Despite the increased spotlight on marginalized voices in the ever-evolving film landscape, criticism doesn’t particularly reflect that. The majority of film critics still tend to be straight, white males, unrepresentative of the world around them. The Call Sheet is a new magazine that aims to disrupt that.
“The gist of it is . . . to elevate emerging artists and films that aren’t necessarily really represented enough, like women, nonbinary [people], women of color,” cofounder Rebecca Martin Fagerholm says.
But even more than that, cofounder Erica Duffy says The Call Sheet—comprising articles, interviews, and essays—uses those writers and stories to highlight the current state of filmmaking. “Our [in]formal kind of tagline has been, ‘This magazine will take you behind the scenes of the filmmakers of today,’” she says.
Martin Fagerholm, a film journalist and film festival director, founded Cinema Femme, a magazine for women to write about film, in 2018.
“I was just tired of middle-aged white men’s voices being elevated about cinema,” she says. “I was like, ‘You know what? We need more female voices out there.’”
This throughline for Martin Fagerholm struck a chord with Duffy, founder and CEO of Camera Ambassador. Camera Ambassador is a local equipment rental house that provides production rentals ranging from tape and cameras to lights and other on-set needs. It’s one of three rental houses in America owned by women. Once Duffy came across Martin Fagerholm’s weekly newsletter in 2020 and found out she was also based in Chicago, they connected, and the two held regular conversations, or an “informal brain trust,” as Duffy described it. This is where the idea for The Call Sheet—named after the sheets found on movie sets, dictating each actor’s shooting assignments—first emerged.
“When Rebecca mentioned it, I kind of had this lightbulb moment,” she says, noting that team members at Camera Ambassador have wanted to create a magazine for a while, but Duffy didn’t know where to start. “I saw both of our strengths and the strength of our companies, as well [as] in our audience, and that if we came together to do a collaboration like we are with The Call Sheet, that it would just be these worlds colliding and like a beautiful collaboration and playing to everybody’s strengths.”
Despite the rarity of women-owned businesses like Camera Ambassador, Duffy wants to emphasize that it’s not an “abnormal thing,” even though the numbers are “still grossly weighed one way.” In the same way, The Call Sheet strives not only to focus on underrepresented voices in film, but to also normalize them and “slowly [change] that narrative that this is the modern filmmaker. [These are] important stories and important voices in the industry now.”
It’s important for The Call Sheet to feature filmmakers who don’t subscribe to the older, mainstream, white male gaze. The founders also want to create a space that isn’t just for the groups they tell stories about. Martin Fagerholm points to Barry Jenkins’s 2016 film Moonlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, among many other accolades. The film creates such empathy and emotion that it can get any filmgoer to feel something deep, even if you’re not a queer Black boy in Miami. Martin Fagerholm wants to focus on films that do this same thing, giving “authentic, universal stories” and having marginalized writers touch on them.
Martin Fagerholm and Duffy hope that featuring underrepresented writers and films will be a draw for others who are hungry to see and create their own stories one day. But that, of course, doesn’t mean that The Call Sheet is only for one demographic.
“I think this magazine is for everybody,” Duffy shares. “The way that the storytelling is done and the way that the magazine has been designed, it’s an enjoyable read . . . no matter who you are, where you’re from, what background you are.” The word “authentic” comes up a lot between Martin Fagerholm and Duffy when discussing the overall mood of The Call Sheet because they believe the authenticity of those writing for The Call Sheet and the stories they’re covering generates criticism about art that is real and matters.
“I think when you can sit down with the magazine in the comfort of your own home, there’s a place of vulnerability with you in those words, and that will be something that people really gravitate to,” she says.
The very first issue debuts on January 19 in both print and digital form. Both Camera Ambassador and Cinema Femme released the cover art for The Call Sheet’s inaugural issue to Instagram, following the issue’s theme of “Healing Through Your Art.”
“Our cover story is on Emma Thatcher—she’s a Chicago filmmaker,” Martin Fagerholm shares. On December 23, 2022, Camera Ambassador shared a sneak peek of that cover story as well, including several photos from Thatcher’s first feature film, Provo. The interviews that went into making this cover story really helped inspire the rest of the issue and the theme. “Our other pieces are kind of like offshoots of that,” Martin Fagerholm says. “Different projects and different voices talking about healing through your art.”
The first issue features all Chicago-based filmmakers, which was by accident and isn’t “necessarily the future” of The Call Sheet, according to Duffy. But organically searching for filmmakers who represent the current state of film and are creating the most authentic art right now, and finding them all in Chicago, surely says something about the film scene in the Windy City. At the end of the day, they were searching for “timely, fresh voices, bringing up important things,” and Chicago-based filmmakers took the forefront of the project.
The Call SheetLaunching 1/19 at 7 PM with a free party at Camera Ambassador, 2425 W. 14th St. Unit B; digital version: thecallsheet.org and The Call Sheet app; print edition: contact [email protected]cinemafemme.comcameraambassador.com
The Call Sheet editorial team consists of Martin Fagerholm as editor in chief, Duffy as publisher, Rey Tang as assistant editor, Matt Carroll as circulation director, and Connor Smith as art director. Duffy says that the reception has already been so positive and far-reaching from the community, which poses a great opportunity for the future. Plus, Martin Fagerholm and Duffy’s respective teams have blended exceptionally well for this joint endeavor. With the ease of working together and the exciting possibility of more support, “there’s definitely a future,” Duffy says.
Martin Fagerholm’s Cinema Femme magazine has been a really good basis to center The Call Sheet’s purpose around, and both projects aim to disrupt the status quo.
“We’re breaking down the walls,” Martin Fagerholm says. “We’re redesigning [the industry], and we’re showing a world that’s possible, which is exciting.”