In Conversation With... Holly Tarquini

A proud intersectional feminist, Holly Tarquini is the Executive Director of FilmBath and Founder of the F-Rating - an organisation dedicated to supporting women in film and driving equality in the film industry. Here she talks to Miss En Scene about going beyond the Bechdel test and co-curating a virtual film festival in response to the pandemic.

Clare - Miss En Scene: What does the role of Executive Director of FilmBath entail?

Holly: I do everything that is not programming: Strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, social media management, bookkeeping, event management, recruitment and managing the teams.

C: Have you always worked in film? What has your journey in film been like up until this point?

H: After university I worked in television, mostly as a producer/director in documentaries and factual entertainment programmes for channels such as the BBC, Channel 4, and Discovery. I left when I had children. There would have been no way for me to work as I had and to have spent any time with my kids. This coincided with a move to Bath where I briefly taught documentary film making at Bath Spa Uni, before finding my niche in the film festival.

C: For anyone - particularly women and girls - wanting to get into film, what advice would you give them?

H: The easiest way in is still to have connections in the industry - which obviously sucks. The good news is that this is finally changing and all organisations are now proactively looking for women and people of colour so there has never been a better time for women to get into film. You have to be resilient and persistent: keep making films in whatever capacity you can and just do NOT give up, that still seems to be the only way. C: What are your hopes for the future of film?

H: My dream is that film shows a more inclusive, equitable society and that society shifts to meet this story: just as my children use American words because they watch so much American content, I want societal shifts to come about thanks to the stories we see on screen.

C: What makes FilmBath different from other festivals?

H: The main difference between us and other film festivals is our commitment to films directed by women: 66% of this year's programme in Green Park Station is directed by women. Other festivals are starting to try to deliver 50% female-directed programmes... we have been doing it since 2016.

C: FilmBath Festival 2020 was originally scheduled for 13-17 November but because of the UK's second lockdown it is now due to take place 11-16 December. It's safe to say that this year's festival is running differently due to Covid! Have any unexpected positives arisen as a result?

H: On the 28 May, I called three other regional film festivals (Cambridge, Cornwall and CINECITY on Brighton) together to talk about how everyone was getting on and to ask what the group thought of collaborating together to put on a joint, virtual film festival in November. We all run festivals at the same time of year; they are all put on for the sheer love of watching great films together and it seemed a no brainer to do this together rather than each run a virtual UK-wide film festival at the same time, potentially in competition with one another. A very positive Zoom with Tricia Tuttle, the director of BFI London Film Festival spurred us on and a successful application to the BFI Audience Fund made our collaborative virtual film festival, AMPLIFY! Possible. Since then, we found the best platform for AMPLIFY! (Eventive), co-curated an incredible programme of films and to managed the four-way marketing of AMPLIFY! After 5 months hard slog, we had a brand, programme and a platform and we just completed a very successful virtual film festival. Now we are putting on a REALLY expensive festival in real life - I reckon each audience member will cost us between £50 - £70 and some tickets are as cheap as £4. C: What are you most looking forward to seeing?

H: The Painter and the Thief - it combines documentary filmmaking and a profound story. I can't wait.

C: For those that have never heard of it, what is the F-Rating? H: The nature of the F-Rating is inherently positive - to highlight and draw attention to all of the amazing women in film. The F-Rating is a film rating which is awarded to films directed by and/or written by women. If the film also starts significant women in their own right, the film is Triple F-Rated, our gold standard. The aim of the rating is to highlight films where the main person telling the story is a woman; to encourage film exhibitors to F-Rate their programme; to help film goers easily find films directed and written by women and ultimately to change the stories we see on screen – and therefore influence our culture making it more equal. Born in 2014 at Bath Film Festival (now FilmBath), initially we thought of simply rating our festival films if they passed The Bechdel Test - as Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio, an art-house cinema in Stockholm's trendy Södermalm district had in 2013. But, The Bechdel Test (does the film have 2 women in it, who have a conversation with each other, about something other than a man) is of course not a test but a cartoon from 1985 by Alison Bechdel, and these three questions miss an awful lot and significantly they tell us nothing about the storyteller – arguably the most influential person in the production.

Following on from the Hollywood Report which in 2013 showed that fewer than 5% of the top 200 films were directed by women we wanted to ignite discussion about who is telling the stories we see on screen as well as looking into the roles of women on screen. And so the F-Rating was born.

C: What's the next step for the F-Rating?

H: My ambition for the rating is that it becomes obsolete - that 50% of the films we see are made by crews which are 50% female and tell women's stories as frequently as they tell men's stories.

In 2016, Holly was invited to deliver a TEDx Talk as the founder of the F-Rating. Watch it here:


Find out more about the F-Rating on the F-Rated website, check out the Facebook Page and a Twitter feed.

• Check out the AMPLIFY! Film Festival website and the FilmBath website - the schedule is worth a peek even if you are unable to attend.