Lessons Learned at the WIF Financing Intensive

2019 Financing Intensive group photo

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we hosted our annual Financing Intensive at the Paley Center for Media. This lab was designed in 2012 when Women In Film and Sundance Institute partnered to address the most challenging obstacles facing women filmmakers. Our research showed that lack of knowledge about and access to film financing was the most frequently cited barrier. Even seasoned creators find accessing capital to be elusive.

Twelve teams of filmmakers helming promising projects were selected as fellows to participate in the Intensive, where experts provided valuable insight about pitching and financing strategy. A conversation with Women In Film Board Member Stasia Washington was particularly illuminating. Washington, an accomplished financial services manager, discussed the structural hurdles built into our economic system, and empowered attendees to claim agency, ownership, and understanding of their financial situation. Fellows emerged from the Intensive with a much stronger sense of their stories and how to get their films financed, as well as a revived feeling of excitement and motivation.

Many Women In Film members joined these filmmaking teams in the audience for Monday evening’s panel, “Women-Led Financing: The Transformation Continues,” which inspired and energized everyone in attendance. Its moderator, Level Forward CEO Adrienne Becker, challenged the panelists to commit to Level Forward’s “52 Pledge,” an initiative for companies and producers to meet with a different Woman of Color or underrepresented woman creator every single week. This aim would encourage those in positions of power to look outside of their usual networks and add to the pipeline of talent.

All of the panelists—Sheila Driscoll, President and Co-Founder of The Billionaire Foundation; Anita Gou, Founder of Kindred Spirit; Deborah McIntosh, Partner at Endeavor Content; and Viviana Zarragoitia, Vice President of Three Point Capital—accepted the challenge.

Becker, a ReFrame Ambassador, envisioned what success would look like for the state of women-led financing, saying that more women (at least those on the panel) should be included in lists such as The Hollywood Reporter‘s “25 Players Who Can Actually Get an Independent Movie Made.”

There are multiple key levers to drive change in hiring women in front of and behind the camera. For those in positions where they have the opportunity, consider agreeing to the “52 Pledge.” Seek the ReFrame Stamp for gender balanced productions. Build an inclusion rider into your contract. 

And follow the advice of the adage shared onstage by Driscoll at the panel: “When you make it to the top, don’t forget to send the elevator back down.” It’s part of the Women In Film mission statement: “Women helping women cultivates the next generation.”

Credit: Libby VanderPloeg

Sincere thanks to all who participated and make the 2019 Financing Intensive a success, from the Women In Film Programs Team,
     Kirsten Schaffer, Executive Director
     Gayle Nachlis, Senior Director of Education
     Maikiko James, Director of Programs
     Ashley Chrisman, Manager of Operations and Events
     Melissa Verdugo, Manager of Programs
     Whitney Skauge, Program Coordinator

Distinguished advisors who dedicated their time to share their expertise were:

  • Belisa Balaban, Hulu
  • Amy Baer, Gidden Media
  • Adriana Banta, 30WEST
  • Chelsea Barnard, Independent Producer
  • Toni Bell, International Documentary Association
  • Lia Buman, Tango Entertainment
  • Elaine Chin, Participant Media
  • Ben Cotner, A24
  • Jane Fleming, Court Five
  • Yasmin Hormozi, Participant Media
  • Kevin Iwashina, Endeavor Content
  • Simon Kilmurry, International Documentary Association
  • Josh Kramer, Resonance Partners
  • Maria Krovatin, Level Forward
  • Amanda Lebow, Creative Artists Agency
  • Jennifer Levine, Untitled Entertainment
  • Laura Lewis, Rebelle Media
  • Alix Madigan, Producer
  • Mary Ann Marino, Resonance Partners
  • Deborah McIntosh, Endeavor Content
  • Dani Melia, Big Beach
  • Hannah Minghella, TriStar Pictures
  • Laura Nix, Felt Films
  • Elise Pearlstein, Participant Media
  • Heather Rae, Vision Maker Media
  • Jihan Robinson, Quibi
  • Stephanie Soechtig, Atlas Films
  • Jeff Soros, Los Angeles Media Fund
  • Alisa Tager, Los Angeles Media Fund
  • Rahdi Taylor, Concordia
  • Tristen Tuckfield, 30WEST
  • Yira Vilaro, MACRO
  • Stasia Washington, First Foundation
  • Viviana Zarragoitia, Three Point Capital

The workshop sessions were moderated by Independent Executive Katie Doering and Alana Hauser, Manager of Women at Sundance and Catalyst.

Documentary Fellows and Projects:

  • AIN’T I A WOMAN
    • Director: Sabaah Folayan
    • Producer: Sarah Adina Smith
  • EXODUS STORIES
    • Director: Ilse Fernandez
    • Producer: Ilse Fernandez
  • HOSSAIN
    • Director: Taimi Arvidson
    • Producer: Brette Ragland
  • HOW TO ESCAPE FROM PRISON
    • Director: Elizabeth Mirzaei
    • Producer: Elizabeth Mirzaei
  • THE GREEN DREAM
    • Director: Parisa Dunn
    • Producer: Parisa Dunn
  • THE SEEDS OF VANDANA SHIVA
    • Director: Camilla Becket
    • Producer: Maureen Tunney

Fiction Fellows and Projects:

  • CUDDLER
    • Director: Stephanie Wang-Breal
    • Producer: Carrie Weprin
  • DESTINY’S ROAD
    • Director: Kameishia Wooten
    • Producer: Traci Carter
  • GIRL WITH CHILD
    • Director: Maria Abraham
    • Producer: Luz Agudelo Gipson
  • LEATHER, WOOD & IRON
    • Director: Sherrie Quannea
    • Producer: Isaac Díaz
  • ODIUM
    • Director: Annika Pampel
    • Producer: Sabrina Stoll
  • TREES OF PEACE
    • Director: Alanna Brown
    • Producer: Vicky Petela