It can be difficult for anyone to break into the movie business, and it is especially challenging if you are a woman. For the third year, Refinery29, with its Shatterbox series, and their partner Level Forward, have been trying to level the playing field by giving female directors the opportunity to tell their stories and hopefully move on to bigger projects.

Shatterbox was created by Refinery29 president Amy Emmerich and executive producer Shannon Gibson after they looked at research that showed a gender gap between male and female directors. “It’s not that there is a lack of woman directors, there are plenty of very talented women out there who are directors, it’s just that they haven’t had a lot of opportunities,” said Gibson. “They don’t get the same financing their male counterparts get and they don’t get the same recognition. We felt this was a program that not only gave them the financing they need to make something tangible that they can walk away with and help them get their next job, but we also wanted to introduce our audience to these women and their work so they continue following women in the directors chair.”

 

So far, the series has been successful at launching the careers of several female directors. Two short films from the series are being developed into features and three into television shows. Courtney Hoffman, a Shatterbox alumna is slated to direct Steven Spielberg’s production, “Ruthless.”

This year, Shatterbox is presenting seven new films including “Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die”, directed by Peruvian filmmaker Kantú Lentz. Lentz worked with Refinery29 on a New Balance branded series called “Women Getting Sh** Done” and then submitted her proposal for a personal project.

“It was amazing,” said Lentz of working with Shatterbox. “It’s a rare opportunity to work with a team that gives you all the tools and money to make the film you want to be making. They give us pretty much full creative control. Any notes that they had were always fantastic and made the project that much better. They made sure that the films we were making were the films we wanted to make.”

“Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die” is a low-tech sci-fi film in the mode of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” about a brokenhearted cryogenic facility employee who wants to freeze himself. When he unfreezes a terminal young girl he has a life changing experience that makes him rethink how to confront his own pain.

There is a rollercoaster scene in the film that is a callback to an infamous viral video Lentz had written called “Rollercoaster Breakup.” “I personally love rollercoasters,” said Lentz. “It is an amazing metaphor for really forcing yourself to be outside of your body and having an actual perspective of the world from very high up…Seeing how small you are in the world sometimes helps you see that your problems may not be as big as you feel they are.”

Lentz’s experience with Shatterbox has resulted in her first feature which she is filming in her native Peru.

The seven films being presented by Shatterbox this year represent a variety of genres and perspectives. Expect to see supernatural horror from Chloë Sevingy’s “White Echo”, heart-wrenching drama from “Dorothea’s Blues,” and hilarious comedy from “Shoot.”

“We try to maintain diverse genres for two reasons,” said Gibson. “Woman often get pigeonholed to direct one kind of thing and we know there are a variety of things that they’re actually good in. So we try to make sure we are including films with a big diversity in that space. Also, this will be the first time they’re all together and they’ll get to meet each other and see each other’s work. I think it’s great for them to spend that time together and realize that they all have something different they are giving and are not necessarily in competition. That’s something female directors deal with a lot it the idea of scarcity.”