AFF: The World’s first and only festival dedicated to female action films

An interview with Artemis Women in Action Film Festival co-founder Melanie Wise

The Artemis Women In Action Film Festival is the world's first and only film festival dedicated to female action films. Tell us the inspiration behind the creation of AFF.
 
Action films with female leads hit a very personal note for me and my team.  The festival was founded by myself and co-founded by Sean Newcombe and Zac Baldwin.  We were way ahead of the curve in terms of producing female led action films.  Finding studios, producers, and distributors to support it, past the token films here and there, has been way past difficult!  Our inspiration for the festival was to create a space where female led action films could play.  We decided if we wanted to see more of this type of content in the world, we’d have to create the space for it to exist.kristanna loken award
 
Save specialty festivals, unknown makers of films featuring physically powerful women have no real venue.  Most festivals focus on documentaries, dramas, and comedies and generally festivals do not program genre pics (action, horror, or sci-fi).  These types of films are not real contenders for awards anywhere, indie or studio.  For some reason, they fall into the ‘not important’ category, yet, if you want to see the great earners, these are the genres to examine.
 
How was last year's inaugural festival received by filmmakers and festival goers?
 
I think it went over incredibly amazing!!!  From concept to execution, our first year happened in 6 months.  Since our time line was so short, our film submission period was very short - only 2months.  In that time, we received over 200 films from 25 countries around the globe.  When we first moved forward with the festival, my fear was we would get laughed out of the park over the concept.  Instead we got beaten over the head with lots of submissions, a truly excited base of filmmakers and fans from all over the world.  We had about 37% of our seats over 3 days sold.
 
We were also able to bring a good bit of fanfare to our opening day. If ever there was an icon of female action, it really is Linda Hamilton as Sarah Conner.  Ms. Hamilton was Artemis’ very first Artemis Action Icon receptionist.  We could not have named a better first Action Icon.  We were also able to recognize Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3, Painkiller Jane, BoodRayne) with the Artemis Action Warrior Award and Gina Torres (Firefly, Serenity, Cleopatra 2525) took the Artemis Action Powerhouse Award.  We recognized two amazingly talented, venerated stunt women: Angela Meryl (Kill Bill, Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End, Skyfall and many others) received Artemis Stunt Unsung Heroine Award and Maja Aro (Red, Twilight, The Cabin in the Woods, and many TV shows) received Artemis Stunt Warrior Award.  Lastly, we recognized WMMA fight promoter Shannon Knapp with the Artemis Athletics Icon Award for creating a premiere women’s only WMMA fight promotion.
 
Our live red carpet radio show, hosted by comedy radio personality Langdon Bosarge and LA radio legend Sheena Metal, was … just draw dropping really.  The interviews they conducted with our red carpet guests were as funny as they were informative and entertaining.  Sherry Lee Meredith, creator of Go Curvy, conducted our red carpet interviews with all of the our visiting BadAss women, that included Kristanna Loken, Jane Sibbett, Dot Marie Jones, Angela Meryl as well as many other stuntwomen and female fighters.  We even spotted former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on our red carpet!
 
August McLaughlin, creator of Girl Boner Radio, presided over our honoree ceremony.
 
How can eager fans get behind and support AFF?aff collage
 
Thank you for asking.  Currently we are crowd funding on IndieGoGo and our campaign runs until midnight on Mar24, 2016.  At this time we are just shy of having raised 50% of our budget.  We can still use lots of support and we appreciate it very, very much.  There’s all kinds of rewards available there - inspiration wrist bands, T’s, movies passes, day passes, all access passes as well as up close and personal experiences.  You can receive training from WMMA fighter Serena SouthPaw DeJesus (who has trained with UFC champ Miesha Tate, there are a very small number of seats available to people wanting to sit in on our live red carpet radio show (Sheena Metal’s live drive time radio show that will be recorded from the Artemis red carpet), and you can even imbibe fantasy wrestling with our Amazonian Goddess who is an ex-pro basketball player and Brazilian Jui-Jitsu Black belt.  We were fan backed last year as well.  Our campaign can be found here: www.WomenKickAss.com.  We proudly display all of our backers names on the festival website!
 
What can we expect from this year's event?
 
This year’s event is shaping up spectacularly!  We’ve got lots of great films!
 
