An Interview with Amber Gordon, Creator of Femsplain

Femsplain already exists. You can look at it right now. It's a community that is still forming, but it is forming very rapidly. Developed by Amber Gordon, who envisioned Femsplain as a safe place to discuss women's issues, both overt and not, the site is as much a writing platform as it is a community. We spoke to Gordon about how and why it came into existence.

Can you talk about how you came up with the idea for Femsplain?

The way it started is weird. I met the girls that I built it with on Twitter. We were huge fans of each other and things we’d written. We eventually decided to meet up and get dinner. We were nervous, but we met each other and it was amazing. One of the biggest things we noticed is that we all have these opinions about media. We wanted to write to each other about things we saw being talked about. We came up with this idea for a Tumblr called Sad Drunk Girls. We were like, we’re going to write to each other when we were either sad or drunk or both, but it never happened. The idea was still there: writing open letters to each other, our real experiences. 

Was there any single moment where you were like, okay, now is the time to launch my own thing?

Five or six months ago, I worked at Tumblr. I was feeling uninspired, but wanted to boost the conversation online among women voices. I was like, let’s take this idea of sharing our real stories to each other and make it bigger. Femsplain was born. The name was an accident, I was telling my friend I was building the platform, and he was like why don't you call it Femsplain? "Mansplain" is generally a negative term, but maybe Femsplain can reshape the way women are discussed. 

I was really tired of waiting for things to happen. I was tired of telling brands not to make memes, so I was like, I need to do something for myself and something for other people. After I got the domain—I think I didn't sleep that night. My roommates were worried about me.

Was there any publication or site that inspired you?

Growing up, I didn't know it—but I was super into fandom. Being in a part of these internet communities that really praised the people that were creating content and we were all there because we had one general interest—it didn't matter where we came from, being part of that forged my love for community. Now Rookie Mag is doing an amazing job. I love the writing, and I love how they are catering to the younger generation who will eventually become who we are today. Model View Culture is great. The Toast is another favorite. The Hairpin also.

Your bio on the project page mentions that you’re passionate about online community building. How does that factor in here?

My background is primarily in online community building. Building something that’s more about sharing content with your peers and people who are likeminded is so much more powerful, because when you’re writing you’re writing to connect with other people, I think that connection is way more powerful than just speaking out into the void. The relationships that are formed on Femsplain... it's so amazing to hear stories about people being like, oh I met her in the comments section of her women's reproductive issues article. The connections that are coming from people meeting and creating community are so powerful.

What would you say the message is?

At its core—we’re trying to redefine the way people talk about women's issues. We have a monthly theme, it’s a guide for contributors, we’re not putting categories on it. We’re really making people feel comfortable and building a safe space for them to talk about things they don’t put anywhere else. 

We’re also getting compared to other women’s communities, we’re not shouting into the void. We’re trying to have a discussion. We welcome anyone, regardless of gender, to participate. We’re just highlighting female voices. We’re publishing social media managers. We’re publishing nurses. We’re publishing lawyers who want to share their experiences anonymously.

What are you hoping to achieve? What are you hoping to change?

I experience online harassment. I know that world. Those people exist. But I also feel like the people who are likely to harass you are insecure, so we’re trying to build a place where even though you might be directly affected by what someone is talking about, you can still read it and understand, and maybe your view might be changed a bit. We’re trying to create offline events and workshops to get these people together to support each other and strengthen that bond. We’re having a comedy show in the middle of February to promote some of our community members who are also comedians, but anyone is welcome to meet people who are likeminded to create a stronger community. We’re also having these workshops—we’re having a coding workshop, a basic introduction—anyone can come.

You're very adamant about compensating people for their work, at a time when this isn't exactly an assumption. Can you talk about that?

