Cinema Without Borders interview with Grace McPhillips

Bijan Tehrani:  How did you come up with the idea of making THE OTHER ONE?
Grace McPhillips: My film THE OTHER ONE was originally a short film I had been cast in, but that had never been made.  It was a script that haunted me, spurred my imagination towards different story lines, and I saw the film fit perfectly in a location I knew I had pretty unlimited access to. So when it came time for me to produce and star in a feature, that screenplay immediately came to mind.

The short was only 15 pages and a feature needs to be closer to 85 pages, so we, the other lead actors and the director, took a collaborative creation approach and we developed a storyline and script within 3 months and immediately went into filming.

BT:  You are an independent producer and filmmaker with an extensive background in arts, has that background helped you as a filmmaker?
GM: Having a diverse background in the arts is super helpful for perspective and gumption.  I was mostly dancing, singing, and acting in musical theater prior to film, but choreographed in addition to performing, which is a lot like producing and starring.  It's deciding how you want the cake to be made and then being the one who walks out with it on your finest cake platter.

Cutting Edge Collaborators: Women Achieving in Film

Here it is!  Video clips from the amazing panel I had the honor of speaking on at the Cannes Film Festival hosted by Hewlett Packard.  Here's the official description and all of the official videos are below.

The numbers for women in film have historically been slim but the tides are turning, particularly in independent film. Through advocacy, action and creative collaborations, women in film are changing the landscape of the industry.  At this panel, hosted by HP, filmmakers discuss how technology and positive persistence moved their projects forward, breathing new life into independent filmmaking. HP is proud to showcase women redefining independence and achieving in documentary and independent dramatic filmmaking at the 68th Cannes Film Festival.  

Panel Participants:
Helen O’Hara (moderator/ not pictured) – Film Journalist
Kylie Flavell- TV Host, Producer, DP & Editor
Grace McPhillips- Actress and Executive Producer of The Other One, Sterling Rock Productions
Komal Minhas- Producer of Dream, Girl and Owner of KoMedia, Inc.
Susie Wilson- Producer at Dwarf Labs
Kate Perotti- Producer of Heatstroke, (Gus Van Sant EP) and CEO of Edendale Pictures


CLICK HERE to see full bios and a DEMO REEL of all of our work.


"Making it happen... It's never too late... I did it for me... Not waste time and teach myself... I need to help bring this story to life."  -Panelists from HP Cutting Edge Collaborators: Women Achieving in Film

For women in the film industry is it important to be multi-skilled?

"It's imperative so you can have empathy for the crew you're working with." -Kylie Flavell

"Give yourself permission." - Grace McPhillips

"Never ask someone something that you wouldn't be able to do yourself." -Kate Perotti

What is the best way for women to get into film production?

"Show up and follow through. Don't be scared of MONEY."
-Komal Minhas

"You can't tell yourself it's not meant to be... you can make it work."  -Kylie Flavell

"Life is so busy... email them again and email them again."
-Grace McPhillips

What are the major barriers for women in film production?

"Self Sabotage. Sometimes you have to talk yourself off the cliff."  -Grace McPhillips
"Over thinking things... mindfulness is important... I go looking for snakes!"  -Susie Wilson
"I think we get caught up in taking care of others... we've got to take care of ourselves."  -Kate Perotti
"Don't be so hard on yourself.  Everything takes time."  
-Komal Minhas
"While you're waiting, just keep working. If you're waiting for that filmmaking fairy godmother- you can waste your whole life not being creative."  -Kylie Flavell

How do you encourage more women into film production?

"We are the wave... How can the media help? ...the media needs to be in this room, and they need to not compare me, Grace McPhillips the "Independent Female Filmmaker" with Lana Wachowski the "Independent Female Filmmaker." -Grace McPhillips

"In a decade two thirds of consumer wealth will belong to women... It's an economic choice if we want to move past the moral choice that we are here representing."  -Komal Minhas

Cannes Cutting Edge Collaborators: women Achieving in Film Q&A

"Have any of you been to film school?"

"How do you make Hollywood films in a male dominated world?"

"How do you feel about transgender roles and does it compliment the women in film movement?"

"I've been told I say "SORRY" to much... How do you stop saying sorry?"

"Where is the money in an online premiere?"

"Can you recommend production finance companies, investors, or distributors who are sympathetic to women's films?"

"What organizations have you been a member of that have helped you get to where you are today?"

"How do you maintain your femininity when on set without being or feeling discriminated?"

"What do you look for in a production designer, or your crew?"

"Being a woman, has your appearence been a factor in what you are doing professionally?"

And... I drop a bit of a truth bomb at the end in regards to Women's Film Festivals.  Thankfully it's one that is changing, but sadly for my film the timing has passed.  Hopefully the definition of the female filmmaker will continue to expand and we'll see more and more women in all roles of filmmaking.

