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Congratulations to the participants of the first cohort of WIF’s Emerging Producers Program!
The one-year course provides women and non-binary people, early in their producing careers, the information and entry points they need to advance. Through master classes, mentorship, and advising, participants will gain valuable insights into the fundamentals of creative and physical production, the various tracks producers can take, and how to start a successful independent business. Participants, who were selected by a jury of industry leaders and veteran producers, have experience in producing shorts, digital content, commercials, series, documentaries, and are focused on building careers across various producing tracks in both film and television.
Program Mentors—Jenn Asaro (VP, Physical Production Finance, Warner Bros.), Chelsea Barnard (Booksmart, If Beale Street Could Talk), Yolanda Cochran (SVP, Live-Action Long-Form Production, Nickelodeon & Awesomeness), Linda Goldstein Knowlton (We Are the Radical Monarchs, Code Black), Niija Kuykendall (EVP, Film Production, Warner Bros.), Monica Levinson (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, The Trial of the Chicago 7), Lyn Sisson-Talbert (Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, Bookmarks), and Jeanette Volturno (Partner & Co-Founder, Catchlight Studios)—in addition to a number of other advisors, will serve throughout the year to give advice and teach best practices as the participants embark on forming their LLCs and/or producing projects.
“In our work, we’ve seen a growing need for resources dedicated specifically to producers,” says WIF Director of Programs Maikiko James. “As we continue to make strides for gender parity in our industry, it’s critical to support underrepresented producers. This cohort represents extraordinary talent that we are committed to supporting in sustainable careers.”
This program is made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. It is also supported by eMinutes, which is waiving its fees for legal services including forming LLCs, for participants of the WIF Emerging Producers Program.
The Emerging Producers Program participants are:
Apoorva Charan is an L.A.-based producer who was born in India, raised in California, and started her career at FremantleMedia Singapore as a digital producer. Charan received her M.F.A. in Film from Columbia University and has produced over twenty short films including LONELY BLUE NIGHT, which won the Audience Award at AFI Fest 2020, was an official selection at the Atlanta Film Festival, was a finalist for the HBO APA Visionaries award, and is available to stream on HBO MAX; 空间 DISTANCE, which premiered at the 29th Singapore International Film Festival 2018, and won Film Pipeline’s Best Film Award 2020; and INTERIORS, which premiered at TIFF 2018 and was an official selection for Clermont-Ferrand 2019. Charan was a 2019 Project Involve Creative Producing fellow, a 2020 Film Independent Creative Producing Lab fellow, is an Executive Leadership mentee for the Salon’s inaugural class, and has worked in development at Big Beach, Walt Disney Studios, and Blue Harp. Her producing projects include GULAAB, a feature film which participated in the Open Doors Hub at Locarno in 2018, Film Independent’s Fast Track in 2020, and is a collaboration with Arte Germany; and “Horizon,” a series in development at Ivanhoe.
Lydia “Sue-Ellen” Chitunya is a filmmaker who hails from Zimbabwe. She is a 2019 Georgia State University “40 Under 40” honoree and a graduate of the UCLA Professional Producing Program. Her success as a short film producer was recognized with membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She is a Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship award recipient. Chitunya has participated in various artist development programs including: Film Independent Producing Lab, WIF INSIGHT, 2019 Industry Academy, Rotterdam Lab, Film Independent’s Project Involve, and Berlinale Talents. Her varied work experience includes marketing for Disney College Program and programming for Zimbabwe, Atlanta, and Slamdance Film Festivals. She recently worked as a Post Production Coordinator on Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019) and BLACK PANTHER (2018).
Luz Agudelo Gipson, a Colombian native, attended Columbia College Chicago, where she received a B.A. in Film and Video. She is proud of her immigrant roots, which have allowed her to experience the U.S. through a different lens. Her works include several award-winning short films and countless commercials for many brands, most notably the “Obama for America” 2008 presidential campaign, which received the Titanium and Integrated Lions Grand Prix award at Cannes. Currently, she is a Senior Producer at the leading advertising agency FCB. She was a 2016 Film Independent Producing Lab fellow, a 2018 TFI Network fellow, and participated in WIF’s 2019 Film Financing and Strategy Intensive with the Spanish-language film GIRL WITH CHILD.
Vanessa Haroutunian (they/she) is a queer producer, artist, and curator. Haroutunian received their B.A. in Film & Electronic Arts from Bard College, where they were awarded the Jerome B. Hill Award for Documentary Excellence. Haroutunian recently produced the short film “Flourish”, directed by Heather María Ács, which won Best LGBTQ Short at the Big Apple Film Festival, and has screened at various festivals including Oscar-qualifying HollyShorts, OutFest Fusion, NewFest, London Shorts, and at BAM’s Programmers Notebook series. Haroutunian also produced the short film “Flock”, directed by Ariel Mahler, which is currently being developed into a feature with Haroutunian attached to produce. The feature screenplay of Flock was a finalist for Diverse Voices’ 2021 Screenwriting Lab. This year, Haroutunian teamed up with co-creators Daquisha Jones and Ariel Mahler to produce a special season of the web series Bad Ally: Quarantine Chronicles. Haroutunian is currently in post-production on a short film entitled “Blue”, directed by Tae Braun and HK Goldstein, starring two transgender leads that has been supported by InsideOut’s Re:Focus Fund. Haroutunian’s goal is to produce films that fill the gaps in the film industry, creating opportunities for diversity, inclusivity, and intersectionality in front of and behind the camera.
