“Zinester”- Documentary

An exploration of the feminist zine community in Manchester.


Work Update: “Zinester” and “Lunch Date”


I am currently working on a short documentary called Zinester about the feminist Zine community in Manchester. I have already finished shooting it and I am currently in post-production and should be finishing it early next week. I am directing, filming and editing the project and it features Zine makers such as Ingrid Boring, Cherry Styles, Seleena Daye and Natalie Bradbury.

The other project I am working on is Lunch Date (Working Title) on which I am the producer. We finished shooting the short narrative film last week and we are in post-production with the project.

It has been great working on both projects and to practice the skills I will need for the graduate film in 2016.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014) Review.

On Friday the 21st of August I attended a screening of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry at the London Feminist Film Festival in the Rio Cinema. Directed by Mary Dore, this documentary celebrates the almost forgotten history of the women’s liberation movement from 1966-1971.


She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a mix  of modern day interviews weaved together with archival footage of protests, meetings and political speeches. Whilst it mostly focuses on gender it also touches on the intersectionality of race and lesbianism and the conflicts that did arise through these issues within the feminist movement and continue to today. The best thing about this documentary is that it encapsulates the spirit of the 1960s-70s without romanticising the time period, it is both funny, infuriating and heartbreaking at times, particularly when discussing the illegal Jane Collective who helped thousands of women have safe abortions. I found the film particularly interesting as most of what was shown was completely knew to me, it’s scary really how much of women’s history can be lost.

The film is both exhilarating in energy and poignant about highlighting these issues in a modern context and even points out that some rights gained during this time period are now being taken away in the USA (for example, reproductive rights).  As discussed in the panel after the screening the film did have some problematic elements, barely covering racial tensions in the feminist movement and leaving out trans women altogether. I do sympathise however, as this was a huge topic to cover in a feature length film.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the film and hope it gets a UK distributor so more people can see it!



Finally here is my short film “Translucent”. This documentary is an exploration of my family and our dynamic since my sister Diana, came out as male to female transgender. It is a personal window into our lives as an ordinary family and an insight into being a young transgender person in the 21st century.

Translucent from Emily Steele on Vimeo.

I used a pretty straightforward documentary style in my film using interviews intercut with other footage but tried to make it more visually interesting by experimenting with a digital projector. I converted twelve mini DV tapes of childhood footage that I had never seen before; I then edited together what I thought were the best images of my sister and myself. After which I used the digital projector to project these moving images directly onto my sister.

What I considered while planning this film is how few people know anyone who is transgender and especially someone who is young and transgender.IMG_2679 I feel like the majority of people’s knowledge of trans-people comes from the media who often sensationalise their lives or tell a tragic story. I wanted to show that whilst these are valid experiences it’s not always like that and that young trans-people like my sister are accepted and that it doesn’t have to be a dramatic change to their daily lives or to their families.My film explores my personal, ordinary family in relation to me, how we have responded to my sister coming out in a supportive way but also that our family is nothing special and that this has not at all affected our family’s relationships. I wanted to give my film quite a light feel and create a positive narrative about my sister’s trans experiences.

Please let me know what you think!


Filmed Up – North West Filmmakers Night. (September)

Every 3 months the Cornerhouse in Manchester runs a night of selected short films made by the North West film making community. The films vary, including animation, documentary and fiction. At the end of the night you vote for your favourite film and have a chance to talk to some of the filmmakers. The most recent installment of this was on the 25th of September.

Out of the 12 films shown a few stand outs were:

The First Hit – Joseph Malone 

A Documentary about 3 recovering victims of substance misuse reflect on their addiction and how it’s affected them.

This was incredibly hard hitting and moving, it did a great job in discussing the effects an addiction can have on a life but it also ended on a hopeful note.

Angel in Ancoats – Rebecca Luck

After Mark moves to a new area of Manchester (Ancoats), He is struck by the mixture of decay, demolition and construction and wants to make a positive change. This alongside fears of being stuck in his life he takes a unique approach in trying to set the bricks free.

This was my personal favourite of the evening, I liked Mark’s unconventional attitude to the abandoned and disused buildings in Ancoats and how he strived to make a positive change in the area and in himself.

Coast– Sois De Traca

An animated music video exploring the attachment to the things left behind.

This was just a really beautiful animation with a good attitude towards letting go.

The Pig Child – Lucy Campbell, Scout Stuart and Loran Dunn

A Scientist illegally creates an embryo that is part human and part pig and uses herself as the surrogate to bring it into the world. 

This was really well made and brilliantly shot, it was also incredibly disturbing and shocking. The Pig Child was voted the best film of the night.

