Milton alumna and filmmaker Frankie Shaw ’00 was tired of struggling to work as an actor: tired of uninspiring roles, not earning enough money, and telling stories through a male lens.
Setting out to make her own films after a decade of acting, Frankie made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, winning the Short Film Jury Award with SMILF, a semi-autobiographical comedy about her life as a single mom. She wrote, directed and starred in the film, which she is now developing as a pilot for Showtime.
“I’ve been on an amazing trajectory recently, all because I went off and made my own thing,” Frankie told students in a talk on “Empowering Women in Film,” sponsored by the Hollywood Filmmakers’ Club and SAGE (Students Advocating for Gender Equity).
Fans of Mr. Robot, Blue Mountain State and Girls in Revolt, would recognize Frankie from her television roles. As a female actor, Frankie had mixed experiences when it came to how she was written or filmed; she often rewrote scripts to give her character more depth. “We’re so conditioned to seeing men in the role of the protagonist, while women are often sex objects,” she told the students. Working with directors who have previously acted and are interested in and open to understanding women’s experiences is always preferable, she said.
Frankie is hopeful about the future of women in film and television, saying she anticipates projects that are more inclusive in terms of race and gender. “I think we’ll start to see content created by everyone.”
This year, Frankie’s short film Too Legit premiered at Sundance. The film, which stars Zoë Kravitz, is a biting satire about campus sexual assault. SMILF will begin shooting soon, and Frankie has a role in the 2017 feature film Stronger, about Boston Marathon bombing hero Jeff Bauman.