Takara Joseph was born in the Virgin Islands and raised in Atlanta. She is a 2020 Film Independent Project Involve fellow and a Daytime Emmy-nominated producer and director of the 13-time Daytime Emmy-nominated series “Giants,” which originally premiered on Issa Rae’s YouTube channel, where it amassed over 6 million views. “Giants” is currently streaming exclusively on BET+. Praised for its authentic portrayal of the Black millennial experience, “Giants” has won Best Drama at the Streamys, the Indie Series Awards, and the International Academy of Web and Television Awards. She also created the series “Unapologetically Black,” which was an official selection for the Pan African Film Festival and the BronzeLens Film Festival. Most recently, she produced the short film JUNEBUG, which was an official selection for the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival, and American Black Film Festival. Takara recently signed on to produce her first documentary film, SOCIAL BEAUTY, chronicling how influencers are changing the standards of the mainstream beauty market. Her company, Silhouette Productions, is focused on telling impactful stories that explore the human experience and drive conversation.
Quan Lateef-Hill is a multi-hyphenate producer, filmmaker, and creator developing and producing multi-platform content in television, film, digital, podcast, live event, and experimental production. Throughout her 20-year career, Lateef-Hill’s award-winning body of work has included scripted and unscripted content and experiences with studios and networks such as Viacom/BET/Vh1, Quibi, New York Times, Discovery, NBC, PBS, Bravo TV, Issa Rae Presents, Refinery29, Doc Society, Tool of America, Phenomenon, Citizen Jones, AFROPUNK, BLACK GIRLS ROCK!, and others. She has produced and directed talent around the globe, including locations such as London, Paris, Johannesburg, and Brasil. Many of her roles have included development, packaging, pre- and post-production, staffing, impact strategy, talent booking, and management. Lateef-Hill formed Too Qute Productions in 2009 to produce and create projects that expand current perspectives of marginalized communities and focus on the narratives of women, youth, and people of color. Her goal is to inspire change and use storytelling to shift the global consciousness. Recently, she was an inaugural member of the 2019 Blackhouse Foundation/Independent Film Project (IFP) Multicultural Producers Fellowship, supported by HBO.
Sophie Luo is a producer and filmmaker. Her recent work includes campaigns and videos for TED’s Climate Countdown global initiative, Nike’s SNKRS app, a viral Desus and Mero collaboration with Timberland, and a collaboration with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats. Her short documentary CLOSING ANNISA, which follows acclaimed chef Anita Lo as she shutters her restaurant Annisa after 17 years in the West Village, recently played at Athena Film Festival, Seattle Asian American Film Festival, Omaha Film Festival, and Anchorage International Film Festival. She is currently developing her first feature.
Alexandra Perez is a producer and production manager who has worked on content spanning television, film, digital, and commercial platforms. Her experience as both a studio production executive and freelance producer has given her unique expertise on projects of every format and budget. She began her production career as a Production Coordinator at Entertainment One before making her way to Blumhouse, as Manager of Production for TV. She transitioned to freelance production on the Blumhouse/Hulu anthology series “Into The Dark,” where she served as Production Supervisor across two seasons. Most recently she has produced commercials and branded content for clients including: BuzzFeed, Uproxx, Amazon Prime Video, Universal Music Group, Walmart, and FabFitFun. Originally from South Florida, she is a first-generation American who graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies before moving to Los Angeles in 2012.
Juliana Schatz Preston is a Colombian-American documentary film producer and director. Her directorial debut, LOS COMANDOS, was shortlisted for the 2019 Academy Awards and was a nominee for the 2018 International Documentary Award. Her short film, WAITING FOR TEARAH, premiered at the Double Exposure Film Festival and was supported by ITVS, FRONTLINE, Firelight Media, Type Investigations, and The Fund for Investigative Journalism. In 2020, Preston won the Silurians Press Club medallion for her Reveal & Type Investigations radio documentary about parents of children with severe mental illness being pressured to give up child custody. In 2018 she was nominated for a Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her film LOS COMANDOS. Preston started Complex World, a youth culture/current affairs documentary series that goes beyond the headlines with in-depth stories told through a pop-culture lens. Preston loves the opportunity to speak with students. She has been a guest speaker for students at Columbia University, York College (CUNY), and IRIS-In / Ghetto Film School, among others. Preston has an undergraduate degree from Northeastern University and attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in New York with her husband and two young sons.
June 3, 2021
Although Mental Health Awareness Month is observed in May, WIF is committed to spotlighting the filmmakers, scholars, activists, mental health providers, and projects that uplift this issue throughout the year. Recently, we had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Linda Mills, director of the new film THE REST OF US, which explores a mental health crisis on a university campus in the wake of 9/11 and a cluster of student suicides. Dr. Mills is the director of documentaries like AUF WIEDERSEHEN: ‘TIL WE MEET AGAIN and BETTER TO LIVE. The interview below has been edited for clarity and length.
WIF: Tell us about the genesis of THE REST OF US. You’re currently the executive director of NYU’s Center on Violence and Recovery: what were you seeing in your work that led you to tell these overlapping stories at this time?
Dr. Linda Mills: It became obvious to me that we were not talking about suicide prevention in ways that it needed to be. In particular, we were not talking about the stories of a diverse population who might be experiencing mental health [challenges]. And as we’ve seen in the last several years, there really has been an increase in vulnerability among new populations: African-Americans, Latinx… we’re starting to see an increase in suicidal ideation and attempts. And it was so important that we start to address these issues in popular culture so that people could see themselves inside these stories.
