Jessica Estelle Huggins – WIFVNE Member
Distribution & Office Manager, Documentary Educational Resources
What do you love about your work?
I love the fact that I have the ability to create. Depending on the story that I’m telling, I love working with a small team that’s looking to develop different types of stories. I love that I have had the privilege of being able to use my degree every day, and connecting with other like-minded creatives. I especially love that much of my work at its core is about the Black experience in America which includes the goodness of black people.
What is your vision for yourself, female filmmakers, or the media industry in 2020?
My vision for myself alongside other female filmmakers is to be able to build a financial system for us to support building a studio in Boston and producing different types of projects that can be shared on public media as well as the commercial world.
What’s one way you would suggest people “Change the Lens”?
Other ways to “Change the Lens” would be to financially support the development of women-led projects.
What advice would you give to a new female filmmaker?
My advice to a new female filmmaker is to remember to have fun. I feel that we all get so embedded in our work that we forget to enjoy the process. Making films as an independent artist is really intense, but so worth it!
Which women in the New England region inspire you?
Lisa Simmons of the Roxbury International Film Festival
What film or series are looking forward to watching this year? Why?
I’m sooo excited to see The Photograph starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield!
Attending any film festivals or events, and why you are attending them?
I try to attend as many events as possible specifically in MA. The last festival that I attended was RIDM in Montreal representing DER. I was there to participate in the pitch fest and to look out for any content that DER could distribute. The next festival I hope to attend is the Roxbury International Film Festival.
How can your fans find you!?
Colleen Cambier – WIFVNE
Getting to connect with people from all walks of life and the challenge of finding the best tell someone’s story.
My vision is to expand the role of women in media, no matter the job title. For myself, I have the vision of completing my first major film, all shot and edited by me, to educate others about cochlear implants and the Deaf community.
If possible, create a team or collaborate with other women. I recently finished a series of videos with an all-female crew, which was a new experience. We came together as women, and worked tirelessly to create more heartfelt work and supported one another every step of the way.
Be strong and be open!
JoAnn Cox and Alecia Jean Orsini Lebeda! When I was trying to find a job in Boston and messaged WIFVNE’s Facebook and Alecia messaged me immediately, trying to help me and within two days I met with JoAnn who graciously gave me contacts and advice upon meeting her! I am so grateful for these women!
Maybe not a specific film or series, but I am looking forward to more documentaries coming out! I am so excited to learn more about this world we live in.
Féliz – WIFVNE Member
Being where it all starts. Every piece of entertainment: movie, a tv show, a music video or a commercial all starts on a piece of paper. Being the person who starts the idea that will eventually be on the screen resulting in the awe, inspiration, and influence of entire audiences is definitely what I love most.
One of the biggest goals I set out for myself in 2020 is to finally land real jobs in film and entertainment. I want to build my portfolio with amazing pieces of work that will allow me to grow my credibility as an artist and to finally make the big move to New York and go on to be part of bigger projects.
As a writer and woman of color myself, I always have in mind a colorful cast when I write a script. Diversity is the biggest agenda that I push for in this industry. We need more people of color working in all aspects of productions, we need more women leading projects. So, a way to change the lens is to give and create opportunities for minorities.
Find a focus but also be open to be “down for anything” I started out as a production assistant which allowed me to meet amazing people. Don’t be scared of starting from the bottom of the barrel because if you’re passionate a hard worker and know how to network well, you will see yourself climbing up that barrel quite quickly.
The President of WIFVNE Alecia Orsini started it all for me, through her I’ve had the chance to write for the organization itself, to network and find opportunities as a creative. She is definitely someone who pushes and cheers for other women and go out of her way to put them in the right path.
The new season of Brooklyn 99, Blackish and Grownish because those are the series that keep my comedic creative juices flowing. They also educate me as a writer of color on how to effectively and comedically present on the screen real world issues people of color face in the world.
I’ve recently attended for the first time in my life a screening “The Trap” as a writing assignment and the experience there was just amazing. I also plant to attend the panel ‘Bringing Hollywood Home” on the 29 and on March 3rd I will going to the WIFVNE Professional Development Panel (both personal invites from the president herself!) to learn more about the industry from the mouths of the professionals themselves and to meet fellow artists and network with them.
