- Tyler Measom
When a cadre of accusers emerged to decry Harvey Weinstein's sordid romps on the casting couch, "It felt like watching a lioness awake and stretch," filmmaker Diana Whitten says. She heads the nascent Utah chapter of Film Fatales, a supportive community for women filmmakers.
First, tell me a little bit about yourself. What brought you to Utah?
A love story brought me to Utah. I lived in New York City for years, working in film, television and theater. While on tour with my documentary film Vessel, I met Tyler Measom, who lived here in Salt Lake, and who also was on the festival circuit with his film, An Honest Liar. As the festivals wound down and our paths stopped crossing by chance, we decided to keep meeting—and eventually New York was too far away. I moved here a little over a year ago.
Tell me about the Film Fatales Utah chapter.
When I lived in New York, I was part of an international community of filmmakers called the Film Fatales, who meet regularly to mentor each other, share resources and support each other in the creation of our films. When I moved out here, I started a chapter for Utah. Our seven official members have all directed and distributed at least one feature film.
Explain how Film Fatales membership includes "female-identifying" persons.
Members of Film Fatales identify as female film directors—this includes cisgender, transgender and gender non-conforming directors, and is not limited by nationality, ethnicity, age, ability or orientation. Past this, the central membership requirement is that we all have directed and distributed a feature film, which creates common ground and a shared experience.
Has the Weinstein scandal raised your hackles?
Specifically, it has been the stuff of movies—a ruinous unraveling of blackmail, non-disclosures, gaslighting and Mossad spies—all betraying the lengths to which a mogul and his minions were willing (and financially able) to go, to silence his victims. More compelling to me is that a choir of women's stories was ultimately more powerful than all of it.
Has this issue seemed like an epidemic?
The collective anger around the systemic problem of sexual harassment has been growing for decades, but for many of us it went dormant last November, after the demoralizing implications of an admitted predator taking the White House; and in its dormancy, it gathered strength. Weinstein awoke the dragon.
Do women bring a different sensibilities to films?
When women direct movies, a few important things happen. Statistically, they put more women on screen, hire more racial and ethnic minorities and hire more women in key and pipeline crew positions. This creates more equity in a dismally male-skewed industry. The other thing that happens is women filmmakers diversify the collective story we are telling about ourselves as a society—a story that has to come from varied perspectives to accurately reflect who we are.
Why is Utah such a hotbed for filmmakers?
This town loves movies! Having unique access to Sundance seems to have cultivated a community of sophisticated film lovers in Salt Lake. For filmmakers, the Utah Film Commission, headed by Virginia Pearce, offers great incentives, credits and rebates ... the Salt Lake Film Society, with Tori Baker at the helm, offers extensive programming for indie film ... and the Utah Film Center, founded by Geralyn Dreyfous, brings in visiting filmmakers from everywhere ... I love that three of the pillars of the Utah film industry are led by women!