"I think filmmaking and social media can break down a lot of barriers and clear up a lot of misconceptions quite quickly."
Lisa Stock is a filmmaker based in New York City. She pulls her stories from a varied background in theater, film, and anthropology, plus several years work at cultural institutions, including: the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Below is an interview of her about Women's Annex and Filmmaking industry in Afghanistan, Central and South Asia.
FA: What are some of the recurring themes you explore in your films?
LS: Women's journeys. Particularly those that present a challenge, or lift someone out of a time of darkness. I like the hard-earned happy endings that help us to learn something about ourselves. I don't always have female protagonists, but most of the time I do because we write about what we know about. :) My heroines find themselves in a magic realist world, where their dreams and fears are literally mirrored in their surroundings or a particular character they encounter.
FA: Generally, approximately how many women do you work with on your productions (cast and crew)? Can you tell us about the dynamics of working with women and whether it's different from working with male co-workers?
LS: I love to employ women on my cast and crew and generally think it's about 50/50. However, I hire whomever is best for the job regardless of gender. Since I have mostly strong female leads, my casts have a tendency to be women-heavy. But they certainly don't fall under the "chick-flick" label.
I think brains are wired differently depending on what job you do. Those who are cinematographers look at a project differently than the actors. I notice this first, and think less about the gender divide - more about an individual's personality. I often put in my cast and crew calls "NO DIVAS" - and that's no joke! That can apply to men or women. I don't want someone on my set who is led by their ego. I often shoot outdoors, and need someone who isn't afraid to jump in the ocean, climb a hill, or wade with snakes in the water. I find women have been just as eager as men to do so - they like to get dirty too, and sink their teeth into a great role. I've certainly had some men come to the table with caution at the idea of a female director, but that melts away once we start talking.
FA: How can women be empowered through fine arts, especially a medium like filmmaking?
LS: It gives us a tremendous opportunity to speak our mind and our hearts. To tell tales that are true to us, and show others how we see the world. To have freedom of expression and to execute that is a to take a step toward living your full potential. Women have very strong messages about the world, family, independence, themselves - and the independent film industry is an evermore welcoming place for the female voice. Even when I look at studio driven films - I think of female directors like Julie Taymor and Angelina Jolie, both very different storytellers, but making films that reflect what is important to them, and I'm encouraged about the future for female directors.
FA: What do you think of Women's Annex and its operation in Afghanistan, Central and South Asia?
LS: The Women's Annex is very exciting! Any platform that gives an outlet to share one's thoughts and imagination has my support and attention. I'm always eager to hear the perspective of someone half-way across the world - whether that manifest in a documentary, fictional narrative or interview. The world is getting smaller and I think it's vital to the health of our current and future generations to learn as much as possible about one another, and to give time and respect to new ideas, to learn what is going on outside their front doors, and how they feel about it. I very much look forward to seeing what the Women's Annex will shed light on and what it can teach us, and how it can enrich our world.
FA: Can your work be used as a source of inspiration for filmmakers in Afghanistan, Central and south Asia? If yes, how so? In other words, do you consider yourself a “Thought Leader”? If so, what do you think your influence is on your audience?
LS: It would make me very happy if that's how my work was perceived. In terms of being a "thought leader" - I hope that my characters inspire strength in an audience. A lot of my stories are about overcoming adversity or taking risks. In technical terms I hope people will look at my work and see that my available resources never limit my storytelling. Sometimes I make films with larges casts and crews and lots of equipment and sometimes it's just me alone with my little camera. And sometimes it's during those smaller films that I take the biggest risks and do something really unconventional - but that might influence my larger works in a positive way. I hope we keep exploring all that our chosen medium is capable of.
FA: Where do you see the future of developing countries like Afghanistan? Do you think filmmaking and social media can help improve their economy and education system?
LS: I think their future is limitless. I really do. They are remarkable people, intelligent, eager, creative, resilient. I think innovators, and thinkers and teachers and artists will take filmmaking and social media and run with it. Today, it's the fastest and best way to get your work and your thoughts across the world. And the more the world knows about the true you - and the truth about your country - the more willing they'll be to reach out and connect and interact economically. I think filmmaking and social media can break down a lot of barriers and clear up a lot of misconceptions quite quickly. I think it will not only improve their education system - but ours as well, because we can both get first hand knowledge on our respective parts of the world - which is a wonderful source of education.