UPDATES

Shorts Lab Details

The WIF Shorts Lab supported by Google will provide three filmmaking teams with grants of $30,000 and the support needed to produce a short film. Emerging writers, directors, creative producers, and line producers selected for the program will create a highly produced content piece to showcase their talent and advance their career opportunities.

Fellows in the program will be provided with practical support, mentorship, and guidance throughout the prep, production, and post phases of their project. Grants provided are also meant to cover resources needed to meet COVID-19 safety standards. Eligible scripts to be considered for the program should be set in the modern era and have occasion for characters to utilize the Google Assistant.

Eligibility & Requirements

  • Grant for projects will be $30,000.
  • Projects must be a short narrative film (15 minutes or less).
  • Submitted project must be in script form. Projects must not have entered the pre-production phase at the time of acceptance into the program.
  • Projects must be shot within Los Angeles County (certain exceptions may apply).
  • All dates, locations, etc., will be determined within the program and are subject to WIF and Google availability.
  • Key team members (writer, director, producer, line producer) must identify as women or gender non-binary.
  • At least one applicant must be the rights holder for the project.
  • The director must be signed on to the project at the time of submission.
  • All projects must be produced under SAG’s Short Project Agreement.
  • All projects must pay all crew (at least) California minimum wage and must follow California labor laws.
  • Filmmakers must be able to provide insurance and payroll for the productions.
  • A $30,000 budget for the project must be submitted with application with all program requirements addressed.

Short Film Requirements

  • Script must be set in present day.
  • Short film to include one (1) product placement showcasing Google Assistant on a Pixel device. This requirement assumes a character will verbally invoke a Google Assistant query and show the device responding, audibly and visually. WIF to share additional considerations after application is submitted.
  • Characters may not use technology in extreme or unrealistic settings, and technology may not be portrayed as fantastical, dangerous, or scary.
  • Google Assistant cannot be shown in children’s bedrooms or being used by children (ages 16 and under).
  • Google Assistant should not be shown, referenced, or associated with:
    • drugs and alcohol
    • crime and/or violence
    • adult content, including sexual connotations
  • No competitive products can be shown in short film.
  • Filmmaker(s) to retain ownership over completed shorts.
  • Google will supply any necessary products applicable to the Google Assistant integration scene.
  • Google to have approval of the integration prior to and after filming. A Google representative to be on set during filming.

Program Timeline

* Selected filmmakers must be available to meet all program dates and deadlines.

  • Applications open: December 1, 2021
  • Applications close: January 4, 2022
  • Participants notified: March 10, 2022
  • Participant orientation meeting: March 23, 2022
  • Key team formation, development/notes, final script approval: April 2022
  • Pre-production and filming: April/May 2022
  • Post-production: May/June 2022
  • Finished films: July 15, 2022

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who owns the rights to the finished film?
    The filmmakers will retain all rights to both the film and the underlying IP, but will agree to license the film to WIF on a non-exclusive basis. The filmmakers will also have the right to distribute the film as they wish (submit to festivals, collaborate with distributors, etc.).
  • Do I have to have a full key team (writer, director, producer, line producer) assembled when I apply?
    Because the timeline for the program moves extremely fast, we highly recommend that you have your key team in place, or ideas for who you would like to bring onboard, by the time of notifications (February 24, 2022). If you are selected for the program and do not have a producer and/or line producer in place, WIF will supply applications for interested parties; however, it is ultimately the responsibility of the selected participants to solidify the key team. The director must be in place and included in the application itself.
  • Can I book my own crew?
    It is the responsibility of the key team to hire their own crew. In alignment with WIF’s mission, we ask that the final crew is at least 50% women/gender non-binary.
  • Does WIF supply production insurance, payroll, etc.?
    Unfortunately WIF is unable to provide production insurance, payroll, or other HR support, but we may be able to advise on such resources.
  • How do I create a budget if I don’t have a producer in place?
    If you do not have a producer in place and are struggling to create your budget, we recommend seeking assistance from those within your filmmaking community. If you are a WIF program alumna, your fellow participants may be of great help. If you have not yet participated in a WIF career program, there are ample resources online to help craft a simple budget. We will also help fine-tune the budget if you are accepted into the program.
  • What type of mentors will I get?
    Each key team member will receive support from a mentor within their own career discipline.
  • Do I need to update my script with any creative requirements not listed on the website?
    No. If selected, any additional creative requirements will be incorporated into the script once the program begins.

For additional questions not covered on this page, please contact programs@wif.org.

October Premieres

October 1, 2021

Mark your calendar for this month’s television premieres and film debuts, featuring women behind the scenes of the top creative roles.