WIF: You bring up the fact that these issues are increasingly becoming apparent to us, the mental health challenges faced by communities that have not had a spotlight. There are some really brutal truths that are laid bare in this film and some tough issues that the audience has to confront along with the characters. For instance, we see students asking, “Hey, would we be having these campus-wide conversations about mental health if the only person who had died by suicide was Stayci, a young black woman?” What were the sorts of conversations that you were having with the writers as this film developed to say, “Okay, we need to foreground this. We need to put this front and center.”
LM: Yeah. So we brought together Ricardo [Pérez González], who was the co-writer with Laura [Moss], and is also somebody who does devising work. “Devising work” is where you bring together a group of experts, activists, people who have considerable experience in a particular area to start to test out what the story might be about. And so we use[d] devising sessions. We had several of them that Ricardo led where we talked about a particular issue of vulnerability, resilience, suicide prevention. We talked about an issue, even 9/11… What would a story look like that might address or try to address this issue? And so we used a diverse group of activists as well as mental health providers—including me—to try and think through, ok what would a story that tells a much more diverse pathway to thinking about mental health look like? And it was through those devising sessions that then, together with Ricardo and Laura, we worked collectively to create a much broader story about complex layers of mental health and how different groups might be affected differently.
WIF: The backdrop for this particular story, the story of confusion and fear and pain and trauma and loss, is the larger trauma of September 11, 2001. How do you see that framing at work in the narrative? What do you think it adds?
LM: What is obvious is that each generation has a particular way [of coping]. School shootings were very much defining [for] Generation Z. I wanted to take this large event because you don’t know exactly how it’s influencing people, but you know that it’s there in the zeitgeist… You don’t exactly know, is it racism? Is it 9/11? Is it the influence of COVID? We never know exactly and can never tie it back precisely, but those events very much influence the levels of trauma and resilience that students can sustain, or certainly the resilience they can find, but also the trauma they can and cannot sustain.
WIF: [THE REST OF US] was really effective in showing the incredibly complicated calculus to uncovering how people respond in any given moment. As you say: is it COVID-19, is it racism? Is it economic precarity? And rather than one thing, it’s this potent cocktail of all of these things at once.
LM: And let me say one other thing, then there is also the personal vulnerability, and that’s what we were trying to capture: the combination of things, which is how somebody comes to the world. And Maddie’s case with her grandmother, who was always smiling and died under these very confusing circumstances, you know, so it’s both the personal, but it’s also this, as you described it, this lurking of what’s going on in the larger culture, and how does that influence people differently? Yeah.
WIF: One of the quietest and most devastating scenes in the film comes when Maddie’s parents come to collect her things from the dorm room that she shared with Amy, and her mother asks the Dean,”Did she talk to anyone?” And the Dean says no, she never reached out to any faculty members or staff at the university. And her mother says, did anyone reach out to her? It’s such a crucial reminder of the things that we owe each other. Can you talk about scenes like that in the script that particularly resonated with you?
LM: Yeah, there were so many… the parents became, in a sense, this wonderful mechanism by which we could illuminate exactly what you’re talking about, which is these moments of our responsibility to reach out to each other and how we just miss them. So part of the film was really to highlight those opportunities for people to see, “Wow, just a small reach across the divide can go a long way.” And I think that institutions have to come to realize, just as the Dean says: I’m a person, I’m not an institution, and this affects me. And so the question is, how do we do better at the institutional level to personalize? And that really has to be a collective action. That has to be that each of us both feel that sense of responsibility at the individual level, but also at the collective level.
And so you start to see universities, colleges, high schools, where there have been contagions, where you start to see the ways in which you build out peer and other programs, to be sure that when you see that vulnerability, it is each of our responsibility to do whatever we can to make sure that if somebody feels that sense of responsibility, and isn’t talking about it, isn’t even asking necessarily, but in this quiet way, you see the signs. And those are the moments in the film that I feel are the most important and the most effective.
WIF: So what would you say to the viewer who recognizes, “Yes, I want to do better. I want to not be purely reactive when a traumatic event like this happens or when I see someone struggling. I want to be more connected. I want that communication to have more substance.” But because they themselves are not a mental health professional, they feel that they don’t have the tools.
LM: I certainly hope that nobody’s walking away from the film thinking that their obligation is to somehow save someone. So, so much of this is building a network of support so that if you happen to be on that front line, all you have to do is create the bridge. There has to be a depth of mental health support that comes in to help everybody feel as though the expertise is there. And it’s really important to understand the difference between the peer support that is so crucial and can be so frontline on the one hand, and on the other hand, not to put further burdens on young people who themselves might be struggling. So that’s the trick. There has to be this direct line between them and the mental health providers who are so essential for providing the kinds of in-depth work that is necessary to be able to resolve a mental health crisis.
WIF: Can you talk about how you create an atmosphere on set where your cast can really safely explore the incredibly challenging feelings that are going to arrive in the course of telling this story? How do you draw out the performances you need? How are you ensuring the mental health and safety of your cast?
LM: We did several days of training first with the crew, so that the crew understood the complexity of what we were facing. And there was a kind of bootcamp associated with the film because it was part of Stockade Works’ initial efforts to try to train people in the film industry. We were sort of dealing with a lot of levels here. One, we were dealing with young professionals in the film industry, and two, we were dealing with really sensitive material. So we did several sessions around what does it mean to be part of [this] effort which we are going to have to explore on set in the rehearsals. By the way, it was 110 degrees. I mean, it was a very low budget film, very difficult circumstances. And so we also were dealing with kind of the physicality of it. But all that is to say, you have to prepare first.
