Reblogged from: Wesconnect News. (Go to the original post…)
By Keren Alshanetsky ’17 and A.N. Kini ’13
In the weeks leading up to its world premiere at South by Southwest, GTFO: Get the F&#% Out and its exploration of misogyny in videogame culture drew considerable buzz from the likes of Rolling Stone, and was reviewed by many, including Vanity Fair. The film was just released yesterday, June 9, on iTunes.
Directed and produced by Shannon Sun-Higginson ’10, the documentary film exposes the simultaneous exclusion and mistreatment of women in this male-dominated tech sphere, many of whom face verbal abuse and sexual harassment. Through conversations with gamers, developers and other industry experts, GTFO moves to generate a dialogue that will change the course of this “alarmingly normalized discrimination.”
In an interview for Bitch Magazine with Samantha Maldonaldo ’13, Shannon noted that games are an “almost limitless medium for storytelling and creativity,” and that diversity in the industry is key to making it better. But this diversity creates friction. She posits, in this Flavorwire review, that gaming is not the only industry where this happens. “When a new group comes into a culture, that creates tension, it creates a shift…we approached gaming as a microcosm for something that has happened throughout history.”
Earlier this year in Austin, Wesconnect caught up with Shannon, and Ian Park ’11, the film’s editor and post producer, to discuss their experience premiering the movie at SXSW, the wider implications of systemic sexism in the videogame industry, and the role Wesleyan played in the development of this project.
WESCONNECT: How did you feel prior to the film premiere at SXSW, and how does it feel now?
Shannon Sun-Higginson: The day leading up to the premiere was really stressful because I had to prepare to do the Gaming panel and then for the first screening of the movie. But the audience members have been so insightful and asking really engaging, productive questions. The audience’s reaction has made me feel a lot better about this whole thing. And they have been all sorts of different people, which I was excited to see. We had parents of kids trying to know what they can do, hardcore gamers, people in the industry working for major game companies.
Ian Park: People are really receptive to the film and that’s the most encouraging thing. You sit in an edit room, editing and getting in your own head for months, and then finally you get to see someone’s reaction to the film. Now I can imagine someone consuming what I made, even at work when I edit a commercial or a music video. The whole screening process has changed my outlook on what I do.
WC: Why was it important for you to tell this story?
SS: I found out about this through another Wesleyan alum, who sent me a video of a young woman being sexually harassed on a live-streaming tournament called Cross Assault in March of 2012. I thought it was outrageous and couldn’t believe that this was actually pretty typical in the gaming industry. I immediately started filming because I wanted outsiders like me to know that this was happening. And as we went on through production, we realized the film is not just an explanation of this phenomenon for everyone else. It’s for people who are in the gaming community, and about showing the human side of what it feels like to go through that as a woman.
IP: I’ve definitely found myself not only becoming more sensitive to women but also becoming more empathetic in the workplace, with how I treat my friends and strangers. I am being more perceptive to how they might take what I say or what I do. That in itself makes it important to me, and hopefully it has a similar effect on the audience.
SS: Seeing the reactions from people who are not part of games makes me realize that this happens in all industries at some point. This is just the 2015 example.
IP: The issue is so apparent in the video game culture because it’s moving faster than any other industry, and the audience is growing more diverse every day. I think that this accelerated growth has accentuated what happens in every industry. That’s something we try to emphasize, this is about video games but it’s not just about video gamers.
WC: What was special about your time at Wesleyan, and are there any particular memories that stand out right now?
SS: What’s cool is that these connections last way beyond college. Aaron Izakowitz ’10 initially told me about the inciting video, and he’s been my friend since freshman year in the Butts. Seth Rosen ’10 was a consultant and helped me get my first two interviews. And a lot of Wesleyan friends supported the Kickstarter and came out to the premiere. In a lot of ways, this movie exists because of my Wesleyan connections.
IP: One of my strongest memories is staying up until 4 am studying biochemistry in the physics lounge because my friend gave me the skeleton key for the entire floor. But because I went to Wesleyan, I could major in neuroscience and also be on film sets and make movies as long as I was willing to do good work. I’ve carried that over from Wesleyan to the real world.
WC: Is there anything you know about Wesleyan that other people may not know?
SS: When I was in the Nics I had a pet albino frog with my roommate called McSqueezy. He sadly passed and we buried him in the historic cemetery outside of the Nics with all those old guys. So, McSqueezy’s in there too.
IP: On Fountain, all those old houses are really easy to break into. I didn’t do it to steal anything. But once, when I was on the SJB and my friend on the board slept in thirty minutes before a hearing, I had to break in and drag him out. So that was really useful, like having another skeleton key.
Headshot images: by A.N. Kini ’13
Body image: c/o GTFO the Movie
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