Friday, October 1

  • “Blue Bloods” season 12 – Executive Produced by Siobhan Byrne O’Connor
  • DIANA: THE MUSICAL – Produced by Beth Williams; Edited by Kate Sanford
  • “Magnum P.I.” season 4 – Executive Produced by Barbie Kligman
  • “Maid” – Executive Produced by Erin Jontow, Stephanie Land, Molly Smith Metzler, Margot Robbie
  • MAYDAY – Directed, Written, Produced by Karen Cinorre
  • MY NAME IS PAULI MURRAY – Directed, Written by Julie Cohen, Betsy West; Written, Produced by Talleah Bridges McMahon; Cinematography by Claudia Raschke
  • “S.W.A.T.” season 5 – Executive Produced by Alison Cross
  • THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2 – Produced by Gail Berman, Alison O’Brien, Danielle Sterling
  • THE GUILTY – Produced by Lina Flint, Riva Marker, Svetlana Metkina, Kat Samick
  • THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK – Produced by Nicole Lambert
  • TITANE – Directed, Written by Julia Ducournau
  • VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE – Written, Produced by Kelly Marcel; Produced by Amy Pascal; Edited by Maryann Brandon
  • VINCE CARTER: LEGACY – Produced by Laurie Berger, Katie Zakula

Sunday, October 3

  • “America’s Funniest Home Videos” season 32 – Executive Produced by Michele Nasraway
  • “Call the Midwife” season 10 – Created, Executive Produced by Heidi Thomas; Executive Produced by Pippa Harris, Ann Tricklebank, Mona Qureshi
  • “On My Block” season 4 – Created, Executive Produced by Lauren Iungerich
  • “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” season 2 – Executive Produced by Gale Ann hurd

Wednesday, October 6

  • “CSI: Vegas” – Executive Produced by Ann Donahue, Carol Mendolsohn
  • “Meet, Marry, Murder” – Executive Produced by Gillian Carter, Michelle Trachtenberg
  • “The Bradshaw Bunch” season 2 – Executive Produced by Lisa Shannon, Leola Westbrook
  • “Tough As Nails” season 3 – Executive Produced by Louise Keoghan
  • V/H/S/94 – Directed, Written by Chloe Okuno, Jennifer Reeder

Thursday, October 7

  • “15 Minutes of Shame” – Executive Produced by Jessica Conway, Allyson Luchak, Monica Lewinsky, Kristy Sabat
  • “Baker’s Dozen” – Executive Produced by Suzanne Rauscher, Tara Siener, Sandy Varo Jarrell
  • “Bull” season 6 – Executive Produced by Kati Johnston
  • “Ghosts” – Executive Produced by Alison Carpenter, Debra Hayward, Martha Howe-Douglas, Alison Owen, Angie Stephenson
  • “One Of Us Is Lying” – Executive Produced by Erica Saleh
  • “One Lane Bridge” season 2 – Created by Pip Hall; Executive Produced by Kathleen Anderson
  • “United States of Al” season 2 – Created, Executive Produced by Maria Ferrari

Friday, October 8

  • JACINTA – Directed, Produced, Cinematography by Jessica Earnshaw; Produced by Holly Meehl, Nimisha Mukerji
  • JUSTIN BIEBER: OUR WORLD – Edited by Vicky Lim
  • LAMB – Produced by Hrönn Kristinsdóttir, Sara Nassim, Klaudia Smieja; Edited by Agnieszka Glinska
  • “Leverage: Redemption” – Executive Produced by Kate Rorick, Rachel Olschan
  • MUPPETS HAUNTED MANSION – Produced by Chelsea DeVincent; Edited by Alexandra Amick
  • “Nancy Drew” season 3 – Developed, Executive Produced by Noga Landau; Executive Produced by Melinda Hsu Taylor, Stephanie Savage, Lis Rowinski
  • NO TIME TO DIE – Written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge; Produced by Barbara Broccoli
  • “Pretty Smart” – Executive Produced by Pamela Fryman, Kourtney Kang
  • “Shark Tank” season 13 – Executive Produced by Yun Linger
  • SOUTH OF HEAVEN – Produced by Amanda Presmyk
  • THE RESCUE – Directed, Produced by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Sunday, October 10

  • “Buried” – Executive Produced by Mika Timor
  • “SEAL Team” season 5 – Executive produced by Sarah Timberman
  • “The Equalizer” season 2 – Developed, Executive Produced by Terri Edda Miller; Executive Produced by Debra Martin Chase, Queen Latifah, Liz Friedlander 

Monday, October 11

  • “The Baby-Sitters Club” season 2 – Created, Executive Produced by Rachel Shukert; Executive Produced by Lucia Aniello, Naia Cucukov, Lucy Kitada

Wednesday, October 13

  • “Batwoman” season 3 – Developed, Executive Produced by Caroline Dries
  • “Dopesick” – Executive Produced by Beth Macy, Karen Rosenfelt
  • FEVER DREAM – Directed, Written by Claudia Llosa; Music by Natalie Holt
  • “Legends of Tomorrow” season 7 – Executive Produced by Sarah Schechter, Grainne Godfree, Keto Shimizu

Thursday, October 14

  • “Guilty Party” – Executive Produced by Rebecca Addelman
  • “Legacies” season 4 – Created, Executive Produced by Julie Plec

Friday, October 15

  • BERGMAN ISLAND – Directed, Written by Mia Hansen-Løve; Produced by Lisa Widén; Edited by Marion Monnier
  • HARD LUCK LOVE SONG – Allison R. Smith
  • INTRODUCING, SELMA BLAIR – Directed by Rachel Fleit; Edited by Sloane Klevin
  • NEEDLE IN A TIMESTACK – Produced by Zanne Devine
  • THE LAST DUEL – Written, Produced by Nicole Holofcener; Produced by Jennifer Fox; Edited by Claire Simpson
  • “You” – Created, Executive Produced by Sera Gamble

(To be updated with premieres for the second half of the month!)

