In the entertainment industry, women are a part of every aspect. Acting, directing, writing, producing; yet the opportunities that exist keep them in an eternal survival game where they need to step on each other to get to where most males get without the same sacrifices. For every 2.24 male characters written to be performed, there’s one female. Only 23.3 percent of films have a female lead. For women aspiring to be a female director, your chances are slim. Only 7 percent of working directors are women. Why is this? After so many years of living in a world where men are the ultimate power holders, women continue to try and break in, no matter the challenge.
As part of this month’s spotlight series, we are focusing on these amazing entertainers who wake up everyday and work in what is (sadly) still a man’s world. Their hard work can’t be denied, and in turn, audiences can’t help but notice them. Part 2 of this series brings us to March Forth Productions founder Laura Archer who is premiering a show this week.
Laura Archer is a producer/writer/filmmaker/technician whose many hats all fit her well. Her work as a filmmaker was spotlighted last week at the DAMN! Film Series March screenings with her captivating yet light, short film “The Ticket Seller.” Now she is preparing to show the world the full-fledged production by her company, “Angels of Mons,” which she conceived and is directing from a script by playwright Eric Webb. Proof again that gender does not matter.
ANGELS OF MONS, written by Eric Webb and directed by Laura Archer will be playing through April 4th at Under St. Marks Theater (94 St. Marks Place, NYC) For more information about the show and the company go to http://www.marchforthproductions.org There’s amazing opportunities for playwrights there, too.
- As a writer/producer/director, I’ve seen you do it all from theater to film without hesitation. You even have your own production company, March Forth Productions. That’s pretty impressive. What drives you to work so hard and wear so many hats at the same time? Where do you feel you get the most respect as a woman? Which one seems more like a boy’s club?
I don’t really think about it being hard work, not until I’m in the middle of it anyway. It’s just…the work. It’s what you do to get to where you want to be and to put forth the art you want to share.
I don’t really consider directing & producing in different mediums many hats. They are the same idea: you bring people and ideas together to tell a cohesive story. Now if you’re talking the many hats I trade out to get the job done that’s different. That’s me still learning to delegate and let go and be a good manager, and also just the nature of indie art. Sometimes you just do whatever needs to be done to make the project work.
I don’t believe I’ve ever had a particular problem being respected in either industry. Not at my level. Not in terms of being a woman. On occasion your competency and skill levels will be judged, but if you can do the work….you can do the work.
What I have found is that the higher up you go in the industry the more women fade away, and that can be hard. At that point you start to encounter a different generation with a different set of ideals and social values.
- Tell us about March Forth Production: What do you hope to accomplish with the company? What’s your mission? What inspired you to create a company?
I was looking for a place to tell stories. I kept doing work and I knew others who were, as well, so it made sense to come together and put it under one roof. Our mission says we’re here “To produce moving thought provoking innovative work that challenges us all.” For us that means working with new artists on new ideas. We want to work with the innovative, the creative, the industrious and the ambitious. We want to create a home for stories and ideas and a safe space for artists to bring them to life.
- Tell us about March Forth first full production “Angels of Mons.” What’s it about? Tell us about the writer Eric Webb, and his relationship with you as business partner. In a cast full of men, do you feel out of place?
The Angels of Mons is based on an old WWI legend about how the ghosts of the bowmen of Henry V came to the aid of the British soldiers during the first big battle of WWI. “It follows a band of WWI BEF soldiers as they battle the Germans, the dark, and their own worst nightmares: On the eve of the first major offensive of the war, a group of soldiers find themselves separated from the rest of their forces, miles from the front and leagues away from anything they’ve known before. With whispers of mutiny rustling through the group after the death of their commanding officer, an unwitting young lieutenant, George Hinkle, is thrust into command. Ill suited for leadership and crippled by fear, he struggles to keep his men in check and alive amidst myriad dangers, but as the echoes of centuries old combat begin to reverberate around them and the veil between story and reality begins to lift, George is forced to look within to find the strength to become the leader he was born to be.”