This was a really great night and a great opportunity to see some of the work made by the local film community and I definitely hope to attend the next installment of this!


Best Worst Movie (2009) Review.

Best-worst-movieThe “Best Worst Movie” is a documentary about the making of the film “Troll 2” (1990) and how it went from being named the “worst film of all time” to a widely popular cult classic. It was made by Michael Paul Stephenson who was a child actor in the film itself. The documentary mainly follows dentist-by-day George Hardy who became a cult star due to the sudden popularity of “Troll 2” in the past few years, 20 years after the film was originally released with little response.

Whilst I have not seen “Troll 2” the documentary tells basically all you need to know about it to fully enjoy this strange cult classic phenomena. Directed by Italian filmmaker Claudio Fragasso, the film was originally titled “Goblin” But was then changed to “Troll 2” to give it more comercial value despite having no connection to “Troll” (1986) and not even mentioning the word “Troll” throughout the film. From the clips shown in the documentary the film looks hilariously bad. From the acting to the costumes even the plot line and dialogue. None of it connected, and none of it making any sense.

The documentary is a great look into the making of a cult classic. It reiterates many times that “Troll 2” is a bad film, and there’s no reason that it should be this popular. But somehow it is. I think there’s something very interesting about what attracts people to genuinely bad films, there’s obvious aspects such as comedy and making fun but what’s different about a bad film in comparison to say a bad novel is that dozens of people were involved in the making of it. This isn’t just one persons creation, lots of people came together and created something terrible. Which possibly just adds to the hilarity of the concept of bad films.

There are points in the doumentary that do make you feel  bad for all the laughing. Most of the actors in the film have never worked again, there is even one point in which Connie Young who played the daughter in “Troll 2” knows that if  at an audition someone recognises her from “Troll 2” she knows she is not getting the part. That must definitely be  a frustrating thing  for her to be haunted by a role she played 20 years ago when she was a teenager. Not to mention that the director, Claudio Fragasso completely believes that he made a good film. As someone who wants to make films I did sympathise with him, it must be difficult for your project to be laughed at when you truly believed in it.

All in all, I did thoroughly enjoy the documentary. It was funny, thoughtful and interesting. I recommend!


Plymouth Short Film Festival

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to win day tickets from the ArtsCentre for the first ever Plymouth Short Film Festival. It was founded by Plymouth University Media Arts graduates William Jenkins and Ben Hancock to promote local talent.plym

There were four categories spread out over the day which consisted of:

  • Best South West Film
  • Best Documentary
  • Best Student Film
  • Best Fiction Film

At the end of each category you voted on a slip of paper for whichever short film you considered to be the best.  Unfortunately I was only able to attend the Documentary and Student categories due to other commitments but the work I saw was amazing. A lot of the films shown were in other languages so it was good to see the festival get attention internationally. I was completely blown away by the standard of work shown particularly in the Student category. It has really motivated and inspired me in my own work.

A stand out film for me was “Born to be Mild” by Andy Oxley (which can currently be watched here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01xj6kb) which is about the “Dull Men’s Club” who participate in activities such as admiring roundabouts, collecting bricks and taking photographs of post boxes.

I hope this becomes an annual event  as the festival  was thoroughly enjoyable and is a great place to showcase short films in Plymouth.

Find out more here:

Plymouth Film Festival | Short Film Festivals | Film Festivals UK | Short Film Festival


A Night Discussing Misogyny.

nakedNaked Debate+Blurred Lines

Last night I attended “The Naked Debate” which discussed the issues surrounding Page 3 in The Sun newspaper. The debate was about whether this page consisting of topless women should be allowed to still be printed in this day and age. The founder of the “No More Page Three” campaign; Lucy Holmes was present to give her argument against the use of Page 3.

The night consisted of four people; Phil Ives, a writer for “The Knowledge” and Charlie Green, the Vice President of the SU for Plymouth University giving their argument in favour of Page 3 followed by the Women’s Rep for Plymouth University (Jessica Horner) and Lucy Holmes giving the opposite view. Lucy Holmes’ speech was a particular highlight as she was particularly articulate and passionate on the subject (as you would expect from the founder!). Upon entering the debate you had the opportunity to mark whether you were for or against page 3, this was repeated at the end to see if the debate had changed anyone’s minds. I, however am 100% against Page 3 and my mind did not change throughout the process. The results will be posted online within the week, it will be interesting to see the results. All in all, “The Naked Debate” was incredibly interesting and though provoking whilst being a great platform to see both sides of the argument.

