We met up with Connie Saltzman, an actress and show creator, to talk about her latest project– Project: Girl.
Triggered into action upon the election of Trump as the President of the United States, Connie felt the need to create a show that went beyond her, a short-film series about feminism and girlhood. Moments that, no matter how small, have shaped us into the women we are today.
Below Connie tells us about her project, joined by Kate and Steph, the two other women working closest to Project:Girl, and their upcoming fundraiser for the series; a night of art, film, and feminist fun, and you are all invited!
C: Bucks County, PA
K: Mackay, Australia
S: Sacramento, California
Based in: NYC
About Project: Girl
Project: Girl is a film series based on true stories that explores the enigma of girlhood. It is also a movement for female empowerment and self-expression.
Where/how did the idea for Project:Girl originate?
CONNIE: I thought of the idea after the election. I was really shaken not just by the results– but by the enormous gap in understanding and relatedness between people in our country. The only way I’ve ever known how to bridge that gap is through personal stories.
At first, I just knew I wanted to make a film series about small moments girls experience growing up, as a way to illuminate the complexities of girlhood. Then, as my friends and I began sharing our own stories and collecting stories from other women, it became clear this was also about dispelling shame and judgment on ourselves and on others, and creating a community to openly express ourselves and connect.
At this point, the series' purpose is to create a deeper and more meaningful conversation around what it means to be a girl, and to create a space where girls and women can feel empowered to share their stories.
KATE: Connie, the director, was the creative vision behind the project! I think most women hear the mission of Project:Girl and immediately ‘get’ what it’s about. She told me about it and I was on board.
STEPHANIE: November was a hard month for a lot of women. I had been writing through a lot of my feelings when I got a call from Connie and she pitched this idea of creating a series exploring girlhood. I was immediately on board.
Who submitted the stories you’re portraying in your short films?
CONNIE: Us, our friends, family, Facebook friends, friends of friends. Diversity is constantly on our minds as we want to expand beyond our immediate circles, so please get in touch if you’d like to be involved in any way! (email@example.com)
“We’ve been told to calm down, we’ve been called names, we’ve seen people in positions of power act as if women are merely props for their pleasure, and it’s time for that to end and it starts with girlhood.”
Why is it an important time to tell stories of girlhood from a female perspective?
CONNIE: It’s always important for people to tell their own stories. Because I’m a woman, stories of girlhood is what I know. Growing up, I had a lot of insecurities and didn’t share a lot of my most meaningful experiences because I was embarrassed they were insignificant, that I was just really sensitive, or that I was weird. I think it’s important to eliminate the notion that an experience can be insignificant. We need to create a culture where we can share our stories, be powerful in our vulnerability, and create community in what relates us.
KATE: I think the gap that Project:Girl is trying to fill is the stories that don’t get shared in public– really really normal sh*t that happens but we don’t talk about. The stories you only told your best friend growing up.These small moments point to social norms that are totally exclusive to girls– and I think by saying that these moments are worthy enough for screentime shows that 1. it’s ok that this was a big deal at the time, and 2. most women have experienced something similar, so let's start talking about it.
STEPHANIE: Stories about women by women are so important, especially now, because we’re the ones living it. We’ve been told to calm down, we’ve been called names, we’ve seen people in positions of power act as if women are merely props for their pleasure, and it’s time for that to end and it starts with girlhood. Girls are often silenced and we want to be a place for those who feel that can’t speak up.
Can your tell us a story from your girlhood that shaped who you are as a woman?
Just a disclaimer* about the stories we tell: it doesn’t have to be clear how the moment shapes us. All that matters is that it made an impression, and therefore is worthy of being told.
CONNIE: I had my first boyfriend at 15 and we were having sex at 16 but I didn’t know my body at all, or know what pleasure was supposed to be like for me. I was concerned about looking good, being desirable, and him being pleased. Once we were having sex in a car and I was so dry it was painful. I kept trying to stroke his hair so he’d think I liked it and I was relieved when he finally finished. He collapsed on me and after some moments of stillness, he looked at me and said, “want to go again?”. My body clenched in reaction. I said, “yeah”.
KATE: Yeah actually, when I was maybe 8, I was with my family at the local basketball courts and I remember seeing a young girl wearing a pink shirt that had a ‘crown’ graphic on the front, and across the back it said “the world doesn’t revolve around you, Princess”. I was the spoilt baby in the family and this just clicked a switch in my head that said “you shouldn’t be the center of attention”. I think I lived that moment onward feeling like I had to be humble, selfless, meek, self depreciating, quiet, nice, etc... and societal gender norms did a great job of reinforcing that! I try and imagine seeing that kind of t-shirt on a little boy and it just would never happen.. it's subtle, but it's definitely a reflection of the bigger picture.
STEPHANIE: When I was in first grade, during art we were told to draw a picture of ourselves doing something we loved to do. I drew a picture of me reading a book. The kids next to me, a boy and a girl, started laughing. I asked what was so funny, although my seven year old self probably wasn’t as snarky as I like to think she was, and through their laughter they told me, “Girls don’t wear pants. You drew yourself as a boy.” I got upset so the teacher came over. After telling her what had happened, she looked at me and said, “Well, maybe you could draw her wearing a dress so she looks like a girl.” I didn’t wear dresses. I still barely wear dresses. I got angry. I yelled and I cried and was punished for “throwing a fit” when I was standing up for myself. It was the first time I can clearly remember defending my femininity. I was sent home that day for being unruly and through the years I've had my ups and downs of self assurance but I still put on a pair of jeans when I’m going out and wonder if maybe I should wear a dress instead.
Tell us about your upcoming event!
On June 1 we will be screening of the first two episodes of Project:Girl, accompanied by a pop-up exhibition of all-female artists, and on display at the gallery is the work of the powerful GRACE HARTIGAN.
7 PM, JUNE 1st
529 W 20th St #5E, New York, NY 10011
$20 suggested donation
(Storytellers, comedians, spoken word artists):
Annie Donley & Devin Bockrath
For sale at the event (proceeds go to PG film series)
Paintings, photographs, and prints by these amazing women:
Irene Feleo www.irenefeleo.com
Bec Hulme https://www.instagram.com/becccybrown/
Frances Normoyle https://www.instagram.com/flakeymanners/
Lilly Tomas lillytomas.portfoliobox.io
Alexandra Nielsen www.alexandranielsen.com
Janina McCormack janinamccormack.tumblr.com
Mitzi Akaha http://www.mitziakaha.com/
On display at the gallery- GRACE HARTIGAN
Where can we donate?
Anything else you’d like to add?
THANK YOU! We are expanding our team, so if you'd like to get involved in our Project, please email us :) firstname.lastname@example.org
“We need to create a culture where we can share our stories, be powerful in our vulnerability, and create community in what relates us.”
Follow and keep up with Project:Girl