PLEASE Share these videos, Comment below and
let me know your thoughts.  
It's all about giving each other a helping hand up.

And enormous THANKS to Hewlett Packard for continuing this conversation and celebrating women who are making it happen!  

This panel was a terrific success with, as you can see, standing room only, and another 453 people were streaming the conversation live on Perioscope.  

And... I'd be remiss if I wasn't able to thank the MANY people who helped put this panel together from the HP Team in Europe- Cesare Zavalloni, Delphine Simiand, Danelle White, Nikhil Kalanjee, Adam Lannon, Jean-Pierre La Calvez and Marie Odile-Guenin, our friends at Doremus- Heather Moorehouse and Josh Feldberg, George Lenny at Edelman, and the US team who brought the first panel to Sundance and helped nurture that conversation into this panel at Cannes, Rick Champagne, Rick Hohmann, Penny Malsch, and Robert Dieterle.  Your support of the independent female filmmaker is AWESOME.  THANK YOU. THANK YOU.

On a final note of thanks we co-promoted our panel along with the panel- Women Make Great Movies: Strategies for Success which was equally well attended and made some great points towards the necessity of quotas to turn the tides since we know that cultural perceptions won't change soon enough.  This was all started by Melissa Silverstein who is a great champion for Women in Film. If you believe in supporting female filmmakers, and I know you do because you made it all the way to the bottom of my blog, please share #seehernow and join the movement. Our collective helping hands is the way up!

Divide and Consider to Save Independent Film

An in depth follow-up to my recent answer to the below question is developing, but I'd love to know your thoughts first.  To read the full interview where this question comes from, please CLICK HERE.

10. What do you think the media could do better to portray the film industry as a more balanced light?

GM: I would love for the media to stop calling Independent film everything from Lana Wachowski's Cloud Atlas to my film The Other One.  Yes, both had independent financing, but we're not in the same category and neither is Zach Braff's Wish I was Here film.

I believe delineating film into different categories for sales, audience sake, promotion, and critique could create a whole new world of support for independent filmmakers.  I see at least five categories;

  1. Micro - the student 
  2. Buddy - no money projects; Indie - the under 1 million projects;
  3. Independent - typically celebrity drive one way or another/well funded passion projects,
  4. Studio Babes - the 15-50+ Million dramas that become award winners and host big star studded casts; and finally the
  5. Studio Banks - the tentpole, enormous action, teen driven films with all sources of revenue.

If the media began defining film more broadly and judged films in by the stratospheres they live, I believe more opportunities could arise from a more balanced perspective.  Imagine if the Oscars had two best picture categories? Delineate it even by the gracious $10 million dollar mark and I guarantee you the directors in the under 10 million category would have many more women in it. 

We are doing a lot with a little, but just imagine how much more we could do if we could get even a little of the coverage the guys with a lot get.

Is this even possible or even more possible because of today's growing digital space?


Cannes 2015 Red Carpet Gown by Veronica Scheaffer

First of all, YES.  I know how deeply lucky I am to have had another beautiful gown made for me to wear on the Red Carpet in Cannes.  I am such a fan of fashion, love being the canvas, and know that these experiences are treasures!

For this year's Cannes Film Festival, I knew much earlier than last year that I would be on the Red Carpet!  Hosted by Hewlett Packard, I was asked to speak on the panel "Cutting Edge Collaborators: Women Achieving in Film." Our day would finish with the entire panel walking the Red Carpet together.  PERFECT!  I reached out to Veronica Sheaffer, having appreciated her work on instagram, pitched the opportunity and we immediately hit it off!  

Over the next three weeks and four fittings this stunning gown came together!

Grace McPhillips in Red Carpet Gown by Veronica Sheaffer

Grace McPhillips in Red Carpet Gown by Veronica Sheaffer

Aside from the stunning and dramatic effect the dress gives, it was so completely comfortable and made me feel regal, distinguished, and most importantly matched the accomplishment I was feeling.  Starring and producing in a feature film, The Other One, then seeing it through a year of festivals, and into distribution, was no easy task.  Excitement and stress come in equal doses during that process, so to then to be highlighted as a "Woman Achieving in Film," at Cannes, was just AWESOME!!!

Me, Kyle Flavell, and Komal Minhas encouraging the industry to be more than a fan!

Me, Kyle Flavell, and Komal Minhas encouraging the industry to be more than a fan!

One of the things I love about Veronica is that she is all in.  After knowing what fabric we would be working with, and the feeling of the gown, she began e-mailing me links to shoes and jewelry.  More than a gown designer, she is a stylist!  Her vision is all encompassing.  Check out all of the options in this video shot by Chris Rejano of the final fitting the day before we flew to France!

