhood; and, to support Gina and herself, Kael worked a series of such menial jobs as cook and seamstress, along with stints as an advertising copywriter. In 1953, the editor of City Lights magazine overheard Kael arguing about films in a coffeeshop with a friend and asked her to review Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight. Kael memorably dubbed the film “slimelight” and began publishing film criticism regularly in magazines.

Even these early reviews were notable for their informality and lack of pretension; Kael later explained, “I worked to loosen my style—to get away from the term-paper pomposity that we learn at college. I wanted the sentences to breathe, to have the sound of a human voice.” Kael disparaged the supposed critic’s ideal of objectivity, referring to it as “saphead objectivity,” and incorporated aspects of autobiography into her criticism. In a review of Vittorio De Sica’s 1946 neorealist Shoeshine (Sciuscià) that has been ranked among her most memorable, Kael described seeing the film

“after one of those terrible lovers’ quarrels that leave one in a state of incomprehensible despair. I came out of the theater, tears streaming, and overheard the petulant voice of a college girl complaining to her boyfriend, ‘Well I don’t see what was so special about that movie.’ I walked up the street, crying blindly, no longer certain whether my tears were for the tragedy on the screen, the hopelessness I felt for myself, or the alienation I felt from those who could not experience the radiance of Shoeshine. For if people cannot feel Shoeshine, what can they feel?… Later I learned that the man with whom I had quarreled had gone the same night and had also emerged in tears. Yet our tears for each other, and for Shoeshine did not bring us together. Life, as Shoeshine demonstrates, is too complex for facile endings.”

Kael broadcast many of her early reviews on the alternative public radio station KPFA, in Berkeley, and gained further local-celebrity status as Berkeley Cinema Guild manager from 1955 to 1960. As manager of a two-screen theater, Kael programmed the films that were shown “unapologetically repeat[ing] her favorites until they also became audience favorites.” She also wrote “pungent” capsule reviews of the films, which her patrons began collecting

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Women account for less than 5 percent of producers and engineers — but maybe not for long

This story has been edited from its published form in order to clarify that Trina Shoemaker is the first, but not only, woman to win a Grammy for engineering.

Women are as visible as ever in music — between them, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga have sold over 22 million records since 2008. But look closer at the credits on those albums, and women’s names are few and far between. What about producing and engineering? Who’s guiding the sound and leading the recording process, and doing the work in the studio that takes the sound waves, electrical impulses and digitized bits of sonic information and shapes them into the music we hear? Those roles are almost all filled by men. Beyoncé was a producer on I Am … Sasha Fierce, but she is a rare specimen. By most estimates, women represent less than 5 percent of producers and engineers industry-wide.

“I think that’s generous,” says Terri Winston, founder and executive director of Women’s Audio Mission, a nonprofit program in San Francisco dedicated to training women and girls in audio production. “To be honest, I think it’s a lot less than that.” And historically this has been the case. Jessica Hopper, music adviser to public radio’s This American Life (and Scene contributor), says she wanted to dedicate some space to female producers in her book The Girls’ Guide to Rocking. But beyond a few names — Genya Ravan, who produced Dead Boys’ Young, Loud and Snotty; Susan Rogers, who engineered Purple Rain; and the British electronics pioneer Delia Derbyshire — she found that women amount to little more than a footnote.

“I wound up cutting that [out of] the book,” Hopper says, “because there are so, so few.”

So why the imbalance? There’s certainly sexism, but that alone doesn’t seem to explain the incredibly skewed numbers. Talk to some of the women who have worked as producers and engineers around Nashville, and there is no shortage of theories. But one thing they all know is that they don’t know — they don’t know why, exactly, there are so few women producing and engineering.

Whatever the reasons are, they are numerous and complex. And there’s another thing they all agree on: Eventually things will change.

In addition to being a hit songwriter and performer, Gail Davies became the first female producer in country music, delivering a string of Top 10 hits in the ’70s and ’80s including “Someone Is Looking for Someone Like You,” “Blue Heartache” and “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me).” But when she moved to Nashville in 1976, she wasn’t exactly given a ticker-tape parade.

“People didn’t want to work for a woman,” she says. And by “people” she means “men.” Powerful men.

“A lot of good old boys balked, and they blackballed me,” she says. “I had to go to Muscle Shoals to record my first actual production.” As the legendary bass player Leland Sklar told her, “When you arrived in Nashville, women were still barefoot, pregnant and in the vocal booth.” To this day, it is orders of magnitude more likely that a woman will be singing in a recording session than producing it.

If Davies — who more than proved her abilities to the Music Row suits with those Muscle Shoals recordings — pried the studio door open for women, the Nashville establishment was already busy changing the locks, or at least positioning a doorman outside. “I came in right after Gail,” recalls Wendy Waldman, a veteran producer now living in Los Angeles. “I know she had a tough time.” Waldman says people would often try to dissuade her by saying, “We had a woman. We had Gail.” The unwritten industry quota had been filled — or perhaps exceeded — and any woman wanting to produce records was viewed as a female interloper first, and a record producer second, if at all.

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But those were the ’70s, a different world in many ways. When Davies got a divorce in 1973, she couldn’t get a phone line installed in her house without her ex-husband’s signature. So in the 30-plus years since Davies and Waldman first started cueing tape here, surely the culture of the music industry has progressed, too, right?

Maybe — but maybe not much. After all, men do occupy 95 percent of the production jobs.

Jonell Polansky worked on one of the first 24-bit digital recording sessions in the world at Ocean Way studio on Music Row. But when she came to Nashville looking for work as a producer in 1994, with a degree in electrical engineering and years of Bay Area recording experience in her pocket, she heard an updated version of a familiar story: You’re a woman, and we already had one of those.

“People told me, ‘There was a girl here trying to do that,’ ” Polansky says. “I never sensed anyone discouraging me, but they brought [Waldman] up, and said, ‘Yeah, we really thought she was going to do it.’ ” Never mind that Waldman had done it — producing for every major label in Nashville, including albums by Suzy Bogguss, Forrester Sisters and New Grass Revival, and winning awards in the process. Polansky was basically viewed as new skin for the old ceremony.

