BY PETER DORFMAN
Historically, more often than not, artists have been men, while their subjects have been women. Visit any art gallery or view a modern film and you’ll see that not much has changed. That’s why the reversal of those roles, in a short film shot in Bloomington and currently making the rounds on the international film festival circuit, still surprises contemporary audiences.
In Stardust & Moonbeams, artist Will and his wife, Beth, attend an exhibition of photographic nudes. Afterward, Beth challenges Will to turn the medium on its head by posing for her camera. While the film is set in the Jazz Age, it addresses issues our culture still struggles with a century later. For Madelyn Ritrosky—screenwriter, producer, and co-author of the novel on which the film is based—that is precisely the point.
“The story is feminist in its message about equality at every level between women and men,” Ritrosky says. “We set it in the late 1920s, when modern American culture was emerging and reproductive rights were on the line—just as they are again today, unfortunately.”
Ritrosky, a Bloomingtonian with a Ph.D. in media and culture from Indiana University, originally intended to make the film in Santa Barbara, California. But then she met Emily Purcell, director of the Farmer House Museum, a historic Victorian house at 529 N. College. Purcell persuaded Ritrosky to shoot at the museum instead.
Kalynn Brower, a filmmaker and novelist, and filmmaker and educator Jo Throckmorton—both from Bloomington—share producer credits. Hollywood filmmaker Terri Farley-Teruel directed and co-edited the film. Cinematographer Nancy Schreiber, a 40-year Hollywood veteran and the first woman ever given the President’s Award by the American Society of Cinematographers, rounded out the mostly female crew.
“That’s radical—a film created mostly by women—but it shouldn’t be,” Brower says. “When Nancy Schreiber came on board, that ratcheted our production values way up.”
The production team is also using the Farmer House as a location for a subsequent series of shorts—a trilogy of science fiction–fantasy stories capitalizing on the timeless look of the museum. In fact, Ritrosky and Brower unofficially refer to their team as Farmer House Productions.
Stardust & Moonbeams, the novel by Ritrosky and co-author Dena Huisman, will be published this fall by BZB Publishing.
Visit stardustmoonbeams.com for more information.