A Great Night Supporting Female and non-Binary Comic Book Artists


Going out and supporting the art women make is a great feeling. But when that feeling is accompanied by snacks, drinks, and pizza? Well, that's even better.

Such was the case at Women's Comics Night, which is a monthly hangout at Challengers Comics in Bucktown in Chicago. I'd missed the last meeting, and I'm so glad I made it to this one. I arrived a little late, and I was pleased to see the room off to the side for the panel, comprised solely of female and non-binary (well, one) artists was already underway. And packed. Luckily, I managed to find a seat, and so I kicked off a very fun evening.

Since I've been so focused on movies, it was also an opportunity to catch up on what was happening in the comics world. I knew I was behind, but I had no idea that there was now a Rogue & Gambit comic, particularly sad as they're one of my favorite couples ever. I was also unaware of just how much indigenous comics there were, as well as a comics convention devoted solely to indigenous artists. Also, that women were drawing comics about sex education, all the stuff they were doing that just involved a kind of expansion from superhero comics driven by a need to see their stories, or just different kinds of stories out there while doing what they loved. And some of them weren't even artists. They were just nerds who came because they were curious and wanted to support female artists too. Afterwards, there was plenty of chatting with the panelists and pretty much the entire audience that stayed to mingle.


Nights like this always mean so much to me because they completely disprove so many of the negative attitudes that I was fed growing up. The ones about how women only compete with each other and are never supportive. About how few women there are compared to men making and doing things. Events like this make me wish so badly for a time machine so I could go back and tell the younger me that not only is this wrong, that I'd be helping to disprove these things myself when I was older.

If you're in the Chicago area, check it out! Turns out this place has a ton of monthly events, and they really emphasize spreading the word about the great work women are doing. Check out the site here, and Facebook page here. Until next time!


Rotten Tomatoes Alternative Launching Soon With Women-Only Critics Site

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This article first appeared on The Young Folks. To check it out click here.

Men don’t only dominate the popular culture that’s released, they also play a major part in how we interpret and react to that culture. Film critics are generally white and male, and they often play a significant role in deciding whether a movie is worth our time and attention.

But a new site, CherryPicks, aims to offer a new perspective by only featuring works by female critics, giving audiences an alternative to sites such as Rotten Tomatoes. Founded by Miranda Bailey (The Squid and the WhaleDiary of a Teenage Girl), an actor and producer, and author and entrepreneur Rebecca Odes (gurl.com, wifey.tv), the site aims to become the leading voice for the female perspective on media.

“The timing is perfect, “ said Odes. “The male-dominated culture of Hollywood has reached a breaking point. It’s time to start building the Hollywood of the future—one that recognizes the multi-tiered problem of gender bias—and correct it every step of the way.”

CherryPicks will also have its own rating scale, which is below:

Bowl of Cherries: Great. Must see.
Pair of Cherries: Good. Recommended.
Single Cherry: Mixed. You might like it, you might not.
The Pits: Self-explanatory.

The site will also have a system called the CherryCheck, which will “offer easy access to information relevant to women as media consumers, using the female lens, expanding on The Bechdel test to evaluate films according to on- and off-screen gender representation, and other content considerations relevant to women.”

“For years now, our industry has been proclaiming that we need change to include more minorities and females on both sides of the camera,” said Bailey. “This would be impossible to do in a speedy fashion, unless we can change the perceived desires of consumers. How can we possibly change what consumers consider good and worthy content if the majority of critics who tell them what to want are predominately older white males? I’m hoping CherryPicks will prove that female artists, crew, and stories are valuable for our industry to invest in, thereby influencing Hollywood to move towards equality in a more timely fashion.”

The site will launch this month with Cherry Bites, an email subscription service which will highlight female viewpoints on film criticism and media. Later this year, CherryPicks will also launch its multi-platform site which will include original content such as podcasts, reviews, Top 10 lists, and interviews with women who work in the industry.