“Things haven’t changed that much,” Waldman offers, while also professing a love of Nashville and an itch to produce here again soon. “There’s a handful of women working. Those numbers are way too low. … I have women come to me and say, ‘You’re a pioneer.’ Well, are you producing? Then I’m not a pioneer. I’m a token.”

KK Profitt, owner and chief engineer at JamSync, a small studio on Music Row, shares Waldman’s view that the pace of change has been glacial. And for her, the cause couldn’t be clearer.

“The reason women aren’t more prominent in Nashville is because the men don’t want them to be,” she says flatly. “And the women haven’t had enough moxie — balls — to stand up to them and tell them to take a flying leap.”

Profitt says that when she moved back to Nashville from Boston, “I saw quite quickly that men are the football players and women are the cheerleaders.” And there’s a price to be paid for not shaking your pom-pons with a smile. At a meeting of the Audio Engineering Society, Profitt says she listened to a presentation by a man she describes as a “very prominent engineer,” discussing how to turn over your session tracks to another engineer or producer.

“I said there should really be a mandate to translate to the newest format every few years,” Profitt recalls — a valid point, considering how fast recording and computer technology are advancing, and the risk that valuable recordings could be lost or inaccessible if they’re trapped in obsolete media. Naturally he considered the point, correct? Not exactly.

“He told me to shut up,” Profitt says.

Profitt says she stopped going to meetings, and finds sexism rampant in the industry. “I call it the invisible burka,” she says. “As long as you can be insulted to your face — and nobody thinks anything of it — in large groups of male engineers, you’re not going anywhere.”

Being shouted down and disrespected in a professional society meeting is one thing. An unpleasant encounter here and there does not a vast sexist conspiracy make. But the scarcity of women producers and engineers raises the question: Is there systematic bias? And as a result, at the more pragmatic level of earning a paycheck, do women get passed over just because of their gender?

Again, there’s no clear answer, but the anecdotal evidence suggests bias is a factor. After all, women still make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to U.S. Census figures.

“I was producing hit records when Tony Brown was still playing piano for the Oak Ridge Boys, you know?” Davies says. “And James Stroud had a little tiny publishing company … and he’d be giving me songs [he wanted me to cut]. I watched both of them just go right past me and become heads of major record labels, while I was still being treated by Jimmy Bowen at Capitol like an intern — after I’d already produced 18 hit records.”

It’s not clear — and Davies certainly wouldn’t say it’s clear — that men doing similar or even lesser work were promoted over her simply because they were men and she was not. Profitt is more blunt. “Why aren’t there more women producers? It’s because of the mindset,” she says. “If you have the mindset that somebody will never be that, you’re not going to consider them for a gig — if their only function is to be a comfort lady [laughs].”

Any woman working as a producer or engineer will tell you it’s a hard field for anyone, male or female. And in such a fiercely competitive profession — with all the intangibles of taste, talent and star power in the mix — it can be exceedingly difficult to isolate when gender bias is really to blame. Still, if the established powers are men, and those men don’t consider women to be their peers, not much is going to change their minds.

Trina Shoemaker, who is the first woman to win a Grammy for engineering — for Sheryl Crow’s The Globe Sessions — says she just doesn’t have time to wonder whether or why some of her male counterparts have done better than she has financially.

“You know, I didn’t make a million dollars in this business,” she says. “I worked on records that made a million dollars, and some people would say, ‘There it is right there — why didn’t you make a million dollars, too?’ And I’d say, ‘I don’t know — just didn’t.’ “

She’s quick to point out, though, that plenty of her male counterparts would be glad to make the living she does producing and recording music. In her formative years, she admits, it was tough, but she used the novelty of her gender to her advantage when she could, and let the rest roll off her back.

“I guess there was tons of sexism, but … I was like, ‘Eh, that’s nice you wanted to grab my ass, and you just did grab my ass, but once you leave, I’m puttin’ up the two-track tape, and I’m going to dump Rolling Stones songs to it, and I’m going to edit them. … I’m going to teach myself to edit tonight, after you grabbed my ass. I don’t care — you’re stupid and ugly and fat. Too bad for you.”

If she really has been passed over for work because of her gender, Shoemaker says, “Maybe it is true, but if I’m going to look at it that way, I’m going to be bitter, and quit. And I’m not going to do that. So I just choose to believe that’s not what’s happening, for me, and just [be] fiercely proud that I am one of the women who stepped into something when there were no women that I knew doing it.”

But when you’re a female producer, doing it — even doing it well — can have a way of getting overlooked. Quoting Davidson Nichol and Margaret Croke in The United Nations and Decision-making: The Role of Women (1978), Davies says, “When any scheme succeeds, people tend to look around for a man to congratulate.” And the recording studio has certainly been no exception. Perhaps it’s because women’s careers in music so often have been controlled from offstage by male Svengali figures, or more generally because it was hardwired into our culture for centuries that women were unable — or at least unlikely — to lead. Regardless, for women producers it’s sometimes hard enough just getting people to acknowledge their work as their own.

For a time, Davies employed Denny Purcell, a mastering engineer, as her production assistant — to “make phone calls and run errands and stuff,” she says. And yet, as Davies recalls, “People were offering him cash under the table, publishers were offering him new television sets to get their songs on my albums.” As a result, Purcell had to constantly deflect praise back toward his boss, where it belonged. “He was supposedly the man behind the curtain, you know? Finally, Denny told them one day, ‘Look, you guys … if I could produce albums as well as Gail does, I would stop being a mastering engineer and I would become a producer.’ “

Lari White, who co-produced Toby Keith’s White Trash With Money, among many other albums, recalls when she had just finished producing her own R&B record, Green Eyed Soul. It was her first completely solo production — from top to bottom, from choosing songs to hiring players and overseeing recording sessions. She and her husband, Chuck Cannon, also a songwriter and musician, brought it to “a friend who’s a very successful producer,” not to pitch or promote it, but just to let him hear.

“As soon as he finished listening to it,” she says, “he turned to my husband and said, ‘Yeah, man, that sounds great!’ ” White laughs when she recounts the story, but she also acknowledges, “That kind of stuff can kind of wear on you after a while. I totally get the desire to get … angry [laughs], but it’s pointless.”

Even when people know a woman has produced a recording, they’re not always ready to believe it. “I produced some fantastic demos on an artist for Warner Bros.,” Waldman remembers. “I mean, killer demos. And I knew it. I was on my game with this stuff.” Even so, she didn’t get the job, and soon moved on to the next project.