September Premieres

September 1, 2021

September is the biggest month of the year for television premieres, and some long-awaited film openings. We’ve got your viewing calendar for the month all set, highlighting the women behind-the-scenes of the top creative roles throughout the landscape of screens big and small:

Thursday, September 2

  • What We Do in the Shadows” – The third season of the supernatural comedy mockumentary series premieres on FX; executive produced by Stefani Robinson

Friday, September 3

  • CINDERELLA – The Camila Cabello-led retelling of the classic fairytale debuts on Amazon Prime; directed & written by Kay Cannon; produced by Shannon McIntosh; music by Jessica Weiss; edited by Stacey Schroeder
  • KAREN – This BET Original Movie debuts theatrically and on demand; produced by Mary Aloe, Gillian Hormel, and Taryn Manning
  • Money Heist” Season 5 of the Spanish crime drama returns to Netflix; executive produced by Cristina López Ferraz and Sonia Martínez
  • SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS – The next installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuts in theaters, and will be available to stream at home on Disney Plus Premiere beginning on October 18; edited by Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir
  • THE GATEWAY – A new crime thriller co-starring Olivia Munn; edited by Suzy Elmiger and Trish Fuller
  • YAKUZA PRINCESS – An action thriller set amongst the Japanese community in Brazil; written by Kimi Lee; written & produced by Tubaldini Shelling
  • ZONE 414 – A new sci-fi thriller; produced by Deborah Shaw-Kolar

Tuesday, September 7

  • Impeachment: American Crime Story” – The 3rd season of ACS, starring Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky, premieres on FX; executive produced by Sarah Burgess, Nina Jacobson, Sarah Paulson, and Alexis Martin Woodall

Thursday, September 9

  • TIME IS UP – An Italy-set romance starring Bella Thorne; directed & written by Elisa Amoruso; written by Patrizia Fiorellini; cinematography by Martina Cocco; edited by Irene Vecchio

Friday, September 10

  • KATE – Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars in this action-thriller premiering on Netflix; produced by Kelly McCormick; edited by Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir and Sandra Montiel
  • Lucifer” – Season 6 premieres on Netflix; executive produced by Sheri Elwood, Iidy Modrovich, and KristieAnne Reed
  • LuLaRich” – A four-part docuseries chronicling the infamous multi-level marketing scheme premieres on Amazon Prime; executive produced by Blye Pagon Faust and Cori Shepherd Stern
  • MALIGNANT – The horror feature debuts in theaters and on HBO Max; story by Ingrid Bisu and Akela Cooper
  • THE CARD COUNTER – This thriller co-stars Tiffany Haddish; produced by Lauren Mann
  • QUEENPINS – This scam comedy co-led by Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste will be available on Paramount+; directed & written by Gita Pullapilly; produced by Linda McDonough; edited by Kayla Emter
  • SMALL ENGINE REPAIR – A film adaptation of the black comedy play; music by Kathryn Kluge

Monday, September 13

  • Y: The Last Man” – The long-awaited comic book adaptation debuts on FX; executive produced by Eliza Clark, Aïda Mashaka Croal, Louise Friedberg, Nina Jacobson, Melina Matsoukas, Mari-Jo Winkler

Tuesday, September 14

  • BAD CANDY – A horror anthology feature; co-directed and written by Desiree Connell

Friday, September 17

  • BEST SELLERS – A dramedy co-starring Aubrey Plaza; directed by Lina Roessler; produced by Arielle Elwes; cinematography by Claudine Sauvé
  • BLUE BAYOU – A drama co-starring Alicia Vikander; produced by Poppy Hanks and Kim Roth
  • CRY MACHO – The latest Western from Clint Eastwood debuts in theaters and on HBO Max; produced by Jessica Meier
  • Do, Re & Mi” – This new animated musical series premieres on Amazon Prime; executive produced by Kristen Bell and Jackie Tohn
  • EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE – This coming-of-age musical adaptation debuts on Amazon Prime; music by Anne Dudley
  • LADY OF THE MANOR – This comedy starring Judy Greer and Melanie Lynskey premieres theatrically and on demand; produced by Dori A. Rath; edited by Annette Davey
  • PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND – Sofia Boutella co-stars in this new action flick premiering on demand; produced by Lauren Rister
  • Sex Education” – The third season of this beloved series returns to Netflix; executive produced by Laurie Nunn
  • THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE – Jessica Chastain stars in this biopic; produced by Chastain along with Kelly Carmichael, Gigi Pritzker, and Rachel Shane; edited by Mary Jo Markey
  • THE MAD WOMAN’S BALL – Adapted from Victoria Mas’ novel and starring its writer/director, the film will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and be released on Amazon Prime; directed & written by Mélanie Laurent; produced by Axelle Boucaï; edited by Anny Danché
  • THE NOWHERE INN – A genre-bending music mockumentary; written/produced/starring Carrie Brownstein and St. Vincent; produced by Lana Kim; music by St. Vincent; edited by Ali Greer
  • THE WONDERFUL: STORIES FROM THE SPACE STATION – A new documentary; directed by Clare Lewins

