Invisible Films - for emerging women fimmakers

An  interview with Rachel Millward by Jaap Mees.

Talking Pictures alias






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Invisible Films is a new Independent film production company, set up earlier this year by filmmakers Pinny Grylls and Rachel Millward. Both graduates  from Oxford in Ď99, they were surprised by the lack of female role models in the British film industry. 

Women make up only 6 % of directors, 10% of screenwriters and a tiny part of the more technical roles. Invisible Films organises screenings, once in four months in the Curzon Soho, under the name Birdís Eye View. The first screening was in November when they showed five shorts by up and coming  women directors, among them Award winning Dog by Andrea Arnold. 

I got the opportunity to interview Rachel Millward:

Why the name Invisible Films?

Rachel Millward and Pinny Grylls.

Rachel Millward: Filmmaker Pinny Grylls asked me to produce her short film called Photographing Invisible Things, part one of a trilogy. I thought Invisible Films was a catching name.  It has also has connotations about the invisibility of women in the film industry. Some women say why Invisible Films, because women should be more visible, but they probably miss the tongue in cheek of it. 

And Birds Eye View?

I think itís quite good to call an evening promoting women filmmaking Birdís Eye View, obviously birds is a derogatory word for women. Itís very disarming for people who are fed up with women talking only about womenís  issues. And we are presenting a womanís perspective, itís a fun and quirky name.

Your aim is to stimulate women filmmaking.

From the last 350 feature films produced in Britain only 8 of those were made by  women. There are a bit more producers, about 20 odd percent and for technicians itís  an incredibly  low figure. The imbalance is quite obvious, we want to address that, we are not a lobbying body. Women in Film and TV is an organisation doing that already, we are active members of this organisation.

Invisible Films particularly encourages young and emerging women. Ultimately we want to produce our own films, but while we are doing that we want to facilitate and promote other women. The third wing is getting involved in community projects. 

I think the purpose of art is to unite people and break barriers, is it not limiting to deal only with  women filmmakers?

I think itís necessary to address the imbalance in the film world, without falling in to the trap of being very exclusive and becoming ghettoized. So there is a balance there somewhere, itís wrong not to mention it at all, but we want to be flexible about it. There are other important imbalances like racial minorities. In short we donít want to be rigid about it, but we have to address this lack of chances for women filmmakers.

By the way we donít just deal with female subjects in the films we show and make, only the directors are women. 
The old boys network still exists, now at the Digital Revolution era it seems the right time to build and nurture working relationships amongst women. At film schools there is very little imbalance, but in the industry it is undeniable.

Which women filmmakers do you really like and admire?

We have Lynne Ramsay, whose Morvern Callar both Pinny and me loved. Sally Potter, Gurinder Chada, who made Bend it like Beckham, Jane Campion absolutely!

Which male filmmakers do you like?

Pawel Pawlikowski,  I heard him in the Documentary Filmmakers Group ( an event organised by me, ha, ha  J.M.),when he showed two documentaries, From Moscow to Pietushki and Serbian Epics.  He crosses the divide between fiction and documentary easily. He had a very clear idea where he stood and didnít pretend to show the whole picture, but  was very aware of his own subjectivity. He wasnít at all arrogant, I liked that. I  loved the Iranian film Children of Paradise, usually I go blank with those questions. Pinny likes Memento and films by Baz Luhrmann, Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge.

You graduated in Theology in Oxford, how did you go from Theology to Film?

After studying theology I went to South-Africa were I was going to do a Masters in Theology Studies. More contemporary issues, Oxford is quite traditional, more cross-cultural, sociological and political. I always had a strong creative drive, my Mum is a visual artist.

Rachel Millward and Pinny Grylls.In Africa I started to think more in terms of visual storytelling. Back in Britain I got in to TV production which I had huge reservations about, I didnít like the attitude: what the audience wants comes first. I worked on subjects like the history of torture and punishment (Channel 5), a very sensitive subject. The programme ended up on the torture techniques,  instead of the socio-political side and the human rights issues, I found it quite offensive, it dealt more with titillation and high drama and had not much integrity, but I learnt  from it. 

I did a Property programme for Channel 4 and I did some development for a radio programme on spiritual meditative subjects. Thatís my theology coming back (laughs).

I read you did more anthropological work in South Africa?

I went to East Africa when I was nineteen and worked for a development project in Tanzania. Later I went back with my mother and met families I met before in the village, just spending time with them,  without a particular agenda and having to develop a project. This experience will be very formative for my approach in making documentaries. At that time I didnít think of making films about them, I just wanted to share their lives. I met an amazing woman in Uganda, I would love to go back and help her write her life story or maybe making a short film about her. I also want to return to the Samburu tribe with whom I spent some time in Northern Kenya. The natural surroundings there are really stunning, the smells, the colour red in peopleís faces and hair, the mountains, the ritual slaughters of camels,  the fires in the woods. It will be very difficult to capture that overwhelming and incredible experience.

When is the next Birdís Eye View?

That will be round March the 8th, 2003, coinciding with International Womenís Day, in the Curzon Soho (London)  again. We will have films by international women, not just British like the first event. 

For more information on Invisible Films and Birds Eye view, visit their website:

Rachel Millward and Pinny Grylls.

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