“Fast forward a couple years later,” she says. “A dear friend, a very confident producer, said, ‘I heard some amazing sides.’ And I said, ‘I did those sides.’ And he said, ‘No way. You couldn’t have done it.’ ” So Waldman recounted some very specific details of the recordings, which only someone who had worked on the project could have known. “His mouth dropped,” she says with a laugh. “He apologized. He [thought] I couldn’t have done it because I’m a chick.”

Even so, Waldman doesn’t think it was conscious. “I wasn’t angry,” she says. “He didn’t hear himself say [I] couldn’t be that good because [I’m] a woman.”

Not getting proper credit or recognition for top-notch productions carries a sting, but sometimes women find it challenging enough just getting properly recognized as a working audio professional at all — and being treated like one.

Profitt tells the story of a live sound gig where she was hired as a guest engineer. Her job was to reset the mixing board after each act, and get it ready for the next. When the band had finished their set, she says, “I went to reset the board, and this guy came over to me and smacked my hand and said, ‘Don’t touch the board! Don’t touch the board!’ I said, ‘I’m a guest engineer.’ ‘Oh,’ he said. Didn’t even apologize.”

Sometimes, it’s not a physical slap that stings — it’s being invisible. Heather Sturm works as an instructor at the Art Institute of Tennessee, Nashville. She says that when working at a studio, she’ll often greet a musician arriving for a session, and offer to help load in equipment.

“And he’ll say, ‘That’s very nice of you,’ ” Sturm says. ” ‘Usually the secretary doesn’t help with that.’ “

The way Polansky frames her experiences will sound familiar to many women who’ve chosen to pursue careers in fields traditionally dominated by men. “People say all the time, ‘Well, do you feel like you have to do better because you’re a woman?’ ” she says. “I have to say, ‘Heck, yeah.’ “

As Lari White puts it, “If who you are and what you are is a point or subject of someone’s prejudice, you have no option but to function in that context. You’re dealing with it, no matter what.” And often that means facing expectations based in nothing but gender myth. “You walk into that room,” Waldman says, “and they’re waiting for you to throw a fit, or cry, or not know what you’re doing.”

So even when they have serious studio chops, women can still find themselves having to overcome the perception that maybe they’re just winging it. For instance, Davies recalls working on a session with the bass player Willy Weeks where the drummer fell ill, and she had to bring in a new drummer at the last minute. It didn’t go well, and afterward she apologized to Weeks: “I said, ‘Sorry about the drummer. I realize it was a little stiff.’ He said, ‘You could tell? You could feel that?’ I said, ‘Of course I could.’ And he goes, ‘Dog, woman! You really know what you’re doing!’ “

Lady Gaga performing LoveGame at Nashville, Un...

Lady Gaga performing LoveGame at Nashville, United States in the Monster Ball tour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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And more than anything — more than how a song should feel, more than how the chorus needs to pop, more than how the bass line should lock in with the drums — that sense of competence can be the most difficult thing to get across. “I think the hardest part of what I do is creating the perception that I can really do the job,” Polansky says. “I think that it’s just so unlikely, that in the back of people’s minds, it’s like, ‘Wow, I hope she can really do this.’ And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I think it’s just a reality.”

But it definitely can be a bad thing.

“Nothing kills musicality quicker than feeling like nobody’s at the helm,” White says. With so much talent assembled in one place — not to mention the money involved, in the case of major-label work — everyone has to know that someone’s got the wheel. And everyone’s heard the jokes about women drivers.

For some men, having a woman at the helm is basically the same as having no one at the helm. But even if others aren’t purposely or overtly prejudiced — and Polansky, for one, is quick to say she’s never felt consciously discriminated against — women can end up internalizing the sense that they’re always up against men’s perceptions of them.

“It’s very hard not to create your own filters in your own head of, ‘I have something to overcome, I have to prove myself twice as much, I have to be twice as good,’ ” White says. “It’s a bit of a tricky psychological tightrope for a woman, with all of our historical baggage, just to find a way to be in charge completely, and without any doubt that at the end of the day the buck stops right here — without … well, just in the right way. In the way that’s honest for you as a woman and as a musician, and all those other things that figure into it.”

Or maybe it’s just that women feel like they’re walking that tightrope, but men don’t. After giving a speech at Berklee College of Music, she asked how many of the women in the audience wanted to be producers or engineers, and a lot of hands went up. “Now I’m going to tell you a secret, y’all,” she told them. “All these boys sitting around you, they don’t know any more than you do. They just fake it better.”

The factor that comes up most often when discussing gender disparities in traditionally male fields, especially anything technical, is socialization. From a young age, girls are taught to defer, to be mild — to be Sasha Nice, not Sasha Fierce.

“I will concede, it’s not the way women are raised,” Waldman says. “We’re raised to be attractive, we’re raised to be sexy, we’re raised to be accommodating. But we’re not raised to know our shit and stand by it.”

The weight of all the “historical baggage” White refers to can start pressing down on girls before they know it. “From the very beginning, you’ve got this setup that little girls’ mommies and daddies are going to rescue them, and little boys have to find inner strength,” Davies says, referring to a study that found parents were more likely to interpret infant boys’ cries as anger and infant girls’ cries as fear. And as girls grow up, they’re faced with a world that often expects different things of them than of boys.

“In modern tales as in ancient legends, man is the privileged hero,” Simone de Beauvoir writes in The Second Sex. It’s true in the mythology of music production as well: Phil Spector, George Martin, Jerry Wexler, Brian Wilson, Clive Davis — all the names that loom large are men’s names. Getting past that sense of inferiority, or otherness — that one is an object to be sized up and broken down, rather than someone who’s going to crank the volume and kick ass — can be immensely challenging.

As the Scene‘s Tracy Moore wrote about the young subjects of the rock-camp documentary Girls Rock!, “Anyone who’s spent five minutes on earth will … find it heartbreaking to watch them struggle to unpack already deeply entrenched body image issues at the tender age of 9 — all just to pick up a guitar.” And if simply picking up an instrument to play can be daunting, it’s like fantasy baseball compared to heading up a production involving professional musicians, working with powerful executives and hunkering down in a room filled with all manner of knobs, faders, patch bays, vacuum tubes, meters, cables, and computer screens with multicolored representations of waveforms scrolling across them. The control room of a recording studio would intimidate most people, especially if they’ve been taught to curtsy and smile, and let the boys do the dirty work.

