Filmmaker Ingrid Veninger says the pitch for the script writing initiative Femmes Lab, “could have back-fired badly.”
The actor-turned-director-turned-Renaissance-woman was on stage at the Whistler Film Festival in December receiving an EDA award from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists for her latest film, The Animal Project, when a notion struck her.
“I started to talk about the Femmes Lab at the podium,” says Veninger. “Six Canadian women will write six screenplays in six months. Then I took the leap to invite someone to step up for $6,000. At first the room was silent. So, I started counting down: 6, 5 … and before I hit 4, a women shot her arms in the air and said, ‘I’ll do it!’ My heart was racing and it was only later I realized it was Melissa Leo. Melissa approached me quietly and said, ‘This is going to happen. I will get you a cheque before the end of the year.’ And, she did.”
For her donation, the Frozen River Academy Award winner Leo gets a first look at six scripts written by a hand-picked group of female Canadian writers and directors including Veninger, Danishka Esterhazy, Michelle Latimer, Sophie Deraspe, Anais Granofsky and Mars Horodyski.
“It’s not your traditional kind of script development,” says Veninger, “that’s for sure. It’s almost more like a coven. We’re not actually casting spells, as we conjure these new screenplays, but sort of. The nuts and bolts is that we meet in person once a month from January until June, mostly in Toronto. And, month to month we each have to move our screenplays forward, so that by the end of June, we have six completed scripts. But what happens in the actual lab session is a secret. I can say that in my past 20 years of making movies, I have not experienced anything like this. First off, the six of us are very different and we bring a diverse range of experiences and perspectives to the table. Our sessions are minimally nine hours, but can also last the whole weekend.”
One of the participants, Mars Horodyski, said, “For me the pUNK Films Femmes Lab offers a supportive creative space where you are encouraged to do something different, brave and representative of who you really are.
Something really special happens when you get a group of women together to collaborate in this way. It’s different from anything I’ve ever been a part of and I’m excited to see the outcome.”
Veninger says this edition of pUNK Films Femme Lab is likely to be “a one time thing. I’m happy to spark the fire, but it’s most exciting to see how others keep it going.”
It seems that spark is about to ignite.
“After Whistler, I received a message from a filmmaker in L.A. saying, “we should do a Femmes Lab in Los Angeles”, and my response was, ‘go ahead and do it. Make it happen. We have nothing to lose. Now is the time.’”