We’ve definitely had people ask us, "Why are you paying your contributors? You know they’ll do it for free." But we believe that if they’re taking the time out of their workday to open up and be honest and provide us with content, of course they deserve to be compensated. Quality work deserves compensation. It’s good to know that your voice is valued, even though you would contribute for free — having that direct deposit to show that this place values what you’ve contributed, that means so much to me. 

Who is the ideal audience for Femsplain?

We want the people that support us, but it would be great to get people that might not necessarily agree with our values. A good example is people who don’t feel welcome because of their gender, who might look at us and say, "I don't know if I feel safe here." Anyone that might have second thoughts. we want them to see that we’re trying to cover a diverse voice, it’s not just by women for women. It’s for anyone.

A Few Great Indie Bookstores

A lot of us here at Kickstarter are passionate book lovers, so we're always stoked to see new independent bookstores popping up and growing into community hubs. Here are six that are doing incredibly cool things.

Ancestry Books, North Minneapolis, MN

Ancestry Books is a community bookstore dedicated to featuring books by authors of color and Indigenous authors who are under-represented in other places. It was originally envisioned as pop-up bookstore that would be run from the creators' porch over the summer, but as people started responding to the idea with excitement, Chaun Webster and Verna Wong decided to find a real storefront.  

Boneshaker Books, Minneapolis, MN

Also in Minneapolis, Boneshaker Books established itself as a radical and progressive bookstore in 2010. Do you need a book delivered by bicycle? No problem! They've done that.

In 2012, they expanded their store to include a nano-cinema, gallery, and larger children's books area. 

Reading Frenzy, Portland, OR

After losing their lease in 2012, this twenty-year-old Portland institution triumphantly relaunched its bookstore and space for indie presses to share their wares. They carry a great selection of zines and small press items, and they also boast a space for art and gatherings. We're big fans of their website, too. 

Hullabaloo Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

Michael de Zayas wanted to create a bookstore and cultural space in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to support local writers and readers — and so Hullabaloo Books was born. He also established an events series, which host adult literacy classes, teen writing workshops, and poetry readings.

Books and Brews, Indianapolis, IN

This is not just a used bookstore — Books and Brews is also a nanobrewery, with beers named after classic books and literary figures. You can try their Canterbury Tales Pale Ale or Clifford the Big Red Ale while reading — another interpretation of getting lit.

Uncharted Books, Chicago, IL

The folks at Uncharted Books wanted to do more than make a bookstore — they wanted to create a haven for writers and artists (and dogs). They encourage "browsing, loitering, chit-chatting, socializing, drinking, eating, writing, working, hanging out, and staying in," which seems like pretty much every activity possible.

Speculative Fiction Editors Speak

As part of our Talking Shop series, recently, we hosted a panel of five science fiction editors for a discussion. Watch above as Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld magazine, Rose Fox and Daniel José Older of the Long Hidden anthology, Alex Shvartsman of Unidentified Funny Objects, and Brian White of Fireside magazine talk about books that influenced them, diversity in the genre, and why they're bored by milquetoast protagonists. 

For the best anthologies to happen, it's important to publish good work that you care about, and to make sure you cast a wide net when you're seeking that good work — that's how you get a varied collection. As Rose said: "There's something magical about a collection of short stories where each one is so different." We couldn't agree more. 

Rescuing Movies from Annihilation

Creativity is about thinking ahead and looking forward — but it's also about acknowledging a history of work that existed before your own time. This is part of the reason we're celebrating projects whose focus is on the preservation and restoration of something otherwise lost, forgotten, or ignored. We collected a list of projects that fit the bill: restorations, preservations, and archives of all sorts right here

In the world of film, this can mean anything from rescuing a lost work to completing a filmmaker's canon. It's part technical, part philosophical, and part curatorial — and it involves some informed decision-making as well. As Jake Perlin of Cinema Conservancy put it: "Restoration is the work that’s done to bring a film back to the closest approximation of what the work looked like initially." We asked five project creators to talk about what it means to restore something, and why they were moved to do so with these particular projects. 