So when girls who’ve been raised to be polite and demure become women, they can have trouble asserting themselves. Davies says, “A lot of women get in the studio and they’re like, ‘Oh, is that OK? Is that all right? Well, what do you think?’ It’s a constant deference. And you can’t defer. You have to know what the hell you’re doing. And you have to instill faith.”

The first rule of doing anything — especially something as demanding as engineering or producing records — is believing you can. As Waldman says, “Our moms and dads didn’t raise us to be in that kind of aggressive world — to lead; to say, ‘I feel in my gut this is the way it should sound. We need to bump the tempo up.’ “

“I think it does come down to difference in socialization between men and women,” Polansky says. “Women don’t frequently get a chance to be exposed to the same things men are.” And they are often discouraged from pursuing technical fields when they do encounter them. But that’s not to say the rules can’t be broken, or rewritten, or that women should ever view themselves simply as victims of an all-powerful patriarchal system.

“I think it’s women’s fault, too,” Profitt says. “You can blame socialization to a certain point, but my mother and father would not allow me to have an electric guitar. Now I have 17 of them. You can break the mold.”

Underlying any kind of gender bias is a belief that women and men are somehow fundamentally different — not just our genitalia, but the very essence of who we are. And in ways that affect our relative competence at tasks that don’t otherwise have anything to do with our gender, like engineering and producing records. Even if we accept this fraught premise, it still doesn’t add up to a world where men are necessarily better equipped to be producers and engineers.

“I think people have realized there are times when you just want female energy,” Polansky says, “which is very different than masculine energy.” But never mind something as hard to define as energy — research conducted at Indiana University showed that women use both hemispheres of their brain when listening, and men only one. Moreover, “women can hear higher [frequencies] longer than men,” Profitt says, “and my feeling is that’s evolutionarily adaptive.” A woman who could hear her child’s cries better, from farther away, increased the chances of her child’s — and thus her genes’ — survival. Because higher frequencies are more easily absorbed by materials, a greater sensitivity to those frequencies would help in detecting sound through a thick forest. Fast-forward a couple hundred thousand years, and that’s someone who can hear that the crash cymbal is sonically out of phase with the hi-hat, or that the violin is just a little flat coming out of the chorus.

The irony is, however, that the demands of motherhood and engineering are extremely hard to juggle. The hours are long. An engineer can expect to work 12-15 hours a day — and longer than that as an assistant. There are no weekends. “So if you did decide to have a baby in your 20s or 30s when you’re honing your field,” Shoemaker says, “you’re out.”

For many women, that crossroads is a decisive one. “Women do drop out of the industry more often than men,” Winston says. Shoemaker waited until she was 39 to have her first and only child, and says that even though she was fortunate to have her career in place, she still had to sacrifice.

“I had to turn down work,” she says. “I can’t go to California. … I can’t haul my toddler off for two months to live in a hotel. And I wanted to be with him.”

Davies was also an established talent when she gave birth (to Chris Scruggs, now an established talent of his own). “When my son was born, I sort of stepped back,” she says. “He was my priority, and I felt that was an obligation that superseded everything else.” Some women grind it out in the studio’s relentless cycle and find success, only to regret missing out on the chance to be mothers.

“You can ask Susan Rogers, and you can ask Leslie Ann Jones, who don’t have children,” Shoemaker says. “And I’ve heard them say, ‘Gee, I wish I had a child.’ ” But women who’ve made it into this rarefied circle know better than to ask for any special dispensation. Nor would they want any.

“Men and women are different. I want them to be different,” Shoemaker says. “I don’t want to be a man.” Being respected like a man, though — and paid like a man — are just fine.

“Numerous engineers I’ve worked with, that have been men, have almost always said, ‘The best assistant engineers I’ve ever had are girls,’ Sturm says. “So most of the feedback I’ve gotten, working with mostly men, is that they’ve enjoyed working with women the most.” Polansky agrees: “A lot of times you hear, ‘I really like working with women because they’re nicer, and they’re more compassionate.’ I hear that a lot. Especially from the musicians: ‘Women are just so much nicer. I might make a mistake, and I’m not going to get yelled at.’ “

But working under the premise that there are real differences between men and women can be a double-edged sword — or more accurately, a double standard. Davies tells the story of a friend who was in the studio with her husband while he was producing.

“He had this big temper tantrum, [this] freaked-out fit,” she says. “He’s somebody who’s really loved and admired in this town. Everybody stepped back and went, ‘Oh, genius at work.’ And afterward, on the ride home, she said, ‘If I had done that, they would say I was the biggest bitch.’ “

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine musicians or engineers tolerating the kinds of punitive browbeating, hot-headedness or weapons-brandishing that have gone hand-in-hand with making legends out of some male producers. In other words: Women producers are fine and good, as long as they’re ladylike. Turbulent, irrational men are forceful geniuses; women acting the same way are crazy cat ladies or pushy broads.

White points out that, again, it’s hard to isolate gender bias when you’re describing outbursts in the studio or a drill sergeant-like approach to musicians. “Now you’re getting down to style,” she says, and not every style works for every producer. But she also admits, “There’s this kind of underlying bottom line that a woman really has to be pleasant to be around, or … it just ain’t gonna fly [laughs].”

On the B-side, so to speak, White also has a practical business reason why it might be a good idea to have more diversity among producers: all the money that’s currently spent on artists who never pan out.

“There’s a pile — I mean, a pile — of music recorded by major labels every day that never sees the light of day,” she says. The label has spent a couple hundred thousand dollars because they know there’s talent there, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t click. “Well, maybe — just sayin’ — maybe one of the reasons that happens too often is that our numbers are so skewed,” she says. “There’s not a broader spectrum of skills.”

If women really do bring a discernably different style (or set of styles) to the table, and less than 5 percent of the producers at the table are women, then labels are hurting their chances of matching artists with a producer who really gets it, and can really let an artist shine. And, of course, sell records — because nothing levels the playing field quite like dollar signs.