Goodbye To A Place With A Whole Lot Of Film Girl Film Festival Memories

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It's the end of an era for the Film Girl Film Festival. One of my favorite local coffee shops, the Pleasant Kafe, has closed. It had switched owners before without changing too much, which I was glad of. But now I'm genuinely pained to see it gone for good.

I suppose I was part of the problem. I hadn't really stopped by since I moved out of the lower east side to Bay View, where I made Sven's my new place to work, and even less since I moved to Chicago. But I remember when I lived in the area and practically made the Pleasant Kafe my office, especially during the first year when I was running the film festival by myself.

Not only that, it was a great place to network. I met the other women, Kenlei and Crystal, who would work with me on the festival there. I heard about other Milwuakee artists and organizations. My friend and fellow writer Matt Mueller interviewed me there about the festival for OnMilwaukee. I liked the coffee, I liked the setup, I liked the food. But I too started spending less and less time there even when I came in from Chicago. I guess some places you just always expect will be there.

I hope whatever comes next is just as enjoyable, but I have a very strong feeling that it'll never mean as much to me as the Pleasant did. Goodbye, Pleasant Kafe. Thanks for all the great coffee and memories.

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On International Women's Day, A Few Thoughts On How Far I've Come, And How Far I Still Have To Go


It's International Women's Day, so it's a good time to reflect on how the Film Girl Film Festival has grown over the years. Granted, this is only my third year, but still.

First off? Let's just say ignorance is bliss. Generally, I'm not a huge fan of not knowing what's coming, but I'm kind of glad I didn't know just how much I was going to go through that first time. I had almost no guidance. I started the film festival myself, with no organizational backing. To comprehend just what I'd gotten myself into (and the times I wondered that was more than I could count), consider I had no experience in putting on such a massive event like this, and I also had no staff. Sure, I had plenty of people who were willing to help, especially once they saw I was serious. But mostly, it was just me writing press releases and keeping the media informed, watching and choosing the films, determining the schedule, getting sponsors, raising money, building and updating the website, finding the location, arranging the opening night party festivities, coordinating volunteers, running the festival equipment during the fest itself, and finally, setting up and taking everything down.

Needless to say, by the time it was all over, I needed a day off to lie around on the couch, which I happily took. Actually, more than one. It wasn't too hard, since the day job I had, or rather, stayed stuck in for years let me go about a month or two before the fest. Why? Because I'd gotten a 94.91 instead of a 95 on an assessment after being there for...well, years. I truly wish I could say I'd left rather than getting fired, like so many others had. But when I walked out, I felt freed rather than bitter. It may not have been the best timing, but it felt like I was finally making the necessary changes.

I hope all this makes it easier to understand just why I wasn't sure I wanted to put on the festival again. Just the thought of going through everything again exhausted me. But then the 2016 election happened. And that decided things. Sure, the fest was a relatively small thing, but I felt like I needed to do it again. This would be my own way of saying that not only would I not shut up, I'd do my part to make sure other women were heard too. Once I committed to it, things happened quickly. I found that new problems quickly sprang up to replace the old, but for once I was happy to have them. When your issues are due to growth, that's a lot easier to handle.

The big thing was I met the two women who would work with me. One was Crystal Schreiner, who would help me build the Film Girl Film Festival into not just an event, but a brand, with a new site and logo. The other was Kenlei, who would help me fundraise and find new sponsors. Interestingly enough, I met them both at the coffee shop I would go to, the Pleasant Kafe. It's since changed owners, but thankfully it's still there. Local coffee shops really are the best for all purposes, including networking.

But the biggest change came from being awarded a grant from the Women's Fund of Greater Milwaukee. Hell, I didn't even apply for it. Money changes things, and having spare cash that I could use to spend on the fest changed everything. Suddenly, my profile was bigger, people were taking me more seriously, and I learned even more about how to make best use of funds. (Like paying Crystal and Kenlei, although that was more of a given.) And it had results. For my second year, I learned about how to build a brand, give the festival a higher profile, and get even more people to attend.

