Exclusive Interview: Madelyn Ritrosky - Aware Fest 2019



An amazing rendition of the past was what we all needed in today's era of backward thought and sexism. Azure Lorica couldn't be more humbled with an insightful interview from award winning Directress, Madelyn Ritrosky:

1. What motivated you to use the 20s motif in this film? Do you feel that you or the characters have a certain connection to the Flappers or the Roaring 20s?

Stardust & Moonbeams the short film is based on my forthcoming women's fiction novel (BZB Publishing).  Dena Huisman and I wrote the novel together.  We were very interested in the 1920s as a time of changing gender roles and the emergence of modern American culture, and it seemed a great parallel to today.  Not only could we address the feminist issues we wanted to address (women's equality and empowerment, from various angles), but we could shed light on women's history and at the same time play up the modern 1920s for easy contemporary audience identification.  For more on the film and novel, see two trailers, find out when the novel is published, and to contact me, you can check out our website: www.StardustMoonbeams.com

2. There have been male nudes and female photographers/artists for a very long time. Do you feel still feel there is substantial or unaddressed bias against women in the world of
art or photography? How do you feel this can be addressed?

I have to respectfully disagree with you.  Male nudes in art and photography have been overwhelmingly created by men.  And the overwhelming majority of professional photographers and artists have traditionally been men.  Women who have been able to make names for themselves in the world of art and photography have rarely focused on the male body.  There is something subversive about women taking up that active position of the gaze because it reverses who has power and agency and subjectivity.  One way to address this is by making a film like ours that addresses this imbalance.  It has also been addressed in the last few years by some women artists and photographers who see the problem.  For instance, the Women's Caucus in Art had a traveling exhibition a few years ago entitled "Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze" which I saw at the Kinsey Institute.     

3. Do you feel the Flapper era evokes a certain feeling when it comes to feminism or photography?

Most definitely for feminism because women finally claimed the right to vote in 1920 and women gained unprecedented social freedom in the 1920s.  As I noted with question #1, the 1920s is when modern American culture emerged, and that includes modern gender roles where women had more freedom, legally and socially, than before that time in the U.S.  You could say the same about photography, as an emerging technology and art form with the technological developments occurring during the 1920s.  For instance, movies became mass entertainment, with the added development of sound by the end of the decade.   

4. Do you feel that the previous focus by male photographers on female nudes have created a false idea on female sexuality in the minds of men and some women?

That has certainly been part of the culture where "false ideas" about female sexuality have circulated throughout the 19th and 20th century and still do today.  Examples include female sexuality as passive versus male sexuality as active or even aggressive, or that men should know "what to do," or that men are more visually oriented than women, or that the female body is somehow "naturally" more beautiful.  These are all notions that continue to circulate in our culture and do not help free people from the constraints of traditional sex roles. 

5. Who is Rosella Smeltzer, and why haven't we heard of her before?

Rosella Smeltzer was a songwriter who tried to make it in the popular music business of the 1930s and 40s.  We haven't heard of her before because she never made it.  When you listen to her work, either using the sheet music or demo records she left behind, you can tell she was a gifted songwriter who, theoretically, could have had at least some success.  We believe that  being a woman worked against her.  There were very, very few female songwriters in the musics business of the early and middle decades of the 20th century.  Director Terri Farley just happened to meet her grandson, Sam Smeltzer, when we were trying to figure out our music in post-production.  It was a fortuitous meeting!  We picked out two of her tunes, one on a demo record sung by an unknown neighbor, and another from her sheet music.  The demo record, cleaned up, is what you hear during the closing credits.  The other is an instrumental that is supposed to be on the radio in the background during the cocktail party scene.  I'm sad to report that Sam has also since passed away -- he was only in his 50s.  However, he did get to see the finished film when it was first done. 

5. Will your film be screening in other film festivals?

Our film will have screened at about 20 festivals come fall.  It has been exciting.  Several of us in the credits have represented the film at different festivals.  We're looking to do a Bloomington, Indiana, screening (where several of us live and where we shot the film) sometime late this year or next year.  And, look for it to be available online sometime in that time frame as well.  One spot will be the brand new Hoosier Films, which goes live Sept 1.  www.hoosierfilms.com

6. Are you currently working on another project? Where can we find more of your work? 

One project is, of course, the novel!  It has been a very slow process but it's getting there.  It should be available to purchase by late this year or early next year as well.  Info on that and the film can be found at www.StardustMoonbeams.com.  If you love the short film, the novel has so, so much more.  We love our characters and the lives and times we created for them.  People should definitely contact me through the contact form at the website to find out more about the novel and its forthcoming publication.  Several of us involved in this film are also part of a new film unit at Farmer House Museum, where we shot the film.  This includes the museum director and assistant director!  We are working on a time travel trilogy, with the first 2 shorts in post.  Jared Winslow, who plays Matt in Stardust & Moonbeams, is co-lead (with Tony Minich) as well as a co-writer and co-director.  I'm co-writer, co-director, and producer.  Museum director Emily Purcell and assistant director Paul Kane also wear those hats.  Painter and board member Karen Holtzclaw, whose painting appear in Stardust & Moonbeams as Will's paintings, is co-writer and art co-director.  By the way, Karen is working on chapter sketches and the front and back covers for my novel.  Producer Kalynn Huffman Brower of Stardust & Moonbeams is handling sound.  The first short short, titled Airwave Adventure, is 99% done.  The two leads start in current day and end up as radio stars in 1949.  We hope it will screen at a few sci-fi festivals.  The second, which we recently finished shooting, is titled Making the Scene.  Those two characters are now in 1965, promoting a new kind of independent sci-fi film.  You can find info about these at www.farmerhouse.net and at https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/making-the-scene#story.  Kalynn Brower and I are also working on (very early stages) a feature treatment and short short of that as a "calling card" titled Lake Effect.  She and I are also figuring out innovative ways to do a documentary about everyday people who are eco-warriors, making a positive difference for our earth.

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