“When I bring ‘em the next Taylor Swift or … Brad Paisley,” Polansky says, “when I can bring an act like that to a label, and they can sign ‘em and they become a multimillion-dollar corporation, then women will be OK as producers.” And if men get more chances to produce the next big thing, it’s not necessarily because no one thinks a woman can do it — it’s just as likely because, as White puts it, “One of the few ways you have of [minimizing risk] in the music business is to go with someone that has already produced a hit record.” And in most cases, that’s a man. Of course, that’s changing. “I produced a platinum record,” she says, “so now I’ve got a little bit of traction.”

 

Something else that’s gaining traction is the idea of gender equality in the somewhat obscure world of engineering and producing music.

“I’ve seen changes just in seven years,” Winston says, describing the span of time since she founded Women’s Audio Mission. “We had trouble getting into [the Audio Engineering Society conference] the first year, but that said, they’ve been fabulous to us since.” And across the industry, she says, sure, there is sexism; there are bad apples. But “some people want to say, ‘It’s a man’s world,’ but I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think that’s helpful. … Most of the time, it’s been great. They’re not unhappy to have more women.”

She adds that in online audio forums, when “someone will post some crazy thing,” saying women are too stupid to be engineers, or should just get pregnant and shut up, Winston says, “I never have to get on there. The guys will get on and say, ‘Don’t be like that.’ It’s kind of self-policing.”

“I just want to work with the people who aren’t sexist,” Winston says, “and there seems to be plenty of them.”

Going further back, we wouldn’t have some of the female producers we have today if it weren’t for the opportunities given to them by men who were in a position to teach and guide them.

Henry Lewy, the legendary producer whose discography includes Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young among countless others, was head engineer at A&M when he met Gail Davies, and didn’t owe her, or womankind, a thing. But as Davies remembers, “He said, ‘Have you ever thought about being a producer?’ And I said, ‘No, what does that entail? And he said, ‘I will show you.’ “

Engineer Doug Hopping could have easily ignored Jonell Polansky, since the men in the recording class he was teaching were already way ahead of her. But he didn’t. When Trina Shoemaker knocked on the door of Hugh Harris’ home studio, tucked away in a pot smoke-filled basement flat in London, and said, “I’d like to learn how to record,” he could have said no. But he didn’t. And Rodney Crowell was under no obligation to show Lari White the ropes. “He handed … Albert Lee, and John Leventhal, and Tim Horn and, I mean — the best musicians in the world — he handed the whole band over to me,” she says. “He recognized something. He said, ‘You know how to talk to these guys; you know what you want.’ “

And just as the first female pioneers needed men in positions above them to help them up, they also needed the support of the players who would work under them. “The musicians will give you more of a fair shake as a woman versus a man than any other group — and that’s to remember,” Davies says. ”The only people that stuck up for me [in the beginning] were Lloyd Green and Buddy Spicher and Reggie Young, so I used them on all my albums.”

“Yeah, people talk, and people talked, but the fact of the matter was I was supported by a tremendous group of studio musicians,” Waldman says. “I was ultimately judged on the quality of my work, and that’s what I wanted.”

“All the musicians I work with, those guys love working with a woman,” Polansky says. “I have the greatest relationship with Nashville session players.” Of course, there’s also the occasional stupefied silence when a group of men open the studio door and see — shock! awkwardness! — a woman sitting behind the console. Polansky recalls one session in particular: “These guys walked in like, ‘Man, this is weird.’ … It’s like getting on a plane and seeing someone in a miniskirt. … At the beginning of the session, it’s just … they’re stunned. And I thought, I’d be stunned, too.”

But Polansky was able to reassure everyone involved just by doing the work — and she knew as soon as the cussing and off-color jokes began that she had won the trust of her charges. (Session work is still almost completely dominated by men, too — perhaps a discussion for another day.)

And now that the first group of women has blazed the trail, White says it’s going to take “women taking an active role in creating opportunities, like Rodney did for me, for younger women — in a very active way.” Like Davies did, when she brought a young engineer to breakfast at her boss’s house and suggested he hire her.

Maybe then stories like this one won’t be so rare: “I did a session where I was the assistant, Trina [Shoemaker] was the engineer, the artist was a female, and the producer was another female,” Sturm says. “And so we all looked at each other like, ‘Holy crap, the only people working on this are women. This is amazing. This should be documented, because this will never happen again.’ “

Socialization may be a shoddy excuse for the lack of women in audio production, but it’s also likely to be a catalyst for a new mindset. As Proffit says, “You’re seeing a lot of girls from mothers like me, who said, ‘Go out there and fight, honey.’ ” And it’s not just mothers who will shape the next generation. Winston says she’s seeing more and more dads bringing their daughters to the Audio Engineering Society conferences — and to the Women’s Audio Mission booth — seeing a possible career path for their girls that they might not have considered open, or appropriate, years ago.

A new generation of girls is growing up with more female role models, from Beyoncé to Kathryn Bigelow, and cultural attitudes are shifting — if slowly. The demographics of education are changing too. “Women are now getting 60 percent of the college degrees,” Profitt says. Many of those degrees include direct training in studio techniques.

Then there are the mutating cells of music production itself. As White sees it, “The music industry, as a whole, is in this very painful, cathartic moment of transformation. It is becoming something else. … Hell, let’s make something happen, because what’s been happening — you know, your high-dollar boys’ club, ain’t saving your butt right now. … I am just into the possibilities, and what I see is you and I are having a conversation about female producers because — why? Because hey, there’s been a little bit of recent activity on the female producers side for the first time in a very long time, and in a healthier way, I think, than maybe ever before. And this is good.”

Moreover, the distribution model is changing. The gatekeepers are finding the walls around their gates have crumbled.

“We now have the Internet, which puts the artist and producer directly in touch with the consumer,” Davies says, and that “is gonna make it a lot easier for a lot of women who in the past would have to go through a record label executive to get something done and now they don’t. … I hope that’s going to make the future better.”

Shoemaker believes we’re about to see the first significant influx of women into professional audio engineering and production, as part of a cycle she sees on the verge of completing its first full turn. She says that when she started out in the ’80s, “Women in technology did not really exist, for the most part,” and that “if the ’80s were the awakening, then the ’90s were the beginning of women kind of jumping into this.”

So why haven’t we seen more women already?

