Susan Haskell - Click to enlarge

Actress Susan Haskell is surrounded by red hats as she chats with guests, mainly from the "Red Hat Mommas" club, during a luncheon Friday at Konrad's Restaurant on Marco Island. Haskell appears in two movies, "No Turning Back" and "Black Point," which were shown at the Marco Island Film Festival. - Dan Wagner/Staff


Women Filmakers Take Challenges, Talk Girl Power

Naples Daily News

October 26, 2002

By Elizabeth Wendt

Call it a female-ensemble comedy. Call it what the critics have called it: "a sex comedy sans sex." But please, asks female filmmaker Tara Judelle, do not call her film "Manfast," which screened at the Marco Island Film Festival this week, "a chick flick." 

"I resent that utterly," Judelle said Friday. 

Judelle, along with fellow female filmmaker Melissa Scaramucci and actor Susan Haskell, led the Film Festival's "Women in Film" panel discussion and luncheon Friday afternoon on Marco Island. 

Their message: By writing roles for stronger female characters and creating films that men and women equally enjoy, women can change American cinema. 

Scaramucci's film, "Making Arrangements," is set in a flower shop and centers around the lives of its employees. For the film's female protagonist, she told the audience, she could have cast a pretty, perfect-looking starlet. But she didn't, Scaramucci said. 

She opted for someone who was more ordinary and more mainstream, Scaramucci said. And more true to life. 

"As a female filmmaker, the roles I wrote, I wrote for all different sizes and looks of women," she said. "It is a choice." 

Scaramucci worked at a flower shop in college, which she said was her inspiration for the film. Judelle's inspiration as a filmmaker came instead from a 1990s Nicolas Cage action flick called "The Rock." 

Judelle noted that the film contained only one female role - Cage's love interest - and the remainder of the cast was male. When she saw "The Rock," Judelle was left with one question concerning the characters. 

"I was like, who are these people?" she said. "I don't know these people." 

Susan Haskell, whose films "Black Point" and "No Turning Back" were featured at the festival, spoke about the challenges facing female actors. Haskell has also starred on several television programs, including "One Life to Live" and a recurring role on "Jag." 

She has tried to choose roles like her part in "Black Point," a thriller co-starring actor David Caruso. Although her character in "Black Point" has made some poor decisions in her life, Haskell explained, she is still a "full character," and not a bit part or a stereotype. 

Film industry decision-makers "start with a formula that they think works," Haskell said, referring to how many films are geared to a younger male audience - typically the biggest slice of the movie-going demographic. 

But, the panel agreed, it's up to all audiences to make their mark on what films become blockbusters. 

"All of this is changing," Judelle said. 

The panel luncheon drew about 100 attendees, mostly women, many of whom belong to a local later-life girl power group called the "Red Hat Mommas." For Red Hat Momma Helen Bateman, who watched "Making Arrangements" prior to the discussion, the panel's remarks had an empowering effect. 

"I've been a businesswoman, too, and overcome a lot of obstacles," Bateman said. "I just love to see women not let being a woman stop them from what they want to do." 

Marco Island resident Luisa Nagel, who has attended all five years of Marco's Film Festival, said the event was interesting. 

"A lot of these women aren't actors. The field is opening up for women more," Nagel said. "It's nice to see this."