WIF: What sort of advice would you give to other directors to lay the groundwork of doing this kind of preparation with crew for taking care of their teams?
LM: I would say a couple things. I really worked to cast using as much of my mental health expertise as anything, because I knew that we were going into very challenging territory. So I think that if you’re doing a mental health film that you really need full consultation with a team of people, frankly—I mean, I draw on my own therapeutic expertise, but I didn’t do it alone. I drew on friends and colleagues who had this expertise to make sure that every scene was ultimately delivered in a way that was sensitive to the issues.
[If] you think that you’re tackling material that really could go to a moment when we’re all struggling with that vulnerability, it’s really important to at least have on speed dial and consultation, mental health support. I think we need to take that very seriously and I think we need to take it very seriously in the film industry.
WIF: How long was this the shooting process and then the editing process for the film?
LM: I want to say it was 20 days or something. We did a few pickups afterwards, but it was I think it was no more than three weeks. Wow. The editing: a year and a half. That’s what happens in a low budget film. You have to work with what you have. The editing was so necessary and why it took so long; finding the right music and finding the right sentiment and making sure as best as one could that we weren’t in any way advancing or romanticizing suicide. And that really was the highest priority.
WIF: Okay. So last question: where do you see THE REST OF US fitting into the ecosystem of your other films? How do you position specifically the impact filmmaking that you do?
LM: I was really seeking to tell this story in a way that I didn’t think documentary film could. And that’s despite the fact that I’ve done a number of documentary films, from my own personal family story to seeking out the stories of others. So I really felt like if we were going to represent the complex things that we needed to capture, from 9/11 to racism in the system, and the outcomes of mental health, that all of those things had to be well-represented in the film. And the only way you could do that was the liberty of using a narrative approach. So all that is to say it clearly is designed to, from my point of view, to capture a story that one couldn’t really tell in a documentary format.
My goal was to elevate suicide prevention. So how do you do that in a documentary? It’s much, much more difficult because you also have to stay true to what the subjects are telling you, right? And sometimes they tell, they might share with you something that would run counter to what was really this goal of making sure that this was a film about “the rest of us,” those who were left behind. That was the complex array. That was the idea of the narrative feature rather than going in the documentary route. It just offered a kind of freedom that I felt. It was so necessary to telling an authentic story that did not do harm.
Directed by Dr. Linda G. Mills, artist, author, scholar and Executive Director of NYU’s Center on Violence and Recovery, THE REST OF US is available now on demand across most platforms.
May 26, 2021
As we go into Memorial Day Weekend, we are once again on the precipice of a summer that will be unlike any we’ve previously experienced. As vaccinations numbers rise and social distancing and capacity limits will be lifted or relaxed in California next month, many of us are navigating a return to the workplace, visiting loved ones, and socializing in a way we haven’t experienced in roughly 14 months. And while this writer is personally both nervous and excited about returning to a movie theater sometime soon, there is still so much content created and crewed by women and nonbinary folks to be excited about during the summer season, on screens big and small.
Tune in, or get a ticket to safely see these shows and movies this summer, to show networks and studios that audiences want more stories told by women behind the scenes!
All the Feels
- CODA – Directed, Written by Sian Heder; Cinematography by Paula Huidobro – Coming to Apple TV+ on August 13
- DANCING QUEENS – Directed, Written by Helena Bergström; Written by Denize Karabuda; Produced by Joana Sorobetea – Coming to Netflix on June 3
- “The End” – Created, Executive Produced by Samantha Strauss; Executive Produced by Rachel Gardner, Liz Lewin, Penny Win – Coming to Showtime on July 18
- I CARRY YOU WITH ME – Directed, Written, Produced by Heidi Ewing; Produced by Mynette Louie, Gabriela Maire; Edited by Enat Sidi – In theaters on June 25
- IN THE HEIGHTS – Written, Produced by Quiara Alegría Hudes; Produced by Mara Jacobs; Cinematography by Alice Brooks – In theaters and on HBO Max on June 11
- THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER – Directed by Augustine Frizzell; Written by Esta Spalding; Produced by Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss; Edited by Melanie Oliver – Coming to Netflix on July 23
- “Nine Perfect Strangers” – Executive Produced by Molly Allen, Nicole Kidman, Jodi Matterson, Melissa McCarthy, Liane Moriarty, Bruna Papandrea, Samantha Strauss – Coming to Hulu on August 18
- REMINISCENCE – Directed, Written, Produced by Lisa Joy – In theaters and on HBO Max on August 20
Cartoons for Grownups
- “HouseBroken” – Created, Executive Produced by Jennifer Crittenden, Clea DuVall, Gabrielle Allan; Executive Produced by Dana Honor, Sharon Horgan, Clelia Mountford – Premiering on Fox on May 31
- “Tuca & Bertie” Season 2 – Created, Executive Produced by Lisa Hanawalt; Executive Produced by Tiffany Haddish, Ali Wong – Coming to Adult Swim on June 13
- HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA: TRANSFORMANIA – Co-Directed by Jennifer Kluska; Produced by Alice Dewey Goldstone; Edited by Lynn Hobson – Only in theaters on July 23
- “Rugrats” – Created, Executive Produced by Arlene Klasky – Premiering on Paramount+ on May 27
- SAILOR MOON ETERNAL – Directed by Chiaki Kon – Coming to Netflix on June 3
- SPIRIT UNTAMED – Co-Directed by Elaine Bogan; Written by Kristin Hahn, Katherine Nolfi, Aury Wallington; Produced by Karen Foster; Music by Amie Doherty – Only in theaters on June 4
- CANDYMAN – Directed, Written by Nia DaCosta; Edited by Catrin Hedström – In theaters on August 27
- FALSE POSITIVE – Written, Produced by Ilana Glazer; Music by Yair Elazar Glotman, Lucy Railton – Coming to Hulu on June 25
- FEAR STREET PART ONE: 1994 – Directed, Written by Leigh Janiak; Produced by Jenno Topping; Music by Anna Drubich; Edited by Rachel Goodlett Katz – Coming to Netflix on July 2
- “Panic” – Executive Produced by Lauren Oliver – Coming to Prime on May 28
- “Betty” Season 2 – Created, Executive Produced by Crystal Moselle; Executive Produced by Lesley Arfin – Coming to HBO on June 11
- BLACK WIDOW – Directed by Cate Shortland; Written by Jac Schaeffer; Edited by Leigh Folsom Boyd – In theaters and on Disney+ Premier on July 9
- “Physical” – Created, Showrun by Annie Weisman; Executive Produced by Sera Gamble, Liza Johnson, Stephanie Laing, Becky Clements – Premiering on Apple TV+ on June 18
- SKATER GIRL – Directed, Written, Produced, Cinematography by Manjari Makijany; Written, Produced by Vinati Makijany; Edited by Deepa Bhatia – Coming to Netflix on June 11
- “We Are Lady Parts” – Created by Nida Manzoor – Premiering on Peacock on June 3
Laugh Out Loud
- “The Chair” – Created, Executive Produced by Amanda Peet; Created by Annie Wyman; Executive Produced by Bernadette Caulfield, Sandra Oh – Premiering on Netflix on August 27
- GOOD ON PAPER – Directed by Kimmy Gatewood; Written, Produced by Iliza Schlesinger; Edited by Kyla Plewes – Coming to Netflix on June 23
- PLAN B – Directed by Natalie Morales; Written by Prathiksha Srinivasan; Produced by Dina Hillier; Cinematography by Sandra Valde-Hansen – Coming to Hulu on May 28
- “Sex/Life” – Created, Executive Produced by Stacy Rukeyser; Executive Produced by Jessika Borsiczk – Premiering on Netflix on June 25
- BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER (1999) – The cult classic from Jamie Babbit will be playing at Rooftop Cinema Club on June 17.
- LOVE & BASKETBALL (2000) – Gina Prince-Bythewood’s coming of age romance will be playing at Rooftop Cinema Club on June 19.
- POINT BREAK (1991) – Kathryn Bigelow’s endlessly-quotable action blockbuster debuted 30 summers ago. Stream on HBO Max.
- THELMA & LOUISE (1991) – The unforgettable story of friendship and freedom, with a screenplay by Callie Khouri, also turns 30 this summer. Stream for free on AMC+.
- ENEMIES OF THE STATE – Directed by Sonia Kennebeck; Produced by Ines Hofmann Kanna; Music by Insa Rudolph; Edited by Maxine Goedicke – Coming July 30
- GONE MOM: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JENNIFER DULOS – Directed by Gail Harvey; Cinematography by Amy Belling; Produced by WIF Board member Ilene Kahn Power – Premiering on Lifetime on June 5
- RESPECT – Directed by Liesl Tommy; Written by Callie Khouri, Tracey Scott Wilson; Edited by Avril Beukes – In theaters on August 13
- RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER – Directed by Dawn Porter – Coming to National Geographic on June 18
- RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT – Directed, Produced, Edited by Mariem Pérez Riera; Music by Kathryn Bostic – Coming June 18
- ZOLA – Directed, Written by Janicza Bravo; Produced by Kara Baker, Elizabeth Haggard, Christine Vachon, Gia Walsh; Music by Mica Levi; Cinematography by Ari Wegner; Edited by Joi McMillon – In theaters on June 30
May 12, 2021
Over the next two days, millions of people are celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan—a monthlong observance of prayer, fasting, and reflection. Today we’re highlighting Muslim women in the screen industries, and invite you to join us in celebrating these exceptional filmmakers, executives, artists, and activists. Muslim communities at home and abroad also continue to endure violence and struggle. We stand in solidarity with those advocating for human rights, peace, and equality; and with all grieving the lives lost to escalating violence during the holy month of Ramadan.
A quarter of the world’s population identify as Muslim or are from Muslim-majority regions, so it bears repeating that Muslim women are not a monolith. The filmmakers named in this newsletter tell a diverse array of stories, reflecting a variety of lived experiences. Hear more people’s own words by listening to Misha Euceph‘s podcast, produced by the Higher Ground production company, “Tell Them, I Am,” featuring interviews with Muslims including filmmaker Fawzia Mirza, comedian Salma Hindy, actor Alia Shawkat, TV writer Sahar Jahani, and more.
IN CASE YOU MISSED THESE EVENTS…
- Congratulations to the women writers on The Black List’s inaugural Muslim List: Shireen Alihaji (BLUE VEIL), Zubaira Ahmed (BROOKLYN BENGALS), Jenna Mahmoud Bosco (LADY LIBERTY), Nadra Widatalla (NAILA), and Nijla Mu’Min (NOOR)!
- Nijla Mu’min‘s 2018 film JINN is a coming-of-age tale about a Black teenage girl whose family converts to Islam. Read Mu’min’s article, “As a Black Muslim Woman, Filmmaking Is My Resistance,” on Vice.
- Nominated for Best International Feature at this year’s Academy Awards, Jasmila Žbanić‘s QUO VADIS, AIDA? tells the story of the Mothers of Srebenica, who lost loved ones to the 1995 genocide of Bosniak Muslim men and boys.
