Absence on Both Sides of the Camera: Crowdfunding Picks

By Shayna Maci Warner and Tatiana McInnis

For many marginalized storytellers, the absences of their identities within the Hollywood canon can only be combatted by creating independent content. Crowdfunding is the embodiment of helping to eliminate these gaps in representation, by directly assisting underrepresented storytellers and easing their path to doing what they do best.

Given the cultural moment, wherein major global industries are being taken to task for their complicity in anti-Blackness, misogyny, and other systems that maintain unequal distributions of power and resources, diverse, accurate and inclusive stories seem more necessary than ever. Our latest crowdfunding picks spotlight creators who are responding to exclusions, erasures, and silences that shape our cultural terrain. 

Through varied genres and forms, these projects spotlight inequities in healthcare and health outcomes for Black women; bring an autistic woman’s story to the fore; and take on the lack of representation in the media we turn to for comfort.

The web series “Black Girls Guide to Fertility” shines light on Black women’s challenges conceiving, bearing, and raising their children. Short film “Mildly Different” asks neurotypical viewers to experience a day through the lens of a woman on the autistic spectrum, and feature-length “A Holiday I Do” aspires to meaningful LGBTQ representation in the Hallmark holiday filmscape. 

Here are Women and Hollywood’s newest women-created and women-centric crowdfunding picks.

“Black Girls Guide to Fertility” (Web Series) – Created and Written by Sonhara Eastman; Directed by Crystle Roberson

While still underrepresented in public discourse, Black women’s fertility, experiences of childbirth, and motherhood are burgeoning conversations that reflect historical asymmetries of resources, care, and support for Black mothers. Addressing these topics, along with financial success, spirituality, and communal expectations, “Black Girls Guide to Fertility” is a rich exploration of Black women’s lives and communities. 

The web series was written and created by Sonhara Eastman, who described the purpose of the series as “a vehicle to break the silence surrounding black women and infertility.”

“Black Girls Guide to Fertility” focuses on Ava, a 37-year-old romance novelist who faded into obscurity after finding love — and now finds herself on the rise again after self-publishing a diary detailing her fertility woes. Each episode is a recreation of Ava’s diary entry, adding a unique and compelling touch to the everyday struggle of infertility.  

Learn more and donate to “Black Girls Guide to Fertility” via its website.

 “Mildly Different” (Short) – Written and Directed by Anna Czarska

“Mildly Different” identifies the prevalent misdiagnosis of autism in women. The creators explain that assumptions and stereotypes about gender identity, presentation, and behavior lead to autistic women being un- or misdiagnosed. As a consequence, these girls and women experience challenges finding the support they need. In response, “Mildly Different”  offers a story of a young woman who is struggling to understand herself and find support and acceptance after a misdiagnosis.

From autistic filmmaker Anna Czarska, “Mildly Different” immerses the viewer in a young woman on the autistic spectrum’s inner world, reflecting her experiences of alienation until the kindness of one person restores her confidence. 

With a dynamic narrative and sci-fi-like visuals, the creators of “Mildly Different” seek to “raise awareness of a problem with support resources that has been swept under the rug … to bring understanding, acknowledgement, and hopefully more support for the condition in women.”

Learn more and donate to “Mildly Different” on Sticky Tape’s website.

 “A Holiday I Do” – Directed by Alicia Schneider and Paul Schneider; Written by Melinda Bryce

Tired of the lack of meaningful LGBTQ representation within the Hallmark holiday landscape, co-director Alicia Schneider began her journey toward “A Holiday I Do” by tweeting out her wish for a gay Christmas movie. As she details in the above campaign video, when she realized how many people wanted the exact same thing, she took it upon herself to craft a lighthearted, fake-snow-filled holiday tale that centers a queer female romance. 

Written by Melinda Bryce and co-directed by Paul Schneider, live-action feature “A Holiday I Do” tells the story of Jane (“Bomb Girls” favorite Ali Liebert), a lonely single mother whose inclusion in her ex-husband’s Christmas wedding is just about as depressing a concept as she can fathom. Luckily, what starts as a disastrous first impression with the wedding planner turns into the kind of bumbling, snowflake-struck crush that might just turn Jane’s whole world on its head. 

The creative team behind “A Holiday I Do” hopes that, amidst the landscape of fluffy, formulaic Christmas spirit, their feature will stand out as a chance for aspirational escapism that rarely exists for LGBTQ viewers. They plan to safely film throughout Michigan, in historically LGBTQ friendly towns, to lend just a touch of authenticity to a Christmas miracle. 

Check out or contribute to “A Holiday I Do’s” campaign on Kickstarter. 

To be considered for Women and Hollywood’s biweekly crowdfunding feature, please write to waheditorialfellows@gmail.com. All formats (features, shorts, web series, etc.) welcome. Projects must be by and/or about women.

July 25, 2020
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