Kristen Stewart is making her directorial debut with a new short film for female-focused digital publisher Refinery29
The Café Society actress is joining R29’s ShatterBox Anthology, which has committed to bringing short films from 12 female directors, writers and animators that explore the dynamic of power. The first project to result from the ethnology is Chloe Sevigny’s Kitty, which will premiere at Cannes. Stewart’s project is currently titled Water. Few other details have been released.
Also joining the anthology is Empire actress Gabourey Sidibe, who also will be making her directorial debut with a short called A Tale of Four Women. Several other filmmakers, including Webby Awards co-founder Tiffany Shlain, also have joined the initiative.
Sidibe explained onstage during Refinery29’s presentation Monday at this year’s Digital Content NewFronts that she wanted to go into directing because in her acting career, “everything I do, my image and who I am and what I feel represents me is in the hands of a man, usually a white man … I realized very recently that I want to be the one that decides what image I show the public.”
Among the other projects announced Monday are two series from Superstore actress America Ferrera. The first is multimedia project Behind the Headlines, which Ferrera is executive producing, that will explore issues that matter to women through video, editorial and imagery. The second is docuseries Only Girl, also executive produced by Ferrera, that will explore what it’s like to be a woman working in male-dominated fields.
Other series in the works include Strangers, a scripted comedy from writer-director Mia Lidofsky and Girls co-executive producer Jesse Peretz, and What We Teach Girls, from executive producers Morgan Spurlock and Jeremy Chilnick, about female education around the world. Also in the lineup are Facebook Live series Chasing Daylight, which will give viewers an inside look at the lives of global tastemakers and influencers through live streams that highlight one hour of their day; scripted series Sex Ed, a four-part project created in collaboration with Planned Parenthood; and music docuseries Sound Off.
Refinery29 launched its originals initiative in April 2015, and a little more than a year later sees 100 million video views a month across platforms. On Facebook and YouTube, audiences have watched more than 4.2 million hours of R29 programming.
The company, which began as a lifestyle-focused website but has since expanded into topics like news and entertainment, also plans on launching several new brands in 2016. Brawlers will be a YouTube channel devoted to covering female athletes with five new series, including Game of Life about Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long and WNBA’s Elena Delle Donne, instructional yoga series Bend It Like Beka and boxing series Knock Out. Brawlers also will feature a docuseries about hula-hooping world-record holder Marawa The Amazing.
Riot will be a comedy-focused YouTube channel. It will launch this month with eight original series and will feature comedy from several up-and-coming female comedians as well as Lena Dunham, Julie Klausner and Awkwafina.
In addition to videos for the web, Refinery29 also is committing to emerging technologies. The digital publisher announced Monday the launch of VR29 Studios, which will focus on female storytellers creating projects for virtual reality and 360-degree video. An eight-person team will be devoted to the initiative and, beginning in June, plans to release a new piece of VR or 360-degree content every week for the rest of the year, focusing on style, travel, fashion and sports.
“It’s women training women to be directors for VR series,” says R29 content chief Amy Emmerich, explaining that it’s a way to create more opportunities for female filmmakers through a new medium. “We wanted to get women behind the lens.”
R29 has been testing virtual reality over the last year, launching immersive series Fashionably Bound for Samsung’s Gear VR. This effort is the formalization of the effort and an investment in creating content for the emerging platform.