Dreams for SWAN Day 2020: What happened, and what we wanted to happen

SWAN Day 2020 didn’t look like SWAN Days of the past, but we adapted. We weren’t going to let March go by without celebrating the women filmmakers, writers, visual artists, musicians, and designers who are continuing to fight for their livelihoods and their voices globally. In partnership with NYWIFT, FF2 sponsored a Virtual Theatrical Experience screening of Deborah Kampmeier’s Tape.  We partnered with HerFlix company director Adriana Shaw, who made Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery available for free viewing for all of SWAN Day weekend. (To explore our virtual SWAN Day films, check out our coverage of Deborah Kampmeier, and read Jan Huttner’s review of Gemma Bovery.) FF2 members watched films about women artists from their homes all month and shared their top picks for our SWAN Day Series.

As we at FF2 are working on envisioning how women artists can continue to be creative and find funding and audiences in this pandemic, we’d like to take this space to appreciate the awesome events and communities FF2 members had been building for a pre-pandemic SWAN Day 2020.

First up, Dayna tells us about a concert and gallery show she was working on in New Brunswick:

“Considering I have been involved in the local DIY music scene in New Jersey for years, I thought it would be great to host an International Swan Day show in New Brunswick. I had booked four incredible women-fronted bands to play on March 28th. I had also planned to feature women visual artists and have them display their work at the venue.

DIY shows in New Brunswick are a community-driven event. They are organized, advertised, and executed by local people. Money is collected at the door and is split between the performers to cover travel and other expenses.

One of the great things about the DIY community in New Jersey is that shows often host bands from all over the world and vary immensely in terms of genre, style, and performance. I wanted the SWAN Day bill to showcase the vastly different kinds of music that women in the community make.

There has been much talk in local DIY circles about diversity and gender representation on bills. Too often, bookers line bills with cis white men and don’t stop to think about how their shows might benefit from increased attention to diversity. Even though I don’t book many shows anymore, this was always something that I strove to pay attention to and actively disrupt.

The SWAN Day show was going to be a great opportunity for people in my community to support local women artists and I hope that I will be able to reschedule it soon!”

Meanwhile, a dispatch from Armenia, where Roza has been working and studying this past year, and tells us about the work she’s been doing with the Golden Apricot Film Festival:

“As I live in Armenia, it seemed only fitting to plan an event focusing on Armenian women in film. Here, I am a member of a program called Birthright Armenia, which provides young Diasporan Armenians the opportunity to connect to their ancestral homeland as well as volunteer daily with an organization of their choice. My volunteer position with GAIFF Pro (the group that plans the Caucasus’s largest film festival, The Golden Apricot Film Festival), has shown me what great work is being done in film in Armenia.

On Monday, March 16th, I had planned for members to meet three Armenian women filmmakers Lilit Movsisyan, Victoria Aleksanyan, and Silva Khnkanosian and discuss their past, present, and future projects as well their experiences in the film industry and their unique perspectives as women on the Armenian film scene. We had also planned to screen clips from their films.

In the film industry, women have not been given the space necessary to tell stories from their perspectives. Just like many other industries, men have been afforded this space instead. With organizations such as AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), “the organization that votes for the Oscars,” annually ignoring many excellent female-made films, recognition is incredibly important. Dismantling the idea that such groups and critics are the authorities on what makes a good film goes hand in hand with striving for this recognition.

In the previous decade, Armenian-made films have been gaining speed. http://ff2media.azurewebsites.net/blog/2017/11/12/intent-destroy-intends-help-armenian-story-travel/ Male and female filmmakers alike have contributed to an ever-increasing community of producers, directors, and writers. In Armenia, the proportion of female directors, writers, and producers, is actually quite high compared to that of the United States. This SWAN Day program would’ve centered on the wonderful work that they’ve been contributing to Armenian cinema and to the film scene of the overall Caucasus region.”