- Marjane Satrapi wrote and directed the animated adaptation of her own landmark autobiographical graphic novel, PERSEPOLIS, telling the story of her own coming-of-age set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution.
- Two films about Muslim teenage girls on skateboards that couldn’t be more different: Minhal Baig‘s high school drama HALA and Ana-Lily Amirpour‘s chiaroscuro vampire thriller A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT.
- Haifaa al-Mansour‘s ouevre alone has made history, with her feature directorial debut WADJDA both the first feature directed by a Saudi woman, and the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. Since then she’s helmed MARY SHELLEY (starring Elle Fanning), NAPPILY EVER AFTER (starring Sanaa Lathan), and THE PERFECT CANDIDATE, which competed for the Golden Lion at Venice (and will air in U.S. theaters beginning May 14).
- FLORA & ULYSSES, a superhero film featuring a young girl and her squirrel friend, is an adorable kids movie from director Lena Khan, exclusively on Disney+. Something to tide over superhero fans until the premiere later this year of “Ms. Marvel,” showrun by Bisha K. Ali and starring Iman Vellani.
- The short film AMERICAN EID, written and directed by Aqsa Altaf, will be premiering on May 26 on Disney+ as part of the studio’s new Launchpad program amplifying underrepresented voices. Disney’s Mahin Ibrahim, who oversees Launchpad, said, “As a first-generation Muslim Bangladeshi woman, I know how important it is for communities to see themselves on screen, and to empower emerging filmmakers.”
- Behind the scenes, Disney Studios Content has also hired a new VP of Multicultural Audience Engagement, Marya Bangee, previously the Executive Director of Harness.
WIF MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
- WIF Film Finishing Fund grantee I’LL MEET YOU THERE, directed by Iram Parven Bilal, is available to rent. The film, which started its fundraising from the LAX protests to the #MuslimBan, was released at SXSW 2020, days after the executive order was reversed.
- Featured at WIF Member Shorts Night in 2018, Disha Patel-Webb’s THE BRIDGE and Hanadi Elyan’s NADIA’S VISA tell compelling stories featuring Muslim women lead characters.
WGA members: RSVP to attend the Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity (TTIE)’s “WRITE INCLUSION: Muslims” virtual panel event on Wednesday, May 19 at 6:00 p.m. PT, presented by WGAW’s Writers Education and Middle Eastern Writers Committees, in partnership with TTIE and Storyline Partners. This is the the latest in the Guild’s multi-part series to unpack cultural narratives surrounding TTIE’s #WriteInclusion: Tips for Accurate Representation factsheet initiative. These talks delve into authentic and nuanced storytelling, examining culture creation, how we shape stories, and how to ensure accurate and authentic characters and narratives in film and TV. This panel will focus on the portrayals and representation of Muslims. Panelists to include television writers Y. Shireen Razack (“New Amsterdam”), Ubah Mohamed (“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”), Julián Kiani (“Broke”), Fawzia Mirza (“The Red Line”), and Sue Obeidi (Director, MPAC, Hollywood Bureau); moderated by Dr. Maytha Alhassen (“Ramy”). WGA members only, click here to register.
🚨 READ THIS: Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity (TTIE), a collaborative project of WIF, has built #WriteInclusion Factsheets to empower writers and creatives to better reflect the lived experiences of marginalized communities. CLICK HERE to read tips for accurate representation of Muslims. This tool can help bridge the gabs between where we are, and where we should be, with more representation behind the scenes and in writers rooms.
WIF congratulates the women who took home Oscars at the 93rd Academy Awards, held on Sunday, April 25, 2021. This year saw a number of notable achievements for winners, and the ceremony was tied with the 91st Oscars for the most women winners, in a year when more women than ever before were nominated. Chloé Zhao won two awards for directing and producing NOMADLAND, for which she was also nominated for writing and editing, and became the first woman of color—and only the second woman ever—to win the Best Director Oscar. Emerald Fennell (herself one of only seven women ever to be nominated for Best Director) won the Original Screenplay award for PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN. The team behind MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM also made history, as winners Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson were the first Black women to even be nominated in the Makeup and Hairstyling category, and the film’s costume designer, Ann Roth, is tied for the most senior Oscar winner ever, at 89.
Neal’s acceptance speech perfectly summarized the complex emotions and issues surrounding the continued drive to be accomplishing historic “firsts” after a century of filmmaking. “As Jamika and I break this glass ceiling with so much excitement for the future… I can picture Black trans women standing up here, and Asian sisters, and Latina sisters, and indigenous women, and I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking—it will just be normal.”
And the women winners are…
NOMADLAND – Mollye Asher, Frances McDormand, Chloé Zhao, producers
Chloé Zhao, NOMADLAND
Actress in a Leading Role
Frances McDormand, NOMADLAND
Actress in a Supporting Role
Yuh-Jung Youn, MINARI
Emerald Fennell, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Animated Feature Film
SOUL – Dana Murray, producer
Documentary Feature Film
MY OCTOPUS TEACHER – Pippa Ehrlich, co-director
Documentary Short Subject
COLETTE – Alice Doyard, producer
“Fight For You” from JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH – music and lyric by H.E.R.; lyric by Tiara Thomas
SOUND OF METAL – Michelle Couttolenc
MANK – Jan Pascale
Makeup and Hairstyling
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM – Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM – Ann Roth
Pictured above from L–R: Channing Dungey, Franklin Leonard, Andria Wilson Mirza, Keri Putnam, Rena Ronson, Bird Runningwater, Kirsten Schaffer, Cathy Schulman
ReFrame, the coalition of industry professionals and partner companies founded in 2017 by WIF and Sundance Institute with the mission to increase the number of women of all backgrounds working in the screen industries, has appointed a new Director: Andria Wilson Mirza.