Interestingly, the same night the documentary “Blurred Lines” was aired on BBC Two. (It’s still on iplayer if you’re interested!) The documentary hosted by Kirsty Wark explores our culture showing how acceptable it is to show women in a sexually explicit and often abusive way in the media and whether the internet has made this behaviour more socially acceptable by blurring the lines of what is “casual banter” and what is serious sexism and misogyny posing as a joke. Throughout the hour Kirsty Wark covered a lot of issues surround this topic, often not having an in depth discussion about each of the areas but I feel that the point of this was to show a much broader view of how wide spread this issue is in our culture. The angle of the documentary was very much about how our culture says “anything goes” and if you’re offended you simply don’t have a sense of humour. The documentary raised a lot of interesting points on both sides of the argument in relation to online and offline misogyny and it worth a watch if you can.


Feminist Society Documentary

Screenshot (51)See the documentary here: https://emilysteelefilm.wordpress.com/video-gallery-2/

From the start I knew I wanted to make a documentary about Feminism in University. The only thing that changed throughout the project is how I structured the film and the topics within Feminism that the documentary addressed. At the beginning of the module I had recently watched “Miss Representation”, A Sundance documentary that resonated very strongly with me in its topics and style. However, that was an hour and a half whereas mine was a maximum of 8 minutes so obviously I could not mention the majority of the topics within the film from a student perspective so I decided that my project would, although be inspired by “Miss Representation” be covering a Feminist Society at University which is something not mentioned in “Miss Representation”.

I was fortunate because a week after I had decided to make a documentary on Student Perspectives of Feminism the Student Union Website posted that a Feminist Society was being formed at the University. I attended the initial meeting although I was not allowed to film anything during the meeting so as not to make anyone uncomfortable whilst discussing sensitive issues in Feminism. I did catch the founders of the society at the end of the meeting which began the filming process of my documentary. The society was very supportive of this project in the hope that it would be able to help tackle some of the misconceptions of Feminism and encourage more people to either join the society of simply be less afraid of the word Feminism.

I think one of the main issues I had whilst making this Documentary is that the topic of Feminism is so broad it was incredibly difficult to cover anything in 8 minutes or less. Also, there are so many different sectors in feminism that people align themselves to it was difficult to not sway to any of them. What I wanted to portray was that at a simple core level, Feminism is inclusive and strives for equal rights for all genders including non-binary people. Another issue was that I was conflicted between making the documentary a discussion with Feminists and Non-Feminists or whether I should just have it from the Feminist Society’s point of view. As a Feminist myself I tried to keep my own opinions out of the way but I don’t think I was very impartial. I did decide in the end to make the documentary very focused on seeing a Feminist perspective into University life which is something that highlighted a lot of issues that I don’t think many people knew even existed as we simply accept the aspects of University that include LAD and Rape Culture as a given without saying that this behaviour is not acceptable. This was again something I wanted to highlight in my documentary.


Blackfish (2013) Review

This is a documentary by Gabriela Cowperthwaite about the Orcas in captivity at Seaworld, the documentary went viral on the internet reaching a huge audience of (in particular) young people. This meant that these issues were being discussed at great length through the mediums of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. One of the most interesting things about this documentary is that it has got a variety of people thinking about whether animals, particularly Orcas and Dolphins due to the other viral documentary “The Cove” (2009) should be in captivity and should be performing stunt shows at amusement parks around the world. Blackfish follows an Orca called Tilikum who has killed 3 trainers in his lifetime. The Documentary explains the cruel captivity of these Whales and how this can effect the animals psychologically. It suggests that Tilikum’s captivity essentially drove him mad and led to three people’s deaths. Blackfish goes on to show how Seaworld tried to cover this up, blaming the trainers each time for their accidents. Blackfish is a very thrilling film, it has interviews from the people who captured whales in the wild and former Seaworld trainers. It definitely has an agenda in persuading people that Orcas should not be kept in captivity so this has to be kept in mind (even if I, personally agree with this). Shortly after this Documentary went viral, Seaworld replied saying that:

“We object to Blackfish because its two central premises are wrong: (1) that life at SeaWorld is harmful for killer whales and for trainers working with these animals, and (2) that SeaWorld has attempted to cover up the facts surrounding the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, as well the history of Tilikum, the killer whale involved in that accident.  Nothing could be further from the truth. To make these ultimately false and misleading points, the film conveys falsehoods, manipulates viewers emotionally, and relies on questionable filmmaking techniques to create “facts” that support its point of view.  ” 

http://seaworld.com/en/truth/truth-about-blackfish/?from=Top_Nav <– the rest can be found here.

However, I think the question should be asked that if Blackfish really was lying the way Seaworld claims wouldn’t Seaworld have sued the filmmakers?

All in all, this is an incredibly interesting documentary and I highly recommend it.