Women in Film & Video: June 2017 President’s Message

Women of Vision 2015

Photo by Liz Roll

Repost from WIFV.org

This month’s message is a celebration of success and a welcome message for the new members onto the board. After six years on the Board of Directors, and two as President, I’m feeling both nostalgic about the past, and excited about the next steps for Women in Film & Video. Special thanks to Immediate Past President and Advisory Committee  Liaison Erin Essenmacher and departing board members Karen Whitehead, Judy Meschel, Keri Williams, and Ann Zamudio for their amazing commitment and service to Women in Film & Video. Below are some highlights from the last twelve months, or this “board year”.

 Top-Rated Non-Profit Award – WIFV on a spot on the prestigious Top-Rated NonProfits List for the fifth year in a row. The Great Nonprofits Top-Rated Awards is a people’s  choice award where volunteers, donors, and people served cast their vote in the form of a review to express their appreciation. Keep voting for WIFV!

 Women of Vision Awards – In the Fall, WIFV recognized the outstanding technical and creative achievements of independent film producer Christine Vachon at the 24th edition of the Women of Vision Awards held at George Mason University and moderated by producer and GMU/FAVS director Giovanna Chesler. This Spring, WIFV  honored accomplished filmmaker Julie Dash, whose feature DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991) was the first film by an African American woman to receive a general theatrical release in the United States. It was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2004. This event was moderated by WUSA9 anchor Lesli Foster at Howard University. Special thanks to board member Carletta Hurt for her coordination of this event.

 DC Mayors Arts Awards – The 2015 recipient of the Excellence in Service to the Arts Award, WIFV was invited to participate in the 2016 awards ceremony. I joined Brian Kenner, DC Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development, in presenting the
Excellence in the Creative Industries Award to Stone Soup Films. This annual event is an opportunity to see some of the District’s most talented performers and industry leaders in a single setting, and it’s free for the public.

 TIVA Peer Awards – Since Executive Director Melissa Houghton received the 2015 Community Partner Award, WIFV was invited to participate in the 2016 event. I was honored to represent WIFV as a featured speaker at this prestigious annual event, focusing on the need for media community solidarity, artistic collaboration, and gender equity in the DC metro area. Many of our members were honored with Peer Awards.

 WIFV Service Awards and Scholarships – Beloved ScriptDC conference organizer and past board member Jane Barbara received the President’s Award for her outstanding volunteer service to the WIFV community. The amazing Gwen Tolbart received the Liesel Flashenberg Award for Community Service, Yi Chen received the Carolyn’s First Decade Fund, and Krystal Tingle, received the Randy Goldman Scholarship. True to WIFV’s two-old mission, the service awards raise visibility of member achievement, and the scholarships provide mentoring opportunities and advance the media careers of the recipients. Each award and scholarship as established in the memory of a WIFV member or past president whose self-less passion, creativity, and commitment to storytelling inspired our community. WIFV advisory committee members Monica Lee Bellais and Amy DeLouise continued to spearhead important initiatives that help bring national and international focus to the work of WIFV members. The third edition of Spotlight on Screenwriters, founded and created by Monica Lee Bellais, was revealed on Saturday, November 5, 2016, at American University. A highlight of the evening was Monica’s presentation of community service awards to screenwriters Linda Robbins, Diane Williams, Beryl Neurman, and Frances Cheever. Amy DeLouise continued the success of #GalsNGear, a pop-up event that features tech savvy women as role models who share their tools, skills, and community to help others succeed in their chosen craft. Once again, the #GalsNGear Live! event at NABShow 2017 in Las Vegas was livestreamed by Broadcast Beat Magazine.

Never one to rest on laurels, the second annual Seed Fund for Documentary Filmmakers application process is in full swing. Two filmmakers, Katie Lannigan and Kimberly McFarland, were selected by the inaugural Seed Fund Committee, chaired by board member Karen Whitehead, to receive grants last year for their films THE LAST DAYS OF BROOKLAND MANOR and PYRAMID ATLANTIC: THE STATE OF THE ARTS, respectively. Both films share a theme of community, an appropriate topic for grants that are funded by WIFV members and partners. Each awarded filmmaker receives a $2,500 grant to help with the research and development for their respective films.

F or those members who have decided to run for the board in June, I wish you every success and hope you will experience the same leadership growth in your term as I did. Last, but not least, none of this would be possible without the WIFV Executive Director Melissa Houghton, who reaches out to bring people, leaders, and media makers together daily. As I move into my role as Immediate Past President and Advisory Committee Liaison, I’m looking forward to another year of celebration and recognition of the very important work that the narrative and  documentary media communities are doing in the DC metro area. I’m so very honored and proud to have had the opportunity to serve as your President.


Women in Film & Video: May 2017 President’s Message

C81A9971-smallRepost from WIFV.org

“A chair, a table, a lamp,” begins Margaret Atwood’s novel about a dystopian society in 1985’s The Handmaid’s Tale . This dark story has been a film, a play, a ballet, an opera, and on April 26th, it debuts as a Hulu original series. Elizabeth Moss, of MAD MEN and GIRL, INTERRUPTED, portrays Offred, the main character, in this latest remake of Atwood’s classic story about a world where the United States has become a new theocracy, Gilead.

The Wrap’s Power Women Breakfast in DC featured a conversation with Elisabeth Moss and Margaret Atwood, the culmination of a morning that began with a panel titled “Covering Trump: The Women on the Front Lines”. Moderated by Sharon Waxman, Editor in Chief and CEO of The Wrap, topics ranged from Moss explaining her definition of feminism to Atwood’s cameo appearance in the series, where she “whacks” Moss on the head. Atwood also described the path to Gilead as a “ditch”, which we are sometimes closer to, sometimes farther away from. Asked by an audience member whether American women should be worried, she quipped, “You still have your credit card, don’t you?”

