agnès films is named in honor of Agnès Varda, the French filmmaker who has been making women-centered fiction films and documentaries for over 50 years. Varda, in spite of the high quality of her work, remains an obscure figure to mainstream audiences around the world. This is not surprising, since the film industry is not always supportive of women who want to work behind—as opposed to in front of—the camera. According to the 2015 Celluloid Ceiling report, women comprised only 17% of directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors in the 250 top-grossing films of 2014. This is exactly the same percentage as it was in 1998, when Dr. Martha Lauzen began keeping track of women’s presence in film.
In an effort to provide support to emerging and established women and feminist filmmakers, our site aims to do the following:
• Foster a community of women filmmakers, scholars, instructors who teach film and filmmaking, and film lovers who support each other. We hope to be joined by men who are interested in films made by women, as well as male filmmakers, scholars, and filmmaking/film instructors. Our aim is for our community to be diverse in terms of race, class, and sexual orientation.
• Shed light on the work of talented and committed women and feminist filmmakers working today, who, like Varda, don’t have the visibility they merit. We do this in the form of reviews of films made by women and less often films by men featuring women in prominent roles. We also have interviews with women filmmakers and through our featured member section we share narratives of the experiences women undergo as they stand behind the camera. We also discuss the history of women and feminist filmmakers through our critical analyses of past and current films.
• Help women not trained in cinematic techniques be able to tell stories in this powerful medium.
• Create video content that explores women’s experiences behind the camera and engages non-filmmakers in the issue of supporting women’s films and videos.
agnès films is made possible through the generous help and support of Michigan State University’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures and the College of Arts and Letters. Although our board and staff come from around the world, we have a number of members of both groups who are faculty, graduate and undergraduate students at Michigan State. Without them and the university’s support our community would not flourish in the way it has over the years.
Thank you for visiting! Our staff welcomes you.
Alexandra Hidalgo, editor-in-chief, cofounder
Alexandra is an award-winning Venezuelan filmmaker whose documentaries have been official selections at film festivals in 14 countries. She is currently working on The Weeping Season, her second feature as director and producer. Her short documentary Teta has been selected for 22 film festivals and won 7 awards, including best short documentary at three festivals. Alexandra has spearheaded various activist campaigns toward increasing the number of women behind the camera. These campaigns have been featured on The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, NPR, and Women and Hollywood. Having received her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition with a concentration in film and video production from Purdue University, Alexandra is now an assistant professor and co-director of The Documentary Film Lab at Michigan State University. Her video book, Cámara Retórica: A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology for Rhetoric and Composition received the 2017 Computers and Composition Distinguished Book Award. Her academic video essays have been published in multiple peer-reviewed digital journals including Enculturation, Kairos, and Peitho. She is the editor-in-chief of constellations: a cultural rhetorics publishing space.
Denah A. Johnston, experimental and fringe film editor
Denah is an experimental filmmaker who received her MFA in Filmmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute and Ph.D. in Media & Communications from European Graduate School. She teaches film history, studies and theory at San Francisco City College and served as Executive Director of Canyon Cinema Foundation for 3 years. Her academic work lies at the constellation-like intersections of film, music, literature, media and culture. Denah’s first book No Future Now: A Nomadology of Resistance and Subversion was published in 2012 by Atropos Press. A recent essay on the innovation and influence of Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan (The Witch) (1922) can be seen in a special edition of the Abraxas Journal The Luminous Screen edited by Jack Sargeant. Denah’s current research focuses on the female filmmakers of Canyon Cinema.
Jessica Gibbons, managing editor
Jessica is a second year master’s student at Michigan State University, studying digital rhetoric and professional writing. In addition to her work with agnès films, she is the Workshop Coordinator for the MSU Writing Center and Lead Content Strategist for Sherlockian.net. She also copyedits articles for constellations: a cultural rhetorics publishing space. Previously, she served as Digital Content Editor for ing Magazine, an arts and lifestyle magazine focused on the Lansing/East Lansing area. Her academic interests include technical communication, user experience, experience design, and content strategy.
Allison Costello, web editor and visual designer
Allison is a senior majoring in professional writing at Michigan State University. Her primary areas of study include document and web design, multimedia production, and technical writing. She currently interns at the RCAH Center for Poetry where she produces the podcast “Poetic Justice” and is an undergraduate research assistant in the Department for Community Sustainability.