Back in Massachusetts, Julia shares the work she was doing to give back to her high school community:

“For SWAN Day, I planned to have a stage makeup event with the theater department at my high school. I used to be on the hair and makeup crews for the shows at my high school, and it was a really passionate and talented community of women artists. At Barnard, I was on the makeup design team for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I learned a lot about character makeup and working with color. I wanted to bring some knowledge back to the community that made me.

At my event, we would start by discussing stage makeup design as a career and profile some successful female makeup artists. I would set out many different shades of foundation, contour kits, eyeliners and other types of stage makeup and each student would get a face model to work with. We’d first go over techniques for basic stage makeup and then I would let the students experiment and create a “character” for their model using makeup.”

In New York City, Sophia shares the event she planned at Manhattan School of Music, where she studies opera:

“In preparation for March 2020’s SWAN Day, I had conferred with some students and a professor at Manhattan School of Music to create a concert, performing pieces from female composers.

Women are often forgotten about in the course of history, and this is no different in the world of classical music. Female composers were encouraged to stay at home and be the typical housewife. However, there are a few names that carved historic careers for themselves despite these circumstances.

Examples include Clara Schumann, a prolific composer as well as a star performer of her time, all the while looking after her 7 children and unwell husband. Another name is Fanny Mendelssohn, who often signed her work like her brother Felix Mendelssohn, F Mendelssohn. 

There are several others, but unfortunately not enough attention is paid to people like Amy Beach and Alma Mahler, so this concert was to bring them to the forefront of the misogynistic world and change the stereotypes of women.

Another part of the SWAN Day that I had planned was a screening of a movie in a lounge in the dormitory halls. I was working together with my Resident Assistant to set up the room, time, and movie. We planned for it to be relaxed and available to anyone who wanted to come to a movie night. The movie would have been Pavarotti, where Cassidy Hartmann was the consultant writer. This would have been a fitting film for the music conservatory setting.”

(For more on Pavarotti and music in film, read Sophia’s review.)

Our SWAN Day 2020 did go as planned in Chicago: Brigid and Georgi Presecky, our brave Chicago cohort, managed to squeeze in their event in-person, just before public events were no longer recommended.

Brigid tells the story:

“On Thursday, March 12, the day before Illinois enacted the stay-at-home order due to the Coronavirus, FF2 Media hosted an International SWAN Day screening and reception at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Co-hosting with CinemaFemme founder Rebecca Martin, FF2 Media introduced SWAN Day and the meaning of the initiative to a nearly sold-out crowd of moviegoers at a screening of Claire Burger’s Real Love (aka C’est ça l’amour).

The film (written and directed by Burger) screened as part of the since-canceled 2020 Chicago European Union Film Festival. FF2 Media Vice President Brigid Presecky and Engagement Manager Georgiana Presecky were joined by members of the Chicago press, including Nikoleta Morales (FF2 Media), Matt Fagerholm (RogerEbert.com), and Elisa Shoenberger (Mischief and Writing).

With the added help of Associate Director of Public Relations and Marketing Karen Duhram and Associate Director of Development Deanna Dement Myers, we were able to host a reception following the screening, where we were able to discuss the film and highlight the work of female filmmakers.

We passed out SWAN day buttons and raised awareness of women artists, stressing the importance of supporting their work through a purchase of a movie ticket.”

(Read FF2 coverage of the Chicago European Union Film Festival, including Real Love, here.)

We’re looking forward to bringing together all this energy and support for a much more present SWAN Day 2021. In the meantime, take a look at our SWAN Day Series, where FF2 members spent this March collecting moves by women artists, about women artists, across a variety of art mediums: from fiction to music to fiber art and more.

© Amelie Lasker (5/27/20) FF2 Media

Photo Credits: Brigid Presecky, Roza Melkumyan

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Amelie Lasker
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Amelie Lasker joined FF2 Media in early 2016 after graduating from Columbia University where she studied English and history. She has written plays and had readings for Columbia’s student-written theatre company Nomads, edited the blog for Columbia’s film journal Double Exposure, and worked on film crews and participated in workshops at Columbia University Film Productions. She spent junior year abroad at Cambridge University, where she had many opportunities for student playwrights to see their work produced. 
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