GALO: It’s interesting that the examples of film we are discussing, be it on television or the big screen, are written and directed by women, including your film, which you co-wrote with Laura Goode. On your Kickstarter Web site, you note, “Only four women have ever been nominated for a Best Director Academy Award. Less than 10 percent of films today are directed or written by a woman.” What are the main challenges to women filmmakers today? Connections? Financial backing? Institutional gridlock?

MM: I don’t know. I look at the past year’s successes of Lena Dunham (Girls), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and think: How does this not prove that women are bankable at the box office as well as diverse in their ability to tell different types of stories? I don’t understand how it [gender] hasn’t, by now, become a non-issue. Once the case study is there, why do we still have to argue for it? But you do. Women have an equal, if not better, ability to tell stories and reach large audiences. So-and-so will get a project green lit, because they had it in their tool belt, but that doesn’t open the door for the rest of women. Then it becomes: Well, they are just the exceptions. If there are female super heroes like Lara Croft in a film, why aren’t female directors short-listed to direct them?

GALO: Is there an answer?

MM: Actors drive a lot of what happens in this industry. If there were, maybe, a more organized effort on their part to get more women behind the camera that might help. But you know, I look at someone like Nora Ephron — and she did it. She proved who her audience was, and they let her keep making movies because she proved she had the audience, could speak to them and they’d go buy tickets. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just doing it and not talking about it. And that’s not advice just for young female directors. That’s advice all young directors should take: make your content and wait for the world to show up.

GALO: You and four colleagues founded Spacebaby Collective in early 2012 to assist independent filmmakers “under the collective ideal that an opportunity for one is an opportunity for all.” Was it in response to such challenges?

MM: Yes, it’s similar to COURT 13’s model and how they produced Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s the idea that all the technologies are available to filmmakers, and we don’t need larger institutional permission to go out and make the movies we want to make. We all banded together after film school, me and four of my cohorts, and chipped in to buy a Red Scarlet — an affordable, high-end professional camera. Once we had the camera and each other, we were all involved in the making of Farah. Young filmmakers need to realize that if they band together, they can create the resource base they need to make the movies they want to make.

GALO: Do you think this approach will be embraced by the larger film industry?

MM: Jane Rosenthal has been doing just that for 10 years at the Tribeca Film Festival. And that’s why she created this prize in Nora Ephron’s memory — to encourage, promote and drive young female talent to get out there and tell the stories they want to tell. I think the solution is really found in each other. Laura and I share a bottom line: if someone else isn’t going to give us the permission or space to do these things, then we’ll find that permission and space in each other. That’s what drives female content forward — the ability to support and encourage and give each other space to do their work. The dirty secret is that it terrifies men that women can find the support in each other and promote each other. It’s a pretty powerful thing.

GALO: Farah Goes Bang seems steeped in the tenets of the third wave feminist movement started in the 1990s. Were you inspired by the work of Rebecca Walker, Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner?

MM: I had an intro to women’s studies in college, and we read Manifesta. What we tried to represent with these girls in the film is a slight difference in how to engage and inhabit one’s feminism. You wrote in your review that a lot of it comes down to how we make and design our own personal choices. Girls have all these new choices — different than our mothers’ generation — and they can be overwhelming and confusing. The moment Farah, Roopa and KJ are experiencing — mapping out their identities personally and professionally — is really at the heart of the story. It’s a feminist issue or feminist problem that these girls are implicitly engaged with, all be it in a humorous and sometimes glib way.

GALO: There’s no better way to deal with overwhelming confusion than a bit of humor. I think that’s why your film works so well. Do you think society has changed much in 20 years?

MM: In 2004, women really felt — and still today feel — the intense conservative politics dominating Washington. It was a rattling political moment to think that women’s choice had been won several decades ago and yet could still be under threat one or two generations later. The reason that the issue of reproductive rights is so politically motivating is the idea that the female body can be legislated; it’s a metaphor for how all women experience a lack of control over their own body. And then, subsequently, that trickles down to how to define and create choices for your body on multiple levels. The movie explores how the political becomes personal, and I think that is something women have been challenged with for decades. Reproductive rights are one thing, but the smaller story with Farah is how she can determine the wants and desires and needs of her body and comfortably own them.

GALO: Third wave feminists received pushback from second wave feminists both in and outside the feminist movement. Have you received any pushback during the screenings of your film — by women or men?

MM: We haven’t gotten negative feedback from different generations, and responses from women have been pretty unified. I think that’s because, regardless of the variations in femininity and the engagement with a feminine ideal that we are experimenting with, the bottom line is that these are three young women who are politically engaged and care about changing the world. That’s a common experience that all women want to promote and support.

(Interview continued on next page)