DFNY Interview with Artemis Film Festival founder Melanie Wise

Actor, Producer, Editor, Founder, Artemis Film Festival … gym rat


DFNY:  First off,  why the name Artemis? Does it have any special significance for you?

MW: Artemis is the Matron of the Amazons and Goddess of the Hunt.  We wanted a symbol and moniker that completely epitomized the empowered feminine principal.  In today’s society, if I mention a hunt, most people would normally associate that with men.  And here we have an archetype who so completely mastered the hunt, she’s the matron saint of it. Matron of the Amazons, Artemis is only associated with strong, powerful, empowered women.  We wanted our name to represent the fully flowered embodiment of  physical strength, skill and power.  Artemis is all of THAT!  And our festival is the very first solely dedicated to women in action.

DFNY: What was the evolution of the festival?  Was it difficult to find supporters early on,  or did you receive a lot of encouragement? How has the response to the festival generally been?

MW: Actually, it came about very VERY quickly!  The idea was Sean Newcombe’s (another of the founders) and from conception to execution of our first year was literally 6 months.  I was kinda worried we’d be laughed outta the park for the idea (even tho I just loved it!), we opened submissions and got beat over the head with them our first year.  People from all over the world reached out, showed their excitement, and sent us their films.  We’ve been able to celebrate and support stuntwomen (without whom we would not have female heroes onscreen at all),  recognize several Hollywood luminaries at each event, steadily grown our audience base, and most importantly, lend a voice furthering equality.  People really dig our festival.  I think that it’s very safe to say given our first two years of operation were completely fan backed.  We are currently crowdfunding for our 3rd edition, and we’ve already raised 40% of our goal.  I would say our response has been incredibly good!! We are very pleased, proud, and honored to be able to offer the festival.  

DFNY:  I guess that would mean Sean is Apollo!   What was your goal in starting the festival?  How have you seen it grow/develop?  Where do you see it in five years?

MW: We were first content creators – a small band of people who’ve loved physically strong female leads for a long time.  In doing our best to push content with action centered female leads and failing very miserably, we thought if we wanted to see more of this type of content in the world, creating a space for it to play would be key in making that shift.  It’s been very amazing to see more filmmakers focus on action and empowerment, and we’ve seen a shift start to occur within the years the festival has been alive.  I would hope in five years, we will be the festival that offers people everywhere a place to find inspiration, pushes the boundaries of parity to reach further equality for women in all walks of life, breaks new female action heroes and stuntwomen, becomes a happy stomping ground for distributors to find new content, have a festival that occurs on more than one coast, more than one country, creates the conditions to produce original content on a regular basis …. I could go on and on and on!

DFNY: What are some of the standout films that have been in the festival?  How have they fared afterwards?  

MW: We have had the amazing pleasure of screening truly awesome films.  We get to screen films that spotlight women in history that most people don’t even know about.  I really love showing these films because women get to learn the legacy of really badass stuff that other women have done and  by learning about it, they broaden their own horizons.  If you ever get a chance to see Flying Queens: A Basketball Dynasty, Warrior Women: A Vision of Valor, Wings of Silver: The Vi Cowden Story, Aviatrix, Skydancers, Women Outward Bound, Fight Like a Girl, do not miss the opportunity.  We show films that chronicle important and astounding feats of social activism – India’s Daughter or the documentary short Power – these films absolutely move people to action.

We get the most amazing narrative shorts.  We generally program thematically, for instance we may have a block called Pulp Action and all the shorts in that screening will be pulp fiction style actioners starring women, or Sci-Fi Femmes or Swordswomen and Superheroes.  Our blocks of short films are some of the funnest screenings we have.- kick ass action, humor, great stories … just FUN.

We have had a few films that screened at our festival go on to be distributed.  Narratives Awaken and Two Down and the documentary Sky Dancers were 2015 screeners and went forward to distribution.  From our last edition narrative Never Let Go and documentary SMART also went onto be distributed.  Last year we had the extraordinary luck of premiering No Touching, a horror short starring Zoe Bell and Heidi Moneymaker (two of the world’s top stunt women).  Tho, that may not have been luck at all … I’d been trying to hunt that film down since our first year, and luckily in late 2015 I was able to reach them for our 2nd year.

The very cool part about a festival that focuses on action and empowerment: you don’t really get boring films.  Our screenings are generally pretty exciting stuff! And our current edition is certainly going to be our best event thus far 😀

How has the festival impacted you personally? Lessons learned?   Do you now spend more time on the festival than on your career, or has a symmetry developed?

MW: I grew up on a farm and I do think farm folk are generally pretty hard workers and I’ve considered myself a hard worker my whole life.  AND! I’ve learned, quite thoroughly over the last three years, what it means to work like a rented mule!!!  We’ve grown quickly, and have lots of plans we hope to germinate in the future, so we’ve been very busy working to bring those things to life.

On a more important note of learning, and some folks will want to shoot me for saying this: the things I’ve seen tell me that women have much to learn on the front of supporting other women.  And until such time as women truly learn to support other women, I do believe we will struggle with parity issues.  Women are more than half the population, make the majority of choices in purchasing in developed countries …. and we are having a problem with parity???  Does anyone else see the glaring hole here?  Women have far more power and influence than they realize and it is time to really take up that mantle, use the power and influence they do have, and make a difference.

Symmetry?!?!?! HA!!! What’s that?  Short answer: no, haven’t learned that AT ALL!

Further Quotes from the Artemis team:  

Sean NewCombe, Co-Founder:  We felt we were starting a movement not just in film, but in culture. We felt the excitement of something we thought was revolutionary.  The 21st century will be defined by the rights and power of women.

Zac Baldwin, Co-Founder:  It has been very gratifying to see a lot of filmmakers putting out content that audiences LOVE and incredibly gratifying to show that content.

Megan Hubbell, Marketing and Media Dev. Mgr.: I really love badass women and wanted to be a part of something that celebrated them.  We were the first … AND I got a really cool T shirt too!

Indus Alelia, Public Relations & Outreach Mgr.: The Artemis Women in Action Film Festival makes me proud to be a woman. I’m so happy to be part of a group and a project geared toward empowering all types of women in all types of action, be it stunts or the often times more dangerous world of speaking one’s mind.

Women Kick Ass Project 3 – Crowdfund for year 3 of the festival; campaign runs till 3/28/17:  www.WomenKickAss.com  The only place to get tickets and passes is currently on our crowdfunding page.  We’ve also got some really cool custom T’s available there …. and lots of other nifty stuff!

Artemis Film Festival:  www.ArtemisFilmFestival.com

2017 Edition Dates:  April 20-23rd 2017

Thursday, April 20 – The Ahrya Fine Arts Theater, Beverly Hills
Friday-Sunday, Apr 21-23 – The Monica Film Center, Santa Monica


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