Support women, go to the cinema

If we want to see more women film-makers, we should support their work through the boxoffice, argues Natasha Walter in Comment Is Free today.

Walter takes her queue from the First Weekender Group in the US, which corrals support for women in film by getting people to see their productions in the crucial first weekend they are released.

One British woman director, Pratibha Parmar, has her very first feature film coming out this Friday. Nina’s Heavenly Delights is a sugary-sweet fantasy about a lesbian woman who cooks up a storm in her father’s Indian restaurant. The inspiration might have been My Beautiful Laundrette meets Babette’s Feast, although it hits a more amateur note. In itself, this cute fairytale is certainly not going to break any boundaries, but I was very intrigued to hear from the director that she has been encouraging women to go and see it on its first weekend, using the tactics of the First Weekenders Group in the US.

The First Weekenders Group was started seven years ago, when women were getting more and more impatient about their under-representation in the film industry, and a number of them decided to take some positive steps towards change. By circulating an email of forthcoming women-directed films to a club of interested women, it aims to get more people to go and see these films on the all-important first weekend of release. What filmgoers often don’t realise is that if a film does well on that first weekend, then it is set for a wider and longer release, which means better returns, more likelihood that the director will get funding for her next film, and so a better profile for women as a whole in the industry. On a film’s first weekend, Parmar told me last week, “every single person’s attendance could make a difference to how long the film will stay in the cinemas”.