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Jovanka Vuckovic hates when it happens. But when you're a film director and a woman, it's inevitable: People are going to think you're on set in a different capacity.

"I've been on film sets where the stunt man comes up and says, 'Oh, are you hair and makeup?' Uh, no. 'Are you wardrobe?' No," Vuckovic says. "'Oh, then what are you doing here?' I'm the director. 'You don't look like a director.'"

"Well, what's a director supposed to look like?"


Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

A former horror magazine editor from Toronto, Vuckovic has been a fan of the genre for many years. Working in publishing and later in the male-dominated filmmaking world, it became clear to her how underrepresented women were behind the camera and, thus, how wildly misrepresented they were in front of the camera — particularly when it comes to horror.

"I kept asking people, 'Please, can you just write women characters as actual human beings?'" she explains. "I got tired of asking, so I just decided I'm going to do it myself."

Vuckovic's short film "The Box" is part of a horror anthology, "XX," that's garnering a lot of buzz at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

For many moviegoers, it's both a scary film and an important endeavor.

The trailer for "XX" is pretty damn terrifying. But even cooler, the anthology — which features four short films, including Vuckovic's — is completely women-led, with each film directed by and starring women.

Peyton Kennedy in “The Box," Vuckovic's short film in "XX." Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Vuckovic says women made up roughly 80% of the crew for her short. On most sets, that ratio is basically flipped.

Along with "The Box," "XX" features Roxanne Benjamin's "Don't Fall," Karyn Kusama's "Only Living Son," and Annie Clark's "Birthday Party."

If the trailer (embedded below) is any indication, each short appears as scary as the next. There's no shortage of creepy children, torn-off fingernails, and camping trips gone awry between the four dark tales.

"Birthday Party" marks the directorial debut for Clark, who's better known to most as musical artist St. Vincent. Her involvement helped "XX" premiere at Sundance on Jan. 22, 2017, to a sold-out crowd.

Directors (from left) Roxanne Benjamin, Annie Clark, Jovanka Vuckovic, and animator Sofìa Carrillo at Sundance. Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.

The thrill-seeking audience at Sundance loved the barrier-pushing concept of the film anthology just as much as it loved the blood, guts, and screams — probably in part because of how different "XX" truly is.

Historically, filmmakers in horror have been overwhelmingly male. And that means women on-screen are often portrayed in trope-y, unrealistic roles.

While the male gaze and gender stereotyping run rampant throughout most genres of film, horror may arguably be the worst offender. From the damsel in distress and evil seductress to the sexually liberated woman who must be killed and the vengeful lover, a handful of tropes have largely carved out the types of dehumanizing roles available to women in horror.

Actor Peter Cushing and producer Anthony Nelson Keys on the set of a Hammer Film Productions horror film in 1965. Photo by Terry Fincher/Express/Getty Images.

"The only thing you have to do to make a movie feminist is depict women as actual human beings," Vuckovic says of changing the status quo. But by that standard, many scary flicks fall embarrassingly short.

It should be noted that the genre isn't exactly known for its racial inclusiveness, either, as many films continue to fail at diverse casting: “We primarily see white-washed versions of the world in a lot of movies," Vuckovic says. "Young people need to grow up seeing versions of themselves on screen."

Sadly, there hasn't been as much progress for women in horror (or in Hollywood, more generally) as you might expect.

In fact, as Vuckovic points out, there were actually more women working as writers, producers, and directors during the silent era of film a century ago than in Hollywood today.

Director Dorothy Arzner and screenwriter Sonya Levien in 1930. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Women make up about half of film school graduates at top schools like the University of Southern California and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, yet they make up just a tiny fraction of actual working directors, MTV News reported. Lack of opportunity outside the academic world plays a big role in that lopsided reality, according to Vuckovic.

Women are "not allowed to fail the same way men are allowed to fail," she says, echoing the same injustice Reese Witherspoon spoke out about in March 2016: Men's movies can flop at the box office and they'll still get a second (or third or fourth) chance at financial redemption. For women, it doesn't work like that.

The good news: Signs are pointing to progress for women in the horror genre. But we all have a part in making that happen.

According to Vuckovic, recent films like "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" and the critically acclaimed "The Babadook" — a film that explores the difficulties of single motherhood through a horror lens — have helped move the genre forward for women behind (and in front of) the camera.

"The Babadook" director Jennifer Kent (left) and star of the film Essie Davis. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images.

"I don’t think a lot of the filmmakers making horror now know its worth, or realize the potential of the genre," "The Babadook" director Jennifer Kent told New York Magazine in 2014. "Just because it's a horror film doesn't mean it can't be deep."

It's important we take note of the films that are created by women and make sure to support them at the box office, Vuckovic notes — showing that women-led films can succeed financially is the best way to provide more opportunities for more women down the road.

Through "XX," Vuckovic hopes young girls learn there is a space for them in the horror genre, despite what anyone else says.

"Go, pick up a camera, make some movies, and don't take no for an answer," she advises girls interested in the magic of filmmaking. "You didn't go to film school? Who cares. Get your friends to help you, and just start — start somewhere."

"XX" opens in select theaters and on video on-demand Feb. 17. Watch the trailer below:

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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