I’m on Instagram as @accent_on_the_e_ and on Facebook as Féliz Screenwriter
Rachel S. Thomas-Medwid – WIFVNE Member
My first love is screenwriting but I recently directed my first short, which was an amazing experience. Directing is an entirely different experience than writing and switching my headspace between the two (I was also the screenwriter) was challenging but exhilarating. Honestly I loved everything about it; casting, set design, wardrobe, table reads, working with actors and crew to get exactly what we all wanted, problem solving on the spot, the actual shoot, etc. I loved it so much there are already plans for producing another of my shorts! The best part is I have so much written material and endless ideas for new material I’ll never be bored!
As the Oscars recently showed again, there’s a lack of female recognition. And I’ll be the first to say that the film/talent should speak for itself regardless of who’s making it. But when notable female filmmakers get ignored, I believe it’s time to push for change. Personally, I pushed far beyond my comfort zone this year not only in the screenwriting arena by participating in Q&As, podcasts, and public readings (an introvert writer’s nightmare) but by deciding to direct one of my short screenplays, which is currently in postproduction. While I likely made mistakes as a first-time director, I couldn’t be more excited in the decision I made to take this on. As a self-taught screenwriter/director, it was a steep learning curve that taught me an incredible amount in a short period of time. I can’t wait to share this film (“The Squirrels in the Attic,” multi-award winning screenplay) and now that the “director bug” has set in, I’m already planning the next one and am so passionate about getting my stories transformed into cinematic visions. In terms of the media industry, I strongly believe that the time for women, long overdue, is on the cusp of exploding (hopefully sooner than later).
I’ve always been a little but perplexed that writing/directing is so male dominated. Some of my friends who aren’t in the industry and came with me to festivals this year were also surprised at females as minorities…at heart, writing and storytelling feel very feminine to me (at the risk of sounding sexist) and there are so many strong female voices needing to be heard. I’d love to see more women writing and directing and every time I’ve been at an event this year, women are the first people I talk to in a room. Communicating, encouraging, and supporting each other in person and online can go a long way in bridging that gap I believe.
Don’t overthink and go with your gut. Don’t be intimidated by things you don’t know. If you use the right resources, it’s easy to find out what you need. Look for help and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I spent the last year asking questions (even if I felt stupid) to educate myself and people were so helpful. Although I’m new to the industry, I feel like there will never be a time where I won’t need to take advice to get me to the next level of learning. Take advantage of every resource you have around you and give back the same you end up getting!
I have to say the most inspiration came from the female filmmaker’s panel at the 2019 New Hampshire Film Festival! Each woman had a different story and perspective and I was really inspired by their stories. I hope to be up there talking about one of my films one day!
Birds of Prey, Promising Young Woman, Saint Maud, Mulan, Emma…all featuring women in different roles of (great potential) strength!
I’m hoping to go back with a produced film to the some of the festivals I attended last year for various screenplay awards. For New England, the Massachusetts Independent Film Awards (“Burn Unit” won best short screenplay); the Shawna Shea Memorial Film Festival (“The Squirrels in the Attic” won best short screenplay); the Lonely Seal International Film and Music Festival (my feature “The Joppa Flat” was a screenplay finalist); and the New Hampshire Film Festival (my feature “Fits” was a finalist). Beyond NE, I’d love to go back to Austin Revolution Film Festival (“The Watch” was a short screenplay finalist); Filmquest (“Squirrels” won best short screenplay); Nightmares Film Festival (“Squirrels” was a screenplay finalist); and StudioFest as an invited guest (I was one of five screenwriters chosen for this incredible experience). And I have a list of new festivals to submit to this year to broaden my horizons as a filmmaker/screenwriter which I’m really excited about!
Cheryl Eagan-Donovan – WIFVNE Member from MA
Writer/Director/Producer – President & Founder, Controversy Films
The best part of being a filmmaker is meeting people from around the world, from many different backgrounds, and learning about music, history, art, and literature from accomplished artists and scholars, and ultimately discovering unique stories to share.
I believe in the power of art to change lives, and 2020 presents us with an opportunity to continue breaking the rules and pushing the envelope, to make films and episodic TV series that include stories based on the lives of female and LGBTQ+ true heroes, ranging from projects like Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women to Ryan Murphy’s ground-breaking hit Pose to Ru Paul’s new Netflix series A.J. & the Queen.
