Aged nine I earned my Brownie Guide Book Lovers badge. Years later I earned a degree in English Literature but, in my twenties, I got side-tracked into the world of finance. It took me bunji-jumping off Victoria Falls Bridge to realise I wanted to get back to stories.
Fast forward to now and, at the age of (don’t be nosy, I’m not telling you), I’m the host of LBC’s Sex & Relationships show enabling others to tell their stories, as well as being a global story-teller myself: I’m the published author of four internationally best-selling books including one, Invisible Threads, recently tipped by Raindance as deserving of a film adaptation.
I’m tremendously excited about this, not least because it has partly answered a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now: how do female story-tellers find their audience? According to a report in “Variety”, in Hollywood, only 4% of film-makers are women and in “Celluloid Ceiling”, women apparently comprised just 7% of all directors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films in 2016.
From my experience writing, broadcasting and now dipping my toe into the magical world of film, here are the 4 fundamental ways for female story-tellers to stand out and grow your following:
You know your story’s good, right? So, own that. Act from that space. Don’t let fear of risk get in the way. Embrace risk. If you compare yourself to other film-makers you might fear you’re not good enough or that your story is too similar to someone else’s. If you stay true to your story it can never be someone else’s. And there are always more people wanting to watch movies than there are movies being made. So make yours. The reason I left finance to embrace storytelling was realising that you can’t find and grow an audience for that creative project that stays only in your head.
What you’re passionate about will find its path. When you’re moved and excited by your own message, you vibrate on a frequency that draws a force greater than you into your life. On my radio show, the nights when I’m able to share a story from my own experience or when a subject makes me squeal with delight or explode with anger are the nights when the switchboard lights up and the calls flood in. Invisible Threads is making waves for two reasons: firstly because the novel is my love letter to incredible India, a country that has shaped me for the better. And secondly because I’m passionate about sharing the story of voiceless women like my character Pritti, who is kidnapped to work in a New Delhi brothel.
Be the flame:
I found my voice by developing the self-respect to know that what I’m passionate about deserves a hearing. My journey to find my voice and give it permission to be heard has made me passionate about helping others find their voice too, whether it’s clients in my therapy consulting room, callers to my radio show, or getting the story of women in India trafficked into brothels to a wider audience. By finding your voice, your audience comes with ease. If the story moves you, it will move others.
Gurinder Chadha’s own family history from the days of Partition fuels magnificently her latest film Viceroy’s House. But being personal doesn’t have to mean making films or writing something deeply autobiographical.
My life as an author took off once I wrote the kind of novel I wanted to read. Whether it’s in film or literature, tell the story you want to hear. From this inner source you’re being unapologetically authentic.
Tim Burton’s success famously began when was fired from Disney, for making a film they felt didn’t fit their brand. Once he had the creative freedom to make the films that were personal to him, he found his creative voice and distinctive style.