She will be working alongside the newly formed ReFrame Council, which includes:
- Channing Dungey, Chairman and CEO, Warner Bros. Television
- Franklin Leonard, Founder, The Black List
- Keri Putnam, ReFrame co-founder and Sundance CEO
- Rena Ronson, Head of UTA Independent Film Group
- Bird Runningwater, Senior Director of Indigenous Program and DEI, Sundance Institute
- Kirsten Schaffer, Executive Director, WIF
- Cathy Schulman, ReFrame co-funder and Oscar-winning producer
Most recently, Andria Wilson Mirza was the Executive Director of Inside Out in Toronto, Canada, one of the world’s largest LGBTQ film festivals and the home of the International LGBTQ Film Financing Forum, which was launched during her tenure. While at Inside Out, Andria also led the development of strategic partnerships that focused on industry advocacy and professional development for underrepresented filmmakers. She co-founded the North American Queer Festival Alliance and the LGBTQ talent database Out on Set, launched an endowment fund for queer women and trans emerging directors, and spearheaded a four-year partnership between Inside Out and Netflix to expand career and content development programs for LGBTQ filmmakers.
March 15, 2021
Today we celebrate the historic nomination of two women for Best Director at the Oscars, a great leap forward after only five women have previously been nominated in 93 years of the Academy Awards. It’s so heartening to see women nominated across almost every category, from Best Picture to writing, editing, and all of the crafts that make movies happen. We will continue to work for these great strides to continue as there is still more to do to achieve equality in entertainment.
We congratulate the 72 women nominated for Academy Awards this year, as well as the three women who will receive Technical Achievement Awards. We also honor the significance of several milestones among this year’s nominees, including:
- Chloé Zhao, who is nominated in four categories for Nomadland (which she directed, produced, wrote, and edited), is the first woman of color to receive a Best Director nomination. This is the first year that there are two Asian directors nominated, including Minari‘s Lee Isaac Chung.
- This is also the first year that there are two women directors nominated, as Emerald Fennell is nominated not only for directing Promising Young Woman, but also for producing and writing.
- Viola Davis, Best Actress nominee for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has the most nominations ever for a Black actress, with this being her fourth Oscar nod. She is the only Black woman with two nominations for Best Actress.
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Makeup and Hairstyling nominees Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson are the first Black women ever to be nominated for the category.
The women nominees for the 93rd Academy Awards are:
- Best Picture
- Mank – Ceán Chaffin, Producer
- Minari – Christina Oh, Producer
- Nomadland – Frances McDormand, Mollye Asher, Chloé Zhao, Producers
- Promising Young Woman – Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell, Producers
- Nomadland – Chloé Zhao
- Promising Young Woman – Emerald Fennell
- Film Editing
- Nomadland – Chloé Zhao
- Actress in a Leading Role
- Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
- Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday
- Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
- Frances McDormand – Nomadland
- Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
- Actress in a Supporting Role
- Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
- Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy
- Olivia Colman – The Father
- Amanda Seyfried – Mank
- Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari
- Original Screenplay
- Promising Young Woman – Written by Emerald Fennell
- Adapted Screenplay
- Borat Subsequent Moviefilm – Screenplay by Erica Rivinoja & Jena Friedman; Story by Nina Pedrad
- Nomadland – Written for the screen by Chloé Zhao
- Documentary Feature
- Collective – Bianca Oana
- Crip Camp – Nicole Newnham, Sara Bolder
- The Mole Agent – Maite Alberdi, Marcela Santibáñez
- My Octopus Teacher – Pippa Ehrlich
- Time – Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino
- International Feature
- The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia) – Directed by Kaouther Ben Hania
- Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina) – Directed by Jasmila Žbanić
- Animated Feature
- Onward – Kori Rae
- Over the Moon – Gennie Rim, Peilin Chou
- Soul – Dana Murray
- Live Action Short
- Feeling Through – Susan Ruzenski
- The Letter Room – Elvira Lind, Sofia Sondervan
- The Present – Farah Nabulsi
- White Eye – Shira Hochman
- Documentary Short
- Colette – Alice Doyard
- Do Not Split – Charlotte Cook
- A Love Song for Latasha – Sophia Nahli Allison, Janice Duncan
- Animated Short
- Burrow – Madeline Sharafian
- Production Design
- The Father – Cathy Featherstone
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Karen O’Hara, Diana Stoughton
- Mank – Jan Pascale
- News of the World – Elizabeth Keenan
- Tenet – Kathy Lucas
- Costume Design
- Emma. – Alexandra Byrne
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Ann Roth
- Mank – Trish Summerville
- Mulan – Bina Daigeler
- Makeup and Hairstyling
- Emma. – Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze
- Hillbilly Elegy – Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson
- Mank – Gigi Williams, Kimberley Spiteri, Colleen LaBaff
- Pinocchio – Dalia Colli
- Visual Effects
- Love and Monsters – Genevieve Camilleri
- Soul – Coya Elliott
- Sound of Metal – Michelle Couttolenc
- Original Song
- “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah – H.E.R., Tiara Thomas
- “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Celeste Waite
- “Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead – Diane Warren, Laura Pausini
In February, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrated its Scientific & Technical Awards. Receiving Technical Achievement Awards were:
- Hayley Iben, for the Taz Hair Simulation System
- Kelly Ward Hammel and Maryann Simmons, for the Walt Disney Animation Studios Hair Simulation System
Click here to read more about the women of this year’s awards season, including video interviews with nominees and the #VoteForWomen ballot.
