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SCAD Savannah Film Fest: Producer Alison Owen talks female perspective, sexual harassment in Hollywood

  • Producer Alison Owen at the opening night screening of “Suffragette” at the 2015 SCAD Savannah Film Festival. (Getty Images)
 

SCAD Savannah Film Fest: Producer Alison Owen talks female perspective, sexual harassment in Hollywood

25 Oct 2017

As a pioneer in producing music videos for television, Alison Owen has stories to tell of breaking into and surviving the film industry as a female producer. Through the years, her many challenges did include sexual harassment, a hot topic coming out of Hollywood.

Her industry experience begins in the 1980s and her passion for creating quality films has taken her to the podium several times as an award-winning producer.

Owen brought her landmark docudrama “Suffragette” to the 2015 SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Among the many films and made-for-television movies she’s produced are award-winners “Elizabeth” (1998), “Temple Grandin” (2010) and “Saving Mr. Banks” (2013). She is also a producer on “Tulip Fever,” released this year.

She will be one of three female producers on the SCAD Savannah Film Festival’s Wonder Women Panel Series: Producers on Oct. 30 at the Gutstein Gallery. Joining her will be Nicole Clemens, a producer with Anonymous Content, and Cathy Konrad, producer of “Walk the Line,” “Scream 2” and “3:10 to Yuma,” among others.

The panel will examine the careers, emerging female producers and the importance of diverse perspectives and voices in storytelling, both in front of and behind the camera, according to the festival.

Producing

Producers are multi-taskers, Owen said. They find source material, acquire the rights, and find a writer to create a winning script. They find the money to pay the writer, hire a line editor to determine the film’s cost, then raise that money. They also secure a director and cast members. Then they must make sure the film’s production stays on track and on budget.

Ahead of the fest, Owen was in Majorca on the final two weeks of filming a movie she is producing starring Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway. The film, yet to be named, is a remake of the 1988 MGM comedy “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

Owen expects this new film to reach the big screen by April or May — another movie with a female perspective on and off screen.

Owen said she is quite passionate and committed to furthering the female perspective in the film industry. Opportunities are opening up for women, and their views are important and will be world changing when it happens, she said.

“It’s become more fashionable,” she said. “Most of my work has been from a female point of view, from a female director’s point of view, from a female writer’s point of view. Most of western art, visual and literature and extended into cinema, has been most entirely from a man’s point of view.”

Getting into the film industry was a lot easier for Owen in the 1980s than for women today, she said. “It was like someone letting down a drawbridge with the birth of MTV and Director Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. There was a sudden need for a lot of people in the area of music television. It was quite easy to invent yourself. Nobody knew what a video producer was.”

Sexual harassment

Unfortunately, sexual harassment has always been in the shadows. While she has met embattled producer Harvey Weinstein “a million times,” she has never witnessed the sexual harassment he is being accused of by some of Hollywood’s leading actresses. Even so, she has her own experiences of it in the industry “as does anyone from the 1980s.”

“It is impossible to find a woman who hasn’t experienced sexual harassment,” she said. “I will be very interested in talking about that, exploring the subject and the repercussions of what happened. The prevailing winds of culture have made this happen. Enough brave women have come out to make their statements, so it couldn’t be ignored any longer.

“I encourage anybody who has been sexually harassed to come forward and stand up. This is a moment and the culture where they can. I would also sympathize with them … This is a moment where they should feel more comfortable, to be believed and supported rather than disbelieved and reviled.”

IF YOU GO

What: Wonder Women Panel Series: Producers

When: 1 p.m. Oct. 30

Where: Gutstein Gallery, 201 E. Broughton St.

Cost: $5

Info: filmfest.scad.edu

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