“If you figure any career that is a technology-based career, you’re looking at 10-12 years of hard work,” she says, “starting as a second, making your way to an independent engineer, then getting a name for yourself where you’re someone people hire independently to record or produce music. That’s a 10-15 year commitment, just to get that far.”

So with the first real wave of female engineers paying their dues and putting in the necessary time to develop their craft, we should see more women’s names filling up album credits (and Grammy nominations for engineering) — eventually.

“Furthermore, production is a whole other tier,” Shoemaker says. “I mean, I started as a tracking engineer, and that took me — I’ve been doing this 24 years — that took me 12 years just to get any chops as a tracking engineer, let alone to say, ‘And I’ll be producing your next record.’ I mean, producing is a trade that you learn over decades.”

There’s also another entry point for women: as artists. Davies and White have worked extensively on both sides of the microphone. And as women — Missy Elliot, Beyoncé and Alison Krauss being prominent recent examples — have begun to produce and co-produce more of their own original material over the past two decades, they’ve picked up skills and helped lead the way.

“The numbers are still small, but it’s just part of the progression of women — from Taylor Swift on down — really taking the reins of their careers and musical expression,” Jessica Hopper says. “We tend to forget what a new development that is — within rock, pop, R&B and country — relative to their recorded histories.”

And as the DIY ethos becomes more and more of a necessity in a contracting music industry, there will be more chances for women to prove themselves without waiting around for a man to hand them the keys. In the meantime, there’s a new crop of women who followed Shoemaker’s path — the path blazed by women like Gail Davies and Wendy Waldman in Nashville and, elsewhere, by women like Susan Rogers and Sylvia Massy.

“There’s a 30-year turnaround [from] the entrance into the field to the commandeering of that field,” Shoemaker says, “and I think that we’re like three-quarters of the way through that. … There’s going to be a lot of women working, hired as professional engineers — because they’re doing their time now, and I know a lot of them.”

Email editor@nashvillescene.com.

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Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow is getting ready to start shooting her next indie flick now that she has secured financing from Annapurna Pictures which is run by Megan Ellison.

The pic written by Mark Boal will shoot in the summer and is still being written.  Here’s a description from Variety:

Project is based on the true story of a U.S. military black ops mission, the ramifications of which are still being felt around the world.

 

Rumors are that it is about the mission to capture Osama Bin Laden.

Glad she is getting back behind the camera. Bigelow and Boal are turning into quite an interesting team.

Biography A very talented painter, Kathryn spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute. At 20, she won a scholarship to the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program. She was given a studio in a former Offtrack Betting building, literally in a vault, where she made art and waited to be criticized by people like Richard Serra, Robert Rauschenberg and Susan Sontag. She later graduated from Ivy League’s Columbia University School of Arts in 1979. She was also a member of the British avant-garde cultural group, Art and Language. Kathryn is the only child of the manager of a paint factory and a librarian.

Written by: Home Skully

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Producer Watch: Nina Jacobson at the Premiere of The Hunger Games

Nina Jacobson has been around Hollywood for a while.  She’s one of a handful of women to run a studio having run Buena Vista Studios at Disney until 2006. She’s about to come on everyone’s radar screening in a big way as the lead producer of The Hunger Games.  She also recently produced One Day directed by Lone Scherfig. Here she talks to the LA Times at the premiere

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Interview with Indie Producer Nikki Wall

This interview is part of Fatally-Yours’ Women in Horror interview series. We’ll be featuring interviews with women in the horror industry the whole month of February! Read more about Women in Horror Month here!

Nikki Wall is an indie producer who has worked, so far, solely with her husband, Creep Creepersin. The two met at the age of 13 and became teenage sweethearts. Now married with two kids of their own, the filmmaker duo has completed several titles including Orgy of Blood, O.C. Babes and the Slasher of Zombietown, Vaginal Holocaust and Caged Lesbos A-Go-Go. Nikki also played keyboards and performed backup vocals in their horror rock band, Creepersin. She has begun writing and hopes to direct her own film by the end of 2010. Nikki is also currently a subject of the upcoming documentary entitled Brides of Horror by fellow female filmmaker, Heidi Martinuzzi, and is in the process of being filmed with her family for the first season of their own reality series expected to air in the fall of 2010.

Fatally Yours: How and when did you fall in love with horror?

Nikki Wall: I remember seeing my first “scary movie” when I was 12. It might seem funny but it was Lost Boys. Haha! I had a very sheltered childhood because I was raised Jehovah’s Witness. I had gone to a sleepover with some other girls from church and when we went to go rent our movies, we all paid with our own money to get that movie because we had to sneak it. We had to show her mom at least one movie we had rented with her money that was an approved movie. I don’t even remember what the other one was, but after that, we just wanted to keep watching more horror movies. When Bram Stoker’s Dracula came out, I believe I was about 14 or 15 and I ended up seeing that movie 17 times in the theater. I was so fascinated with it!

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Nikki Wall: Horror to me is just a genre of entertainment that I enjoy. It encompasses the more forbidden side of things. On a daily basis we don’t see giant monsters coming out of the ocean and destroying cities, or acid blooded aliens out in deep space or even masked killers going from house to house in a small town killing young girls. It just doesn’t work like that. It’s a fantasy genre. For me, I’ve always had an overactive imagination and a lot of fears and anxieties about what awaits me around the next corner. Watching horror, ironically enough, usually makes me feel prepared. That might sound strange, but I have learned a few things from all the flicks I’ve seen.

Fatally Yours: What are others’ reactions when you tell them you are involved in the horror genre?

Nikki Wall: Well most of my family hasn’t watched anything I’ve done. Even my in-laws are pretty conservative. I know most of my family would like me out of the genre.  When I tell other people what I do, they seem interested more in the fact that we make indie movies than seeming to care that they’re horror movies so I can’t say that I’ve had any negative reactions so far. There are a lot of my friends that just think it’s the coolest thing in the world. Overall, I guess I would say the reactions are mixed.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think the horror genre has primarily been a man’s domain?

Nikki Wall: I don’t know that I’d necessarily describe it as such. I can’t think of a single horror movie that doesn’t involve a lot of female influence. Men may have been the ones making up the crew for the films but I don’t think by any means the genre would have been successful at all without women’s role in it. Some of the classics were written or co-written by women even. Frankenstein, Halloween, all the Anne Rice vampire movies, and a lot of others were created first when a woman put her pen to a piece of paper and got it all out of her head.

