Interview with The Womanhood director Yvonne LaBarge

Yvonne LaBarge is an up-and-coming director from the USA. Her directorial debut The Womanhood will celebrate its UK PREMIERE at the London Feminist Film Festival on Sunday 2 December 2012 at 6.30 pm as part of the FIGHTING BACK! short films session.

As Yvonne will not be able to join us for the festival, we caught up with her for a short interview to discuss sisterhood, superheroines, and the negative portrayal of menstruation in the media.

Before writing and directing The Womanhood you had various lines of work, including set decorator, script supervisor, and second assistant director. Can you tell us a bit about your first steps in the film industry?

I began working in the film industry as a script supervisor. I got my first script supervising job on a short film during my fresher year at Emerson. It was during that shoot that I discovered my passion for that position. After that shoot I decided to focus on getting as much experience as I possibly could so I devoted almost all of my free time to working on student film sets. Though I did and still do greatly enjoy script supervising, I knew I wanted to eventually direct and I figured the more experience under my belt, the more likely I’d have a chance at actually getting the opportunity to do so. Now that I’ve graduated from college I feel as though I’m taking these first steps all over again and I’m as excited as ever to see where they lead me.

How did you get the idea for The Womanhood and was it clear for you from the start that you were going to direct it?

To be honest, the idea for The Womanhood came to me while I was in fact a ‘member of the force’. I was trying to come up with ideas as to what could possibly make getting your period fun when I jokingly told my mom: ‘You know, it wouldn’t be so bad if we got to at least be superheroes and have some sort of superpowers’. She agreed and together we started joking about how chocolate would be our power-up and PMS would be our superpowers and then it hit me that I needed to make a film about it. I had been wanting to try my hand at directing for a while so when I came up with this idea I knew right off the bat that I wanted to personally direct it.

What is The Womanhood about, for you?

For me, The Womanhood is about female empowerment. Within the world of The Womanhood, the villains are stereotypical male chauvinists, the women in distress are victims of their chauvinistic ways, and the heroes are women who stick up for the other women. The film is about the camaraderie between women and this notion of being there for each other in order to seek justice against the stereotypical chauvinistic man.

Furthermore, The Womanhood is also mainly about countering the media’s depiction of periods. In today’s society we are constantly reminded of how terrible periods are; whether it be a commercial for pain-relievers reminding everyone of the unpleasant cramps, or a TV show insinuating that all women who have their periods are unable to control their emotions. My intention was to help counteract all the negativity by shining a positive light on periods and teaching young girls that getting their first period isn’t as scary as the media tends to portray it.

The London Feminist Film Festival is the third feminist film festival The Womanhood will be screened at. What are your thoughts about the film’s popularity at feminist film festivals?

Being that I made the film with the intention of it being a story of female empowerment, I am very proud of its current success within the feminist film festival circuit. It’s very reassuring and comforting to learn your film’s main message is in fact being perceived correctly.

How did you go about funding and planning your directorial debut?

When it came to funding, my Executive Producer Tara Mastroeni and I put together several fundraisers to help us achieve our goal. In the end, the bulk of the budget came from my own savings which I had put away specifically for this project.

You recently graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Directing Narrative Fiction and a minor in Photography. How have things changed for you as a filmmaker since graduation?

As a filmmaker, the biggest change I’ve encountered since graduation is the type of projects I’m working on. Prior to graduation I only worked on one feature film and since graduating I’ve been fortunate enough to work on three more and I couldn’t be more excited. I feel as though I’m really just building up my experience once again only this time on professional shoots rather than student sets.

You are currently working on a couple of projects in various roles, including assistant director. Are you working on another film of your own in the meantime as well? If so, can you tell us a bit more about it?

As a matter of fact I am currently working on another film of my own. I’m only in the very early stages of development however I can say it is another feminist project. It provides the stereotypically ‘mundane mom’ character with a much more action-packed life.

What is your favourite feminist film?

One of my favourite feminist films is Legally Blonde. I love how it manages to portray such a powerful female character through so many negative stereotypes. One of my favourite feminist TV shows is Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It encompasses so many strong female characters yet none of them feel repetitive.

Thank you Yvonne!

The Womanhood will celebrate its UK PREMIERE at the London Feminist Film Festival on Sunday 2 December at 6.30 pm as part of the FIGHTING BACK! short films screening.

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