A Q&A With Feminist Filmmaker, Kristin Tieche

San Francisco based filmmaker Kristin Tieche is currently hitting the festival circuit with her short film, The Spinster.   We spoke with her about the film and it's strong female protagonist.  Tieche is also an avid cyclist whose blog, Velo Vogue is dedicated to cycling fashion.


1) What is The Spinster about?

The Spinster  is a short psychological thriller that follows a vixen bike mechanic who discovers that love is a vicious cycle.  It's a horror film with a feminist and environmental perspective that also captures the spirit of San Francisco bicycle culture.

2) What inspired you to make this film?
I first thought of the concept as performance art. I thought it would be funny to dress up like a ghoul or a zombie and ride my bike around San Francisco during a full moon, just to see how people would react. Then, over coffee with another female filmmaker, I decided I wanted to make a short film that I could complete in one year. So I started writing a screenplay based on this ghoulish bike gal character and called her The Spinster. The title of the film is obviously a tongue-in-cheek reference to a woman who rides a bike, but it also a rebellion against the conventional definition of the word spinster, which Webster's defines as "a woman past the age of marrying." It's such a ludicrous concept, so I wanted to flip the definition on its head.
I created the story around the character, and I wanted to make her a realistic, independent woman, not just a fantasy figure. So I put my screenplay to the Bechdel Test (named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, winner of the 2014 Genius Grant), and made sure it passed. The Spinster, otherwise known as Phoebe, is a well-rounded individual with intelligent female friends who know a thing or two about bikes. And she's also a superhero. Or an anti-hero. It's really up to you to decide.
3) You said it has feminist themes. How is that different from other films in the genre?
The statistics in regards to women's portrayals in film don't lie. Women are still underrepresented and misrepresented in film. According to the recent study from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, only 31% of speaking roles in film worldwide are filled by women, and a mere 23% of films feature a female protagonist. When it comes to horror films, you don't need me to tell you that women are usually the first ones killed. For me personally, I have always been drawn to stories with strong female characters. And since I was a kid, I've always loved the horror/thriller genre. So it was only natural that the protagonist of my horror film would be a total badass woman! Phoebe was brilliantly portrayed by Gabriela Sosa, who is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and she choreographed and performed all of her stunts. Another real-life badass! So by having a strong female protagonist, The Spinster is bolstering the movement towards more and better female representation in film.
In fact, there was a lot of girl power behind the scenes too. The same Geena Davis study states that less than a quarter of the fictional on-screen workforce is comprised of women. Our crew was predominantly women - from our producers, to lighting designers, to graphic designers, to production assistants, to craft services. In the future, I intend to keep hiring female crew. I enjoyed the way we all communicate and collaborate with each other.
Whether or not it was my initial intention to make a feminist film, because I am a woman and because I am a filmmaker, it was only natural that the film would be feminist both in theme and methodology.
4) It's well known that there aren't many woman members in the DGA. As you make the rounds on the festival circuit do you see many independent films being directed by women?
It is true that there aren't many female directors, and in the festivals we've participated in so far, I would say that we're still in the minority. That doesn't mean that women aren't making films. I think the female perspective often comes across as a feminist agenda, and that might unfortunately turn off many festival programmers. There are several film festivals dedicated to women, and I've participated in some with previous films. It's certainly empowering to make connections with other accomplished and talented female filmmakers. Here in San Francisco, I know and collaborate with other female directors, and we support each other by helping out on each other's film shoots, lending equipment and providing advice and feedback.
5) Where have you screened the film and how can we see it?
The Spinster is enjoying a very healthy festival run! We premiered in April 2014 in Portland, Oregon at Filmed By Bike (a film festival helmed by a female festival director). We were selected to a handful of Bay Area film festivals, and our next screening is on September 28th at the New Parkway in Oakland, as part of the I Hella Love Shorts Film Festival. But now we're going international! We were accepted to a horror film festival in Puerto Rico and we'll be in competition at interfilm Berlin for the VeloBerlin Film Award.
If you'd like to watch the film on your own, download cards are available for purchase through our website.
Otherwise, you can stay up-to-date on future screenings by following us on Facebook or Twitter. If you'd like to hold a community screening, please contact me.
6) What else would you like to say about your film?
First and foremost, The Spinster is a fun and entertaining film that should make you laugh. Both male and female audiences have loved it. Phoebe is a lovable character, and many people want to see her come back in a sequel! Second, all industries suffer from underrepresentation of women, not just filmmaking. The same can be said about the bike industry. So it was really important for us to break through the negative stereotypes of women in filmmaking and biking by portraying a strong woman who's got a toolbox and knows how to use it.