Monday, September 20

  • 9-1-1” – Season 5 premieres on Fox; executive produced by Angela Bassett, Kristen Reidel, and Alexis Martin Woodall
  • Dancing with the Stars” – Season 30 (yes, thirty!) premieres on ABC; executive produced by Tyra Banks, Ashley Edens, Madalyn Meyers
  • The Big Leap” – A new dance competition series premieres on Fox; executive produced by Liz Heldens and Sue Naegle
  • The Voice” – The 21st season premieres on NBC; executive produced by Audrey Morrissey, Kyra Thompson, and Amanda Zucker

Tuesday, September 21

  • New Amsterdam” – The medical drama’s fourth season premieres on NBC; executive produced by Kate Dennis
  • Our Kind of People” – The new drama series starring Yaya DaCosta premieres on Fox; executive produced by Claire Brown, Karin Gist, and Pamla Oas Williams
  • The Resident” – Season 5 debuts on Fox; executive produced by Amy Holden Jones and Elizabeth Klaviter

Wednesday, September 22

  • Alter Ego” – The new avatar-based reality singing competition debuts on Fox; executive produced by Matilda Zoltowski
  • A Million Little Things” – Season 4 premieres on ABC; executive produced by Dana Honor
  • Chicago Fire” – Season 10 premieres on NBC; executive produced by Danielle Claman Gelber and Andrea Newman
  • Chicago Med” – Season 7 premieres on NBC; executive produced by Diana Frolov and Danielle Claman Gelber
  • Chicago P.D.” – Season 9 premieres on NBC; executive produced by Danielle Claman Gelber
  • Home Economics” – The 2nd season of this family comedy premieres on ABC; executive produced by Kim Tannenbaum
  • The Conners” – Season 4 of the sitcom reboot premieres on ABC; executive produced by Sara Gilbert and Debby Wolfe
  • The Goldbergs” – Season 9 of the retro family comedy premieres on ABC; executive produced by Annette Sahakian Davis and Anne Mebane

Thursday, September 23

Friday, September 24

  • DEAR EVAN HANSEN – The Broadway hit adaptation; edited by Anne McCabe
  • Goliath” – Season 4 premieres on Prime Video; executive produced by Jennifer Ames
  • I’M YOUR MAN – A sci-fi romance; directed & written by Maria Schrader; written by Emma Braslavsky; produced by Lisa Blumenberg

Sunday, September 26

  • Bob’s Burgers” – Season 12 premieres on Fox; executive produced by Holly Schlesinger, Nora Smith, Lizzie Molyneux Logelin, and Wendy Molyneux
  • Family Guy” – The 20th season premieres on Fox; executive produced by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Kara Vallow
  • Supermarket Sweep” – The 2nd season of this reality reboot premieres on ABC; executive produced by Alycia Rossiter
  • The Great North” – The 2nd season of the animated comedy returns on Fox; executive produced by Minty Lewis, Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin, and Wendy Molyneux
  • The Rookie” – Season 4 debuts on ABC; executive produced by Michelle Chapman and Liz Friedlander
  • The Simpsons” – The 33rd season debuts on Fox; executive produced by Carolyn Omine

Monday, September 27

  • The Good Doctor” – The medical drama’s fourth season premieres on ABC; executive produced by Liz Friedman and Erin Gunn

Tuesday, September 28

  • Ada Twist, Scientist” – This animated children’s series debuts on Netflix; executive produced by WIF Board Member Chris Nee, Andrea Beaty, Tonia Davis, Priya Swaminathan, and Michelle Obama
  • La Brea” – The new sci-fi drama series premieres on NBC; executive produced by Naomi Cleaver and Rachel Kaplan

Thursday, September 30

  • Grey’s Anatomy” – Season 18 of the landmark hospital drama premieres on ABC; executive produced by Debbie Allen, Betsy Beers, Zoanne Clack, Meg Marinis, Stacy McKee, Marti Noxon, Joan Rater, Jeannine Renshaw, Shonda Rhimes, and Krista Vernoff
  • Station 19” – The firehouse-set “Grey’s” spinoff airs on ABC; executive produced by Betsy Beers, Stacy McKee, Ellen Pompeo, Shonda Rhimes, and Krista Vernoff

Interview: Really Love Director Angel Kristi Williams

August 25, 2021

Really Love, the new feature from director Angel Kristi Williams and co-writer Felicia Pride is a gorgeous evocation of the richness of Black love, culture, and urban life, via the story of Isaiah (Kofi Siriboe, “Queen Sugar”), a struggling artist, and the enchanting woman who changes his life, Stevie (Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing, THE PARADISE SUITE). Set in a gentrifying Washington, D.C., the film offers an incredible tapestry of music and art, from visual artists like Meleko Mokgosi and Chanel Compton to the songs of Ari Lennox and Kamasi Washington.