Pioneers of African-American Cinema

"Some of the films we’re working on have been out in other versions. We’re trying to create the definitive version. We find the best existing material and give it the best possible treatment so it looks as good as it’s going to look, short of having a 35mm print projected onto the screen. It’s an art form — you can go way overboard and change the film. We try to maintain the integrity of the film so it looks close to how it should have looked, without looking enhanced.”

- Bret Wood, producer

"If you think about the rise of American mass media, African American culture was the basis. These kinds of films were sidelined by the rise of Hollywood. To exist outside of that, you had to have your own narrative and your own circuit and your own distribution methods. They are profound examples of independent cinema altogether."

- Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky, executive producer

Bloody Friday

"It means a lot of things to restore a film. First and foremost, it means preserving something for the future. This movie was made in the early '70s, and there wasn’t any thought in the market beyond next year: if it served next year’s purpose, it served its purpose. But so much has happened since then — people want to learn about the past and see the movies and extract something from them. A lot of those movies are gone or will never be seen. When you think of how most German silent films are missing, gone, completely destroyed, lost in World War 2 — that’s sad. To restore something is to preserve history. People like us step in to make sure that history is preserved. 

This film has never been released in America uncut. It’s possible it never had a proper theatrical run. There was an English dub, but that’s all. But good movies deserve to be seen, and we could just tell that there was a North American audience waiting to discover this movie. It’s too wild, it’s too good to not be seen."

- Elijah Drenner, Subkultur

River of Grass

"Restoring a film means different things to different organizations, distributors, people, filmmakers, fans. There are a lot of film prints and digital mediums, but basically for us, it means this: we’re going to restore River of Grass, and do a 2k scan so we can have a DCP of it. We’ll also make it available to digital platforms, because that’s incredibly important right now.

There’s definitely a curatorial and philosophical element to it, but we want to stay true to what the filmmaker wants as much as possible. You do have to be careful, because film has a beautiful grain element to it, it has its own color timing and blacks and whites. You don’t want to over-restore a film and make it too pristine."

- Debra McClutchy, Oscilloscope

Living Los Sures

"Restoration is a huge site of opportunity, and there’s so much potential in the archive for new stories to come out and new ways to interact with those stories. This film from 1984 opened up a window into the history that’s hard to find. It’s been a way for creating connections between people in the community, and organizations that have been there for a long time, and also to understand the history of the people who lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood called Los Sures for well over 30 years. The microhistories of New York are often very difficult to find.

Union Docs is a center for documentary, so we show films all the time. In 2007 some filmmakers asked if we’d seen a film that was made in the neighborhood in 1984. It blew us away. We thought the film would have been preserved in some way, but the reality with so many of these projects is there’s nobody out there who’s tasked with taking care of these films. But because of our energy, the New York Public Library became interested in it. They had the only surviving print that was of any value, so we were really lucky to do the work when we did it. It would have been very easy for it to be totally lost."

- Christopher Allen, Union Docs

Jungle Trap 

"Restoration means rescuing a movie from annihilation. Everything’s going to fall into obscurity eventually, but for a movie to not even have a chance to make a mark is unfortunate. You have to be judicious, and try to restore and rescue the movies that have cultural weight or value, but the entire point of it is to make sure that anything that can improve somebody’s life in some way has the opportunity to be seen. Even if that just means entertaining people on a gut level.

Jungle Trap is made by a guy named James Bryan, who is one of the pioneering exploitation filmmakers of the '70s. He was so motivated that he jumped into filmmaking with no money or experience. He did it with a drive and energy that’s really contagious, so when you watch even his earliest and most poorly made films, you really feel it.

In the trunk of a used car that my friend had bought was a VHS tape for a movie called Run Coyote Run, which was considered lost. We watched it, and it was incredible. We contacted James Bryan, who turned out to live in Texas where I live, and said we’d like to release Run Coyote Run. He said he only ever made ten copies of that movie for the crew. Then we went to his house, and he said “Too bad no one's ever going to put out the movie I made after that.” He'd shot an entire film, but the market had fallen apart.

