Chicago Says G'Day to Australian Filmmaker Sarah Watt
by Jan Lisa Huttner
To celebrate women's history month, IWPA co-sponsored our second WITASWAN program on March 18. This year our special guest was Sarah Watt, writer/director of the award-winning new film Look Both Ways.
WITASWAN (an acronym which stands for "Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now") is an Illinois-based initiative whose aim is to break through the "celluloid ceiling" restricting opportunities for women filmmakers in Hollywood and around the world. Like last year, IWPA collaborated on this program with AAUW-Illinois (the Illinois division of the American Association of University Women), but this year we had a new partner: the Australian Consulate - General Chicago.
IWPA, as a member of the National Federation of Press Women, has fought for the right of women writers in all media since 1885. Therefore we have taken up the WITASWAN cause, recognizing that filmmakers are now among the preeminent storytellers of our new millennium. Australia takes particular pride in its women filmmakers. Their internationally known directors include Gillian Armstrong, Sue Brooks, Jocelyn Moorhouse, and of course Oscar-winner Jane Campion, one of only three women ever nominated for the Best Director Oscar by AMPAS (the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences).
In addition to the presidents, Kim Benziger of AAUW-Illinois and Suzanne Hanney of IWPA, many people from both Illinois organizations worked to make this day a success especially AAUW-Illinois registration coordinator Barbara Spiegel and IWPA treasurer Cecilia Green. PR support came from IWPA member Jane Canepa and Janja Taylor (one of Jane's Columbia College Chicago students).
The project had the full support of Robert Clark, the Australian Consul - General Chicago, and his entire staff. Our primary contact was Melissa Robbins the ACGC's Public Diplomacy Officer. Melissa worked feverishly to ensure that Sarah would be here in Chicago with us for this special day, and she also had copies of three of Sarah's animated shorts (Living with Happiness, Local Dive, and Small Treasures) sent from Australia via diplomatic pouch.
We also received terrific assistance from Brian Ross, the Landmark Theatres chain's Senior Regional Publicist for Metropolitan Chicago, as well as Jessica Rosner and Sylvia Savadjian of Kino International Corporation (the US-distributor for Look Both Ways).
Members and friends of the three sponsoring organizations comprised the bulk of the audience, as expected, but we also had many walk-ins based on our extensive PR outreach.
Feedback from IWPA members included the following comments:
"It's a rare gift for an artist to be able to convey so many of the feelings and fears, both intense and subtle, that we all experience at various times in our lives... Look Both Ways is a movie that one doesn't simply watch; it's a movie that you experience." (Art Brauer)
"I thought Look Both Ways was excellent. It reminded me of Crash: diverse people brought together by an accident, and the ways in which the accident affects their lives and relationships… Fine premise - well put-together and well-acted." (Elizabeth Dickey)
"Sarah Watt's multi-talents of art, animation, and creative writing came together in Look Both Ways as a unique visual interpretation of universal life experiences. The world became borderless as I viewed the film and contemplated the characters' thoughts of tragedy and death and living life to its fullest… To meet Sarah Watt, an exceptional talent from Australia, who is humble and honest, was a rare opportunity for this new fan." (Val Ensalaco)
"I liked Sarah Watt's animated short Small Treasures, both for its imagery and the subtle ways it expressed a pregnant woman's emotions (and even her husband's ways of dealing with them). It was wonderful to have the animated shorts because they gave us so much more information with which to understand Look Both Ways… I think it trivializes it to call Look Both Ways a 'woman's movie.' It transcends that, with good parts for both male and female actors and a plot that is universal." (Suzanne Hanney)
For more information about Look Both Ways, read my review on The Digital Filmmaker website: http://digitalfilmmaker.net/dv/features/lookbothways/index.html
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