So for 2018, there was never even a question of whether I would do it again. For the third year, I changed the name to the Film Girl Film Festival, and decided to try and make it an official nonprofit. I set up a GoFundMe, opened the fest for submissions, and made the move to Chicago (don't worry, fest is still staying in Milwaukee!) for more professional opportunities. To get a sense of just how much things have progressed in just a few years, here's the essay I wrote after my first year, with my old logo: https://www.theyoungfolks.com/review/85918/six-things-i-learned-from-starting-a-film-festival/. But if you wanna skip the read, here's the logo from my first year:

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For the second year, here's my new logo:

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And the current one:

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So what comes next? I'm still in uncharted territory, but I'm happy to say at the very least, a really great event celebrating women in film.

The Film Girl Film Festival will occur from Oct. 12-14 at the Underground Collaborative in Milwaukee, WI. To donate to the fest, click here. To submit, click here.

Change Is Hard At The 2018 Oscars

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Since my first blog post is the day after the Academy Awards, I of course have to talk about that. What was really remarkable was just how much seemed the same in spite of the many ways the industry is changing. Sure, everyone acknowledged the (lone mostly) women in each category who were nominated, but it was also pretty easy to predict who would win. If you really wanted a ceremony that could deliver suprises and even some revolutionary moments, you'd have to check out the Spirit Awards, which awarded the prize for Best Feature to “Get Out.” Sure, that was also what I was hoping would win Best Picture at the Oscars, but at the same time, what were the chances of that?

There was plenty to criticize about the ceremony, such as accused rapist Kobe Bryant winning for his self-congratulatory short “Dear Basketball.” Kimmel was also the completely wrong host for this night, and all the montages and gags didn't feel nearly good enough to cut so many speeches short, especially when some of them seemed to have something worth hearing.

That said, there were a few remarkable moments, one of which included none of the five best actress nominees talking to Ryan Seacrest, who has a sexual harassment claim against him. There was also Jordan Peele winning for Get Out, apparently the first African-American to do so. Plus, it made his reunion with his comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key feel epic. Many of the female presenters were great too, the best of which were Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph, who may just co-host next year's Oscars. Hopefully people still remember an idea this great when that time rolls around. There was the shout-out to Time's Up, made more powerful by the fact that it was made by three of Weinstein's most prominent accusers: Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra, and Salma Hayek. Keala Settle also gave a great performance of “This Is Me,” which was both entertaining and inspiring.

But the best moment IMO came courtesy of Frances McDormand's acceptance speech which somehow managed to be genuine, funny, and informative. She asked all the female nominees to stand, jokingly singling out Meryl Streep, saying that if she did it, the others would follow. While it was striking that there were so few in the room, it was also a touching show of solidarity, as McDormand pointed out that they all had projects that could use funding and support. There was also her mention of an inclusion rider, which is a contractual obligation for a movie's cast and crew to be diverse. To get a sense of how much needs to be done, here's the a look at just how much women get to speak in past Oscars films, courtesty of the BBC: https://twitter.com/jojomoyes/status/970412950434582528

However, unlike the aforementioned Spirit Awards, or even the Globes, the Oscars this year didn't seem to be able to much stand for anything, despite having a lot to be proud of in terms of representation. It isn't near enough, but it is remarkable how little the most traditional Oscar bait movies like “Phantom Thread,” “The Post,” and “Darkest Hour,” were discussed. Nope, this year it was all about movies such as “Get Out,” “Three Billboards,” “Lady Bird,” and the actual best pic winner, “The Shape of Water.” All of these films entertained us as much as they genuinely moved us, made us think, and in some cases, provoked some very extreme reactions, some so extreme that voters refused to even watch them.

In other words? The Oscars had a lot to be proud of. They just had to commit to it, and they weren't quite ready.

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DESCENDING to the earth,

That strange intoxicating beauty of the unseen world

Lurks in the elements of Nature.

And the soul of man,

Who has attained the rightful balance,

Becoming aware of this hidden joy,

Straightway is enamoured and bewitched.

And from this mystic marriage are born

The poets' songs, inner knowledge,

The language of the heart, virtuous living,

And the fair child Beauty.

And the Great Soul gives to man as dowry

The hidden glory of the world.