chicago

Film Girl Film Festival Partners With Veteran Org

By Andrea Thompson

This Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have given their lives for their country, on what is actually the 150th anniversary of the holiday. But in the midst of the grills, cookouts, and general festivities, it's important for all of us to remember that the battle is not over for those who return home. Many of them have to fight on a whole new front and process the trauma they have experienced.

I was reminded of this myself when I was in Chicago. Like many in the area, I decided to spend part of my Memorial Day weekend out on the lake front, and I happened to run into an event by Chicago Veterans. Vets and volunteers were walking to raise awareness about a pressing social problem: veteran suicide. According to the group, every day 20 veterans take their own lives. I was struck not only by the numbers, but by the fact that most people seem to have no idea that this is happening.

In order to help raise awareness, the Film Girl Film Festival is partnering with a local chapter of Dryhootch, an organization which provides support to struggling veterans. Dryhootch was founded in 2008 by Vietnam veteran Bob Curry, and aims to provide a safe space in a coffee house where veterans and their families can gather in a drug and alcohol free environment. Dryhootch regularly hosts events, and provides mentoring and needed support services to ease the transition to civilian life.

To do its part in support of this much-needed work, the Film Girl Film Festival will have its first women-only coworking event at the Dryhootch location at 1030 E. Brady Street. The coworking event aims to bring a group of women together to work, keep each other on track, and talk about their projects. No time and date has been set at this point, but further details will be provided.

More information about the Wisconsin chapter of Dryhootch can be found at dryhootchwi.org.

 

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

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.