Women's History Month in Milwaukee: Wonder Woman in 70mm, Female Entrepreneurs, and #GirlBoss Films

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By Andrea Thompson

March is Women’s History Month, and Milwaukee is having some great events to celebrate!

First, Film Girl Film is teaming up with No Studios and Milwaukee Film to host a 70mm screening of “Wonder Woman” at the Oriental Theatre on March 8 at 6:30 pm for International Women’s Day! More info on our events page,, or click the link here. Hope to see you there!

Next week March 3-8 is also Women’s Entrepreneurship Week Milwaukee, which is a series of events for women to network, collaborate, and learn new skills in various locations across Milwaukee. And they’re all FREE. Learn more and see the schedule here.

Last, but definitely not least,the Iron Horse Hotel is hosting a #GirlBoss Film Series, which will celebrate kickass ladies on-screen and in Milwaukee! Every Monday night from 6-9 pm, there will be a free film along with a pre-show Q&A with an appropriately badass Milwaukee woman. Food and drink specials will also be available the entire time. The schedule is below:

  • Monday, March 4: Senior Writer/Editorial Manager Molly Snyder introduces “RBG”

  • Monday, March 11: Bid Manager at North Ave/Fond du Lac Marketplace Robin Reese introduces “Hidden Figures”

  • Monday, March 18: Media personality Elizabeth Kay of 99.1 The Mix and WISN 12 introduces “Thelma & Louise”

  • Monday, March 25: Lottie Royten of Lottie Lillian Photography introduces “9 to 5”

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


Women Discuss Horror At The Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival

By Andrea Thompson


Well, the Twisted Dreams Film Festival, Milwaukee's own film fest for horror movie fans, is over. This is a film fest I enjoy, and not just because I do some communications work on their behalf. The fest is now in its third year, and the men behind it, Stephen Milek and Chris House, have made a habit of showcasing at least a few films that put women front and center. This year, they got even more inclusive by not only featuring an entire shorts block devoted to female directors, but also a panel discussion on women in horror. I found it quite interesting, sometimes in a depressing way.

The panel consisted Susan Kerns, a professor at Columbia and one of the co-directors of the Chicago Feminist Film Festival, Wendy Keeling, a writer, director and actress, Theda de Sade, a burlesque dancer, actress, and writer, and panel moderator Josephine Yanasak-Leszczynski, a film critic and author.

Some of what they had to say was pretty positive. The mindset really is changing, with everyone on the panel describing how there was less hoarding of opportunity. Women apparently no longer feel they have to fight for the one place traditionally allotted to a female filmmaker, and they described a more helpful, supportive environment.

There was also a discussion of those issues which are especially relevant to the horror genre: the violence routinely inflicted on female characters. The panel described how most of the brutality seemed less about trying to tell a story or even deliver frights than just some guy trying to see how much he could get away with, or worse, fulfilling his fantasies. One of the women described how she heard an actor brag that he got to rape a woman.

It was a disturbing point that led to what they called the “50 Shades effect.” For Theda de Sade, it meant many people assuming she likes being hit since she's a “goth girl.” All of them also talked about how “50 Shades” and the subsequent mainstreaming of BDSM has led to more exploitative stories. Kerns mentioned that the Chicago Feminist Film Festival has gotten a lot more rape revenge films, since people seem to think these kinds of films are feminist as long as there's a revenge element. Really, when will people learn it takes more than that?


One thing the panelists all strongly agreed on was having different kinds of people on set. One thing I've noticed is that when people who aren't straight white men talk about diversity is that these discussions tend to take on a greater sense of urgency. To these women, having different kinds of people on a film set wasn't just a business or even a moral issue. It helped improve their work and their lives. They talked about how the quality of the movie itself improved by having such a range of experiences, and how it helped everyone feel safer. For them, this wasn't an afterthought; it was essential.

But then, they opened it up for questions. There were a lot of men in the audience, and it actually made the talks more depressing rather than uplifting. The very first comment involved a guy talking about how many of their problems seemed to more revolve around being an independent filmmaker rather than being a woman. Another guy remarked that he didn't care about whether the movie he saw was directed by a woman or a man, he just wanted it to be good. Problems with funding was much discussed. Really, were these men not listening? The first more seemed to be another instance of a guy telling women what their problems were, the other seemed to be more of a case of something that should be positive coming off as another male fan patting himself on the back for not being “that kind of guy.”

In the end, the impression I got was the same one I tend to get when I go to a lot of these kinds of events. I loved how far we've apparently come, but it was VERY clear just how far we have to go, especially once it became clear how a large portion of audiences still viewed these women and themselves.

I'm Giving A Mini-Lecture On Comic Books


By Andrea Thompson

I have an announcement that is both exciting and nerve-racking. I'll be giving a mini-lecture about the increased presence of women in comics for the Comicbook Symposium at Cardinal Stritch on May 5!

It should surprise no on that in addition to being a huge movie fan, I'm also a comic book fan. I especially love the way comic books have expanded far beyond superheroes over the years. Not that there's anything wrong with superpowered adventures, but for the most part they used to be the only type of stories told in this particular format.

Needless to say, this is no longer the case. Not only are heroes getting more diverse, the stories they tell are too, with graphic novels often subverting the classic conventions of the genre (with Watchmen being the most well-known example) and becoming the go-to format for memoirs as well as other more complex genres and subjects.

And more variety means those who were traditionally sidelined or not represented at all are increasingly taking center stage. So for my talk, I'll be discussing how women have become more prevalent, both as characters and as creators.

The event will take place at Cardinal Stritch University at 6801 N. Yates Road on May 5 in Milwaukee. Doors open at 5 pm, with the event starting at 6. More info about the event can be found here.

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: 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.