Read on for our interview with Williams, in which she discusses working with her director of photography on the color theory that informed the film’s palette, explains her process for connecting with her cast and crew on a story, and shares the Spotify playlist that kept her inspired during her creative journey.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


WIF: You’ve shared that this story had been with you for a long time, since you were—I think—seventeen. What was it, exactly, that you were most interested in capturing in this story?

Angel Kristi Williams: Yeah, well, I mean, one thing that I’ll say is that Felicia brought this love story to me. But my first experience with love was at the age of 17. So, what was important to me when Felicia and I decided to collaborate was, I sort of grew into that process. I had to become comfortable with being vulnerable enough to allow my own experience with love to be a part of the story. And once I fully allowed that to happen, that’s when the film got financing, that’s when I found my actors. That’s when, you know, everything just began to fall into place. But, you know, I think artists tell very personal stories, [but] there’s a wall that—especially when it’s about love and heartbreak—you don’t want to, you know, sort of put your business on front street.

But I learned that not being willing to do that was blocking the film and my process. And so the film really broke me open in some of the best ways. I walked away from production feeling like a new woman. What was important to me is to just show, like, Black people living and breathing and working and creating. And there’s no trauma; they’re just tying the space that they’ve created for themselves, that they feel facing. That, for me, was the most important.

WIF: What sorts of things were you saying to your department heads to convey what you were hoping to get out of the final project—whether it’s with the colors or the lighting or the music and the sound? Because it is so rooted in a look and a certain feeling.

AKW: We use color theory. I’m forgetting—I’m blanking on the artist’s name, but it was this psychology of color that my cinematographer, Shawn Peters, shared with me very early on. And the ironic thing was that when I read it, and it describes just how different colors embody different emotions and how you can use color to embody different emotions. I was unconsciously choosing those colors, not really realizing what they represented. And then once he shared that with me, then that became sort of the the language; that created our color palette.

WIF: Your cast received a special jury award for performances at SXSW. Can you talk a little bit about what you think characterizes the way you direct actors? What’s your approach?

AKW: The way that I approach working with actors in this film, Really Love, it really raised my bar in that regard because, just the level of trust that we all had across the board. I mean, there was just so much trust. And I’d like to, you know, build the world for the character, like even outside of what’s in the screenplay. So I made playlists; I sent them history on D.C. And in the film, Steve is a Howard alum, so I wanted her to really understand what it meant to be a Howard grad and what it meant to live in the city and what the culture felt like and what it looked like and what the language sounded like. So, I was trying to just give them so much, so that they could dig in and create these full characters. And so for me, process is about everything, everything that happens before you even get to set. And those conversations, just about character and story, and what’s important, I think really gave them the freedom and also allowed them to trust me that what we ended up creating was something that feels—I hope it will feel full for people, and rich.

WIF: How long did you actually have with the actors before you started filming? Did you have an extensive rehearsal period, a getting-to-know-each-other period with all of the cast?

AKW: Oh no, not at all. I mean, Kofi was still in production on Queen Sugar. So a lot of that work, it would happen in between setup. He would call me, we would FaceTime while he was in New Orleans. I was in Baltimore. We would just talk about character. I would send him Spotify playlists that he could listen to. Those conversations kept growing and building. Every time we had a conversation, we would continue where we left off. With Yootha, my producers made it happen, that she could come a few days earlier. So, she actually came from Amsterdam—I don’t remember how many days, but it was enough for her to like, go to a go-go and to stay in an apartment and see… you know, she had never been in D.C.

And it was really important to me, for her to at least plant her feet in the city and see what it felt like and what it smelled life. It’s an independent film, so you know, they are doing these things because they want to do that extra work. Not because we had all these resources to make that happen. But they were just really passionate about the process and what they needed to embody the characters.

WIF: Do you tend to work with the same crews often? Where are you finding people that you work with?

AKW: Yes, I’ve definitely loved working with the same people over and over and over again, like my producer Mel Jones. [Director of Photography] Shawn Peters; we hadn’t worked together until this project, but he and I have a lot of mutual friends and I was an admirer of his work. But yes, I have so many collaborators in Baltimore. I have a collective of artists that are in Baltmore. But this project also introduced me to my composer, whom I’m never gonna let go; my costume designer; my head of makeup, Ngozi [Olandu Young]. I remember calling her and I was like, “I’m coming to Baltimore. This project has no money.” I asked her to recommend someone and she was like, “I’ll do it.” And was like, “What?” You know? And we went to high school together in Baltimore.

