An afternoon with Christine Vachon

Photo Courtesy of the-talks.com ||  Christine Vachon offered perspective on changes in the film industry and advice for aspiring filmmakers on campus last week. 

Photo Courtesy of the-talks.com || Christine Vachon offered perspective on changes in the film industry and advice for aspiring filmmakers on campus last week. 

Danielle Colburn 20
Assistant Social Media Editor

Last Thursday, independent filmmaker Christine Vachon came to campus to discuss her career as well as her current and future projects.

Well-known for working with director Todd Haynes, Vachon has produced countless critically-acclaimed films, including “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999), “Far From Heaven” (2002), “Still Alice” (2014) and “Carol” (2015).

She also is a co-founder of Killer Films, an independent film production company based in New York City, alongside fellow producer Pamela Koffler. Much of her work features women or LGBT characters in central roles.

In a Q&A-style talk facilitated by Alexandra Keller, the director of the Film and Media Studies Department, Vachon shared a wide range of thoughts and experiences with the audience.

On the topic of our current president and what it means for her field, Vachon told a story about how she was scheduled to speak at Wellesley two days after the election last fall, and that the mood there was like a funereal.

She went on to relate our nation’s current political climate to the recent allegations about Harvey Weinstein, saying that there is definite progress being made in Hollywood despite the current occupant of the Oval Office; five years ago, she said, the 27 actresses who currently accuse Weinstein of unwanted advances or sexual assault probably would not have spoken up at all.

According to Vachon, it used to be normal in the industry to accept sexual harassment or assault at the hands of Hollywood’s most elite, since the people who spoke up about such incidents were also the ones to lose their jobs. Now, Vachon is hopeful that Hollywood is changing for the better, and also mentioned that movements like #OscarsSoWhite are driving the Academy and studios themselves to make conscious changes in the field.

On her relationship with Haynes, Vachon said that she knew she wanted to collaborate with him after seeing his 1987 short film, “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story,” in order to help him continue making films like it.

“Superstar,” a dark biographical film about the life of anorexic singer and drummer Karen Carpenter, uses modified Barbie dolls instead of actors to communicate its story. The film was banned after Haynes lost a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Carpenter’s brother, but Vachon nonetheless urged the audience to watch the 43 minute short film, which has been reuploaded to platforms like Youtube and Shortoftheweek.com.

Vachon also discussed some of her upcoming projects, as well as the changes that have been made to film and media as an industry. One of her current projects is a mini-series on the novel “Mildred Pierce” that will star Kate Winslet as Mildred, a middle class mother of two in the 1930s.

When reflecting on her colleagues’ doubt that Winslet would take on a television role, Vachon joked that when an actress is offered the role of a series’ title character, and when that title character has most of the lines in the script, she’s not likely to turn it down. Vachon also noted that it is much more common now for Hollywood stars to take on television roles, whereas television used to be seen as a place for Hollywood actors and actresses to ruin their career.

Vachon also took questions from students at the end of the talk. Her advice to aspiring filmmakers? Look for opportunities for content creation wherever you can – web series, mini-series, and so on. Vachon noted that she was impressed with newcomers to the industry for their familiarity with numerous media platforms, and discussed the rising desire in media powerhouses to “make the next ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ or ‘Game of Thrones’” – even Facebook and Apple, she says, are now undergoing plans to start making their own content.

The event, which took place in Weinstein Auditorium in Wright Hall, was hosted by the Film and Media Studies Program and was sponsored by Film and Media Studies, the Lecture Committee, the Program for the Study of Women and Gender and the Program in American Studies.