January 21, 2016

Do Not Let Fear Win You

#BITCHPLEASE  I met Karen Dantas through the Creative Mind Group. We were 2 of 3 Albertans representing at the Cannes Film Festival (shout out to Mike Ross!) in May 2015. Watching Karen navigate through the chaos, network like a pro, embody confidence AND kindness (incredibly rare) and demonstrate how to sell yourself and your ideas, was so unbelievably inspiring to me. It's amazing we had to travel to France to meet, when we're only three hours away.

Karen's article has made me realize why the BITCH PLEASE SERIES was so important to take on, because it's not just about sharing our victories as women in the industry, but also being honest about what holds us back. We are all sparkly goddamn unicorns, just by existing in this sexist scene, but it is so vital for us to speak about how we inhibit our own progress by not honouring what we think and feel. Please share Karen's article and give her some love below on the comments section.

Do Not Let Fear Win You

Guest Post by Karen Dantas 

The biggest mistake of my career has been to follow the rules too closely. I was working as a script analyst for an acquisitions executive who consulted for feature film buyers representing several international territories which included Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East.  I was given a ratings chart and the task to prioritize scripts that fit the very sought-after ‘Under 25, Male’ demographic.   Low-brow genre fare, action and erotic thrillers were the type of projects of primary interest to him.  The other projects, my boss would tell me, are “awards crap” and he would say “my clients are not interested in awards, only butts in seats” and that “women don’t go to the movie theatres, boys do!”

The kind of scripts looking for the financing that came through him were typically independent features sourcing international pre-sales trying to raise that last percentage of the budget to get into production. I would say 90% of the projects that passed through me would not be the type of films that I would watch myself.  As a consequence I felt my passion and reason for going to school to study film as well as my desire to work in that magical world turn into a jaded shell as I saw myself giving Recommends and greenlighting the types of work that did not speak to me but made business sense.  My coverage reports made my boss and his clients happy, so I ascended quickly through the pool of readers and for several years attended meetings with him and some of his clients at the Toronto International Film Festival.  I did screening coverages on some well marketed and some emerging titles and got to attend some pretty high-profile parties.  My name got on some guest lists and I remember chilling at a party with Harvey Weinstein and Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles sitting at the table next to mine. 

Then I got my next assignment. It was another independent project, written by an emerging screenwriter and directed by an emerging director with no real track record but who happened to be the son of an established filmmaker.  The attached cast on imdb had a few credits, but mostly as bit parts to other projects.   Budget was very modest.  I remember as I read the script it evoked some strong feelings in me, but my thoughts that niggled me as I wrote my report was that 1) the main character was a teenaged girl and 2) the subject matter was not one male teens or young male adults were going to connect with.  I wrestled with what my recommendation was going to be and at first submitted my report with a “Consider.”  My boss responded back with a “Are we in or are we out?” and I knew I had to come out with a hard decision that was all mine.  I lost a night of sleep and made the decision to play it safe and by the book.  I was terrified to risk my investor’s money on a project that did not fit the mould and result in a loss on their investment.  So I said “PASS.”

A few years later the film hit the cinemas and was distributed by Fox Searchlight.  As with all the projects I wrote coverages for, I followed its performance to see if my analysis matched.  I was stunned to see it was not only a tremendous box office success (to date around $231 million) but also won that first-time female screenwriter the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.  That film was Juno and to this day I look back at it as a life lesson to go with my instincts instead of letting those instincts get dulled by lending more credence to others' voices.  I should have been excited that movies like Juno were blazing trails for women in the industry like Ellen Page and Diablo Cody, and for other stories told from the female perspective, and that it was proof that people did want to experience stories with women at the centre, and that people WILL go to the cinemas for it.

I am so grateful that this happened for a reason – first I learned the lesson that there is no ONE way to make a successful film, and that it was even dangerous to play it safe.  The bigger lesson was that I did not listen to myself, and even more so, I had to accept that I was too cowardly to stand behind my call.  I learned to grow from this and to no longer allow fear to hold me captive.  I learned to not be afraid to stand up to my boss and to present my case instead of just shutting up and hiding behind his words. 

So what happened post Juno?  For a while I was demoted to covering projects that never saw the light of day.  I got frustrated being in that purgatory and demanded a meeting.  We talked, and I owned that it was a bad call on MY part and that I learned MY lesson. He gave me another chance, and then later on picked me out of his pool of readers to assist him on some of the projects he was producing.  One was recently in AMC theatres and just came out on DVD.  It is called Garm Wars: The Last Druid, directed by renowned Japanese director Mamoru Oshii, (and, oh will you look at that?) features a kick-ass female protagonist.


Karen Dantas is a Calgary-based independent film and television professional. After graduating from the University of Toronto Cinema Studies program with High Distinction, she first landed on Toronto’s Bay Street as a film and entertainment insurance broker.  Working from the financial lines opened the doors to her roles as a Script Analyst, as the Executive Assistant at ReelWorld Film Festival, and then on to the office of the Executive Vice-President of English Services at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She also completed an internship with William Morris Endeavor and worked as a Program Coordinator-University Relations during the Cannes Film Festival for The Creative Mind Group.   She enjoys taking on challenging and exciting projects and discovering new talent. 

Follow her on Twitter and on Instagram @kdantas905

Check out Garm Wars: The Last Druid:

Official Japanese Website: http://garmwars-movie.com/jp/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcN7Ww_d2-A


January 14, 2016


Illustration by Alyssa Bean

"There is a lot of unknown that needs to be accepted and embraced with a trusting heart"- Lena Stevens

First post of 2016! And yes, I realize we are in the second week of January already - I blame the mercury retrograde and this bitch flu that is trying to choke me with my own precious bodily fluids.

I am so excited for this year. Last year was an incredible demonstration of what is possible. It blew my heart open, it broke it, and it brought up some major challenges - an experience that seems pretty universal. I think we're all glad to see 2015 go, oui?

Moving forward, this year is all about completion - my feature screen play, a few short films and a memoir that has been a few years in the making. It's time for it all to come out. And because I'm a huge fan of harnessing energy and intentions, I share with you some excellent tools to get geared up to make the most of your creative self.


First, please listen to this podcast - Elizabeth Gilbert interviews Brene Brown on how creativity is the way we share our soul with the world and what happens to us if we don't. Brilliant discussion here.


Then head over to Momma Jane's blog for some incredible prompts to reflect and set intentions for this year, powerful stuff such as "what do you need to stop blaming yourself for?" and "what can you not deny you are really good at?" Drop that mic Momma!


And for you true mystics out there, delving deep into universal patterns and healing, this month is all about renewal. Check out my favourite Mystic Mamma. 

And stay tuned for a special guest post from Karen Dantas coming up as part of my Bitch Please Series - interviewing women in film on their experience with creative life. Her article is GOLD, so don't miss. xoxo
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