So we realized that this guy who has this incredible story and is really deeply rooted in the history of drive-in cinema and exploitation had an additional feature that was never going to be seen. This isn’t just a matter of finding a completed project and sharing it with the world — we’re actually going to work with him to do the edit, to make a soundtrack, to make the movie as he wanted it to be in 1990. This will be his final project."

- Zack Carlson, Bleeding Skull

Some of our Favorite Film Festivals

It's probably no surprise that we love film festivals at Kicktarter — what better way to celebrate our love of such a wide variety of cinema? Each festival on the list below offers a unique perspective on what a film festival is: some are idiosyncratic, some are expansive, all have something unique to offer. Here are just a few of our favorites.


It's no static event — Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna's documentary road show has screened all over Mexico and Latin America, from the U.S.-Mexico border to the Columbian National Museum in Bogota. This fall they brought the festival north of the border and set up free screenings all over Los Angeles in a variety of unique settings: parks, parking lots, movie theaters, community centers and more. You can see the program at Ambulante's website.

H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & Cthulhucon 

This Portland, Oregon and San Pedro, California-based celebration of the literary horror and weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft touches not only on filmic adaptations of the author's work, but also on the literary, gaming, art and music scenes devoted to Mr. Lovecraft.


This long-running Wilmington, North Carolina-based festival screens over 200 independent and international films yearly, bringing their filmmakers and artists together to conceive new works and launch new projects, all the while offering artist and audience opportunity to connect at an intimate level.

Horrible Imaginings

The first film festival in San Diego dedicated to macabre cinema and art annually celebrates the world of horror and all its associated sub-genres through a world spanning array of independently made feature and short creations, along with classic revival screenings of genre cinema staples.

Making Waves 

Screening in New York City and Pleasantville, New York, this annual survey of Romania's socially incisive, independently minded personal cinema is the only U.S. film festival dedicated to showcasing and celebrating the best in Romanian contemporary cinema.

Migrating Forms 

Growing out of the long running New York Underground Film Festival, this diverse collection of work bridges the gap between the film, video and art worlds through the common context of cinema.

Robot Film Festival 

The first and, currently, only event of its kind. This San Francisco-based festival is an annual celebration of robots on screen and in performance; nurturing a community of creatives and engineers who explore, document and invent within the world of robotics.

Rooftop Films 

This New York City-based organization has spent the better part of two decades bringing independent film to the rooftops, parks, public plazas and waterways of the city. Through their wide-ranging and varied programs, they are able to support the cultural community in NY — be they artists, filmmakers, musicians, schools, or nonprofit organizations.

How Do You Do ... A Short Film on a Tiny Budget?

We asked a few of our favorite filmmakers for their tips and advice on making a short film for very little money — say, $500 or less. (That's very little money in film terms, if not, like, security-deposit or parking-ticket terms.) Watch above to see what they had to say.

You can also watch plenty of great work by any one of these generous folks, including:

An Interview with David Cross

David Cross is famous. You might remember him from the HBO sketch comedy show Mr. Show, which he created, wrote for, and performed in with Bob Odenkirk. Maybe you know him as Tobias Fünke from the beloved and recently resurrected Arrested Development. Then again, maybe you remember him best for his decades as a successful stand-up comedian, or a multitude of other film and television appearances.

His latest project is Hits, a comedy that premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival, which he's planning to release in theaters independently. The film is about virality and unintentional celebrity in a small town. I spoke to Cross, and asked him some questions about fame.

The film is about fame. Your project video also riffs on that theme. Why did you want to do a film about fame?

Well, the short answer is that of the roughly 25 ideas I have kicking around in some form, this was the one I felt I could do the cheapest. The other ideas are a little bit more expensive or fantastic at points, and this idea is really grounded. It takes place in a small town, and I knew I could shoot it up there. I live up there and I knew I could call in a lot of favors. And I knew I could shoot it for under a million dollars. It was 100% a practical decision.

