Rebecca Woolf has not chosen an easy path- as an independent filmmaker who’s crowdfunding funding her first feature-length film (sound familiar?), it’s a good thing she’s incredibly passionate about what she does… and talented to boot. This week, we chatted with Rebecca about her Peter Pan-inspired film, why it’s a feminist endeavor, and the power of telling your unique story.
Introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and what you do.
Hi! My name is Rebecca Woolf and I am the writer/director of PANS, a feminist coming of age story based on Peter Pan from a teen girl’s POV. My film takes place in the Spring of 1994 and is essentially about the sisterhood that forms in a modern-day Neverland of lost boys.
I have been a writer on the Internet since 2002 and have contributed to dozens of publications both online and in print since my early teens.
I am also the mother of four which is whoa.
How do you define feminism and how does that play a part in the work you do?
I define feminism as a the recognition that women are people and that autonomy is a basic human right. We do not live in a balanced world (not by gender. not by color. not by sexual orientation. not by religion) so we must do everything in our power to fight for one.
What inspired you to write PANS?
Originally, Peter Pan.
I spent much of my childhood LOVING Peter and the lost boys while despising Wendy and Tinker Bell, who were depicted in the book, as well as the Disney adaptation, as overly protective/maternal-to-a-fault/wet blanket (Wendy) and jealous/vindictive/mean spirited/mean girl (Tinker Bell). In Peter’s world, as well as in my learned experience, boys were curious adventure-seekers who slouched and got dirty and had all kinds of fun being irresponsible and boyish. They were allowed to do stupid shit a la boys will be boys. They were curfew-less mischief-makers, digging their tools into trees and their heels onto gas pedals. They crashed into each other with their bodies and everyone applauded.
Over the years I drew parallels between the story of Peter Pan and my own adolescence. I grew up, in the way Wendys do, and in doing so realized there was much more to this story—to MY story—but also to hers… that in so many ways, Peter Pan represented what was lacking in fairy tales and bedtime stories and all works of art written, directed and conceived by men. There was another story, here—about a girl—whose narrative was never included in the book.
I read Barrie’s Peter Pan several times through the years, always looking for a Wendy I couldn’t find. It became clear to me that while Wendy was intended to be the heroine all along—the protagonist—she remained practically invisible. Ubiquitous, yes, but also unnecessary—a girl transported into a world of boys only to be used as a sort of tool for contrast. Wendy’s practicality and realism gave Peter and the boys that much more appeal. As for Wendy, we never got a chance to see, or even realize, her magic.
I found myself in many situations where I realized I was the same. I was living my story within the pages of other people’s manuscripts and taking care of people who never bothered to ask me about my day. I said YES instead of NO to appease the stories of others, at the risk of losing my own.
As a mother of four, three of whom are little girls, it became more and more important to me to do everything in my power to flip the script. Pans is that flip. It’s the film I wish I had a teenage girl trying to realize my power. It’s the film I want for my daughters AND my son.
If you could give one piece of advice to other female filmmakers, what would it be?
This is my first film so my advice comes from a place of instinct more than anything and that is this — don’t let anyone tell you that your story isn’t worth telling. When a story is yours to tell, it’s YOURS TO TELL. I have been working on this project quietly for the last decade and I believe in it with my whole heart. I would spend another ten years doing everything in my power to get this movie made (and I will if I have to) and that, in the end, is why I’m still pushing… I think, when it comes to independent film you have to HAVE to, you know? I have to make this movie. And I’ve been so completely fortunate to have a team behind me who feels as compelled as I am to make this movie, too.
How can we follow and support your work?
Well, I am very glad that you asked this question because we are a week into our Kickstarter campaign and we need all the help we can get to meet our May 30th goal. Please support us and tell your friends to do the same! THANK YOU, THANK YOU in advance! We are so grateful for your support!