‘Innovators are tenaciously drawn to question everything’

After years of working at various low-paying jobs, Kate Kaminski “impulsively” decided to pursue a master’s degree in film production at Boston University at age 34, sparked by a lifelong interest in film and writing. She made her first film there, and has been writing, directing and producing films ever since.

In 2009-10, with partner Betsy Carson as Gitgo Productions, she produced a popular, 53-episode satirical comedy web series called “Willard Beach” – the first of its kind to be produced in Maine (www.willardbeach.tv.). Each unscripted episode features local actors, and the series has garnered nationwide acclaim. Cable stations in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Missouri are among those that have aired it. Kaminski is in post-production on Gitgo’s fourth feature film, a comedy called “The Crew.”

Last year, Kaminski started the Bluestocking Film Series, a biannual showcase for women filmmakers. But more than that, films entered in the series must pass the “Bechdel Test,” which has three basic criteria: There must be two or more women in the film and they must have names; the female characters must talk to each other; and they must talk to each other about something other than a man or men.

Kaminski also teaches production and film writing classes at the University of Southern Maine’s Communication and Media Studies Department. In her mid-50s, she lives in South Portland.

Q:

What do you think are the top characteristics of an innovator – a woman who breaks the mold?

A

To me, innovation comes out of an open and curious mind and a willingness to see all sides while maintaining a strong point of view. Innovators take risks and, particularly in times of self-doubt, are willing to evolve quickly and embrace new ideas. And I also think innovators are tenaciously drawn to question everything – including their own responses – and this helps them make leaps in understanding. From my own experience, I know I can resist something one day and then fully embrace it the next. Somehow in a short amount of time, I realize that what I was so committed to rejecting is actually the exact thing I needed to move toward.

Q

Who are your role models?

A

I have so many role models I couldn’t list them all here. Certainly, my mother and my grandmother – both of them teachers – have probably been my strongest role models. Even though I think each might have regretted it at times, both encouraged me to speak up and question things.

If we’re talking about filmmaking role models, then I’ll give you a very short and off- the-cuff list: Ida Lupino, Barbara Loden, Agne?s Varda, John Cassavetes, Chris Marker, Monika Treut, R.W. Fassbinder, Todd Haynes, Bong Joon-ho, Christine Vachon, Thelma Schoonmaker, the Maysles, Jim Jarmusch – I could go on. I’ve also had many friends who have served as role models. My friends who are also artists and make their living very much at the edges as I do have been invaluable in showing me how to live well no matter what kind of car you drive.

Q

Do you or have you had a mentor, and how significant has this person been in helping you achieve your goals?

A

I’ve never been involved in any kind of formal way with a mentor, but what’s more, I haven’t in any way achieved my goals. Still working on that.

Q

Have you been thwarted by sexism at any point?

A

As a woman filmmaker, I would have to say, yes, I’m a tougher sell than my male counterparts. But I don’t feel at all thwarted. I’d rather fight sexism than be defeated by it. All of us benefit from a world where both genders are treated equally.

It’s interesting that just recently the media is beginning to take notice of how imbalanced the male-to-female filmmaker ratio is. There were no women directors in the running at Cannes this year, for example. But I think you’d have to be willfully blind not to see that filmmaking is a male-dominated field in a male-dominated world. And because film, as an artistic medium, is largely experienced – at least in this country – as a form of commercial entertainment (as opposed to a form of personal artistic expression), work that doesn’t conform to the dominant, mostly heterosexist, and frequently misogynistic worldview of commercial films is, at best, ignored, and at worst, misunderstood and dismissed. Kathryn Bigelow is arguably one of the most famous woman filmmakers working today in the commercial film business, but her most successful films are for and/or about men.

The reason I conceived the Bluestocking Film Series was to specifically bring films by and about women to Maine audiences of all genders. Without the series, these films would certainly remain obscure to our little corner of the world.

Q

What can mothers do to encourage breaking-the-mold thinking in their daughters?

A

I can only speak to this from the perspective of a teacher of young women since I’m not a mother. What I would tell any young woman is that she should focus on her own development and work on becoming self-reliant and resourceful. I would encourage her to challenge cherished beliefs, to educate herself outside of her own generation and popular culture, to embrace experience, and to stay open. I would tell her to speak up and speak out about things she cares about. And, if she were an artist, I’d tell her to keep her day job.

Kate Kaminski

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