Fatally Yours: As a woman, do you think you are viewed differently than your male counterparts in the horror genre? If so, how and why?

Nikki Wall: I wouldn’t say that I am any worse off than anyone else that’s at my level. I think actually I might get a little more respect than some of the male peers I have because people fear mistreating me, but it might also be just because I’m good at my job. What I hate more than anything, and I’ve noticed this a lot, is that the lower on the totem pole someone is in the entertainment industry, the more attitude they usually tend to have versus the bigger players. For instance, I had the privilege of speaking with Francis Ford Coppola at one point and he was just the sweetest guy in the world compared to some of the indie actors out there that act like real a-holes because they have a film out with some no name distributor. I treat everyone the way I want to be treated until they show me that they deserve to be treated otherwise and I think that’s why I get the respect that I get. If more people did that, the world would be a better place.

Fatally Yours: Even though women seem to be getting more and more involved behind the scenes in horror, why do you think there are less female horror directors, writers, producers, etc. in the genre than males?

Nikki Wall: This is probably going to piss off a lot of people when I say this, but if you know me, you know I just go with what’s in my heart and don’t sugar coat anything. The best way I can put this is that women need approval. Bottom line. We’re insecure creatures and if you’re young and beautiful and/or talented, you can get in front of the camera and at the end of the day, there’s less judgment placed on you that affects you as a person. Let’s say your performance was off, there’s a million excuses that could be used later that would point the finger back at a male director. You could say he didn’t know what he was doing or the conditions you were in sucked, etc. On the other hand, if you do well, women have that hope of someday becoming a big Hollywood star instead of ‘just an actress’. I can also say that I think it’s ludicrous. Women are more in touch with their emotions and willing to admit them, typically speaking. That being said, I think female writers tend to really pull people’s heart strings for better or for worse than a lot of male writers do.

Fatally Yours: What elements can female filmmakers/authors/journalists/etc. bring to the horror genre that are lacking in males’ perspectives?

Nikki Wall: I’ve noticed that in general, men and women tend to lack very good communication skills with each other, for many reasons and because of that I think the female perspective and therefore the female character, tend to be wrongly portrayed in story lines. That’s a woman’s fault just as much as it is a man’s however.  I think when women write scripts they do the same thing to men. It’s almost like we make these caricatures of each other if you can get what I’m saying. Certain aspects will either be exaggerated or will actually be under-accentuated for fear of offending others. Either way, it’s just an imbalance of all things in general.

Fatally Yours: Do you think it’s harder for women to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males?

Nikki Wall: Bottom line is that there will always be a war of the sexes no matter what you’re doing and you can either take that to heart and use that “I’ll show you” mentality to get where you want to get, or just ignore it and follow your heart. I’m a fan of people following their heart because at the end of the day, the nature of women might make it even more difficult to get to the top of a female dominated industry more so than a male industry anyway. You gotta just do what feels right for you, in or out of the film industry.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles in the industry?

Nikki Wall: The only thing I can say about that, since I haven’t been around long, is that women seem to just get it done. I hear a lot of talk and planning on men’s parts and when women want to do something, we just do it for the most part. That’s not always the case, but it seems to be the case MORE OFTEN with women than with men, obviously my crazy husband excluded. Haha!

Fatally Yours: Dario Argento once said, “I like women, especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man.” Alfred Hitchcock elaborated by saying, “I always believe in following the advice of the playwright Sardou. He said, ‘Torture the women!’ The trouble today is that we don’t torture enough.” What is your reaction when reading those quotes?

Nikki Wall: I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me for saying this, but it’s a movie, its not real life, get over it. It happens several times a day every day. It’s life. Women are the target of a lot of horrendous things, and so are men, so why are we sticking our heads in the sand? As far as attractive women go, yes, I would rather watch an attractive woman be the character in a story anyway, so if she’s the one that gets killed, so be it!

Fatally Yours: Do you ever get annoyed at how women in horror movies always end naked or with their clothes ripped off? Do monsters not like men’s abs?!

Nikki Wall: I really don’t and I think this is a common feminist question. First of all, in Cloverfield, the monster apparently really liked the fat camera guy so there’s that. But, outside of that funny thought that came to my mind, I think in general it is a fact of life.  Women get brutalized in real life every day. I think instead of it sexualizing and brutalizing women, it’s making monsters out of men and I think that’s unfair. Most men aren’t killers. Most men just seek the comfort of a woman and just need their approval, at least as far as my experience has been. At the end of the day, men still seem to hold the majority of the power, but it’s all fueled by their need for approval just like we need their approval and I will argue that to my grave. When you really think about it, it seems almost cookie cutter for every film to have the surviving woman and the villain dead … at least until the sequel. Either way, this doesn’t irritate me at all, it doesn’t annoy me at all and I really wish women would just ‘get over it’. If you’re going to say that art imitates life then at the end of the day, most of the time a ‘sick’ man has turned into what he is because of his female interaction in life. That’s just a psychological stat.  If you don’t like it, go yell at the psychologists of the world.

Fatally Yours: What horror movie would you say is equally fair in terms of men being objectified or at least, losing the same amount of clothes?

Nikki Wall: I don’t know if this is being completely missed in all of this, but there is an entire sub-genre of horror that revolves around gay men and every single one of those ends up the same way, but I don’t think, again, that this is a very fair question. I feel like its being implied that EVERY movie rips off a girls clothes and that’s just not the case. Most of the really popular films out there don’t involve that. I look at that as if there was an era of film and a very small portion now. I can’t say what took place within the industry to make that change happen but I think for the most part, the films that are using that now, are using it as a sales tool because the story just isn’t strong enough, unless it really is pivotal in the story. It’s like an easy special effect if that makes sense.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel you’ve become desensitized to stereotypical scenes in horror like the half-naked girl screaming and running for her life in slow motion? Or are these types of familiar horror tropes still effective and necessary?

