Interview With Melanie Wise, Founder of the “Artemis Film Festival”

By Ruth on March 2, 2017 in interview, movie, television

Last year when my journey of interviewing actors and industry professionals was still relatively new, I happened upon a film festival that completely changed my life in a myriad of ways. I got connected with Melanie Wise and the Artemis Film Festival, and after interviewing her last year, I made the decision to travel to LA on my own and attend my very first film festival. Since that time, I have supported this amazing group as much as I possibly can, and now they are in their third year of the festival. This year, my daughter, Martha, and I are traveling to the Artemis, and it was so great to chat with my strong, supportive, kickass friend, Melanie, the founder of the Artemis Film Festival!

RH: Melanie, it’s so good to talk to you again! And I’m so excited to be heading to the festival in April!

MW: Ruth, it’s so good to see you again too. I’ve been watching your adventures from afar this year, and I’m very excited for you.

And this year my daughter is coming!

I am so excited to get to meet her!

She is excited to meet everyone too. Speaking of the festival, this is now your third year, right? 

Yes, that’s right.

Your crowdfunding video was so well done! I don’t know if I saw the first year’s video. I saw last year’s, and that was great, but this one was just wow! You guys really stepped it up big time.

Action is what we do. Producing a low-budget action piece is actually difficult. It’s more difficult than a low-budget drama. Sure, someone could trip and fall in a drama, but you’re not going to be out doing stunts where someone could really hurt themselves. That was Sean’s {Newcombe, co-founder of the festival} brainchild, and it was lots of fun. People are enjoying it, but that was the whole point.

I watched it, and then I called Martha {my daughter} over and told her she had to come watch it too. She loved the whole thing, but when you were doing your part–oh she loved that! {laughs}

I’m glad to hear it. Gosh, it has been awhile since I’ve done a fight scene. But it was fun. In fact, I was watching a guy watch it, and he’s smiling while he’s watching it. He was bobbing his head to the beat. Then when I start punching somebody, he’s like, “Woh————–” {laughs}

Martha loves action films even more than me, so this is going to be a great experience for her. She and her friend will usually go see the big action films in the theater, and then I’ll often see them later on because I’m trying to do a hundred things at once. I’m sure you know how that goes.

In the time since we have started the festival, I can count on less than one hand the number of films that I’ve seen. So I totally get you.

With this year’s festival, I think you’ve added an additional day–is that right?

Yes, we added an extra day. We got a lot more submissions this year. The other thing is that I think our red carpet is going to be very, very busy. The only theater we could put our red carpet in was the Ahrya in Beverly Hills where we held it last year. There’s only one theater in Santa Monica that has the ability to house us, and it was already booked. The Ahrya is an awesome theater for sure. The one we did get in Santa Monica {Monica Laemmle} is smaller, but it’s perfect for the three days of the film festival. The theater itself is absolutely stunning, and it’s two blocks from this bluff that overlooks the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s a really pretty neighborhood. There’s a lot of outdoor stuff to do in Santa Monica. If anyone needs a breather from the festival, there’s a lot of nature close by. Santa Monica is like this small town feel rather than being in the hustle and bustle of the big city. The air is nicer. It’s a lovely place.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to Santa Monica. I went to LA for sure, but not Santa Monica.

You probably didn’t. It is out of the way. I think you’ll like it.

Who are your special guests this year that you can announce?

 We can’t say they will be there–it’s always “schedule permitting.” The ones that we have announced publicly are Nichelle Nichols, Tom Cruise, Cynthia Rothrock, Andy Armstrong, Jennifer Caputo, Tammie Baird,  and we are waiting to hear back from a couple others.

I noticed you have some really big names this year.

A-list. Zac {Baldwin}, one of our other founders, has been pursuing Cruise for three years. A lot of those I wouldn’t have even asked ’cause I figured they’re not going to pay attention to us. We wound up getting a lot of honorees this year. Zac and I were talkin’ back and forth, and I was like, “You gotta stop asking honorees!” Zac was like, “ok,” so he stopped asking people.