The shoes, that couldn't have been more perfect, were by Adrianna Papelle. Can you see that sparkle on the inside of the stiletto? LOVE!

While you can't beat a custom gown, Rent the Runway is my go-to for other fun, fancy occasions.  In Chicago they now have a store (YES!) and they treated me to amazing jewelry to complete the look.  Working with Veronica at the final fitting we decided on the DANNIJO Avril Earrings and the aptly named Jones Bracelets from Chamak by Priya Kakkar.  

And a note about Flatgate, (not the football debacle, but the female producers being ushed off the red carpet for wearing flats,)  this year, my mother joined me in Cannes and she rocked some silver Sam and Libby's Flats with no problem.  We had a great time, incase you can't tell from the picture. 

Now... it is called the Cannes Film Festival, so what film did we see and what did I think about it?

We saw Valerie Donzelli's fourth feature, Marguerite and Julian, a tragic, incestuous Romeo and Juliet.  The reviews were mixed and interestingly when I spoke to women about it, they understood the modern touches inserted into the film as hinting towards this story being a timeless one, but the men I spoke with were mostly confused by the helicopters, electricity, and modern cars in a story taking place in the 17th century and didn't like the film.

Personally, I thought there were many commendable moments.  The children's performances were so touching and beautiful. I liked the scenes being started in tableaus, not freezing the footage, but freezing the actors, and the sense of play with which she directed the brother and sister lovers was spot on.  

The music, however, was too american for me and when Marguerite is  captured, Valerie chose to "celebrify" the moment by showing it in paparazzi style, still photography.  This felt off.  It's the only time she choses to do this in the film and it feels pushed and insincere.  It took me out of the story immediately and removed the actors from their performances for me.  Aside from that it was beautifully made and a nice story to explore.  Worthy of Cannes? Absolutely.  Groundbreaking?  No, but I think Valerie Donzelli has it in her and I'll be curious to see what is in her future. #SEEHERNOW

There was a lot energy around female filmmakers this year, but there were only two female directors in competition.  Directors of films certainly have the least representation, but the numbers across the board for female filmmakers isn't great, particularly in the upper echelon of filmmaking.

I'd like to see more women working with bigger budgets and will continue to be an advocate for women in film.  It's what I am, so why wouldn't I?  Also the best idea I've heard for creating real change is quotas.  People, and I think, Americans in particular, don't like to be told they have to do one thing or another, but when a history of injustice needs to be corrected, we MUST do things that, at the time ,feel uncomfortable or even unfair.  

Maybe you saw the film Selma?  Blacks had the right to vote, but it didn't mean it was going to happen.  Affirmative action was also an uncomfortable thing for many people, and at times, yes, it was unfair, but the culture wasn't going to change without demonstrative action.  This is the place we are at with female filmmakers.  If you haven't yet, please sign the ACLU petition for investigation into discriminatory hiring practices in Hollywood.  I'm on it.

Meet the Women Achieving in Film

Our Work

Our Histories and Websites

Grace McPhillips- Actress and Executive Producer of The Other One, Sterling Rock Productions

Grace McPhillips is a leader in Chicago’s voiceover and screen acting community. Her production company, Sterling Rock Productions, creates feature films, shorts, television series, and the Producers Patio Podcast. In 2014 her recently produced feature The Other One toured to many festivals, winning awards, and was an Audience Choice Nominee at the prestigious 50th Anniversary Chicago International Film Festival and will be in wide release through Indican Pictures this Summer.  Her short prequel film entitled Eclipse world premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner.  In 2016 Grace will tour the films through public screening and educational series called “The Forgiveness Tour.”

As an actress, Grace has danced with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in Salome with Deborah Voight, sung with the famous Stanley Paul Orchestra, other bands, and recently completed her 6th album with her band Mysteriam (available on itunes), produced/starred/directed award-winning independent films, and has lent her voice to numerous commercials and radio ads nationwide.  She has adapted Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle for a dramatic TV series to film in Chicago and has a biographical dramatic comedy feature about Zelda Fitzgerald in development.  When she was just a child, Grace’s family opened the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in collaboration with Fitzgerald descendants. Grace is honored to have such intimate knowledge and is thrilled to one day share Zelda’s story with the world.  Wide Release Available September 8th, 2015

Kylie Flavell- TV Host, Producer, DP & Editor

Kylie's love for film began when she majored in Neo-Realist Italian Cinema and grew even deeper when she ran away to live in Italy. After working as a producer and TV host and being told by camera crews and post production houses that how she wanted to make food and travel television was too ambitious and too expensive, she decided to teach herself how to do every aspect of the production from lighting and filming to editing and colour grading. 

