Reel Women: Layne Marie Williams — Filmmaker

Layne Marie Williams (photo: Alonzo Alcaraz)

Layne Marie Williams (photo: Alonzo Alcaraz)

Layne Marie Williams is an award winning director / filmmaker currently located in Chicago, IL. She is the Founder/Executive Director of Women Of The Now, an all womxn collective producing media and events to empower and nourish womxn.

Layne Marie is the CoFounder / Director of Development for The Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia, PA.

She is currently in preproduction for Michael Smith’s upcoming feature film “Rendezvous in Chicago” produced and crewed up by Women of The Now.

Layne Marie is incredibly excited to make her next short film, “Scutly” this coming summer. Stay tuned here for updates.

How did you get into the business? I got into the business in October of 2014 after I had just graduated early from art school. All of a sudden I had some serious time on my hands and one day I picked up a canon power shot and made my first film. I became totally and completely obsessed from that day on. I went on to Co-Found The Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia that same year and made the decision to move to Chicago to continue to explore this incredibly exciting medium.

What obstacles have you faced specifically because of your gender? You know sometimes you just don’t get taken very seriously. I think because I’m young, blonde, and really pretty bold — sometimes folx take a minute to adjust to me and my ambition. It has been challenging to fight for jobs and avoid instances where someone was really only interested in me because of how I look. That can be a vulnerable thing to take note of internally. And like honestly. I’m a debutante. I was raised to be a debutante. So I’ve had to do a lot of work to define my worth outside of surface value and the ever present male gaze.

Cutting all my hair off has helped. People treat me differently on set/in meetings/when they first meet me now than they did when I had big long wavy blonde hair. It’s been fascinating to see the difference. I’m sure I also lead in a different way now too. I’ve grown into who I am and what I really want.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are a woman? Oh man, honestly everything I do day to day reminds me that I’m a woman! I’ve started two businesses focused solely on elevating womxn identifying folx (Women of The Now and The Women’s Film Festival) so like … every moment of every day reminds me. I’m constantly, (truly constantly) in contact with all of my colleagues and I often feel just so inspired and motivated by it all.

Work you are most proud of? I woke up from a pretty deep nap a couple months back to a text message from a musician I recently directed a music video for (Counterfeit Madison) and in that text they told me that our music video had gotten picked up by AfroPunk. Within mere moments our video had been viewed by thousands of people. I’ll never forget the feeling of joy and utter surprise I felt that day. Everything I do now, I aspire to find that sense of accomplishment again. Collaboration has that kind of power.

How do you describe the most significant #metoo moment of your life? This is a really, really tough question! You know, I remember being on set when the #metoo movement started happening. I had crewed up that set with as many womxn as I could and I was feeling super psyched about that..and I remember popping onto Facebook and seeing that hashtag happening. I honestly wasn’t really sure how to respond at first. In a way, I shut down. I was and am still pretty afraid to fully face my own #metoo. It’s just true that for so long this has been our with our #metoo circumstances and not necessarily having anywhere to put it all. And then all of a sudden we can reclaim that pain? It was a beautiful thing to have to embrace into but it was also really difficult. I really, really admired the brave people that came forward with their stories. I wasn’t able to unpack mine publically. And that’s okay. I think I will in a book I plan to write someday. Everyone has their own way of coping and healing.

How have professional attitudes towards women evolved during your career? I think that I came into this industry like a hurricane in a lot of ways and so I’ve jumped into this career at a really fascinating time. Starting out as an actor and then making that transition into not just a filmmaker, but a film director..has made me feel so very alive. Do I face challenges where people want to box me or other women in or take us less seriously at times? Oh yeah. But along the way, I’ve learned tactics to confront and combat that. Honestly, it’s been a blast. I like a challenge. I enjoy proving people wrong.

Trapped on an island what essentials must you have? A camera. Chapstick. A bandana. And a really sharp knife.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? I’d be like, Oh, sweet little belle. You’ve got this. You so many levels of got this. You’re gonna feel lost and found so much on this journey. But trust your gut always. There will be distractions, set-backs, immense moments of self doubt, naysayers, and heartbreak. But at the end of the day–you know you always got you. Also, you’re surrounded by a lot of love. Just look around. You make your own rules, trust.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? I’d want to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Before he was an Oscar and Golden Globe Winner, he was and still ​is​ just this really thoughtful dude with an obsession for monsters. I saw his exhibition at The LACMA and it influenced and changed me forever. He is the reason I fell in love with movies. I’ll always remember when Pan’s Labyrinth came out. I saw myself in that movie. I was still living in Alabama at the time, watching that movie on my then boyfriends projector in a basement. I must have watched that movie 12 times. I is a protagonist that I can deeply understand. Here is a film that plays with and challenges reality and an alternate reality in an innovative way. I was painting and writing poems in my parents garage at the time back then and I was very much making dark symbolic work that riffed on that kind of concept. I love monsters. I love fairy tales. I love heightened surrealistic stories with serious grounding and meaning. I remember thinking “this is it. This is the type of work that I make too.”

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