Gutsy Gals Wanted: Women in Film Honored
By Nichole Dupont
Like the skies over the region, the recent Oscars was a dismal affair punctuated by political outbursts of truth (thank you, Patricia Arquette and John Legend) and abysmal-even-for-Hollywood underrepresentation of women across the board. Writer/director/actor and pretty much everything elser Cathryn Michon [in photo, right] knows the hard numbers by heart. And they ain’t pretty.
“Four to six percent of films are directed by women. Something like fifteen percent of characters with major speaking roles are women,” Michon says, referencing several articles from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com statistics blog. “Things were better for us in 1939, think about that. There were 10 films nominated and five of them followed a woman’s story line. Now it’s a fear-driven business where they care more about the ‘common wisdom.’ It’s a herd mentality, they’re not looking at how the world is shifting.”
Part of that seismic shift will be felt this weekend in the Berkshires, when Michon and other women in the film industry will be honored in the first ever Gutsy Gals Inspire Me film awards. The awards ceremony and a screening of Michon’s film ‘Muffin Top: A Love Story’—a gut busting RomCom which she wrote, directed and starred in—will take place at Simon’s Rock campus on Saturday, March 21 as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, now in its fifth year. The awards ceremony will be hosted by director Karen Allen and by Gutsy Gals founder Deborah Hutchison, who is no stranger to the old (white) boys’ glass ceiling of Tinseltown. A longtime casting director and director (and member of the Directors Guild), Hutchison says that she was inspired to move in a different direction from Hollywood when she acquired a watercolor manuscript of the story of Berta Benz.
“I was looking through these pages, reading this story about the first long distance automobile drive in history,” she says. “Berta defied her husband, she defied authority, she was compelled. That’s when I had the meltdown. Just think, there were women way before Berta who had done the same thing. If I had known about women like that when I was a girl…can you even imagine? That’s the moment Gutsy Girls came into being.”
Cathryn Michon, Deborah Hutchison, and Marissa Jaret Winokur, who co-stars in “Muffin Top.”
Hutchison went on to transform the pages of the Berta Benz book into a short animated film while building momentum for Gutsy Gals, which recognizes strong female role models and designates awards in the categories of Education, Business, Entertainment, Charitable Work and now, Film.
And what a film it is. ‘Muffin Top’ literally strips away the relentless layers of pressure and hypocrisy and double-standardism that accompany being female in American society. Suzanne, the main character played by Michon, is facing a crisis on several fronts, not the least of which is her declining fertility coupled with her expanding waistline. Yet, she is a professor of feminist culture—a supposed lion of women’s rights who ends up on a surgeon’s table begging for lip injections while getting liposuction. The film is hilarious and does not sacrifice the authentic details for the sake of being more palatable for the male set. Granted, there are no menstruation jokes, but nearly everything else is up for grabs; Spanx welts, unwieldy Bumpits, mortifyingly tight yoga pants.
“Everyone, everywhere feels insecure about how they look. There is no escape from it,” Michon says. “I do yoga with actual supermodels and even they look critically at themselves in the mirror in the little locker room. No one can get away with feeling good about themselves. The only way we can defang that kind of thinking is to laugh at it. Laugh really hard at it.”
Michon has toured more than 30 cities with her film, which was funded largely by a Kickstarter campaign. And while the audience reactions have been over-the-top rewarding (especially the but-gusting laughter), no part of making and promoting ‘Muffin Top’ has been a cakewalk, right down to rolling and unrolling the red carpet for each screening at each location. But if that’s what it takes…
“You have to be multi-talented,” she says, rattling off names such as Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Nicole Holofcener. “Consumers are getting more activated. Smart money will flow. This isn’t just an entertainment story, it’s a business story. In the end, 52 percent of potential ticket buyers worldwide are women…so…you do the math.”
Gutsy Gals Film Award and “Muffin Top: A Love Story” Screening
Saturday, March 21, 7 p.m.
Daniel Arts Center, Bard College at Simon’s Rock
84 Alford Road, Great Barrington, MA