Talking to the Feminist Filmmakers Who Made a 'Mumblecore Superhero Movie'

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Talking to the Feminist Filmmakers Who Made a 'Mumblecore Superhero Movie'

An interview with the women behind Red Lighter Films, which aims to combine intersectional feminism with film and make movies that represent marginalized groups.
1.10.15

Hobbes Ginsberg has been featured on VICE in the past for her beautiful, performative self-portraiture, so I was curious when she mentioned she started a new production company, Red Lighter Films, with Chloe Feller, an LA actress and producer. Their first film, which VICE helped produce, is called All-Encompassing and Everywhere; it debuted on Monday in LA at Pehrspace. The 16-minute short explores themes of depression, anxiety, surrealism, and superpowers, sort of like a mumblecore version of Watchmen. It follows Marlow Finch (played by Feller), a young artist who happens to be a vigilante with healing powers, and her curious roommate Beth (played by Anita Vora).

The whole point of Red Lighter is to combine intersectional feminism with film and make movies that represent marginalized groups while sticking to a collaborative ethos. They say they're determined to dismantle the institutions within the entertainment industry that exclude women, people of color, trans people, queer people, and other oppressed groups from excelling in the field of cinema.

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To talk about all that, I called up Feller, Ginsberg, and All-Encompassing and Everywhere director Mackenzie Greer.

VICE: Hobbes, why did you decide to get into film?
Hobbes Ginsberg: I have been interested in film for a while but it always seemed just out of my grasp for a lot of reasons. When I met Chloe we really clicked on the way we thought about film and what kind of changes needed to be made in the industry. We really believe in the ability to create new paths of success and so we decided to just jump right into it and do it ourselves.

How do the two relate?
Hobbes: Because photography has been the foundation of my artistic practice for the past few years, I think everything relates back to it in some way. My approach to making images is especially influenced by the style I have created within my photography and that background gave me a foundation through which I can explore film as a medium. I think my approach to my photo career and the ways I've found success in that field informed the way I approached the film and the desire to carve our own path.

When did you start writing All Encompassing & Everywhere? What was the inspiration for it?
Hobbes: The way I remember it happening, probably almost a year ago now, we had decided we wanted to make a movie but didn't know what our story was yet so we were in the car doing that thing where we tried to throw out as many crazy ideas as possible to see if anything stuck. I was asking Chloe about what kind of roles she has always wanted to do. We had a couple other options and Chloe said she had always wanted to do a superhero movie and she was like, "We should just make a superhero movie!" and I was like, "Yeah… a mumblecore superhero movie" as a joke but then we just both looked at each other like, "Wait, yeah!".

Chloe Feller: Yeah, that's a good story. That's kind of how we figure out a lot of things. I had some themes in mind before then though, like we knew we wanted to deal with depression, anxiety, and recovering from trauma.

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Hobbes: And I knew I wanted to make something that blended my surreal still photo style with more traditional "realism" but that "mumblecore superhero" moment gave us the framework to put everything in and it grew from there.

Chloe: We ended up taking that foundation to our friend, A.J. Martin who fleshed out the script and really understood what we were trying to do on a deep level and added in a lot of what makes the film what it is.

In the blurb about the movie, you mention it is marrying intersectional feminism with film—why do you think mainstream movies don't strive to include more diverse stories?
Mackenzie Greer: The most common excuse is that white men and white stories bring in more profit and are less "risky," but I think that's bullshit. Their stories are treated as universal and for everyone, while stories about marginalized groups are treated as special interest.

Hobbes: Yeah I think what it basically comes down to is a lack of respect by the powers that be for anyone who isn't like them. There are so many excuses that people give to make the same thing over and over whether it be because "they were just the best people for the role" or "it's worked in the past so why change," but in the end it is a huge lack of respect.

Chloe: While I think a lot of it has to do with dominant power structures in the industry, I also think it's intrinsically tied to the vast underestimation of audiences. The people in the mainstream film industry think that audiences don't care about diversity and the complexity of diverse characters (I believe they assume this to validate their personal disregard for these narratives) and so the films don't get made. However, they fail to consider the diversity of audiences and what representation means to people.

Who do you look to for influences in film because of this?
Chloe: Honestly, I look mostly to my peers and my friends way more than people in the industry. I feel like they are doing the most innovative things with film and there is a lot more consciousness with people our age for representation of marginalized identities and criticism of the industry. I also really look up to [director] Victoria Mahoney. We've been really fortunate in that she has taken an interest in this film and came to one of our shoot dates. We recently saw a talk of hers here in LA and everything she was saying was so in line with what we are trying to do and her perseverance and success is incredibly inspirational to me

Hobbes: I completely agree.

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Mackenzie: My peers for sure, because they are all doing amazing and wonderful things, but also my mom because she has always been a strong role model to me and someone I see as a powerful woman who has always encouraged me to pursue all my interests.

What are your hopes for Red Lighter Films?
Hobbes: I think above all we're trying to make something different. I want to have a platform that promotes creative and progressive media that you haven't seen before and that otherwise wouldn't have a huge audience and really carve out a new space for the kinds of stories we want to tell. We are really passionate about community and working together, especially in a field like film where traditionally its so cutthroat and competitive. That really drives how we work with people and how we want to move forward. Film as an industry right now is really disheartening in a lot of ways, and we really want to come in and make a radically different environment where new kinds of stories and a new group of people can succeed.

Chloe: What we really want to do is be able to collaborate and create films that are diverse and representative, and be able to do that to our fullest ability no matter what. I want to show people the true potential that these kinds of films have and that there is an audience for it. I think it's really important to create nuanced characters whose marginalization isn't the crux of the whole story.

Mackenzie: Global domination.

Follow Red Lighter Film projects here.