I think that, as artists, we spend so much time creating work that, I think if you can have community in [that] work, that it just makes the process so much better. And I think that process is more important than the product, you know what I mean? For me, just having a particular kind of collaborators is like, number one, supreme for me.

WIF: Let’s talk about the music in this film and how crucial it is. How exactly do you work with your music supervisor or with your composer? Are you bringing songs to them, saying, “I want this song in particular,” or, “I just want something to sound like this; this is the kind of sonic landscape I’m trying to create here”?

AKW: So, I love music. I listen to music all day long. It’s such a huge part of my process that the reason that the playlist even exists is because when Felicia and I were still working on the screenplay, I needed music to help me imagine the film. I was listening to different things to turn to that mindset. But also it’s hard for me not to imagine what things sound like. I was trying to sort of figure out, well, what type of music does he listen to? What type of music does she listen to? What types of music would they listen to together? And what’s his music sound like when they make love for the first time?

For me, all of those things were important. And so they were in the screenplay. And so, when my music supervision team came on board, I shared with them the playlist, which is now ten hours long, because it was growing over the course of two years. And I still, you know, listen to that playlist.

It’s funny, some of the music that was on that playlist is in the film. I heard it, like many, many years ago. And then, of course there were things like, “Angel, we can’t afford this. We don’t have the budget for this.” My music supervision team was amazing in that they listened to that playlist. They read the screenplay and we had conversations. So they also brought so much new music to me. I was like, this is a D.C. story. Like, let’s get some local artists in here, you know what I mean? So we got, you know, Ari Lennox, April + VISTA, and Oddisee. People who are making great, great music, but also just kind of embody what it means to be from this particular place. The music is like one of the things that I’m the most proud of.

WIF: What was the process of taking the script to market and pitching it to places like MACRO, who ultimately said, “Yes, there’s a home for this here.”

AKW: One of my other producers, Aaliyah Williams, she and I were friends. We met through a mutual friend when I first moved to L.A. And she, at the time, was COO of Digital at MACRO. She was the one who walked the screenplay into MACRO. I was on the set of my producer, Mel Jones, who had created and was directed a web series that MACRO was financing and producing. I was on her set, shadowing her, and Aaliyah and I just started chatting and she was like, “What are you working on?” I was like, “I think I’ve found the screenplay that I want to be my first feature.” And she was like, “Well, what is it about?”

I said, “You know, it’s Love Jones meets Blue Valentine set in D.C.” And she was like, “I need to read that.” It was December, and you know, in December, like around the 15th, L.A. shuts down, and nobody’s coming back until like, the second week in January. So I hesitated to send the screenplay, but that next morning was a Saturday. I said, “Angel, send her the look book and send her the screenplay.” Thinking, she’ll get to it when she gets to it.

And on Sunday morning I had a voicemail and an email and she said, “So, I wasn’t ready to read the screenplay, but I looked at the look book and it was so dope that I said, ‘Let me just read, like, the first ten pages.'” She said, “I read the first ten pages and I couldn’t stop.”

She said, “What are we doing? We need to make this now.” And so she gave the script to Stacey King, Charles King’s wife, and she read it and told him, “You have to read it.” After he read it, it took him, I think, about two months, which was the most excruciating two months of my life. And he read the screenplay and asked Felicia and I to come in and pitch it. I left that meeting feeling full and feeling like that story was in me at that point. And the next day, I get a call and they’re like, “We have Charles King for you.” He gets on the phone and he said, “Never before have I been so impressed with a filmmaker’s vision for a project, and I’ve met a lot of filmmakers.” He said that MACRO wanted to fully finance this film.

And then we started the journey, and we were in production a year later.

Help Line FAQs

  • Will the WIF Help Line help me get an attorney?

    The WIF Help Line can refer you to an employment attorney for a free consultation. Attorneys on the WIF Help Line panel are licensed to practice in California, New York, or Georgia. Typically, you must speak with an attorney who is licensed in the state in which the incident of harassment occurred. At this time, our referral services do not serve other states.

    A referral for consultation is no guarantee that the attorney can take on your case. If you and the attorney determine that you can work together, the attorney can either provide up to 10 hours of pro bono legal services or take your case on contingency.

    Each Help Line caller can receive up to three attorney referrals. We provide one attorney referral per call, and if for any reason you or the attorney determine you’re not a good fit, you can call the Help Line back for another attorney referral.

    Once a caller reaches out to an attorney for a consultation, the attorney will conduct a conflict check. WIF Help Line Advocates are unable to perform a conflict check on your behalf. WIF does not guarantee any specific outcome through our legal referrals. It is the responsibility of the caller to determine whether the attorney is the right fit for your needs.

  • I don’t want to pursue legal action. Can I call the Help Line?

    Yes. Help Line Advocates are here for you regardless of whether or not you want to talk to a lawyer. We are available to listen when you need someone to talk to, to give referrals to mental health and community-based resources, and to support you in making whatever choices that you feel are best for you.

  • I’m not sure if what I experienced counts as sexual harassment. Can I still call the Help Line?

