A study published by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University says that 91 per cent of 2015’s top 250 films were directed by men. Eighty-two per cent of the writers, as well as 94 per cent of the cinematographers were also men.
Ryerson film students are aiming to change these statistics with an almost all-female production. Love Stinks is a fourth-year thesis film about Jay, a 13-year-old girl who, after overhearing two physically-developed classmates discuss seeing a naked man, persuades her two best friends to look at a Playgirl magazine. Along with seeing a naked man, Jay and her friends discuss how getting their periods and their boobs will begin their transition into womanhood.
Alicia Harris, the film’s writer and director, first thought of the storyline for Love Stinks when she found kids with whom she worked with looking at a diagram of a naked person in a textbook. Their innocence and curiosity inspired a coming-of-age story where three friends explore their sexuality together.
Harris’ initial idea for the story, however, involved three young boys instead of three young girls. But shortly after coming up with the idea she realized that that narrative has already been represented in a multitude of films. “So I basically changed it to be about girls and started thinking about how I’ve never seen a story like this that’s about girls,” said Harris. “It’s very taboo when it comes to girls being curious about the opposite sex and sexuality and puberty and all this stuff.”
Harris also explained that since male filmmakers have been successfully telling their stories for the longest time, hiring women to do the same job would be risky for production companies. “If somebody’s going to make a movie with a strong female lead, it’s not necessarily what is proven in the past to be the big blockbuster hit,” she said.
Apart from using 16mm film, finding ‘80s-themed props, and ordering frogs from Vancouver, Love Stinks’ production team faced a great challenge with casting. Despite the film’s lighthearted and PG nature, parents were still reluctant about letting their daughters star in it. “I think it’s because of the tagline, which is, ‘Three young girls, Playgirl magazine,’ that a lot of parents didn’t want their kid to be in it,” Harris said. “Which is really sad because if the movie was about boys, we would have had triple the amount of submissions for our film.”
Although the film’s tagline includes “Playgirl magazine,” Love Stinks is far from being taboo. The film, according to Harris, focuses more on the dialogue and friendship between the three girls rather than what’s actually in the magazine. This way, the film portrays girls differently than in mainstream films. “I feel like the way a lot of times women are portrayed in films — even films that have a female lead — it always ends up being how the woman is supposed to end up with a man,” said producer Rebeca Ortiz.
The movie has been receiving positive feedback and has recently reached its goal of $6,000 on its Kickstarter page. “There are some people from the States and someone from Japan. It really blows my mind. It’s really cool to be able to live in this age and time where we can reach people literally around the world,” said Ortiz.
With all the support Love Stinks has been receiving, the future of female representation in the film industry is getting brighter.
Featured image courtesy of Filip Funk