'Before The Fire' director Charlie Buhler says 'structural change' needed to give women filmmakers more visibility
In an interview with MEA WorldWide, the Los Angeles-based filmmaker spoke about her independent project and how she joined forces with Jenna Lyng Adams to create a female-led production
This seems to be a promising but challenging period for women filmmakers. Throughout the award season, we got to see an array of women-driven projects, each remarkable in their own right. Yet, there is very little recognition for them, as has been observed by critics and the audiences alike.
Amidst such struggles, there are filmmakers like Charlie Buhler, who continue to aim higher and make their presence felt. She is an independent filmmaker and photographer and has also worked as an actor in some projects.
Born in an interracial family, Buhler brings her multicultural background to the table. Her work, as she describes, is majorly inspired by nature and the people around her. Buhler takes pride in being influenced by the experiences of women, people of color and little nuances of life that do not often make it to the screen. She is all set to showcase her latest project 'Before the Fire', which is also her first feature film.
This movie is special to Buhler, who teamed up with Jenna Lyng Adams (Darshani in 'The Kominsky Method') and built a women-driven team and overcame the roadblocks that most female filmmakers face in the industry. The two women found their "tribe" in each other and created a piece of art, which would be their response to what they define as the "impenetrable nature of Hollywood".
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) had a chance to get up close with this new generation filmmaker and learn about her filmmaking ethos and her.
What was the inspiration behind 'Before the Fire'?
There is no single definition of this movie. 'Before the Fire' is many things combined into one — love story, thriller and family drama. It comes from my own experience of what people expect out of a woman making a movie. There is a set expectation of the kind of stories women are able to tell.
You see male directors being fluid across genres. Whether its sci-fi, action or drama thrillers, they are mostly told from a man's perspective, and the women in the stories are only a vehicle to take the story ahead. That is what drove me to create something that is told differently. I love action, I love sci-fi and I wanted to make a film I could see myself in — one with a female lead that women could really rally behind.
How did you and Jenna Lyng Adams join forces?
Jenna is a very good friend and I think our collaboration worked because neither of us wanted to wait for someone to choose us. We were both frustrated about finding that dream project, so we created it ourselves. We sat down one day, took stock of what we had and what we needed. We brought the movie all the way to my hometown South Dakota, where I had easy access to all the resources. It was incredible to have the freedom to play around and experiment with our own project, and discovering along the way.
We see that it’s a female-led team. How was it working with an all-female crew? Is it radically different from usual?
It is quite amazing, in fact. I wouldn’t say we only had women; there were quite a few men on the crew, but all of our leadership roles were taken over by women. We could actually feel a marked difference in the energy on the set. Typically, as we often see, are so male-dominated that women rarely get a chance, despite being equally talented, capable and hardworking. So, to be able to give them an opportunity to showcase themselves it felt very special to me.
What's your stance on the female filmmakers of today? How do you think they can make their presence felt in the industry going forward?
The lack of visibility for female filmmakers in Hollywood is not because of lack of talent or effort. Women directed several of the most critically acclaimed films of 2019, and yet, no female directors were nominated for the Academy Awards.
I believe that for things to change radically and female filmmakers to make themselves identified, the industry needs to be shaken up at a structural level. Yes, working to find your niche and pave your own way is essential, but we also need individuals at powerful positions who can facilitate that journey and bring about significant changes on that path. If I learned anything in this project, it was this: the most important part of any production is to populate your film with your strongest supporters.
Watch out for 'Before the Fire'. It is premiering at the Manchester International Film Festival in March 2020.