In a male-dominated world, women are always striving to break through the glass ceiling and make their mark. Female moviemakers know this struggle very well; men tend to overpower the credits as the directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors of most of the films released each year. But women are out there and their voices need to be heard as well.
Since being founded in 1973, nonprofit Women In Film (WIF) and the organization’s philanthropic arm, the Women In Film Foundation (WIFF), have been on a mission to give female moviemakers more opportunities to succeed by offering help and funding for their work. By drawing attention to the lack of female power behind the scenes, the foundation aims to assist the careers of determined women. The foundation’s Film Finishing Fund (FFF) supports films by, for and about women by providing cash grants and in-kind donations to independent moviemakers.
By recently partnering with Netflix, WIFF will be able to offer even more funding, distribution opportunities and guidance to grant recipients. With WIFF accepting submissions for the 2009 grant cycle until April 24, 2009, there’s still time to submit work for this one-of-a-kind opportunity.
Actress and WIFF Chair Sharon Lawrence and Betsy Pollock, Associate Dean of Production for AFI and Chair of the Finishing Fund, provided MovieMaker with further insight into the foundation and the Finishing Fund.
Nora Murphy (MM): What led you to get involved with the foundation?
Sharon Lawrence (SL): My first experience with Women In Film was during my early days on “NYPD Blue,” in 1994 when I attended their annual marquis event, the Crystal + Lucy Awards. Working in a fairly male-driven environment, I was impressed by the assembly of female creative and executive talent. Joan Hyler, the charismatic talent manager, was president of the organization at the time and made clear in her remarks that even at the level of success women had achieved in our industry, we must continue to provide support for one another through WIF’s programs and outreach.
When Joan encouraged me to get involved with the group, I recognized that one of the many advantages I’ve had, including a great family and education, was growing up seeing images of strong capable women. By joining the foundation, I not only get to work with the powerful founders of WIF but to support programs which honor the very advantage I enjoyed by directly encouraging strong female voices in the media through our Film Finishing Fund and our video archive, The Legacy Series.
MM: How does the organization help women attain more recognition in the film industry?
SL: Every program of WIF’s L.A. chapter helps bring attention to women in the industry. Our award-winning PSA program trains and opens doors for production personnel, the networking and speaker series links industry professionals together on a regular basis, our mentoring and scholarship commitments directly aid junior women and our Crystal + Lucy marquis event honors women annually for the highest levels of achievement in the entertainment industry. Together with our sponsors, key media and top companies and players in the business, we celebrate achievement in film and television of female executives, directors, producers, writers cinematographers and those who inspire with their mentorship.
MM: Are there any key aspects that you look for in submissions when selecting recipients for the Film Finishing Fund grant?
Betsy Pollock (BP): First and foremost we are looking for films by, for and about women; films that speak to our struggles, our successes and that illumine our place in the world. These films could have been made by men or women, it’s the content that’s important. We look for films that effect both the mind and body. We find the films in narratives both long and short as well as documentaries and animated films. All the above formats have been submitted in the past with wonderful examples of each from which to select our awardees.
MM: How do you think Netflix’s partnership will benefit WIFF in the future?
BP: The Netflix partnership guarantees that we can continue funding worthy projects as well as attract a larger number of submissions. In short they ensure our ability to continue our work, especially in this economic environment.
See www.wif.org for more details.