“Never underestimate your ability to live your passion,” says Massey University media studies graduate Adelaide McDougall, who has just written and directed her first short film, Virgo.
Narrating a day in the life of a young architect, Andy, who is striving to forge her path through a male-dominated world, Virgo highlights the gendered micro-aggressions Andy receives in the workplace.
The film shows how these constant slights, while seemingly small, pile up until they derail Andy’s ability to do her job. In the film, Andy gets her revenge – but it is the real-world nature of the subtle antagonisms leading up to that point that McDougall wants to highlight. They reflect her own experiences, and those of many of her friends and colleagues who contributed anecdotes to the scriptwriting process.
“I am really lucky with the experiences I’ve had, and I’ve met some truly wonderful people who have supported me non-stop along my film industry journey,” McDougall says. “However, what fascinated me was the small moments – the off-hand comments or jokes, made by both men and women – that support gender inequality, sexism and ageism that are still prevalent in many industries.”
“…what fascinated me was the small moments – the off-hand comments or jokes, made by both men and women – that support gender inequality”
McDougall was inspired to start gathering stories from friends, co-workers and family. “I found that absolutely everyone, male or female, has a story to tell where they have felt under-valued or side-lined by a passing comment, while the person delivering it isn’t even aware that they are speaking in such a way.” Her dream is that this film will shed light on “the seemingly insignificant moments, the inappropriate joke that left you feeling small, all the moments we brush off” so as to “facilitate people to make little changes in each day of their lives that will lend to a bigger cultural change in our society”.
Making a socially significant film has been a life-long dream for McDougall. “I’ve always believed that my path is to help people – to help them see life through a different lens. For me, my medium for this passion is film. A tool that I believe is very powerful in facilitating this.”
After university she worked largely in producing for commercials and television in New York and New Zealand, but never lost sight of the goal of making her own work. She started writing the script while still living in New York, and saved $4,000 of personal funds to create Virgo’s budget. She also asked for, and received, a lot of support from film industry contacts and collaborators. “I am honestly awestruck by the generosity and support that I have received from all kinds of people.”
McDougall graduated from Massey in 2013 with a Bachelor of Communication majoring in media studies. She then worked in New York City at a film production company, and after returning to New Zealand had art department and production roles with Paramount Pictures’ Ghost in the Shell, television production company Robber’s Dog, and on Westside (Season Four) with South Pacific Pictures. On the side, she also produced a wide range of music videos, including for David Dallas, Die! Die! Die!, Suntory Time, and Evan Klar for EMI Australia.
Virgo was McDougall’s final project in New Zealand, as she has now relocated to Vancouver, Canada and is currently working on a film as a Director’s and Producer’s assistant. She will continue to write scripts and make her own films with her new connections there. McDougall will also feature as a panellist on the Massey University youth creative activism conference, Create1World, beaming in from Vancouver to share her creative activism experiences with Kiwi young people at the Wellington event.
Virgo was written and directed by Adelaide McDougall, produced by Greta Cervin, with Tammy Williams as DOP. It stars Lydia Peckham, James Gordon and Tania Anderson. If you want to find out just how Andy got her revenge, check out Virgo at https://vimeo.com/277757273. Adelaide is happy to answer any questions via direct mail to her Instagram @adelaidehelena. You can also see a great interview with her at The Twenties Club http://thetwentiesclub.co.nz/portfolio/an-interview-with-26-year-old-filmmaker-adelaide-mcdougall/