It took some courage and gentle persuasion from friends, but Rebecca Addelman is now living the dream as a director in the cutthroat, male-dominated film industry.

Addelman’s directorial debut Paper Year, premiering at the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF), captures the ups and downs of a young couple’s first year of marriage.

Addelman started off in show business as a TV writer and comedian. You’re probably familiar with her work on Fox’s TV comedy New Girl and the Netflix show Love.

Though Addelman says she had a deep desire in her to tackle a project from beginning to end — which is what directing lets you do — she never saw herself in the role.

It wasn’t until a friend told her she had to direct the film that she decided to throw caution to the wind and make her move.

Addelman says growing up when she did, in the late 1980s and ’90s, played into the fact that she didn’t think directing was something she could do.

“Whatever the degree of confidence you have to have or that innate feeling of being entitled to something; not to make too many generalizations, but I think men and boys are raised with that more so than girls were.”

Sandi Somers, an award-winning filmmaker, runs Herland — a video production and mentorship program for women who hope to get into filmmaking. She’s also seeing a change in the industry.

“Organizations are trying to bring more women into the fold. The change is slow, but it is happening.”

Somers says that part of the reason for that change is more women are choosing to work with women.

“In stats, it’s been stated that if a woman is hired as a director or a showrunner or as a writer, the chances of more women being included is greater ... I do feel that women are seeing an opportunity to open the door.”

This year at CUFF, 43 per cent of the feature films are directed by female directors — the most the film festival has ever had.

Festival director Brenda Lieberman says this wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happened that the movies CUFF was interested in were directed by women. She says that over the years, she has seen the number of films directed by women growing.

“It feels to me that there are a lot more. When I am looking for films, there are a lot more naturally coming across our plate that are directed by women,” says Lieberman.

“I think it’s great. Everyone has a different perspective when telling a story.”

Now based in Los Angeles, Addelman says she was inspired to write the movie in the wake of her divorce.

“I, myself, got married when I was young. The movie is in no way a one-to-one literal representation of my life, but I was inspired by what it felt like to be married at that age.”

In the film, the couple faces new opportunities and temptations that challenge their relationship. They’re both trying to figure out who they are — as individuals and as a couple.

“It tells that universal story of what it’s like to have that very first really strong love that you think is going to see you through your life. It’s the love that’s going to last and then to experience it falling apart and for reasons you can’t control.”

You can catch Paper Year at CUFF on April 19 at 7:15 p.m.

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