One area that may be harder for women to break in than many may surprise you. The film industry is woefully underrepresented by women. Now mind you, I’m not talking about those in front of the cameras, but those behind them.
For this reason, it was my absolute delight to meet Courtney Hope and Suzanne Doran from Tinker Films, located in Allentown. Even more exciting was the fact that along with cinematographer, Ludovica Isidori, they were rolling on their second independent film, Fear of Heights. I was pleased to have the opportunity to briefly chat with the film’s producer, Suzanne Doran and director Courtney Hope on a short break while filming in Bethlehem.
EM: What led to your love of film and ultimately, the creation of Tinker Films?
SD: Tinker Films was started in 2012 because Jessica Pignataro and I wanted to make movies that we loved. We started as screenwriters and had tried the pitch thing in LA, but it’s so hard to break in that way, especially if you’re a woman. So, we said, let’s just do it ourselves.
EM: Tinker Films is strongly geared towards something near and dear to my heart, personally, and that’s women in film, and creating films primarily created by women. What do readers need to know about the importance of women in film?
SD: In 2012, women represented 15% of writers, 25% of producers, 20% of editors, and 2% of cinematographers. And something like only 10% of protagonists in films were women. Those numbers sucks. They don’t make sense. We are half of the population of the world, we should be able to watch movies that represent us.
EM: Your current project isn’t your “first rodeo”. Tell us about Just Like We Used To Do, your first film. Was there something that led to the subject of the film, what was it like to create your first independent film, and what were some of the things that you learned in that process?
SD: Just Like We Used To Do is loosely based on an experience I had with a family member suffering from dementia, and when she passed I had a difficult time dealing with my grief. I used the outlet of writing to get out of the things I was feeling, and after I wrote the first ten pages, I sent it off to Jess, who said “This is it. We have to make this our movie.” So we did. It was a trial by fire, and jumped in head first, but we learned so many things, the question should really be what didn’t we learn. Jess and I have our own strengths which make us a great team, and I think we each learned a lot of things on our own, but even more, we learned how to work better together. What we did was crazy. We made a feature film in two weeks with $45,000, and looking back now, I don’t know how. We were absolutely nuts, but better for doing it.
EM: Wow. In two weeks? That’s amazing. Now tell us about Fear of Heights, your film which is currently in production. What is the basis of the story, and why you chose it?
CH: Fear of Heights tells the story of Carina, 16, who has promised to take her little sister Sasha, 9, to the amusement park for the day. Unfortunately, she decides to stop at her boyfriend’s on their way there, derailing their plans.
We wanted to explore a sibling relationship because of its unique nature, the idea of having a “best friend” who has been chosen for you. There is a strong bond between siblings, but as with any relationship there is a give and take, which becomes more complicated with difference in age. We chose to focus on two sisters because we felt that as a group of female filmmakers it’s important to create strong, true-to-life roles for women in front of the camera as well as behind it. Fear of Heights is a coming age story for both characters, each growing from this one day that will forever change their relationship. Fear of Heights is a universal story from a female perspective, something we think audiences want to see more of.
EM: This film is slated to be filmed here in the Lehigh Valley. How can people support the film, and how will their support help?
SD: As indie filmmakers we always need help from the community. Right now, they can go to the website for the short, the Tinker Films website or if they would like to go donate money to the project they can hop right on over to our project on Fractured Atlas.
EM: And worthy of mention is that all donations through Fractured Atlas are tax deductible. So what are your plans for Fear of Heights? Where will we be able to see this film, once released?
CH: Fear of Heights will be submitted to film festivals. We plan to have a screening in the Lehigh Valley once the film is completed as well. The eventual goal is to distribute Fear of Heights online after its festival run. As we move into post-production, we will continue to develop our distribution strategy. Check our website for updates!
Walking away from this shoot gave me a deeper understanding of the role that funding plays for independent filmmakers such as Hope and Doran. It allows them to compensate their highly skilled film crew, rent any additional equipment needed to shoot and once the film is complete, it will allow them to afford the festival submissions.
I highly encourage anyone who may be indie film aficionados, advocates for women’s empowerment or anyone who has a favorite sister to consider supporting this project and the great women behind it.
I do believe it’s time to see the Lehigh Valley take center stage at upcoming film festivals worldwide, and Tinker Films are the right women for the job!