So this is your directorial debut?

For a feature film, yeah.

And you wrote it and directed it.

I also did craft services, and filled up the peanut-filled pretzel nuggets.

You filled the nuggets or you filled the bowl?

The bowl with the nuggets. The nuggets are made in a factory in Sri Lanka. I would get them from Costco, but I’d be responsible for filling the bowl.

It seems like you rail against the way fame works nowadays. Where like, anyone can do this kind of thing — like fame is almost cheapened by American Idol, or…

It’s not almost cheapened, it is cheapened. But it’s not the people that are good singers on American Idol that I have a problem with. They deserve it. It’s the people that are terrible, who then become famous for being terrible. And it’s really less about, “Hey do you mind us making fun of you for a couple years? We’ll give you a couple million dollars that you never would have had, but we’re going to present you as a fool.” It’s less about that than the people who don’t have any discernible talent, but just feel like they deserve to be famous. They have this sense of entitlement, which I get in this culture, especially if you’re born and raised — I mean, we’re talking about millennials at this point.

Anything on Bravo, or TLC, or Honey Boo Boo — to me, Bravo and TLC and the like, they’re really responsible for what I’m talking about. There’s nothing of any merit and it’s kind of disgusting to me that these people are rewarded just for being awful personalities. At the absolute best they’re just shallow people. And at the worst, they’re some form of evil.

This idea of fame — when you were getting started with stand-up, was that a thing that crossed your mind? Did you think, I want to be famous?

Insofar as fame is a measure of success, yeah. I wanted to be successful. I didn’t have any vanities like, you know, “I’m going to be the next Charro.” I hoped to be a successful stand-up. Back then that meant you’d appeared on, what, the three shows you could go on? So I hoped to work steadily, and perhaps do some movies, and then eventually write and direct movies. Therefore, fame will determine that I’m able to do that thing. You can’t divorce the two things.

Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself, I might be famous?

Oh, I can tell you exactly when it was. I was at Bumbershoot, the art festival in Seattle, in 1996, I believe. Up until then I’d been doing mostly stand-up and I definitely had a name that other stand-ups knew. People who booked shows knew who I was. But audiences didn’t. But then I was there at the Bumbershoot festival, which I had done a couple times before, and Mr. Show had aired — the first four weird little nothing episodes.

And this is before the internet, so there was no immediate feedback — we were just out there in the vacuum. Then I was at the festival for three or four days, running around to see bands and I don’t think 30 minutes went by on any given day when people weren’t coming up to me and going “I saw your comedy show. It’s really funny.” I remember calling Bob [Odenkirk, Mr. Show co-creator] and telling him, this is nuts. I’m wandering around and everyone knows who I am, and they’re talking about Mr. Show, and the stand-up shows are packed.

I tried to find you on Twitter.

I’m not on Twitter.

That’s a conscious decision?

[laughing] Yeah, of course. The government hasn’t said I’m not allowed to be on Twitter. My mommy didn’t take it away. Of course it’s a conscious decision.

Right, but some people have PR teams run these, or they don’t give a damn about it but they at least have a presence there.

Oh, I completely understand the value of it. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I would be wealthier and working more if I focused on that presence. If I had a million followers on Twitter, I’d probably be able to get a book deal and an advance for two million dollars. That’s the reality, and I can’t deny that.

But it’s also just a headscratcher that people can monetize having a million likes on Facebook. To me, that’s crazy — it’s a stranger clicking a button. I do believe that in the pretty near future people will understand that it doesn’t really translate to much. The people with all the money who are financing things will come to discover that it’s not a good measure of what determines financial success. I think that day is coming in a few years. Anybody who’s getting a million-dollar book deal or anybody who’s got a lot of followers for their Vine channel or whatever should absolutely take the money now, because I think it’s going to dry up shortly.