AND, This year, we have an incredibly stellar lists of honorees, WMMA fighters, stunt panel participants, as well as visiting industry luminaries.  This year Yancy Butler will receive our Artemis Action Powerhouse, Dayna Grant (Charlize Therone’s stunt double in Mad Mad: Fury Road) will receive the Artemis Stunt Warrior, Zoe Bell (Lucy Lawless’ stunt double on Xena) will receive the Artemis Stunt Icon, Heidi Moneymaker (Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double for Black Widow in Avengers) will receive the Artemis Stunt Unsung Heroine, and Jessie Graff (Adrianne Palicki’s stunt double on Agents of Shield) will receive the Artemis Stunt Next Wave.  All of these women are incredibly deserving of attention for their contributions to the world of women in action.  Butler has played many power filled characters for many years, her most iconic being Witchblade.  All of our stunt women are THE gold standard of A-list stunt women.  The physical mastery and skill they bring to the game has set entirely new bars in the world of film making.  Confirmed guests are Yancy Butler, Dayna Grant (she’s actually making the trip all the way from New Zealand to join us at the festival!), Maja Aro (joining us all the way from Canada) and Jessie Graff.  We expect Zoe Bell, Heidi Moneymaker, and Angela Meryl to join us as well, schedule permitting.-angela meryl sherry lee meredith4
 
Confirmed participants for our stunt panel are stunt legend Andy Armstrong, venerated stuntwoman Jennifer Caputo (whose been doing stunts since about 1965!), last year’s honoree Maja Aro, Jessie Graff, and fire specialist Indus Alelia. I’m going to beg Angela Meryl to return to this year’s stunt panel!!!  We have a few more participants to confirm too!
 
We will feature an exclusive preview of the film Fight Valley which stars UFC champ Miesha Tate, former UFC Champ Holly Holm, Invicta Champ Christiane Cyborg Justino, Serena DeJesus, the Serrano Sisters, and actresses Susie Celek and Erin O’Brien.  We do expect a very good number of these women to join us at the festival.  And YES, many of these fighters will be there!

Additionally, we are showing the world premiere of No Touching, a horror short starring Zoe Bell and Heidi Moneymaker. 

Are there any surprises in store for attendees?
 
We have not finished naming honorees … and we are hoping to make a couple of news worthy announcements as we move closer to the festival.  Also we are hoping to include a couple more stunt women on our stunt panel.  Very shortly , we will be announcing our formal schedule.  Our opening day will certainly be an event not to be missed for those who truly BadAss women in action.
 
-melanie wise angela meryl august mclaughlin mw4
 
Do you have a piece of advice for filmmakers with a strong female lead in their script?
 
Stop waiting around for our studios to buy your project or our agents and managers to find work/sell us.  Find a way to get out there, collect your resources, make your project into a finished film, and build your own audience.  Beating on the door of Hollywood is waiting on train that may never arrive …. so be creative and find a way to put your real projects into the world.
 
This is for all filmmakers, female lead or no:  Your finish line is not putting a finished film in the ‘can’!  You’ve also got to be prepared to market yourself and your project.  In today’s world of filmmaking, we can no longer pick one discipline and master that.  You’ve gotta be willing to wear many hats, say yes to a pile of new learning curves, AND you must be absolutely willing to carry your film across the line of distribution, which means the tall task of learning marketing.
 
A very good friend of mine, Jerome Courshon, offers an amazing DVD class on garnering film distribution in today’s market.  He covers all of the methods of moving films out into the world so that they can earn money.  It’s a great class and if you’ve never marketed a film for the purpose of distribution, I’d say this is the best course to get your marketing hat on.  Jerome and his classes can be found here: http://www.distribution.la/index.html
 
I’ve seen so many films that do not have key art, no social media presence, and film makers who’ve never taken the time to learn the business end of the film industry.  Let’s be very honest here.  We’ve all seen films that are not great make money.  They do so because someone on their team is marketing their product.
 
Use social media to start building your audience.  This is the low budget filmmakers’ P&A.  Create a fantastic trailer, whether short or feature, that sells your film.  Make sure you audience test your trailer with people who know nothing of your project.  That means asking 40 or 50 people to view your trailer and give honest feedback.  You need to make sure your trailer adequately generates interest and curiosity in your film.  Many times we are too close and know the story too well to adequately see how someone with no knowledge of the project will get impacted by your trailer.  And never make any project, short or feature, without creating key art for it.  Collect great screen grabs and production stills – these are going to be the grist for your marketing mill.

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