The reverie of adolescence and precocious little girls fills the artistic and
scholarly world of Michele Meek, filmmaker, teacher, and English Ph.D. candidate at the University of Rhode Island. Michele’s creative talents can be seen through her writing, directing, and editing of her films, including Conversations With Women: Masturbation, Bubble Gum Ice Cream, and Red Sneakers. Red Sneakers won the 2nd Place Children’s Film Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and has gone on to screen across the country. In 1997, Michele founded the website NewEnglandFilm.com, a site that remains devoted to keeping New England up-to-date with the local film scene, as well as provides avenues for cast, crew, and film companies to engage with one another.
Recently, I sat down with Michele to discuss film distribution, future projects, and her research.
Q: How did you first become involved in the filmmaking community?
MM: While working on my master’s thesis in screenwriting, I worked at Where Magazine, which is a publication for tourists in Boston. I started to wonder, “Why isn’t there a publication for filmmakers to stay in touch with what’s happening in the local community?” So, I launched NewEnglandFilm.com thinking that I’d eventually move it to a print magazine. Then, of course, it just made sense as a website. I realized it was more interactive and up-to-date, so it just grew from there.
Q: Can you talk about NewEnglandFilm.com’s online film festival?
MM: Online film festivals are still pretty unusual, despite the amount of content online. NewEnglandFilm.com’s Online New England Film Festival just had its fifth year. Rather than a call for entries, we collaborate with local film festivals, whose directors all select a few shorts from their most recent festival. The films screen for 45 days, although some filmmakers opt to keep the films online longer. I am still waiting for online screenings to be considered as legitimate as physical screenings. We actually get larger audiences online than most festivals get in theaters.
Q: Do you have any plans for future filmmaking projects?
MM: Since I’ve been doing research about girls for my dissertation, I feel very much in that mindset, and it seems to be a consistent theme in my work. Red Sneakers was about a young girl at odds with her babysitters and her mother, and the recent film that I made as part of the 48-hour Film Project was about a young girl. I’ve been tossing around ideas for a short film about two girls who come together in a surprising way, but I feel more of a sense of responsibility than I did before. The more I learn about how films become interpreted by young and adult audiences, and how girls are receiving so many messages about their powerlessness, I feel a greater responsibility to make sure that the meaning that I’m making is something I can stand behind.
Q: What is the research you are doing here at URI?
MM: I am researching how consent operates in novels and films of the 1990s about adolescent and pre-adolescent girls. I am interested in how consent works both as a performative act and as a state of mind, how it works as a concept between characters, and how it works between a filmmaker and audience, or a writer or narrator and a reader.
Michele’s film Conversations With Women: Masturbation can be found online through her website michelemeek.com, where she also has links to NewEnglandFilm.com and her 2009 book, Independent’s Guide to Film Distributors. Michele currently teaches ENG 245 at URI.