What’s one way you would suggest people “Change the Lens”? (Such as going to see women directed movies, or pushing for an inclusion rider)
In addition to supporting films written, directed, and produced by women at the box, I believe in the power of mentoring filmmakers and encouraging them to be brave enough to tell stories that challenge viewers to reconsider the world and what it means to be human.
Take risks, persist, don’t take no for answer, and believe in your ability to learn on the job.
Michele Meek, Tracy Heather Strain, Amy Geller, Allie Humenuk, Maria Agui Carter, Lyda Kuth, Alecia Orsini, Lucia Small, Karen Schmeer, Harriet Reisen, Susan Gray, Ivy Moylan, Kristen Kearns, to name just a few.
Pose, A.J. & the Queen, Birds of Prey, Mulan, 9 to 5:Story of a Movement by Julia Reichert, A Most Beautiful Thing by Mary Mazzio, and Lulu Wang’s next film: Children of the New World
Are you attending any film festivals or events, and why you are attending them.
I’m very excited to be attending the 2020 SXSW Film Festival as a screenwriting mentor! This is my 4th time attending SXSW, the best indie film festival in the world. Amazing films, friends, networking, music, and food!
On Saturday February 8th 2020, Beantown Statie Productions in Lowell, MA hosted a sold out screening celebrating the works of seven talented local women filmmakers. The event was hosted by Chuck Slavin, Women in Film and Video of New England Board Member, a veteran of the industry with 10+ years of experience and a strong advocate for creating and highlighting more work for women. The screening included the works of Tannah Gillman (Writer & Director) – I Know You Are, I Know You Do!; Audrey Noone (Writer, Director, and Producer) What the Doctor Ordered, The Penis; Shara Ashley Zeiger (Writer & Producer) and Kaye Tuckerman (Director) Joe; Kathryn Shasha (Director, Producer) Wasted Justice; Janelle Feigley (Writer, Director, Producer. actress) Under Contract; and Charlie Alejandro (Director) The Trap.
Before the program, the room was filled with the warm and loud discussions, like a reunion of colleagues who were catching up on each other’s projects, bouncing ideas off of each other, and perhaps planning future collaborations. The screening opened with a highlight reel of all the badass women in film and pop culture, creating and heightening a feeling of pride, inspiration and “Heck yeah!” that echoed through the audience. Demo reels of the post production artists involved in the short films followed.
The films reflected a variety of genres. Director Kathryn Shaha based the short Wasted Justice on real-life case of an attorney at law defending a drunk driver who killed a number or people. Joe a romantic comedy of a young woman who meets a charming man whose affluency intimidates her leading her to hide her real self. Writer-producer Shara Ashley Zeiger and Director Kaye Tuckerman created this project as a proof of concept to pitch it as a pilot for a tv series or a feature length film. Inspired by a true-life anecdote, was the comedy The Penis. In this short, director and producer Audrey Noone, boldly and hilariously attacks the issue that women are not heard unless they whip out ‘extra member’ from between her legs! Throughout the screening, the audience navigated a wave of emotions and reactions. One minute they were entranced, the next they burst out in laughter, and in others, the room filled with concentrated silence.
To culminate the event was the short film The Trap, which marked the directorial debut of Charlie Alejandro. Alejandro has made a transition from “breaking the scene” as a police officer for 20 years to literally “making the scene” as a director and filmmaker. The Trap tells the story of the investigation of a series of child deaths caused by a serial killer who disguises himself as an ice cream man; one day he lures in the wrong girl and winds up entrapped facing his own demons. When explaining the process of the production Alejandro expressed that she “wanted the writer to be on set to be able to leave question marks everywhere.” Once the audience believed there was an answer, another question arose in the suspenseful thrill ride. “What you’re used to seeing happening it’s not happening”, explains the screenwriter of the short film Andre Hepburn. The theme of darkness and fear took over the screen. “I like shadows. It’s what scares us the most.” Says Alejandro as she explained how she and Mark K, the editor, and Ken Almquist, assistant editor, meticulously utilized editing to re-enforce the murky tone. What makes The Trap stand out is the alienation of using the typical expectation of fear; it doesn’t come from the would-be victim of the situation but rather, from the antagonist himself. “I didn’t want to ‘girlify’ the movie.” Alejandro remarked; she said her main duty as a director was to “focus on the story to tell the vision whether a woman or a man [did it.]”
