Women Making Waves' big splash

Female role models on and off the screen abound at this weekend's conference

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Bomb Girls Betty (Ali Liebert, left) and Gladys (Jodi Balfour) compare notes on the floor.
  • Bomb Girls Betty (Ali Liebert, left) and Gladys (Jodi Balfour) compare notes on the floor.

Sometimes your career can be defined by a single moment. Adrienne Mitchell and Janis Lundman were in negotiations with Alliance Communications to distribute their 1992 documentary Talk 16, a film following the lives of young teenage girls. Mitchell and Lundman wanted to hang on to their copyright in hopes of creating a dramatic series in the future and Alliance refused. After intense three day negotiations, Alliance gave in to their request.

“It’s hard for women to simply get gigs in this business,” says Mitchell, co-founder of Back Alley Productions. “We found a way to hang on to our own material and give ourselves and other women the opportunity to be producers, directors and writers.”

The leading women in film and television will gather in Halifax for the fourth annual Women Making Waves conference on March 21-23 (www.wift-at.com/wmw). Hosted by the Women in Film and Television Atlantic Chapter (WIFT-AT), the conference will feature a screening of short films, a screenwriter’s circle and the Wave Awards.

Mitchell and Lundman are certainly leading the way for women to develop and produce their own shows. Through their production company, they’ve had a string critically acclaimed shows including Drop the Beat, Played and Durham County, a crime drama that was nominated for Best Dramatic Series at the 2007 Gemini Awards. Their most recent success is Bomb Girls, a TV series about four women working in a munitions factory during World War II. Originally meant to be a six-part miniseries, the show received a full season renewal.

“In Bomb Girls, we have lots female talent behind the scenes,” says Mitchell. “We’ve hired lots of female writers over the years and even female camera operators, which are hard to find. Having women in senior positions creates more material in the long run.”

Bomb Girls was cancelled last year and fans from the US and Canada launched the “Save Bomb Girls” campaign calling for a third season, which included thousands of letters to Global TV and tweeting #savebombgirls to Netflix on International Women’s Day. The campaigns are reminiscent of recent fan campaigns that brought back the TV show Arrested Development and the Veronica Mars movie. Bomb Girls will have a MOW airing on March 27 at 8pm on Global TV. “I’ve been so overwhelmed, validated and touched by the fans,” says Mitchell. “We’ve received over 7,000 letters about what the show has meant to fans. It shows that there’s a desire for female content, especially for young women and stories about women in history.”

Meanwhile, Mitchell and Lundman are moving on their next project, a serialized crime drama about a young female detective investigating a murder. Newcomer Jane Maggs, a young screenwriter from Newfoundland, is developing the script.

“We’ve had so many people talk about how Bomb Girls changed their lives,” says Lundman. “We want to keep doing this type of programming with female role models on and off the screen.”

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