Posted by Christina Brooke Mar 21 2009, 4:00 am in bravo, documentaries, feminism, film, Jenny Crusie, Jo Beverley, Joanna D'Angelo, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Kathryn Smith, Nora Roberts, ovation, popculturedivas, Romance
posted by Christine Wells
We are excited to have with us in the lair today the wonderful Joanna D’Angelo. Joanna is a writer/fillmmaker who co-produced and directed “Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?” – a witty and revealing documentary about romance writers and the world of romance fiction. The documentary premiered on Bravo! Canada in 2007 and will be seen on Australia’s Ovation network in 2009. (We Aussies can’t wait!)
Joanna also manages “A Love of Romance Novels” – the largest group for romance fiction lovers on facebook. She has worked in broadcast radio, TV and film and is currently writing and developing several TV projects. How cool is that? Over to you, Joanna!
Over 60 million women in North America do it at least once a week – read romance novels, that is!
That’s the tag line from the promotional material for my documentary “Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?”.
“Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?” chronicles three Canadian romance writers: Kelly Boyce, an aspiring writer hungry to sell her first book at a major industry conference; Kayla Perrin, a contemporary romance author eager to break out of the smaller African-American market and into the mainstream with her first erotica novel; and Kathryn Smith, an historical romance author, embraces her fascination with vampires and makes the leap to paranormal romance as a way to stand out in a competitive market.
Featuring interviews with some of the brightest stars of the romance world, including Jo Beverley, Jennifer Crusie, Eloisa James, Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts, as well as Susan Pezzack, editor at Harlequin, Toronto, “Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?” explores the history of romance novels, its many sub-genres and what it takes to make it in the business.
I co-directed “Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings” with my friend Christine Alexiou (a writer based in Toronto, Canada). We began our journey in 2004/05 – spent about a year researching and raising the money for the film and then another year shooting and editing. No nefarious criminals were uncovered. No deadly secrets were revealed. No civil wrongs were righted. No scandals were created (well at least beyond the edit suite But I think this film accomplished something good.
When we began our research – neither Christine nor I could find any other documentaries that that had anything positive to say about romance novels. Well, we had something positive to say and we wanted to share it with the world. Yes – romance fiction is fantasy. It can be fun, entertaining, sexy, even (dare I say) tawdry. But it’s also feminist. Yikes! How can I make that claim? Well, let’s see. It’s written BY WOMEN, ABOUT WOMEN, and mostly FOR WOMEN. The woman – the heroine – always overcomes. She always wins. In the words of Jennifer Crusie (whom we interviewed for the film – lucky us!) “It’s a female fantasy quest”. So – yes, it is a fantasy. But it’s also a quest. Which means that the hero-ine undergoes a transformation in each and every story. Okay, she falls in love with the hero. But it also means she falls in love with herself as she overcomes both internal and external conflicts. She changes. She grows. She conquers. She loves. Certainly, there’s a lot more to romance fiction than that but it’s one of the reasons why I love it…why I have always loved romance fiction and what prompted me to make this documentary in the first place.
From the time I started reading romance (way back when I was about 14-15 years old and I discovered “The Flame and the Flower” and “The Wolf and the Dove” by the late, great Kathleen Woodiwiss – in my high school library no less!) I knew inside that romance was empowering. Even when I studied journalism and film theory and kinda hid the fact that I read romance from my friends (silly me) – I always loved it. And I figured out (like all romance fans do) that Jane Austen wrote romance! Ah yes, redemption! After I got older – and wiser I no longer cared who knew that I loved romance fiction. After I finished my documentary in 2007 I launched a romance fiction group on facebook called “A Love of Romance Novels”. The group has grown to more than 1,800 members including both authors and readers alike. From teenagers to senior citizens – both male and female – romance fans love a good story…as long as it’s got a happy ending of course!
“Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?” has been broadcast in Canada on Bravo! many times since it premiered in 2007. Our executive producer is GAPC Entertainment – a respected Canadian production company. Our international distributor is APT World Wide – known for distributing many fine PBS documentaries. APT recently made a sale to the Ovation Channel in Australia. I am not sure about future broadcast dates so if you live in Australia and get the Ovation Channel check your local listings.
Joanna has just launched a new blog called popculturedivas. It features 25 dynamic women contributors who dish about TV, movies, music and books–and yours truly blogs there once a month:) Come and visit! We want to know what you think of the cool new design.
Are you a proud reader of romance like Joanna, or still firmly in the closet when it comes to your own circle of acquaintances? What do you say when someone asks you why you read romance?