Right, it’s a funny thing trying to recreate virality. It’s totally inconsistent.

To me, my reluctance to engage in social media is . . . it seems like a waste of time. And I waste my time in other ways. I’m not saying that every waking second of the day I’m doing something worthwhile — I play video games, I lay around, I read dumb magazine articles, I go out drinking at night. I waste my time, you know? But somebody’s pithy comment about a movie that came out — I don’t care to engage in it in either direction. I’d rather be known for other things than my take on the situation in Ferguson. I’d rather develop that and talk about it onstage. I think it also takes away from the specialness of seeing somebody, especially stand-ups, come to your town, if you can follow that person and they’re constantly throwing shit out there. It waters down your voice.

But like I said, I do truly enjoy going out to bars and getting into heated discussions. I debate things beyond 140 characters. And I know that if I tweet it, I’d get in trouble pretty quickly — I would tweet something, then have to apologize for it or explain, then I’d get even more frustrated, and who wants to be famous for that?

I guess some people?

Right, yes, the answer is obviously quite a number of people. And again, they can monetize it. Look, I’m the dumb one. I readily admit it. And I absolutely understand that I would be more successful and I’d be a wealthy man if I did that, if that’s what I concentrated on.

Do you think there is even such a thing any more as selling out?

No, that’s gone. That ship has sailed. That’s a Carnival Cruise called the Dreamliner and it’s now docking in Orlando. I’m old enough to remember the chipping away at that notion, but again, it’s … if you’re an indie band, and you’re not gonna make a lot of money, and you’re getting ripped off by Spotify and Pandora, and people are taking your music for free, and you worked hard on it, and the old ways of getting money for your work are gone, then fuck it. Sell cars. Sell a Prius, I don’t give a shit.

I mean, Tina Fey does a commercial for American Express, a credit card company with some dubious past history, and she’s phenomenally wealthy. Alec Baldwin and Samuel L. Jackson are doing commercials for banks. And there’s all that synergistic “Stay at the Reebok House in Brooklyn for a month. You can stay rent-free and record. You just gotta give Reebok some of your songs.” Nobody thinks twice about it.

Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?

It doesn’t matter what I think. I’m just one guy, but I think now it’s fine — it’s a good thing. If I could go back in time 20 years to when this shit started happening, well, that’s a bad thing. But now it doesn’t mean anything anymore. If I say to you, “That band fun. is doing a commercial for Chase bank,” and I’m surprised and slightly disgusted by it, then I’m the idiot. I’m the old man. You look at people that age and I just seem like some weird dinosaur. They’d be like, “I don’t get it, they offered us a million dollars, dude. Why is that a bad thing?” And for the world they’ve grown up in, it’s fine. That’s what we are as a society — we monetize and commodify ideas. You’re a fool if you believe in some sort of purity of your ability to express yourself. Go to Art Basel, or whatever that thing is in Miami. Go anywhere — art is to be commodified. And the last couple generations have grown up where that’s just what you do.

You act, you do stand-up, you write, now you direct. What’s the most important art to you?

Writing, absolutely, writing is what’s most important to me. And writing is a part of stand-up, but.… Acting is very impressive when somebody can do it well, but I don’t think it’s nearly as important as good writing. I’m not saying that I’m a good writer, but I think that’s the more important thing. You don’t have any acting without writing. You don’t have any directing without writing.

Talking Shop: An Evening with Hal Hartley

Recently, filmmaker Hal Hartley came to Kickstarter HQ for a screening of his new film Ned Rifle. The film is the conclusion of the family-centric trilogy that also includes Henry Fool and Fay Grim — "This is like my Star Wars," he quipped in the conversation that followed the screening. 

Among other topics he discussed with Kickstarter's Yancey Strickler: film school, how everybody seems to want to be a standup comic lately, and the interesting thing that happens when you work with an ensemble cast for decades.