After the screening, Charlie Alejandro revealed her feelings about the event and who she is as filmmaker in general. “I saw my name out there, that’s when it really hit me.” She continues, “Wow! We really made this happen.”
“I hope the people take away that things aren’t always as they seem and women aren’t as weak as they seem and you never know where inspiration is gonna come from,” Alejandro proudly voiced. “ As a filmmaker, I just wanted to say… that it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, it’s the story behind the script.”
Up next for Alejandro and her team? “We have a series coming up called The Diner, and it’s a challenge. We have 12 episodes, 12 guest directors, 12 guest writers and they don’t know who their actors are going to be, [there’re] 3 actors on each scene. We also have a short film called The Stillness of the Run and we’re going to be filming that in May.”
Chuck Slavin remarked on what these events mean to him: “They’re so important for people to come out and showcase their work and to inspire others…[to] do something that creates content or work for other people and it’s something that gives life to a vision or a dream.” He also expressed what he would like filmmakers to take away from efforts put into screening events :“I think that the biggest thing is to inspire others and to also to network because the more you network, the more in the industry that you will build connections … that’s what’s so important for all of us… to see the vision and to keep moving forward and you may get deterred … but the matter of fact is that you have to keep going you can’t turn around.” In regards of the work presented at the event, he was more than thrilled “… the talent tonight was incredible …the caliber was huge and that goes back to the underlying tone of inspiring others.” He excitedly continued “To see that talent on the screen and say “Wow! That’s something that’s achievable!” and also there’s great performances from New England.” Slavin also emphasized the importance of versatility in the film industry: “There’re so many great people in the industry who wear multiple hats, I like to call those people – “hyphens.”- [These] are people that may be a grip and then they’re also the camera person and they’re also something else and I think that’s where we need to go…. you want to have somebody in charge who knows all the other jobs because they know how to make your job easier…, they might be able to enhance what you’re doing and help you…it’s such an important thing to have a team alongside of you to help implement the vision.”
Overall the night flowed with ease and professionalism, appreciation and encouragement It is the strong belief and positive expectations that this community has for itself that is truly mesmerizing. Watching what New England has to offer only fills up those holes of doubt any newcomers may have, like me, an aspiring screenwriter and actress. It allows us to know that within this community, there are individuals who are more than welcoming and who are ready to lend a hand into bringing new vision to life. And what makes screening events like these more special, is its center piece goal: to support and push women filmmakers and to create jobs for women in the film industry. Screenwriter Andre Hepburn couldn’t have highlighted this goal any better saying “Women are super under-appreciated…New England has such a diverse group of people that need to come together as a community. The end goal is to watch strong leading women who are passionate about strong female characters. Hollywood has the big bucks but we have the big hearts and the big dreams.”
Féliz is a screenwriter and actress. She has participated in short films such as Mi Persona as the lead role and Stuck on Probation. Recently she debuted as a Co-Director of the comedy short Hollywood Hacker. She is currently in the writing process for a long narrative music video for the local Boston artist, Red Shaydez and is a columnist for WIFVNE.
IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund – Apply by March 1
Last call for production support from International Documentary Association (IDA)’s Enterprise Documentary Fund! The grant is open to feature-length documentary projects that integrate journalistic practice when exploring original, contemporary stories.Get the support you need to complete your films: receive funds as well as project-tailored pro bono legal support, research and fact-checking support, and consultations with experts and craftspeople. US and international co-productions all welcome. Apply Now!
CAAM Documentary Fund – Apply by Mar 27
With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, CAAM provides production funding to independent producers who make engaging Asian American works for public television. Documentaries are eligible for production or post-production funding and must be intended for public television broadcast. Awards typically range between $10,000 and $50,000. They are now accepting proposals twice a year. The first round has closed. The next open call takes place Wednesday, February 26, 2020 through Friday March 27, 2020. Review the eligibility guidelines and visit their Submittable page to submit your Documentary Fund application.
2020 Public Media Project Fund – Apply by March 1
Vision Maker Media invites proposals for programs intended for Public Television that represent the experiences, values and cultures of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Apply by March 1! Review eligibility guidelines and details for submitting at their website.
