Woman director speaks about the challenges of male-dominate film industry
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Being a women director in the male-dominated film industry isn’t easy, but Kelsey Egan has been able to overcome these challenges as well as producing a movie during a pandemic and lockdown.
Getting her directorial debut feature film Glasshouse on to screens was just another obstacle Egan had overcome. But her temerity has paid off because the film has also been chosen for screening at the 25th Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada.
The dystopian film is about airborne dementia which leaves people roaming, unable to remember where and who they are. While being confined in an airtight glasshouse, a family do their utmost to stay alive. Later in the movie, a stranger forces the family to deal with a past they’ve tried concealing.
Egan exudes a calm confidence as she addresses the challenge women face in the industry.
“I wish it wasn’t so, but I have experienced sexism in the industry. I was in denial about it but then I realised I couldn’t keep going on with it. I had personal experiences with sexism and was young and idealistic, I didn’t think it was an issue.”
“It occurred repeatedly to the point where it could no longer be ignored. It was frustrating because you care about the project and the team. I’ve learned to navigate it with brutal honesty.”
The local director studied neuroscience behaviour and theatre and has degrees in both fields, which she obtained in New York. Before Glasshouse, she directed her first short film, Gargoyle, in 2008 and it received a South African Film and Television Award nomination for best short film.
Egan is a woman that wears many hats, scriptwriting, acting, stunt performing, producing and working in continuity as an assistant script supervisor.
“I’ve always been working towards making my feature film. I wanted to be the best possible director I could be, so I set out to learn everything I could about the industry,” she said.
Egan moved to South Africa permanently from the USA in 2008 and said she fell in love with the local film industry.
“I thought I had to be in Los Angeles or London to make it in this industry. I worked in film before but decided to pursue that passion here.
“I wanted to tell stories that were reflective of a diverse variety of experiences. If I stayed in my bubble in America, I would never be the storyteller I wanted to be.”
The movie was filmed in the hauntingly beautiful Pearson Conservatory in the Eastern Cape, during the pandemic.
“We were telling a very intimate, claustrophobic story, so we needed an intimate space,” Egan said. “We prayed every night that no one would get sick, and lived in bubbles for the duration of filming. We were painfully aware of how the pandemic could affect filming.”
The Glasshouse script had powerful women behind the pen and was co-written by the associate producer, Emma Lungiswa de Wet.
Egan said the team discussed the concept based on instances in their past where they reflected on how memories have changed them and shaped their lives.
She said the movie was then inspired by the realisation that “only by the memory of pain in the past, can you avoid mistakes in the future”.
“To me, the movie is about how different people cope with trauma in different ways. Glasshouse deals with how the pain of memory affects you in the present. Different people have different coping mechanisms. In the movie, those coping mechanisms are pitted against each other.”
The film is named after the idea of throwing stones at glass houses, but also in the literal form, being a house made of glass.