The dimly lit University Theatre was equal parts animated voices and bent necks as students stared intently at their smartphones. The crowd erupted into applause as film director Amy Adrion alongside Jonathan Wysocki, Long Beach State University lecturer in both the Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Film and Electronic Arts stood at the base of the gigantic movie screen.
Adrion presented her first feature film, “Half the Picture,” a documentary that focuses on women directors in Hollywood, at LBSU Monday night.
Wysocki, a longtime college friend of Adrion, regularly presents a film by a women director at the end of every semester to his Women’s History of U.S. Film class, but felt he should open the floor to a broader audience than just his class due to its “impact.”
“I talked to my departments and they were able to get together a little bit of funding to actually make this happen in a big space on campus,” Wysocki said. “The Women in Film Association, which is a new association, was able to help me publicize the event as well.”
During the brief Q&A session after the screening, Adrion noted how “Half the Picture” stemmed from normal conversation between friends.
“My friends and I were just talking about these issues all the time and it just felt like [it was in] the New York Times, in the LA Times, in research and it was just like a constant source of barrage of information so I just thought this is the thing I want to make a movie about,” Adrion said.
With her husband producing the film with her and a plethora of camera equipment bought with credit cards, Adrion was ready to play out her vision.
With a limited budget, the director sought out to make the documentary as “intimate [and] personal” as she could, filming the interviews with directors including Ava DuVernay (Selma), Lena Dunham (Girls), Jill Soloway (Transparent) and many more in their living rooms.
“You see behind the scenes, we always knew we wanted to have two cameras on the interview subject and a third camera just moving around handheld shooting me, the crew and wides of the room so everybody could feel what it’s like to be on this set,” Adrion said.
The film’s content was topical but this was especially true after the #MeToo movement made headlines nationally halfway through the filming of “Half the Picture.” Besides minor tweaks to the film removing sound bites of those accused of sexual assault such as NBC’s Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose in the opening of the movie, Adrion made the decision to omit the social campaign.
“Part of you goes, ‘Oh should we include some of that in the film’ but we always knew that this was a film about the achievements and the accomplishments of women and it’s not about the bad behavior of men,” Adrion said.
In attendance was LBSU’s Women In Film club, a film started in the fall of 2017 to support and uplift women interested in the film industry. Adrion met with the club prior to its screening to discuss her journey into the world of film.
“Watching this film with our club validates the work we’re doing,” WIF club president Claudia Villalta said. “Like, yes, we’re all working together to become stronger so to see that on screen feels really good.”
To women similar to those club members, Adrion had some advice for those dubious to breakthrough in the industry.
“These women are doing it, you can do it and I would just say try to… [find] what really draws you, what you’re so passionate about and just make the thing that you’re not trying to make for someone else, you’re not making it for your parents, you’re not making it for some executive at Paramount,” Adrion said. “Just kind of look at yourself as an artist and think about what you care the most about, what you’re obsessed with, what you’re excited about and make sure that’s what you work on.”