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Twilight’s Return: New Female Filmmakers Initiative in Twilight-based Film Shorts

By @Femme_Mal for This Dark Matter

Fickle Fish Films, an independent production company co-founded by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, announced yesterday an initiative to foster development of female filmmakers.

The Storytellers – New Creative Voices of The Twilight Saga,” will offer a handful of female directors an online platform via Facebook to distribute short films based on stories extending the Twilight franchise. The project is a collaboration with nonprofit organization Women In Film (WIF), Lions Gate Entertainment, Tongal crowdsourcing media, as well as Fickle Fish Films and Facebook.

Using multiphase contests ostensibly run through Tongal’s platform, a handful of female directors will be selected to produce short films. Once hosted on Facebook, fans will vote for their favorite film. The winner will be awarded a cash prize and career opportunities according yesterday’s press release.

Details are thin at this time. It’s not clear whether scripts will be solicited from the fan community, or if they have already been written and await filmmakers. With an estimated 300,000 transformative fan works across multiple fan fiction and video platforms, there are plenty of creatives within the Twilight fandom from which the initiative could draw.

Initial reaction has been mixed, ranging from expressions of fan excitement to Twilight fatigue. Women’s media groups appear enthusiastic for a chance to change the entertainment industry’s sustained gender inequity.

Criticism of the initiative’s approach notes the program’s retention of Twilight branding while failing to offer straightforward independent film contracts to female filmmakers.

However, Fickle Fish Films has already produced two non-Twilight films, with less-than-happy results.

The Host (2013), written by Stephenie Meyer, was directed by Andrew Niccol and led by Saoirse Ronan, experienced tepid success. It earned $63.3 million worldwide, based on a $40 million budget.

Austenland (2013) was directed by Jerusha Hess, with Keri Russell starring as Austen-wannabe Jane Hayes. The film was not well received at the box office; U.S. ticket sales were $2.1 million, while the film’s budget is estimated at $7.6 million.

Based on these two films—one each with a male and a female director—Fickle Fish needs a different approach to production and marketing success.

Fickle Fish Films has three other film projects in the works, based on novels:

Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink

Lois Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall

Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood

Rodrigo Cortes has been named director for Down a Dark Hall; the other projects do not yet have directors attached to them.

By participation in this new initiative, Lions Gate may be seeking greater success with female audiences, having already tapped out the Twilight fanbase after its 2012 acquisition of production company Summit Entertainment.

Summit was the studio behind all five of the Twilight saga films, which have now earned more than $3.3 billion. (The last two in the series are listed as Fickle Fish Films productions as well.)

Though Summit started the Twilight series with Catherine Hardwicke at the helm, the rest of the saga was filmed by male directors. Summit’s filmography includes one other well-noted female-directed film is in—The Hurt Locker, by director Katheryn Bigelow.

Summit’s and Lions Gate’s diversity statistics mirror or lag the rest of the film industry, at a time when women-directed and -led films are doing boffo at the box office. The results are reflected in Lions Gate’s stock price (NYSE:LGF) compared to competitors.

Given the ongoing deficiency of mid-range budget films and romantic or rom-com flicks, combined with the gross inequity of films directed and led by women, “The Storytellers – New Creative Voices of The Twilight Saga” offers enormous potential to meet audience’s needs while improving women’s equity in the entertainment industry.

Let’s hope Fickle Fish Films and Lions Gate pick up several female directors and creators in the process.

Contributor @Femme_Mal writes about women’s and diversity issues, as well as the arts, science, social media, and technology. A former online news editor, she reads and writes scripts as well as a variety of female-led works of fiction.

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{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Nicole Wolverton Nicole October 2, 2014, 9:50 am

    I feel very “harumph” about this announcement for a multitude of reasons. Sadly, I suspect these short films will be of the erotica variety in order to capitalize on the few Twilight fanfic successes in that genre…perhaps even to coincide with this MOTU film. I don’t know. The moment, for what it was worth, seems over to me (although I’ve been known to be wrong before).

    The more interesting thing would be to genuinely explore issues the books/movies butt up against but solidly ignore–for instance, stalking, low-self esteem, etc. I won’t hold my breath.

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