    Yes. We’re here to support you and validate your experience. While Help Line Advocates cannot give advice on your specific situation, we can help you understand definitions of what counts as harassment and discrimination, and point you to reliable sources of information about the law in your state. If you’re unsure whether what you experienced is legally actionable, you can discuss that over a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

  • I don’t want to go into detail or name names. Can I still get resources from the Help Line?

    Yes. You don’t need to tell us any details about what happened in order to receive referrals and support. It can be difficult to retell your story. You can always choose to give us a pseudonym or not share your name or other personal information with the Help Line.

  • I didn’t experience sexual harassment, but I was harassed, discriminated against, or retaliated against while working in entertainment. Can you help me?

    Yes. In 2022, we are beginning to provide referrals to people who have experienced harassment, retaliation, or discrimination while working in entertainment on the basis of protected categories as outlined by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

  • I’m not an actor, and I’m not involved in production. I work for an entertainment company in security / food service / custodial / maintenance / admin / accounting, etc. Can I call the Help Line?

    Yes, the Help Line offers resources and support, including referrals to pro bono legal services, low-fee therapy, and free support groups, to anyone who has experienced harassment, abuse, or discrimination while working in the entertainment industry, whether it was of a sexual nature or on the basis of legally protected categories such as race, gender identity, sexual identity, disability status, and others.

  • Is there anyone at the Help Line who can speak Spanish? ¿Hay algiuen en la Línea de Ayuda que habla español?

    Yes, the Help Line does offer Spanish-language services during select hours. Please call us at (855) WIF-LINE and ask to speak with a Spanish specialist. We will return your call as soon as possible.

    Sí, la línea de ayuda ofrece servicios en español durante determinadas horas. Llámenos al (855) WIF-LINE y solicite hablar con un especialista en español. Nosotros le devolveremos la llamada tan pronto como sea posible.

  • I’m not a woman. Can I call the Help Line?

    We actively support people of all genders including trans people, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and cis folks.

  • I didn’t experience harassment myself, but I saw it happen to someone else and I don’t know what to do. Can I call the Help Line?

    Yes, our advocates can help family, friends, allies, and bystanders talk through what they have witnessed, how to best support their colleague, friend, or loved one, and provide information about coping with vicarious trauma. Please note that we may not be able to provide referrals without speaking directly to the person impacted.

    For information regarding bystander resources, please visit Right To Be for free bystander intervention workshops.

  • Are the Help Line’s resources free?

    Speaking with a Help Line Advocate is always free; however, you may be provided with resources or referrals outside of WIF which may carry their own fees. While our Advocates will do their best to explain known associated costs for external resources, please keep in mind that we may not always know the exact costs due to differences in insurance plans and providers.

  • Can I still get help if it’s been a long time since the harassment/assault?

    Yes. You can call our Help Line for emotional and mental health support no matter how long it’s been since the harassment or assault occurred. General information on statutes of limitations by state can be found on the RAINN website, but for information about how statutes of limitations apply to your situation, we recommend speaking to an attorney.

  • I haven’t told anyone what happened, and I don’t know what to do.

    Help Line Advocates are here to listen and talk with you about options. For many of our callers, we are the first people they speak to about an incident. Our Advocates can talk with you about legal and emotional resources to support you in figuring out what next steps you might want to take.

  • Is the Help Line confidential?

    Yes, all calls are kept confidential among the WIF Help Line staff and within our system. You don’t need to share detailed information in order to receive referrals. The purpose of the Help Line is to provide resources and referrals, therefore, we keep limited information on record. There are a few rare exceptions to confidentiality, which includes if we receive a subpoena or are otherwise required by law to share any information, such as if you or anyone else is in any immediate physical danger, or you tell us that a minor, elder, or dependent adult has been harmed. In these cases, we may need to notify appropriate authorities.

  • Can you help me go public with my story?

    The decision to go public is very personal and unique to each individual. Although the WIF Help Line staff cannot directly help you go public with your story, we can talk with you about emotional support resources that may be helpful no matter what you decide. Times Up Legal Defense Fund through the National Women’s Law Center does offer some media and storytelling assistance in limited cases.

  • Can you help me even if I’m not in the entertainment industry, but my abuser/perpetrator is?

    Yes. Generally, the WIF Help Line supports people with incidents of harassment, discrimination, and misconduct that happens in a professional setting in the entertainment industry. Depending on your situation, we may be able to offer support or we may refer you to a resource that is more appropriate.

  • Can you help me even if I left the entertainment industry?

    Yes. We know that for many people, experiences with harassment, discrimination, and misconduct can contribute to a survivor leaving their job and/or the industry. If what you experienced happened within the industry, we can provide you with support and resources, even if you are no longer in it.

  • What are WIF Support Spaces?