WIF congratulates the women who were celebrated at this year’s Sundance Film Festival awards ceremony, especially Siân Heder, director of CODA, which not only is the first film in the festival’s history to win all three top prizes in the U.S. Dramatic feature category—the Grand Jury Prize, the Directing Award, and the Audience Award—but also broke records when it was bought for $25 million after its premiere. CODA additionally received the Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble, including actors Emilia Jones and Marlee Matlin.
In the U.S. Documentary competition, Natalia Almada won the Directing Prize, for USERS; Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorno won the Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award, for HOMEROOM; and Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt won the Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker, for CUSP. In the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, Blerta Basholli of Kosovo also took home the triple crown, her film HIVE winning the Grand Jury Prize, Directing Award, and Audience Award. In the World Cinema Documentary Competition, Rintu Thomas won the Special Jury Award for Impact for Change, for WRITING WITH FIRE, which also won the Audience Award; and Camilla Nielsson won the Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking, for PRESIDENT.
We also congratulate Marion Hill, who won the NEXT Audience Award for MY BELLE, MY BEAUTY; animation director Jane Samborski who won the NEXT Innovator Award for CRYPTOZOO; Natalie Qasabian, who won the Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features, for RUN; Nicole Salazar, who won the Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features, for PHILLY D.A.; Meryam Joobeur, who won the Sundance Institute NHK Award, for MOTHERHOOD; Juli Vizza, who won the Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Nonfiction; and Terilyn Shropshire, who won the Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Fiction.
WATCH NOW: WIF @ Sundance
“Let’s Talk About Sex, Maybe”
Join WIF and a panel of brilliant intimacy coordinators and their collaborators for a conversation about the vital work being done across independent film and big budget productions to ensure better storytelling and safety on set. Who are the professionals helping to set our industry standards for intimate content? What are the different ways they balance addressing the needs of actors and crew while also facilitating the artistic vision of creative decision-makers? How do they practice and encourage mindful engagement on set, particularly when faced with challenging subject matter or sensitive themes? Guests to include Amanda Blumenthal, Olivia Troy, and Michael Mohan.
A Sound, A Mood, A Place” How Music Supervisors Set the Stage
Join WIF for a fascinating discussion with music supervisor Alexandra Eckhardt about the ways she curated jazz music that accurately reflected the transition from Chicago-style blues and New Orleans brass bands to jazz orchestras in the Harlem Renaissance for Rebecca Hall’s PASSING, screening now at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. This riveting conversation will be a captivating look at how music supervisors help convey a tone, express character, propel a narrative, and immerse audiences in a world. Other guests to be announced.
WIF congratulates the women who received awards at the 28th SXSW Film Festival in March 2021.
Feature Film Grand Jury Awards
Narrative Feature Competition
The Fallout, director: Megan Park
- Special Jury Recognition for Multi-hyphenate Storyteller
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), directors: Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina
Documentary Feature Competition
- Special Jury Recognition for Exceptional Intimacy in Storytelling
Introducing, Selma Blair, director: Rachel Fleit
Short Film Grand Jury Awards
- Special Jury Recognition for Direction
Like the Ones I Used to Know, director: Annie St-Pierre
Águilas, directors: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Maite Zubiaurre
- Special Jury Recognition for Storytelling
Your Own Bullshit, director: Daria Kopiec
Madame Gandhi – “Waiting for Me,” director: Misha Ghose
- Special Jury Recognition for Pure Joy
Kuricorder Quartet – “Southpaw,” director: Sawako Kabuki
Summer Animals, director: Haley Elizabeth Anderson
- Special Jury Recognition for Vision
O Black Hole!, director: Renee Zhan
Texas High School Shorts
A Really Dark Comedy, director: Manasi Ughadmathe
- Special Jury Recognition for Directing
Beyond the Model, director: Jessica Lin
Episodic Pilot Competition
4 Feet High, directors: Maria Belen Poncio and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan
- Special Jury Recognition for Best Duo
Pretend Partners, Kristin Erickson with director Ron Najor
Title Design Competition
The Queen’s Gambit Title Sequence, designer: Saskia Marka
Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free, director: Mary Wharton
Narrative Feature Competition
The Fallout, director: Megan Park
Language Lessons, director: Natalie Morales
Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, directors: Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler
Inbetween Girl, director: Mei Makino
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror, director: Kier-La Janisse
Ninjababy, director: Yngvild Sve Flikke
In The Same Breath, director: Nanfu Wang
We Are The Thousand, director: Anita Rivaroli
Texas Shorts Competition
Learning Tagalog with Kayla, director: Kayla Abuda Galang
Texas High School Shorts Competition
Beyond the Model, director: Jessica Lin
Music Videos Competition
Kuricorder Quartet – “Southpaw,” director: Sawako Kabuki
Episodic Pilot Competition
4 Feet High, directors: Maria Belen Poncio and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan
Virtual Cinema Competition
Finding Pandora X, director: Kiira Benzing
SXSW Special Awards
Brightcove Illumination Award
The Fallout, director: Megan Park
Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award
Delia Derbyshire – the Myths and the Legendary Tapes, director: Caroline Catz
Louis Black “Lone Star” Award
Without Getting Killed or Caught, directors: Tamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield
Mailchimp Support the Shorts Special Jury Recognition
- Like the Ones I Used to Know, director: Annie St-Pierre
- Malignant, directors: Morgan Bond and Nickolas Grisham