While many people laughed at her naive plan to make a 13-part travel series completely alone filming everything herself and handling post production and distribution, Kylie was motivated by the intimacy and flexibility allowed in being the ultimate micro-indie. Her TV series is now selling into territories all over the world to networks such as NatGeo and Discovery, and she is currently shooting a travel web series that has her in a new foreign country every month and is reaching over a million views on YouTube.

Hooked Up with Kylie Flavell on Travel Hub

Komal Minhas- Producer of Dream, Girl and Owner of KoMedia, Inc.

Komal Minhas is an Indo-Canadian film producer, writer, investor, and president of KoMedia Inc. She has been deeply invested in improving the lives of women and girls globally, and champions this work with her continued investments and work in film and storytelling.

Komal is the producer of Dream, Girl, a revolutionary documentary film that shares the inspiring and powerful stories of female entrepreneurs and CEOs to inspire the next generation of women and girls to live their dreams. The film has been featured in Forbes, The Washington Post, Elle Magazine, and TED. The film is set to release October 2015.

She has worked with Coca-Cola Global, and The Huffington Post, speaks globally about leadership, and women in film, and is the recipient of numerous awards for her continued work in leadership, media, and philanthropy. In 2012, Komal was named a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.

Komal is taking the Dream, Girl movement global to enable more women and girls to dream big in business, media, and life to further uplift our global economy.

Dream, Girl Film Official Website

Kate Perotti- Producer of Heatstoke, (Gus Van Sans EP) and CEO of Endale Pictures

Director/Producer/Writer/Cinematographer/Photographer/Editor/Idealist, Kate Perotti works in both NY and LA, continues to be integrally involved in cutting edge films, photography, mixed media, art and commerce. Called a “creative powerhouse” by UK FastMedia Magazine she is first and foremost a vision-oriented innovator who is willing to take risks, work with dogged perseverance, determination and generosity of spirit at each level. In production, she has worked in nearly every position behind the camera.

MOMz Hot ROCKs was Kate's first documentary feature which previewed at the Jacob Burns Film Center in NY as part of the Celebrating Women Filmmakers Series, won the Audience Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, won "Most Entertaining Documentary" at Doc'Miami, was invited as one of five Americans to ZagrebDox and was LA Weekly’s “Pick of the Week” when it screened as part of Jerry Fialka’s Documental Series. The film is partly responsible for adding “momrock” to the Urban Dictionary. Praised by Gloria Steinem, it is receiving a Go-Go ReBoot for digital distribution.

Kate is a Los Angeles Emmy award winning documentarian as Cinematographer on Community of Caring, produced by the DGA Women’s Steering Committee and Santa MonicaTV for local and national non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.
Kate was an NEA recipient for an early digital public TV show called All About Madonna. She has given DIY workshops at Art Center, Pasadena and the LA Women’s Music Festival.
Billboard Magazine wrote about “community activist,” Kate Perotti when she produced a benefit music compilation, Schooloaf: Everything but the Crust Vol. 1, with original tracks by Flea, Ann Magnuson and eighteen local bands for Hilltop Nursery School in Silver Lake. It was voted one of the top ten albums of the year by Yeah Yeah magazine. As Executive Producer of track “Something to Brag About,” by Exene Cervenka and Stone Fox, it won Best Video at SXSW. The song was also second in Billboard’s New Song list, the video debuted and was featured on MTV News.

Kate’s slate of films for the 2015 Cannes Film Market include an untitled George Clinton project and another by longtime Indie darling Tom DICillo as well as Heatstroke and Minotaur where Kate is honored to be working with critically acclaimed filmmakers Nina Menkes, Mike S. Ryan and Gus Van Sant.

Susie Wilson - Producer at Dwarf Labs

Susie Wilson is Producer at Dwarf Labs animation and vfx studio. This involves a full gamut of activities, from script analysis and project development for TV series and features, to finding international co-production properties and partners.

Prior to Dwarf, she worked at animation studios Axis Animation and Pictures on the Wall on a wide range of Emmy and BAFTA award-winning projects for clients such as Radiohead, Sony, BBC and Channel 4.

Susie also ran the Projector Animation Festival in Scotland; curated film programmes and served as jury member for BAFTA, the Annecy Animation Festival, the British Council in Kazakhstan, the Roshd Festival in Iran, and ReAnimania in Armenia.

She has guest-lectured at Harvard University and the School of Visual Arts, as well as the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and has curated for non-cinema environments such as The National Museum of Scotland and Camden Arts Centre.

In her spare time, she refines her questing techniques - travelling with old maps, cooking without recipes and regularly jumping around in search of fitness.

Dwarf Animation Studios Official Website