“You’re taking my arms?”
This question confronted me at a recent yard sale as I walked toward the puzzled seller holding his creepy mannequin arms in my normal human ones.
My answer raised his eyebrows further. “Yes,” I said, “they’re for my daughter.”
Then I explained that my 14-year-old daughter, Lindsay, is a filmmaker who specializes in short horror films with a touch of humor. She loves creating these films, and I’ve learned that I love to find scary props to support her vision.
Filmmaking has become an unlikely source of father-daughter bonding for us. As the stay-at-home dad of two girls, for years I dreamed of playing sports with them that I grew up with —e.g., baseball and soccer. Alas, those plans quickly went astray. I became that dance-and-gymnastics dad holding various bags and purses outside women’s rooms all across our region. During that time, I also had to relinquish my dreams of ever coaching them in a sport. (My daughters — and my wife — pull a muscle laughing at the thought of me coaching dance or gymnastics.)
But as my daughters started experimenting with our family computer and their phones, filmmaking became Lindsay’s passion. Interestingly, from the start she has been committed to writing, directing and editing films, not acting in them. When I asked her what she loves about directing, her first answer was “when the film is completed.” As a writer, I laughed and understood the preference for “having written” over “actually writing.”
As we talked further, however, she described her passion in terms of general storytelling: “I like to make my vision a reality.” While I express my stories through words, she conveys hers through sequences of images. The more I understood that, the more we bonded as storytellers in different mediums.
Through Lindsay’s journey, I have learned two key aspects of filmmaking: collaboration and gender neutrality. As a movie’s credits make obvious, it takes great collaboration to complete a film. Fortunately, several of my nephews and nieces gladly serve as actors in Lindsay’s creations though I imagine she will seek additional actors soon. Occasionally she asks me to appear, but I was beheaded in one of her films, so it’s not always a glamorous honor.
I consider filmmaking gender-neutral because the craft is open to anyone with a camera. Its many facets tend to have universal appeal, as my nieces’ and nephews’ consistent interest in participating in Lindsay’s films shows. Such neutrality has also enabled our father-daughter relationship to grow in unexpected ways, as in our mutual search for new film camps, festivals and disturbing props.
The need for more female film directors
Sadly, our larger culture has not been as gender-neutral when it comes to supporting female film directors. I was surprised to learn that less than 10 percent of the top 250 films in both 2015 and 2016 were directed by women. This dearth has to die. A growing number of film industry members agree and are working on it, but there’s much more to do.
Lindsay’s high point so far as an aspiring female director was when she had a film accepted and screened at a local film festival. As we sat in the back of the dark theater and heard audience members laughing and (occasionally) screaming, I didn’t need to see her smile. I knew she was beaming. That’s the sound of support, I thought.
That’s also the sound that keeps me searching for the creepiest arms I can find.