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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

Girls On Film

No, not the Duran Duran song (though I have that stuck in my head now).

What would guy-centric movie scenes look like with chicks playing the roles instead? That’s what website The Girls on Film set out to find out. So they’re taking movie scenes with male actors and reshooting them (essentially shot-for-shot, so far as I could tell without a frame-by-frame analysis) with female actors. And at first I thought it was gimmicky but as it turns out, it’s really a fascinating project.

So far they have a couple of these up: Fight Club, Star Trek and The Town.

So go and take some time to watch them. If you only want to pick one, I recommend The Town. But they’re not that long, so if you have time, or you’re bored at work and wanting to kill a few minutes, go for it.

For me, watching each of these a couple times was kind of jarring at first, and then interesting as I re-watched to pick up on subtleties of my emotional response to the clip that might be different than my response to the source material.

It’s hard to be objective in judging how much of the difference in reaction is simply due to it being a remake of scenes that I’ve seen in their original context versus the impact of seeing them specifically with female actors instead of guys. Maybe gender really is only one minor factor in the scenes feeling different and the disconcerting sense you get watching the clips is just about different actors (without regard to gender), differences in production value, tone of performance, etc.

I was most struck by the clip of The Town; for some reason the cursing in that scene stood out way more for me in the reshoot than it did in the original, which I guess speaks to my Southern Catholic upbringing around how ladies are “supposed” to talk … even though I’ve been known to curse like a sailor.

The physical fighting in both the Fight Club and The Town clips felt more jarring to me as well — as did the bloody nose in Star Trek — because girls were involved. Or at least, those things caught my attention in a different way, which I guess, I don’t know … makes me … genderist? Or maybe just a victim of my societal indoctrination in the expected gender-specific behaviors of guys and chicks.

I’m not sure, even after reading the “About” page of the site, whether the trio behind the site — Ashleigh Harrington, Cat McCormick, and Jeff Hammond — intend an academic angle with what they’re doing here, but really their intent matters little. The interaction of audience with their project certainly has the potential to generate some interesting (yes, interesting) conversation around gender and Hollywood. Fascinating stuff, and gave me something to think about.

As an aside: Take a look at the clip below. This is from the Oxford Film Festival awards in 2009. It’s a short remake of the diner scene from Pulp Fiction … but with little kids instead of adults:

Okay, now. Putting aside, if you will, the relative qualities of filmmaking — because really, the clips on The Girls On Film are pretty well shot — it’s also disconcerting to see the Pulp Fiction diner scene re-enacted by little kids, right? I remember when they played this at Oxford, we were all kind of shocked because we weren’t expecting it. But we laughed our asses off, I guess because we are bad people. And because it’s funny to see little kids sort-of curse.

Then again, I made my 9YO daughter a Hit Girl costume for Aki-Con last November (my husband went as Kick-Ass), so I guess for some people I already fall under the heading of “questionable parenting.” So you should maybe take that with the proverbial grain of salt.

PS There was a pretty smart write-up on The Girls on Film by Mathilda Gregory on The Guardian’s website a while back. If gender topics are your thing, you should check it out.

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“Chad Harbach spent ten years writing his novel. It was his avocation, for which he was paid nothing, with no guarantee he’d ever be paid anything, while he supported himself doing freelance work, for which I don’t think he ever made $30,000 a year. I sold his book for an advance that equated to $65,000 a year—before taxes and commission—for each of the years of work he’d put in. The law schools in this country churn out first-year associates at white-shoe firms that pay them $250,000 a year, when they’re twenty-five years of age, to sit at a desk doing meaningless bullshit to grease the wheels of the corporatocracy, and people get upset about an excellent author getting $65,000 a year? Give me a fucking break.”
~ Book Agent Chris Parris-Lamb On The State Of The Publishing Industry

INTERVIEWER
Do you think this anxiety of yours has something to do with being a woman? Do you have to work harder than a male writer, just to create work that isn’t dismissed as being “for women”? Is there a difference between male and female writing?

FERRANTE
I’ll answer with my own story. As a girl—twelve, thirteen years old—I was absolutely certain that a good book had to have a man as its hero, and that depressed me. That phase ended after a couple of years. At fifteen I began to write stories about brave girls who were in serious trouble. But the idea remained—indeed, it grew stronger—that the greatest narrators were men and that one had to learn to narrate like them. I devoured books at that age, and there’s no getting around it, my models were masculine. So even when I wrote stories about girls, I wanted to give the heroine a wealth of experiences, a freedom, a determination that I tried to imitate from the great novels written by men. I didn’t want to write like Madame de La Fayette or Jane Austen or the Brontës—at the time I knew very little about contemporary literature—but like Defoe or Fielding or Flaubert or Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or even Hugo. While the models offered by women novelists were few and seemed to me for the most part thin, those of male novelists were numerous and almost always dazzling. That phase lasted a long time, until I was in my early twenties, and it left profound effects.
~ Elena Ferrante, Paris Review Art Of Fiction No. 228

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