Jared Milburn, social media specialist
Jared describes himself as a filmmaker/writer/superstar musician. He is a first year master’s student at Michigan State University, studying digital rhetoric and professional writing. He’s worked on films such as Batman v. Superman, Transformers 5, Men of Sparta, Hmong Memory at the Crossroads, The Evolution of Bert, and a few other award winning projects. Jared’s main hope is to live up to his potential, continuously create what he loves, and make a positive imprint on the world. He wants to truly affect people through art (film and music) and inspire their minds and energies. Most importantly, Jared wants to give back and create more and more opportunities for people to live out their potentials.
Megan Elias, assistant editor
Megan is a sophomore at Michigan State University majoring in professional writing and linguistics. Her favorite things to learn include grammar, rhetoric, and graphic design. Currently, she interns as a copyeditor with the Journal of Global Literacies, Technologies, and Emerging Pedagogies (JOGLTEP).
Dawn is an actor and producer based in Boston and Los Angeles. She is a resident actor with Praxis Stage, where she recently appeared as Portia in Julius Caesar and Mary Jane in Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train. Favorite LA credits include Goneril in King Lear, opposite Apollo Dukakis, Agnes in The Shadow Box, directed by Keith David, and the title role in Saint Joan. Dawn’s short film, Harmony, which she produced and starred in, premiered at the HollyShorts Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Cinema in Hollywood. Dawn is currently developing Hells Canyon, a feature film that explores her obsession with complex female characters, transcendent storytelling, and wilderness survival. She is a member of Women in Film Los Angeles and Women in Film & Video New England.
Claire is a junior majoring in media and information at Michigan State University. Her concentration is in film production with minors in documentary filmmaking and fiction filmmaking. Claire currently works for the MSU Career Services Network as a Career Peer Advisor. She looks forward to creating content that is realistic and impactful to varying audiences.
Katie Grimes is a writer, editor, and communications specialist based in Metro Detroit. She currently works as a communications associate for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), where she assists with web development, video editing, graphic design, social media, and email communication. Before joining ISPU, Katie worked for publications such as ing Magazine, The Journal for the Study of Radicalism, and Exceptions Journal, taking on the roles of staff writer, copy editor, and managing editor. Katie is a graduate of Michigan State University where she earned a B.A. in Professional Writing and minors in Religious Studies and Digital Humanities.
Aimée is an associate professor of Communication and Digital Media at Saint Joseph’s University, where she teaches courses in visual design and digital storytelling. She founded the Beautiful Social Research Collaborative where students put theory into practice while conducting digital research with nonprofits and community-based organizations in Philadelphia.
Shewonda is a Haitian-American filmmaker and a Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Writing at Michigan State University. Her research touches on cultural and Haitian/African American rhetorics, representations of black bodies, identity, feminism, and Womanism. As a documentary filmmaker she explores minority experiences/stories in the United States. Shewonda’s first film Fixing The Standard: The Black Women’s Reclamation Of Power explores how black women take risks and learn from their experiences of defining and embodying their own standards of beauty when choosing to embrace their natural hair. Her current projects are a video memoir that tracks her transition from M.A. student to Ph.D. student while learning what it takes to be a filmmaker, and a short film about Haitian-American children passing as African-American in the United States.
Denise Papas Meechan
Denise is a writer/filmmaker whose first short film “Freckles” screened at Cannes Film Festival. The narrative explores the damaging effects cultural beauty standards have on one lonely, very freckled woman. During her previous work in television, Denise has produced, written and directed television shows such as “Fashion Police” and “Behind the Label” for Style and WE Networks, and was awarded an Emmy for her work on the cult hit, “Subway Q&A.”
Ruth received her B.A. in Art History at London’s Courtauld Institute, then her MFA in Fine Art Film at St. Martins School of Art. She has been an experimental/avant-garde filmmaker since the 1980s, making short collage videos and documentaries. Since the late 90s she has taught video production at the University of Westminster and film appreciation, world cinema, and film noir at Regents American College London. She has published two DVD collections: Selected Works 1990-2005 and Radio (with a text by Chris Kraus). She has lived and worked in New York, Tel Aviv, and London and has exhibited nationally and internationally. She is currently completing a PhD by practice at the University of Westminster.
Rebecca is a writer, director, and artist in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to making and reviewing films, she works in Criminal Defense Law and is a social justice advocate. She studied Criminal Socialization at Georgia State University, where she discovered her love of filmmaking. She made her first film for Campus Movie Fest in 2010, and took it to the Cannes Film Festival with The Creative Mind Group. Rebecca has written a novel and a memoir and has been writing about films for about five years, most extensively as a Verified Creator with MoviePilot.com. In addition to always having a script or novel in the works, Rebecca is currently in production on a documentary series about people telling their own stories in their own voices.