Nikki Wall: It seems to me that a lot of the movies you’re referring to were limited to a very short time in horror history and also the small indie films that can’t afford to do more elaborate stories. I watch a minimum of 5 horror movies a week and frankly I’m not seeing as much of that as you seem to be seeing. Maybe for women in general, because I can’t include myself in this so I’m generalizing it, there is an irritation towards scenes like that, so they’re only noticing those scenes and that is unfair to the artists today who aren’t using those ploys. If anything I think they’re comical like the scene in the remake of My Bloody Valentine, where the chick runs out into the parking lot?  Yeah, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it but I think that is hysterical!

Fatally Yours: Do you feel that other people view women as being “soft” and not able to endure horror as well as men? How do you fight this stereotypical view?

Nikki Wall: You’re asking the wrong girl. I would prefer to be soft and have my man protect me than be a ‘bra burner’ who feels like they have to bar brawl with men to prove themselves. Men and women were given different gifts in life and my femininity is my gift among many other things. I don’t feel like I have to be as strong as a man, nor would I want to be. But again, I’d like to stress that the horror genre in general typically has a heroine at the end of the story, so stronger than them or not, maybe we’re more spry or have more control over our weapons but most movies don’t end up with the bad man conquering all the women.

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire and why?

Nikki Wall: My favorite actress in general, including the non-horror she’s done, is Naomi Watts. I love her versatility, the way she plays out her emotions in films, her beauty, it just seems like everything about her is perfect. I could easily be a lesbian for her Haha! She’s my girl crush. Other than her I love Sigourney Weaver but the Sigourney Weaver that was in the entire Alien series. Watching her character from beginning to end and the transformation it takes is fantastic! Throughout the series you see how she’s trying to protect something frailer than her and yet, to prove my point, she needed something stronger than her to protect her and yet there is so much love in her character. For her cat, her daughter, Newt, even the alien that was a part of her. Even when she’s getting all bad ass and buff, her maternal instincts are always there with her, first and foremost. I think it’s a beautifully written character in spite of all the chaos around her.  I just think it’s amazing.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give women who want to become involved in the horror genre?

Nikki Wall: Go for it! Be ready for the sacrifices though. It’s not easy these days. The indie scene isn’t what it used to be and the competition is becoming stiffer. Have a plan B, just in case. Also, do what feels right for you. Don’t let someone else tell you that doing something or not doing something will ruin your career or not because for each side of the argument there will be plenty of examples. It’s all about you at the end of the day.

Fatally Yours: What’s the last horror movie that made you think “this is some effed up shiznit!”?

Nikki Wall:  I guess the answer depends on what you’re referring to. But I would have to say on several levels that Evil Ever After made me say that for a lot of reasons and not all of them in a positive way.  I can see what the creator was trying to do, but it just didn’t work for me.  I’m not a fan of putting down anyone else’s film and I’m always going to give props to anyone who can get a movie made and out there, because I know how hard it is, so I’m not saying that it was a bad movie.  Just that I didn’t get it.  I’m glad I got to see so many of my friends and other familiar faces in the process, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films, books, etc.?

Nikki Wall: I like the entire Alien series, and some of my favorite Naomi Watts’ films are Funny Games (although the original was fantastic as well), The Ring series (but also the Ringu series) and I’m really excited to see her in The Birds remake. Of course when it comes to indie horror I would say my husbands’ films but that would make me prejudice right? Some more of the other random films I like are Cloverfield, Jeepers Creepers, The Descent, Feast…obviously I like creature features a lot.

Fatally Yours: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?

Nikki Wall: Currently I’m working on a script I wrote called The Catacomb Tapes which I’m really excited about because it is the first film I’ve decided to direct. I also am working with my husband to do The Brothers Cannibal which will be wrapped by the time this is published and a butt load of other movies him and I have been putting together.

Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?

Nikki Wall: I just want to get my hands dirty. I really don’t see myself acting in very many things because I just don’t have that in me, although I can do it if necessary. It’s my roots from college actually. Other than that though, I don’t care if I’m writing, producing or directing, I just want to take part in making really good movies and hopefully get myself and my husband out of the indie scene and into the mainstream.

Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you?

Nikki Wall: Creep keeps a blog up at www.creepersin.com and while it’s mostly his projects I’m getting honorable mentions in there.

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Solmaz Niki-Kerman

Solmaz Niki-Kermani is an actress, writer, director and the founder of Mahtab Entertainment.  She was born in Iran, where she discovered her love for the arts.  An honor student in Mathematics, she won a national best actress award for a play taped for Iranian cable TV at the age of sixteen.  Less than a year later, Solmaz moved to the US to study at Harvard University, at which she earned a degree in Liberal Arts.

Her resistance to playing it safe and strong desire to tell stories brought Solmaz to Los Angeles early 2011.  Solmaz met Russell Boast soon after her arrival, and, after hearing her idea for a film, he encouraged her to write the script.  Russell produced her first screenplay, TO THE MOON, with Solmaz as the lead.  The film was helmed by English director Damian Harris, son of the late actor Richard Harris.

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Incredible Girl

Incredible Girl is a sexy short film exploring female empowerment with same sex themes. It’s a coming of age story placed in a sexual playground.

Our Story

This project started with a blog post:

…as I was dancing ( in the club), I saw this female approach me in the most diva way one can imagine…She entered my space bubble with authority and stood right in front of me. I stopped my dancing, matched her stance and made eye contact with her. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen. In the next minute or so the world disappeared as she reached out and fingered the bottom of my shirt with her chipped red nails. She slowly started to work her fingers up underneath my shirt. I stood there unable to say anything because I was caught off guard by the sheer nerve she had. She crept up my solar plexus until she reached the bottom of my bra. She paused and stared at me hard and unflinching in the eye. With a quick step back I detached myself from her wandering fingers… I kept her eye locked for a second and then she stepped forward in a small gesture of respect (like after a sumo pair finish their wrestle), whispered in my ear “you’re gorgeous”, and walked away with as much flair as she approached me with. This is one of the most mind blowing people I have ever encountered in my life. The nerve she had was Incredible! 

My good friend, Miguel Amodio, left a comment on it: “This is awesome! You should turn it into a movie”. Then we talked. 

Mission Statement

And several years later, here we are with “Incredible Girl”: in homage to those people who have the power to inspire and revolutionize our lives because of sheer bad-ass-ness (i.e. confidence). My goal is to offer inspiration for others to revolutionize their lives, like she did for me. What bonds us as a team is that it’s important for each of us to be connected to work that excites us and has the power to change lives positively.

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