Artists' Television Access

Q/A with GAZE Programmers

Isabel Fondevila caught up with Mallary Abel, Brenda Contreras and Kelly Pendergrast, and had a chance to ask them about ATA’s new women-made film series.

What inspire the Gaze series and why did you call it Gaze?

Mallary: GAZE simply came from the aspiration to start a Women’s film festival. It took about a year and a half to really flesh out what our plan was, and we also wanted to find more female curators to work with. I think all of us have different reasons for working towards, or highlighting a “strictly women’s” film festival. I often find that films made by women are extremely delicate. I can relate to that.

We called it GAZE because, well, every film has a “gaze.” A lot of mainstream cinema, I believe, has a male gaze. To me, it’s sort of a pun on that. But this is definitely not a male gaze kind of film series.

Brenda: The name GAZE is a spin on the concept of the male gaze. In the GAZE film series, the empowered ones are the female artists showing us their point of view. Sadly, I believe the inspiration comes behind a strong feeling of frustration with the lack of female films being programmed.

Kelly: We wanted something catchy and short that would work design-wise, on a website or poster. We were also interested in indicating that the series would be dealing with point of view, and a possibly unusual point of view, without being overbearing on the “women’s film” angle, and making sure to avoid exclusionary language.

What did make you want to be involved? Briefly, tell us about your background as a programmer/artist/filmmaker.

Mallary: To be involved in a new film series was exciting to me. I had been co-running an experimental film festival called Cut and Run, and we regularly had screenings at the ATA. I’ve been making experimental films for 5 or 6 years, programming for 3 years, and doing a lot of traveling. GAZE came around at a good time for me — my main curating focus came to an end, I moved back to the SF bay area, and started to put down some roots. So, to continue to be involved in the ATA was important to me.

Brenda: I used to live in SF. I’ve since moved to various places including Los Angeles and Mexico City. Though I may be very far away now, being a part of GAZE keeps me connected with the film community I use to be a part of.

Other than programming for GAZE, I’ve also programmed for a couple underground festivals in SF, was a co-director for an international touring experimental film festival, and currently, I am working on my own short experimental films.

Kelly: I am a film programmer, maker, and feminist, so GAZE is a great place to bring these things together. I have been involved with programming at ATA for a number of years, including helping organize ATA’s Film and Video fest in 2009 and 2010, and I have curated and programmed film and video for various other programs and locations. I also write, and make videos on a sporadic basis. I am excited to watch a whole bunch of new films that I wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to see, and also to hopefully showcase work by filmmakers I love that I haven’t had the opportunity to program in the past.

How do you select the films?

Mallary: After screening all of the submissions, certain films either stick out or are brought to our attention. That selection process usually speaks for itself.

Brenda: The films are curated into roughly 60 minute long programs, each with individual themes. We’re able to shape these programs from the submissions we receive and also works that any of us programmers had previously seen.

Kelly: GAZE has a rolling open call for films by women, and no submission fee, which we hope allows folks to submit without the restraints of money worries or submission deadlines. The GAZE programmers all watch the films, and then bring our favorites to re-watch together, discuss, and see what arises in terms of theme, tone, and our shared interests.

What type of audience and reaction are you expecting?

Brenda: I’m hoping for a packed house with open minds.

Kelly: An audience of filmmakers, friends, and people interested in underground film.

GAZE film series, ATA, Thursday May 17, 8pm