Irene Meltzer Richard
Irene Meltzer Richard is a proud recipient of an Honorary Degree for her contributions to promoting Israeli Culture in America, as well as a M.Ed. in the Arts and Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her passion for moving pictures drew her into the world of indie film, where her entrepreneurial spirit spurred her to create a consulting enterprise in the areas of audience engagement, event management, and partnership development for film festivals, independent film productions, and distribution companies. For many years, she worked at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, managing ticketing for its year-round programming as well as the New York Film Festival and New Directors/New Films.
Julie Casper Roth
Julie Casper Roth is an award-winning filmmaker and writer interested in underdogs, paradox and the unseen/ignored. Casper Roth is a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Video, a College Art Association Professional Development Fellow, and a two-time finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Her work has been screened nationally and internationally at film festivals and in galleries. Her work moves between experimental, documentary and fictional modes of visual storytelling.
Moira Sullivan is a scholar, lecturer, film critic, promoter, and experimental filmmaker based in San Francisco and Stockholm. She teaches at City College of San Francisco in the Cinema Department and has a PhD in cinema studies from Stockholm University. She did graduate film studies at San Francisco State University and is one of the world’s experts on the work of the avantgarde and ethnographic filmmaker Maya Deren (1917-1961). She has been invited to universities and art schools honoring Deren in Italy, France,Germany, Sweden, and the USA. She contributed to the anthology “Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde” (2001). Moira has worked professionally as a film critic since 2000, focusing on the work of women in film. She also specializes in Asian and arthouse/experimental film. She is a member of FIPRESCI (Federation of International Film Critics) and an established accredited film critic at film festivals in Cannes, Venice, Stockholm, Udi
Danielle Winston is a writer/director fascinated by what remains unseen in the shadows. Her screenplays feature complicated unusual female characters. Hands of Fate, Winston’s short thriller film-turned-web-series, also inspired a television series and feature screenplay about three women who form a dangerous secret pact. Other current projects include Love In Reverse, a feature screenplay, told backwards that reveals itself like a mystery of human nature. Theatrically, Winston is a produced playwright, whose stage plays have won audience choice awards. She believes the demons we conjure up in our own minds are far more terrifying than anything shown onscreen. Whether writing psychological thrillers or romantic comedy-dramas, her screenplays are interwoven with a dark sneaky sense of humor. Driven by what lurks beneath the surface of characters and their lives, reoccurring elements in Winston’s screenplays include artists and supernatural happenings. Living in New York City provides Winston with an unstoppable source of cinematic inspiration. Usually Manhattan’s backdrop springs to life as a vivid character in her works. She also writes for children, her fantastical picture book series, Betsy Green Bean, is about a witch who has a magical adventure.
Olivia is a junior majoring in Film Studies at Michigan State University. Her concentration is in filmmaking and media production, as she is minoring in documentary production and graphic design. Olivia currently maintains her responsibilities as an entrepreneur with her freelance photography business, Photolivia’s Photography. Beyond her photography work, Olivia has worked on pre-production work for short and feature films, which have inspired her to create her own screenplays and short films. She is eager to be a part of the media production/entertainment industry post-college, where she hopes to create personal stories for wide audiences.
Former Editors and Staff Writers
Hannah Countryman, web editor, visual designer, 2016–2018
Jessica Kukla, social media specialist, graphic designer, 2016–2018
Samantha Fegan, assistant editor intern, 2017
Elena Cronick, assistant editor, staff writer, 2016–2017
Sabrina Hirsch, assistant editor, graphic designer, 2015–2017
Lindsey Spitzley, video team producer and cinematographer, social media specialist, 2015–2016
Sarah Shaw, video team audio recorder and mixer, social media team, 2015–2016
Savannah Smith, video team director and editor, social media team, 2015–2016
Kim Labick, social media intern, 2015
Shell Little, web editor, graphic designer, 2015–2016
Rebecca Zantjer, reviewer, 2014–2015
LeeAnn Connelly, web editor, 2015
Les Hutchinson, reviewer, 2014–2015
Laura Gonzales, staff writer, 2013-2015
Shannon Roe-Butler, web editor, 2014
Caitlan Spronk, co-founder and web developer, 2010-2014