Lolo Spencer, Alice Austen on Breaking Stereotypes at Power Women San Francisco | Video

Hollywood game-changers participate in event at San Francisco Chronicle

“Give Me Liberty” isn’t the easiest film to describe in one sentence. But its producer, Alice Austen, and lead actress, Lolo Spencer, knew it was exactly the kind of film that needed to be told — even when studios and financiers wouldn’t support them.

“We were told that we were unmarketable, undistributable, unreleasable,” Austen said at TheWrap’s Power Women San Francisco event last week, quoting detractors who said “Give Me Liberty” would never make it to Sundance or Cannes.

The film follows a disability transport driver in Milwaukee who, accompanied by a group of octogenarian Russian immigrants, must pick up a young woman in a wheelchair on the other side of town amidst protests in the city. “Give Me Liberty” eventually went on to premiere at Sundance and was unanimously chosen to participate in Cannes.

But even as the film received interest at the festivals, Austen said that many of the U.S. distributors she spoke with — most of them men — frequently told her, “We don’t know how to market this film.”

“For me, there was a clear code,” Austen said. “If we had plunked Jennifer Lawrence in a wheelchair and had her pretend to be disabled, we would’ve had an $11 million dollar deal out of Sundance, and we didn’t do that.”

Watch the full video above.

J. Clara Chan

J. Clara Chan

Media and politics reporter • • Twitter: @jclarachan

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