Two months later, Zac came to me and said, “You know, before you asked us not to ask any more people, I had already reached out to someone, and they have expressed interest in this year’s festival. You know, you might have heard of him. Tom Cruise.” And I yelled!

Just the fact that he has taken notice of the festival is a big thing. And it just goes to show you that persistence does pay off. 

Some people wonder why we’re honoring Tom Cruise. Well, if you watch movies, here is the number one box office star in the world, and it’s really common for him to have really badass women right next to him. They save his ass all the time. And this is a way to give the world an amazing view of strong women who otherwise wouldn’t be seen. There are lots of movies where people fight tooth and nail to get a strong stuntwoman lead in them, and many times, they lose that battle. When people in power or with power argue hard enough, those roles get cut or reduced. But you commonly see these women in his movies. So I have to believe that he feels strongly about women in action, and it is not a mistake that these women just end up in those roles.

Going to the festival and being connected with you has opened my eyes to a whole new world, and now I ask those questions about gender bias when I do an interview. I had no idea it was an issue as much as it is. It is crazy that it is something that is still being fought. Here we are in 2017, and depending on who you talk to, this is an ongoing battle. I’ve discovered that the majority of women in film have had this issue come up.

Yeah, and even in business. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but we’ve been tweeting about a crowdfunding campaign {that just closed a day or so ago}. The company is called Equallet {which does not launch until later this year}, and the lady is building an online platform for people to find women-run businesses. If you want to patronize a female-run business, you should be able to do it. But it’s not like it’s easy to find them online. For example, I’d like to buy my flowers on a whim from a woman florist. With this platform, you’d be able to find one.

I had this opportunity to talk to a Canadian businesswoman, and she had run several businesses. Her first one–I believe she was the chief operating officer–they were trying to get funding to expand the business. She was unable to find someone to fund her business with her as CEO. They asked her to step down. So she did. They negotiated, and someone else was named CEO. But when she walked in the office the next day, she saw the look in the people’s eyes. She said she’d never do that again. It’s bribery. We won’t fund your company unless you step down. Are you kidding?

Another problem I have come across is that all too often, women don’t support other women in their endeavors. I don’t know what it is. Men seem to have it figured out, but some women are too competitive to even want to support other women.

 I don’t know if I told you this story about last year’s crowdfunding video. The general populace liked it. Too many of the professional women in the film industry were pissed off with us! And these women would not support our crowdfunding campaign! The complaint was that we “victimized” women. Um, no we didn’t. We had some social commentary, and there is some actual truth to it. In the scene, there was one where I was kind of bawling/crying, and one of these women criticized us and asked, “Why did you have to make Melanie look weak?” And I was like, “Me crying doesn’t make me weak.” That’s such an oversimplification of strength and weakness. People are going to have their opinions, and you can’t please them all.

I don’t get it. I have gone out of my way to support other women and journalists in the industry. Most are very appreciative, but there are a few who will have nothing to do with me. I was really having a hard time with that, and an actor friend of mine said, “I learned in the film business, that if they aren’t going to play with you, go spend your time with those who will play with you.” 

If people get jealous or petty, that’s their problem. It doesn’t always feel good. I don’t do well with those who have a sense of entitlement. There is just not room for that in this business. Sometimes I will look at other crowdfunding campaigns, and I’ll watch the video and think, “I wouldn’t have done it that way.” But that is the way they wanted to do it. And I get to decide if I’m gonna support it. And if I’m not, it’s not my job to critique it!

It looks like you’re off to a really good start with the funding this year.

You know, I was floored. On Friday, we actually passed five grand {higher now!}. We even got an anonymous 1500 dollar contribution. I almost fell out of my chair!

Wow! That is so awesome!

