Anything You Want To Be

A teenager's humorous collision with gender role stereotypes.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
8 mins
Remote video URL


Anything You Want To Be was one of the earliest and most popular films of the Women's Movement. Made in 1971, this groundbreaking film about a teenager's humorous collision with gender role stereotypes was one of the first to explore the external pressures and the more subtle, internal pressures a girl faces in finding her identity.

In a series of comical vignettes, a bright high school girl finds that, despite her parents' assurance that she can be "anything she wants to be," she is repeatedly foiled by social expectations and media stereotypes.

As a part of the growing women’s movement, this film helped give voice to a generation of women whose expectations, opportunities and career choices were extremely limited.

Anything You Want To Be is a founding film of New Day Films. It was restored with a grant from the Women's Film Preservation Fund and was recently honored with screenings at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, Barbican Centre in London and at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Featured review

…a groundbreaking work of the Women's Movement
New York Women in Film & Television
New York Women in Film & Television


...a biting satire of the pressures of family, peers and society that force women to compromise their individuality and intellectual goals to assume a constantly changing identity of femininity.
A timeless classic: fascinating in the present and wonderful for historical perspective. A great discussion starter about what has changed for women...and what hasn't.
Jean Kilbourne
creator "Killing Us Softly"
…successfully captures the humor, pain, hysteria, and pathos of being a teenage girl. The tone is humorous. We laugh. But we know that just below the surface the tears are welling up. Just the right image to convey the message eloquently, artfully, and politically.
Nancy Williamson
The Second Wave
…Delightful and imaginative... greatly entertaining while highly thought-provoking.
Educational Film Library Association
Educational Film Library Association

Awards and Screenings

Tribeca Film Festival, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Blue Ribbon, American Film Festival
First International Festival of Women's Films, New York
International Festival of Women's Films, Paris
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Barbican Centre, London
Full Frame Film Festival
Whitney Museum of American Art
AFI Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC

Director Commentary

In 1970, I was teaching high school in Quincy, MA, a working class suburb of Boston. I knew precious little about filmmaking - but I was acutely aware of how rigidly my young women students were being socialized. I began to see film as a powerful political and educational tool. I was also a member of Bread & Roses (which I joined in 1969) and I knew we needed to counter the media stereotypes which portrayed us all as bra-burning, ugly, crazy, man-hating radicals.

We needed a film to use in consciousness-raising groups and to explain the issues facing young women in a humorous and non-threatening way. My Bread & Roses collective helped raise some of the money, and using the high school football team’s camera and some of my high school students, I made Anything You Want To Be.

In those days, there were few 16mm cameras available for non-professionals, no portable video, and few distributors interested in women’s films. The independent film movement was in its early stages. There were few women making films and even fewer who were dealing specifically with women’s political issues. I didn’t know at the time that I had unwittingly become one of the first independent women filmmakers in New England.

There were few films were available to women that could be used for discussion in consciousness-raising groups. Anything You Want To Be raised issues that had rarely been dealt with on film. Because it broke new ground, it became a landmark in both the Women’s Movement and in the independent film community. It demonstrated that film could be a powerful tool to promote change in regard to critical women’s issues.

Anything You Want To Be became one of the most popular and widely screened films of the early Women’s Movement. News of the film spread primarily through word of mouth and women’s movement newsletters. It was screened by hundreds of schools, libraries, colleges and women’s consciousness raising groups across the US and in Canada.

At the time, there were virtually no outlets for political or social issue films, let alone films directed by women. (Cable, home video, Netflix, YouTube, streaming, etc. didn’t exist). Distributors said there was no audience for films about women’s issues. So in 1971, Julia Reichert, Amalie Rothschild and Jim Klein and I created New Day Films, the first feminist/social issue distribution cooperative. We were told that we’d fail in a year! New Day is now 51 years old and has become a successful and honored institution in the film community. We now have over 150 members spread across the United States. Our films have received nine Academy Award nominations, four Emmys, hundreds of awards at film festivals as well as broadcasts on PBS, HBO, the Learning Channel and others.

Anything You Want To Be is one of the original founding films of New Day Films. In 1972 it was presented at the historic First International Festival of Women's Films in New York and in Paris. It was awarded a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival and received many other awards. It opened the first Women’s Film Festival in Iran, and was featured at international festivals in London, Tokyo, Toronto and Moscow. It was featured at the first American Film Institute screening at the Kennedy Center, and it was screened at the Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Art Institute, the Robert Flaherty International Film Seminar and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York among others. It was also broadcast on WNET-TV New York, KTTV-TV Los Angeles, KRMA-TV Denver, WNAC-TV and WBZ-TV Boston.

In 2010 the film was restored with a grant from the Women’s Film Preservation Fund. Following its restoration, it was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, and shown at the Museum of Modern Art in 2012. Its historical significance was further recognized by screenings at The Barbican Theatre in London, UnionDocs in NY, the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill, UK and other venues in 2018 and 2019.

In 2012, The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library of Duke University created the New Day Collection comprised of the New Day’s founders’ films and historical materials, and digitals files of all the films in the New Day cooperative. The films will remain in active distribution through New Day however.

Additional Information

Anything You Want To Be had another historic role to play. In 1972 the film and I became the focal points of what would become a landmark legal case: Liane Brandon v. Regents of the University if California (441 F. Supp. 1086 (1977). I brought suit when the University of California Extension Media Center (and later AT&T) copied my film title and made films very similar to mine. Although film titles can’t be copyrighted, the court found that film titles are entitled to judicial protection under the common-law doctrine of unfair competition as codified in the Lanham Act. The Federal Court ruling in my favor still serves to protect the film titles in the United States.

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