I originally came up with the idea because I was looking for a way to tell a story around a campfire and, as the story progresses, have the tellers become the characters take on a life of their own. I joined up with Eric and after some research we started working on it together and eventually he took over the writing completely. And now it’s really his baby. Eric and I have known each other for almost a decade. We’d bounced ideas around for many years about stories and companies. Finally last year I approached him and we sat down and started this company, March Forth, based on a mutual desire to tell good stories.
So far it’s been working pretty well. We have The Angels of Mons going up this week. We are in the middle of submissions for our second Summer Reading Salon. And this spring we’re going to be workshopping a new play by one of our playwrights from last year’s salon, Drew Paryzer. I can’t say that I do feel out of place with a cast of men. Though I do get a kick out of watching them check their language/humor every now and then.
- After the astonishing snub of Ava DuVernay and other women by the Oscars, the social media world exploded demanding respect and damning the entertainment industry for its lack of support. Instead of wallowing on the facts that show women are often overlooked in this business, you decided to counter the negativity with a campaign that spotlighted women working in the industry. What got you to do that? How was the reception of such a campaign? What would you tell the women just starting to work in this terrifying industry?
Honestly I just got pissed off. I had seen a post by a friend saying that we needed more work to be created by and for women in the arts…But I know scores of women already working in entertainment. I know more women that create their own work than men. You don’t need more work; you just need to pay attention to those that do.
I was actually surprised by the reactions from the women I knew. I didn’t think anyone would pay attention to it. But I got all kinds of messages telling me how much people liked it. I was only going to do it for a few days but ended up continuing the project for the entire month. And I’m actually thinking about starting it up again as a weekly post, after my show opens.
First off, don’t be terrified, or at least don’t let it stop you. Use whatever you have to get where you need to go. Always ask. Don’t assume the answer will be no. If you need something, want something, or are struggling with something: ask. This is something I always have trouble with, but if you don’t ask then you’ll never know. And eventually after all you’re asking you will find your yes.
- Let’s have some fun: If you could choose any historical figure to write something about, which one would it be? Would you write a play or a movie? What would the genre be?
Ooo, This is a hard one. Medium: Film. Genre: Drama/fantasy/action depending on how the script falls out. Historical figure: ……I’m not sure of. I’ve always thought it would be fun to do a mini series based on Laura Ingalls Wilder (the books and her actual life, not the TV series). That would be epic. Something in the visual style of the Ken Burns documentary The West. And there’s a book I’ve wanted to adapt into a film for years, set in the Elizabethan era, though technically only one of the minor characters is a real historical figure.
Or another book I read as a teenager about the American poet Phillis Wheatley. She was the first published African American woman in America. I could keep going but the list would get rather long…
- Why NYC? It is known to be one of the hardest places to break in, why stay and do work here? How’s the community of artists in the city?
I came here right after college for a year long internship and just stayed. I was never one of those people that dreamed of being in the big city, but it just seems right. It’s a good community of people with a lot of solid resources. Is it hard? Yes. Do I think it’s worth it? Yes.
- Is the industry moving toward equality? Do you see any difference from when you started to now? What do you think the artistic community in NYC can do better?
Some days I think it is, some days….not so much. I do see a lot more female carpenters and technicians though. So that’s nice. I think the artistic community needs a better support system or a better model to operate by. One of the biggest driving factors in equality is money. Do you have the money to be seen? To get your work in front of the right people? Do you have the money to live on and still do your work? If you could figure out a way to better support young artists and ideas equality would be a whole lot easier.
Cheers to Laura Archer for her hard, amazing work which can be seen this week. Don’t miss it! And if you are a playwright check http://www.marchforthproductions.org/#!summersalon/c15tb for their Summer Reading Series.
Twisted Talk: How are you honoring Women’s History Month? Will you check out Laura’s latest show? Discuss below!