From our sister chapter, NYWIFT – Ravenal Foundation Grant – Apply by March 6
The NYWIFT Ravenal Foundation Grant will support a woman second-time feature film director who is over 40 years of age in the production of a dramatic feature film with $5000; an honorable mention of $2500 will also be presented. Grant funds may be used for pre-production, production or post-production. Grant-seekers must have previously directed a dramatic feature film that was released theatrically in the United States or included in a major film festival, or a feature-length television movie shown on a national TV platform. Women who have directed one dramatic feature (for theatrical or TV) or more than one feature documentary are eligible. Applicants must be US residents and the works must be primarily in English. Applicants must submit a sample of a previous completed work along with their application. Download the application here.
CALL FOR ENTRIES! Submit your film (short film, feature narrative, or feature doc) to the 2nd annual Nevertheless Film Festival!
Called “the first of its kind,” and featured in a video created by NowThis Her x TIME’S UP, Nevertheless elevates the work of womxn in film, as each film must have at least 50% womxn in designated leadership roles behind the camera in order to qualify.
Find out more about our submission guidelines and submit your film today at www.filmfreeway.com/neverthelessfilmfestival
Tenth Annual Fellowship Provides Unique Opportunities for Emerging Documentary Film Editors
Open Call for Submissions Begins FEBRUARY 3, 2020
Received by Deadline is MARCH 13, 2020
Entering its tenth year, the Karen Schmeer Emerging Editor Fellowship champions emerging documentary editors by developing their talent, expanding their creative community, and furthering their career aspirations. In collaboration with American Cinema Editors (ACE), Manhattan Edit Workshop, Camden International Film Festival, the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, SXSW and other partners, the fellowship offers a wide array of opportunities including mentorship with established editors. The fellowship also administers the Diversity in the Edit Room Program, which this year is providing mentorship to twenty-one talented editors.
The organization honors the memory of gifted editor Karen Schmeer (“The Fog of War”; “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control”; “Bobby Fischer Against the World”), who was killed in a hit-and-run accident at the age of 39, on January 29, 2010.
Editors who are based in the US and have cut at least one feature documentary (60 minutes or more) but no more than three feature films (fiction or documentary) are encouraged to apply for the fellowship.
Documentary films edited by fellows include: “American Factory” (Lindsay Utz, 2020 Academy Award for Best Documentary), “Crip Camp” (Eileen Meyer), “Us Kids” (Leigh Johnson), “Call Her Ganda” (Victoria Chalk) “The Seer and the Unseen” (Erin Casper), “The Lovers and the Despot” (Jim Hession), “Obit” (Kristin Bye), “Seymour: An Introduction” (Anna Gustavi) and “An Inconvenient Sequel” (Colin Nusbaum).
OPEN CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS — the fellowship will accept applications now through Friday, March 13, 2020. Applicants will be notified of their status in June 2020. More details about the fellowship and application requirements/forms can be found online: www.karenschmeer.com
The 2020-21 fellowship benefits include:
KAREN SCHMEER, ACE, was an award-winning film editor whose work included Errol Morris’s “The Fog of War” (Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary), “Mr. Death,” and “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control.” She edited “Sketches of Frank Gehry,” directed by Sydney Pollack, “The Same River Twice,” “My Father the Genius,” and “American Experience: A Brilliant Madness.” Her fiction film “American Son” premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. For the HBO film “Sergio,” Karen won the Best Editing Award at Sundance in 2009. Karen was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and attended Boston University. On her way home from editing Liz Garbus’s “Bobby Fischer Against the World,” Karen was struck and killed by a car fleeing a robbery in New York City on January 29, 2010.
AMERICAN CINEMA EDITORS (ACE) is an honorary association of professional film editors that celebrates & promotes the art of editing. Editors are included on the basis of professional achievement, dedication to educating others, and commitment to the craft of editing.
Board President, KSFEF
For more information, please visit www.karenschmeer.com or email info[at]karenschmeer[dot]com
Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship Board Members:
Garret Savage, President
Robin Hessman, Vice President
Time’s Up has released a new PSA to shine a light on women in Production. See it here!
In conjunction with the PSA, Time’s Up has identified organizations in major film hubs that provide mentoring, training, networking opportunities, pathways to employment, or tools for job-seekers. They will continue to expand their list of nonprofit and municipal partners that are offering programs to support greater inclusion on set.
Check out the local resource listings on their website. Find WIFVNE, here, as well as many other amazing organizations in the New England region and across the country.
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