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Ingénue at the Indie Film Con:
Interview with Filmmaker Kate Chaplin

By Madelyn Ritrosky

Ingénue is the latest feature film from Indiana filmmaker Kate Chaplin.  I saw it as part of the first annual Indie Film Con – or Independent Film Convention – sponsored by the Indiana Filmmakers Network.  Filmmaker Chris Eller spearheaded the June 2013 event.

The convention setting couldn’t have been more convivial and relaxed.  Part festival and part conference, short and feature films as well as workshops and panels brought together 155 attendees from around Indiana and neighboring areas. 
 
What was unique was the equal time devoted to workshops and panels.  And the screenings took place in the intimate, state-of-the-art Indiana University Cinema. 
 
But back to Ingénue and Kate Chaplin...
IngénueChaplin’s own Karmic Courage Productions, where the motto is “Be Courageous,” produced the film.  It was shot primarily in Noblesville, Indiana, and as a very low budget feature-length film, it was a labor of love. 
 
Chaplin is very aware that women in filmmaking, whether they make independent films or work in Hollywood on big-budget movies, face special challenges. 

That motivates her to keep making films, to be courageous in a media and cultural environment that is not especially female friendly. 
 
She’s writer, producer, and director – and she knows what she wants. 
 
Ingénue tells the story of a female clone, the result of secret experiments, who is about 20 years old yet starts out with the mind of a young child.  She learns quickly, though, in the loving home of her “adoptive” parents and their two elementary-age daughters. 
 
With a mix of intrigue, sci-fi thriller, romance, and drama, the film is very attuned to female experience.  And despite some tense moments, high emotions, and a few bad guys, it delivers the happy ending. 
 
I asked Kate Chaplin some questions about her film and her experiences.  
 
 
Ingénue1. How would you describe the kinds of stories and films you like to tell and create? 
 
My company motto is to create inspirational films that showcase strong, flawed, and wise female characters.  I have two daughters, and watching them grow up, I can see there are not many movies showing them, in positive ways, what it means to be a girl or a woman today. 
 
 
2. Have you written all the films you have directed?
 
No.  I have written and directed most of them, but I didn’t write Love Dance.  Terry Shepard wrote that.  And I wrote but didn’t direct Leah Not Leia.  That was Tom Johnson and Nate Savidge. 
 
 
3. What are some of the ways you bring feminist or woman-empowering touches to your films?  Can you give examples from Ingénue?
 
In Ingénue, I have women talking to each other about raising children, what it means to be a woman, childbirth, and marriage.  One scene I’m especially proud of is when April and Carol are on the park bench talking about raising their young girls to be strong mature women.  They aren’t sure how to do it, but they’re figuring it out.  That scene also passes the Bechdel Test. 
 
 
4. The Bechdel Test is a way to analyze a film’s treatment of women or, in other words, gender bias, correct? 
 
Created by cartoonist Allison Bechdel, it is not to judge a movie as “good” or as feminist.  It is a 3-part test to see if women are even represented in the film.  Here are the three questions of the test: 

1) Are there at least two women in the script who are named characters?

2) Do those women talk to each other?

3) Do those women talk about something other than a man? 

Four of the 9 films nominated for Best Picture at the 2012 Academy Awards passed the test.  That means 5 did not...   
 
 
5. What are some telling statistics about women in the film industry today?  

 
There are plenty, but to name a few, women comprised: 
18% of key or above-the-line positions in the top 600 box office films
 
For the top 250 box office films, women comprised:  

  • 9% of directors – a whopping 24 out of 250 films
  • 15% of screenwriters
  • 20% of editors
  • 2% of cinematographers – wow...  

In a Sundance study asking female directors about the greatest barriers, the #1 response was money (43%).  The #2 response was male-dominated networking (40%); #3 was balancing work and family (19.6%); #4 was being stereotyped as a “Woman Director” (15.7%); and #5 was not getting hired because they are women (13.7%).
 
IngénueAccess to money was the number one answer from these filmmakers because there is still a stigma that women can’t handle large sums of money.  This simply isn’t true.  Take your average Hollywood movie budget of $40 million.  Sheryl Sandberg runs Facebook, which is a $100 billion company, Indra Nooyi runs Pepsi, Viginia Rometty runs IBM, and Meg Whitman runs Hewlett Packard.  These are large corporations.  When you compare a $40 million film to their billion dollar companies, it’s a joke – that’s not funny.
 
Now your average budget for a Sundance project will be well below $1 million.  That’s still a lot of money to come up with to fund a movie project outside the Hollywood system.
 
The women in this study suggest it comes down to investors taking women directors seriously and trusting in their vision with cold hard cash.  
 
 
6. What kinds of advice would you give young women in high school or college who are drawn to filmmaking?
 
Pick a specific craft, whether it’s editing, writing, costuming, cinematography, or whatever.  Build that resume with your own projects and working on others.  
 
Don’t think your voice is not valuable.  Many women are quiet in film schools or on set because they don’t want to ruffle feathers. Get out there and network and talk with other women in filmmaking.  It is indeed a boys’ club, and being around other women in the industry can really help. 
 
 
7. What was the toughest part of making Ingénue as a low-budget feature film? 
 
The budget was $20,000, but the toughest part was not the money.   It was the weather.  It reached 105 degrees, and most of the time it was 100 degrees inside the house where we filmed!  This obviously added to everyone’s tiredness, grumpiness, and the need to consume more water and ice.
 
The script was written to fit the resources we had in place and the money we knew we could raise. 
 
This was fun!
 
 
Thank you, Kate!  It was fun.  Until we meet up again, go get ‘em!

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