    The WIF Help Line provides free virtual support groups to WIF members who identify as women or non-binary. These therapist-led support spaces are intended to provide emotional support in community with others who are facing similar issues. In the year year, WIF has offered the following spaces for entertainment workers: Black Member Support Space, for Black entertainment workers to process and get support with the intersections of racism and sexism in the screen industries; Coping in Quarantine, a space to process the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives; and Survivors in Community, a space for people dealing with sexual harassment and misconduct in the industry. If you are interested in learning more and/or want to join these spaces, please complete the interest form and a staff member will be in contact with you shortly. Please note that all Support Spaces have limited capacity, so we cannot guarantee admittance to any group.

Emerging Producers Program Launches

Click here for press release.

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. 

Mentoring Program Details

Program Specifics

Mentees will be assigned to groups of up to eight within their field, generally led by two mentors, each with significant experience in that field. Circles are expected to have at least six group meetings within a twelve-month period. Dates and locations will be determined solely by mentors, and may continue to be virtual for the time being. It is the responsibility of the mentee to be available to attend meetings.

Peer Mentoring: For those who are not accepted to the program, we will offer an opportunity to self-select into peer mentoring circles run by peer mentors (alumnae of the Mentoring Program).

Requirements:

  • In order to be eligible for the Mentoring Program, you must be an active WIF member at the Associate/Creative Level or above. You can learn more about joining HERE.
  • You must be local to Los Angeles in order to participate.
  • You must have a clear career focus that you can articulate in your application.
    • Please note that mentoring circle placement is at the discretion of the WIF Programs Team.
  • There is no cost to eligible members for this application.

Dates

Applications open: Monday, August 9, 2021
Applications close: Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Applicants notified: Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

Is everyone who applies accepted into the program?

The Mentoring Program is one of our most popular projects, and we are not able to accept all who apply. We will accept 50–80 members (depending on mentor availability) in 2021. Accepted participants will have some experience in their field, and a clear vision of their career trajectory.

Will I receive my own mentor?

The WIF Mentoring Program uses the circle method where each group of eight (8) mentees meet with their two (2) mentors six (6) times over the course of a year. Although there are times when exceptions will be made for underrepresented career tracks, typically no one in the WIF Mentoring Program receives their own mentor.

How soon will I receive my mentor assignments after I am notified?

Mentors will be assigned, and correspondence between the mentors and mentees will begin, by the end of the calendar year.

Can I apply for multiple disciplines?

Yes, you can select any of the circles you feel are right for you and align with your specific career trajectory. Please note that the final determination of which circle to place you in is at the discretion of the WIF Programs Team.

What is a Statement of Interest?

This is your opportunity to tell us the things that we can’t learn from your résumé/bio. Who you are, what your journey has been, what your goals are, what type of help you need, and what type of mentors would be great for you. The format, and exact information included, varies from person to person, but should make clear to the reader your vision for your professional path within three pages or less. A good thing to keep in mind is that this a highly competitive application pool, and you should write your statement accordingly.

How many times do the mentoring circles meet?

Six times in twelve months.

What type of mentors will I get?

Typically, each circle will have two complementary mentors (e.g., one creative mentor and one business-side mentor) who are high-level industry professionals that can speak to the mentees’ discipline. This may vary for certain disciplines, particularly those that are currently underrepresented at WIF.

If I was in the Mentoring Program previously, can I reapply?

Your participation in a previous year of the Mentoring Program does not disqualify you for acceptance into this year’s program, but please note that the WIF Programs Team will prioritize those who have not yet experienced the program when making their final decisions. Should you wish to reapply, you should make it clear in your application that you are hoping to be placed in a different circle than you had been previously, with clear thoughts on why a second round would be beneficial to you.

Will my mentor read/refer my project?

Unfortunately, due to the restrictions placed on our mentors by the companies they currently work for, reviewing your projects for referrals, notes, placement, etc. is not something we are able to offer in this program. However, they may make requests at their own discretion.

For additional questions not covered on this page, please contact the WIF Programs Team at programs@wif.org.

Mental Health and THE REST OF US

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.

Summer of Streaming

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

Family Fun

  • 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

Get Scared

  • 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

Kicking Butt

  • 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

Throwback

  • 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+.

True Stories

  • 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

Muslim Women in Film/TV

May 12, 2021

Eid Mubarak!

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…

WIF and the Hollywood Bureau of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held a panel discussion on issues facing Black Muslim women in front of and behind the camera, featuring writer/director Nijla Mu’min, writer/director Muna Deria, and actor/writer Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris. The talk was moderated by producer/director Dr. Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbaar.
WIF held a virtual conversation with three MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) directors to discuss their careers, festivals, how and when career intersects with identity, and current events. Panelists are Maryam Touzani (ADAM), Maryam Keshavarz (CIRCUMSTANCE), and ReFrame Rise fellow Haifaa al-Mansour (THE PERFECT CANDIDATE, WADJDA); moderated by Dr. Maytha Alhassen.

WATCHLIST

  • 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.

UPCOMING

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.

Applications to the American Muslim Film Grant are open through June 21, 2021! The Islamic Scholarship Fund has offered the Film Grant since 2014 to create a stronger narrative of Muslim stories and supporting Muslim filmmakers. CLICK HERE to learn more and apply!

🚨 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.

?>