September 13, 2016

Women of Cinematic Arts Launches Feminist Media Festival

By Sabrina Malekzadah

Women of Cinematic Arts (WCA) was founded in 2005 by a group of students, faculty, and alumni who felt that female filmmakers were grossly underrepresented in the entertainment industry. This was before the current media spotlight on inequality in Hollywood, so efforts to make a change were not as visible. The founders felt that real change would have to come from the root—college. If women were able to find and make connections in college, they thought, they would be more likely to have a network once they graduate. SCA’s current undergraduate population, for example, is fifty percent female.

Since then, WCA has held regular events such as workshops and screenings, and invited guest speakers. The organization’s goal is to support diverse voices and create a feminist community of both male and female filmmakers. Sarah Jones, current president of WCA, says that “it’s not just women who have to contribute to the problem solving, it’s everyone.” She says they are sincere about inclusion. “The organization is open to everyone, and that’s not something we just say. We genuinely want everyone to participate.”

This week WCA is launching their first annual Feminist Media Festival with their opening ceremony on September 15th. The festival will take place throughout the school year and will consist of workshops, networking opportunities, and guest speakers that will lead up to an awards ceremony in April. The festival is organized and run by students with the help of faculty and alumni, with a goal of encouraging networking and collaboration. Jones says the Feminist Media Festival “is all about connecting and showing everyone that there are really awesome creators who are women and minorities. That’s the goal.” The long-term hope is that this festival will inspire change both in today’s industry and beyond.

Launching the opening ceremony is keynote speaker Haifa al-Mansour, the first female Saudi director. Al-Mansour wrote and directed Wadjda (2012), the first full-length feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first made by a female Saudi director. Over the next few months, there will be panels of screenwriters, professors, and many special guests offering advice and networking opportunities. Jones says their vision of creating a festival came about when a board member described Hollywood as “an old boy’s club” where men in power hire their friends who are also men. Their hope is that the festival will become an annual event that all students look forward to, no matter their gender, major, or class ranking.

Jones explains that, as members graduate, they continue to be involved with WCA as alumni and as professionals, allowing the organization to have real-world feedback about their efforts. Jones has been a member of the club since her freshman year. She would like to continue her work with the Women of Cinematic Arts after graduation through one of its multiple alumni groups located in Los Angeles, New York and even internationally. The greater aim is to create a community and network of women who can hire each other no matter where in the world they are. WCA has grown with the help of volunteers and donors, so Jones emphasizes that although they are trying to create a community, “We need everyone’s involvement and support to really make this festival a reality.”

For more information about the WCA Feminist Media Festival including how to register as a media creator, or to donate please visit: http://womenofcinematicarts.wixsite.com/uscwca