Michelle Latimer (left) and Ingrid Veninger (right) on a mission to bring more features written and directed by Canadian women. 6 Scripts by 6 Canadian filmmakers are now done.

Six feature film scripts have been completed, in six months. Now, Oscar winner Melissa Leo has a first look at the inaugural pUNK Film FEMMES LAB collection.

Following a fall festival tour for her latest feature film, The Animal Project, Ingrid Veninger returned to Toronto with a desire to see more fiction features written and directed by Canadian women. On November 18th, 2013 she proposed the idea of a Screenwriting Lab, and received 20 submissions. To be eligible, applicants had to be Canadian, women, with at least one completed feature film.

“When I received the EDA Award for The Animal Project at the Whistler Film Festival from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists,” explains Ingrid, “I decided to take a chance at the podium. I offered a first look at the 6 scripts written in the Femmes Lab, to the first person who stepped up with $6000… The room was stone silent, until Melissa Leo stood up and shouted, “I’ll do it!”. Now, here we are! 6 months later. The bursary from Melissa was shared amongst the Lab participants. We met once a month from January – June. Each month was led by a different Femme. In March, we had our Lab at Toronto’s AGO, where Anais arranged a guided tour of art (created exclusively by women). In April, we met in Montreal, where Sophie introduced us to several Montreal producers (all women). In May, we travelled to Mars’ cottage and read our scripts aloud for the first time. Other months, our homebase was the TIFF Bell Lightbox where Michelle invited First Nations storyteller and activist, Lee Maracle, to speak, and Danishka brought Absinthe and forced us to dance to 80’s pop. We always had a potluck, and were hugely accountable to one another. Follow-through was paramount.”

On June 30th, the 6 scripts were delivered to Melissa Leo. On July 31st, the Femmes are driving to New York, to spend the day with Melissa. After that? Anything could happen.

pUNK FILMS FEMMES Lab: About the process.

“Writing can be very lonely.  For hours you sit by yourself, staring into a computer screen, sculpting stories in your head. You hope that what comes out on the page will resonate with someone, someday.  For me, the Femmes Lab was like an island in the ocean. Each month I found myself back on land with five beautiful, talented, strong women. We offered support and encouragement to each other so that we could dive back into the lonely, ocean of creation and do it all over again.  It was bliss!”  MICHELLE LATIMER (ALIAS, CHOKE).

“Inspired by Melissa Leo, here are my notes from the first writing Lab: No esoteric bullshit. Aim higher. Take it up. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be nice. Be ambitious. Unleash the power… That is what I worked on for six months, touching base with five other intelligent and sensitive women. We were fuelled. Yeah right, Sisters!”  SOPHIE DERASPE (MAGDALEN ISLANDS, MISSING VICTOR PELLERIN, VITAL SIGNS).

“Over the course of the six months of the lab, I felt myself transform. In my writing, but also in the rest of my life. I was suddenly standing up for myself more, and also standing up for my ideas. There was a communal strength that I felt when we came together as a group. It allowed me to push myself further and not be afraid to trust my sense of story. I have Ingrid’s vision to thank. I never imagined that bringing a group of women together once a month could create such tremendous impact.”  MARS HORODYSKI (BEN’S AT HOME).

“It was a time to write freely, but with intense purpose. To be surrounded by intelligent, focused and accomplished women on a mission. When you have to answer to a round table like that, every month for six months, it puts a fire in your belly. To create something that burns as brightly as the extraordinary opportunity created by the pUNK Films FEMMES LAB.” ANAIS GRANOFSKY (THE LIMB SALESMAN, ON THEIR KNEES, HAVE MERCY).

“I have never experienced such a supportive and inspiring development process. The Femmes Lab has empowered me to reach deeper and to write the best screenplay of my career. I feel that my work has moved to the next level and I feel energized to tackle the film industry with new vigor. Ingrid Veninger and Melissa Leo – that you for making this possible.” DANISHKA ESTERHAZY (H&G, BLACK FIELD).