In fact, we got this amazing item donated to us. There is a goddess named Antiope. She is considered queen of the Amazons. We have this twenty-four-inch cast bronze. It weighs about sixty pounds. It was cast in the 1880’s. Only twenty of them were made. One of them sits in the Smithsonian. Only seven are signed. There is not another one up for sale in the world anywhere. We have one. Absolutely extraordinary bronze statue. She’s an archer, and she’s seated on a pedestal. Her shield is behind her, and she is stringing her bow. It’s beautiful. It’s on the crowdfunding page. We are asking five grand for her. It’s done by a French sculptor, and his work is displayed in many museums. It’s indescribably beautiful!

That is amazing! And actually, the shirts you’re offering this year–especially the tank tops–I love them!

Thank you. I designed all of the shirts this year. All the shirts are printed front and back. They’re not cheap because they’re not cheap. This is what they call sublimation printing, so it’s literally printed over every single inch. Then you get a couple of areas that are void of print. But they start out as a white shirt. So every stitch of this is printed. I like that our shirts are humorous, but have the Artemis voice. We are pretty irreverent here. {laughs}

What panels are you offering this year?

{Sean stepped in here} We’re going to have four panels this year. The four panels are VR {Virtual Reality}, Warrior Women, Stuntwomen, and a film finance panel. The VR panel should be really great. We’re going to have a lot of VR stuff at the fest. We’re probably going to have an exhibition of the VR content. Maybe even a VR lounge where the filmmakers can learn to shoot VR. And then we’ll have the women in VR panel.

{Back to Melanie} It’s one of the reasons we went the extra day ’cause we had so many panels to offer. Right now VR is such a new, emerging technology. It’s the most brilliant place for women to get a foot in. And so we want to start pushing women in VR. It’s the next wave. They’re sinking billions of dollars into virtual reality. Oculus has a headset for two hundred dollars, so they’re literally making it available to the masses. And right now, they’re starved for content. For filmmakers who want to learn new technology, it’s the place to be. And we really hope to support women who make that jump into it.

I think this year we’re going to have an amazing festival. We have so many films that I can’t even imagine how we’re going to program it. We have some extraordinary movies.

I still remember the stuntwoman panel from last year. That was my first real education about stunts in general. I learned so much, and it has given me a great foundation for interviewing and appreciating stunt people in general.

It’s good that you were here. So very few people have any understanding  whatsoever on the reality that faces not just stuntwomen but stuntmen. They used to have contracts to gag stunt performers. I don’t know why–I hope that we are somewhat to blame for it–but stuntwomen are more out in front these days. I really do hope that some of that is our fault. That’s the whole point of it.

Right. Now we just need to get to the point where the Oscars recognize stunt performers. 

You know, they’ve got an Oscar for everything, but it’s one of those things that if you take really crappy stunt performances and put them in a movie, you’re going to ruin it. It is something that absolutely dictates production value and story quality. It is a huge, technical part of filmmaking. If you look at the Oscars, I don’t think there’s been a single action film that has won an Oscar. It’s blown off; it’s not serious. And they take the same attitude towards stunts. Part of me gets a bit pissed about that, but then part of me doesn’t care. {laughs}

And that is the Melanie I know and love! She and her team have put together a fantastic crowdfunding campaign, and this team works immeasurably hard to make sure this is the finest experience for everyone. I am so glad that I have Melanie in my corner. I can speak from experience that she will come and fight behind the scenes for you if necessary, and she puts her entire heart and soul into all that she does. She is a badass chick, but at the core of her being, she is one who has a sole focus of advancing the cause of women in this industry and in the world as a whole. I cannot think of a better advocate for women. If you don’t believe me, be sure you watch the crowdfunding video. I think you’ll agree with me that you wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley in the middle of the night if you were on her bad side! Please be sure to check out the links below, and I would invite you to consider supporting this festival if you can. Whether you give money or tweet your heart out about it, any support you can give would be appreciated. And if nothing else, the next time you go to a movie or a watch a TV show, think about the women (and men) who are behind-the-scenes breathing life into those action scenes you love so much! 














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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher


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