There were several power WIFV women in attendance, and a few of us were featured in Bisnow’s wrap up article on the event. WIFV advisory committee members Catherine Wyler and Monica Lee Bellais are also part of the promo for the upcoming San Francisco breakfast. More importantly, it was an opportunity for women of influence in the DC metro area to network, ask questions about covering the new White House  administration, discuss the importance of public funding for the arts, and celebrate the timeless draw of Atwood’s cautionary tale.

As a young woman, I’d found my mother’s copy of The Handmaid’s Tale in her bedroom, and read it (I thought) on the sly. When I texted photos of Margaret Atwood to my  mother that morning, she replied, “Is this one of my books that you read without telling me?” This was followed by a forgiving, “I’m mailing you a copy so you can read it again.”

Women in Film and Video: April 2017 President’s Message

cropped-c81a97581.jpgRepost from WIFV.org

At this year’s DC Environmental Film Festival, WIFV partnered on the Female Filmmakers Spotlight, a shorts showcase that highlighted three documentary films
directed by women: GUIDED, directed by Bridget Besaw; CANYON SONG, directed by Amy Marquis and Dana Romanoff, and ELK RIVER, directed by Jenny Nichols and Joe Riis. Newly appointed DCEFF executive director Maryanne Culpepper organized this year’s 25th anniversary festival of environmentally-themed films, and moderated the Q&A following this spotlight screening of three cinematically gorgeous films. She also serves on the WIFV advisory committee.

I first saw Maryanne when she was honored with a Women of Vision Award in 2011. It was my first year on the WIFV board, and I was excited to be a part with this annual event that recognizes the outstanding creative and technical achievements of women media makers. The 2011 honorees aptly reflected the diversity of the WIFV membership, including Hispanic filmmaker Cecilia Domeyko, editor Mickey Green, and arts lawyer Laura Possessky, along with Maryanne. It was also my introduction to Laura, who has been an invaluable resource and trusted advisor during my time on the WIFV board.

On Wednesday, April 12, WIFV will honor Julie Dash with a Women of Vision Award at
Howard University. Ms. Dash continues the legacy of recognizing the diversity of skills in our roster of WIFV honorees. She is a filmmaker, music video and commercial director, author, and website creator. Her film DAUGHTERS OF DUST was the first full-length film by an African American woman with general theatrical release in the US. Special thanks to Vice President of Programming, Carletta Hurt, for organizing this Women of Vision event.

Women in Film & Video: March 2017 President’s Message

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Yes, you’ve seen this photo before.  But it’s me with an OSCAR 🙂

Repost from WIFV.org

As I write this in late February, the red carpet is getting rolled out (literally) and the stage set at the Dolby Theater for Hollywood’s biggest awards night of the year – — the Academy Awards. Across the street in his studio, Jimmy Kimmel is prepping to host this year’s Oscars with his team of writers. And by  the time you read this message, that famous phrase “And the Oscar goes to . . . “, which is emblazoned in gold on every top-secret envelope, will confirm the accuracy of my own Oscar predictions.

In March, Women in Film & Video will be rolling out its own (virtual) red carpet on social media as we celebrate the accomplishments of WIFV members daily with the annual 31 for 31 fundraising campaign. Each day, a different media maker will be highlighted on the WIFV Twitter and Facebook accounts, in the hopes of inspiring you to donate at least $31 to WIFV in the month of March, which is also Women’s History Month. Along with funding important initiatives, this campaign helps to raise awareness of the many outstanding, diverse achievements of our membership.

Once again, all donations received through this celebratory campaign will go towards the Seed Fund for Documentary Filmmakers. For 2017, the application deadline to apply for a Seed Fund grant is Friday, May 19th. Help us to reach our goal of $35,000 so we can continue to award these grants to help documentary filmmakers with start-up funding. The  Inaugural Seed Fund grants were given to Katie Lannigan and Kimberly McFarland in 2016. This special initiative began during the 35th anniversary of Women in Film & Video under the stewardship of Immediate Past President Erin Essenmacher and Executive Director Melissa Houghton, and our goal is to continue it through the WIFV 40th anniversary and beyond! You can make your donation at WIFV.org.

Women in Film & Video: February 2017 President’s Message


Laine Coates and Rebecca Bustamante pose at the AFI Silver Docs Festival.

Repost from WIFV.org

Create hope, not fear.
Provide opportunities, not stumbling blocks.
We can change the world.

This message wrapped up the WIFV awards presented at this year’s WIFV-TIVA Holiday Party at the Harman Center for the Arts. The amazing Gwen Tolbart received the Liesel Flashenberg Award for Community Service, Yi Chen received the Carolyn’s First Decade Fund, and Krystal Tingle, the Randy Goldman Career Development Scholarship. True to WIFV’s twofold mission, the community service award raises visibility of member  achievement, and the two scholarships are designed to provide mentoring opportunities and advance the media careers of the recipients. Each award or scholarship was established in the memory of a WIFV member or past president whose self-less passion, creativity, and commitment to storytelling inspired our community.

At the party, WIFV Board Members mingled with attendees to create connections, catch up on industry news, and ask for informal input about our programming, including the Women of Vision Award. Founded by WIFV Advisory Committee Chair and Past President Michal Carr, this award celebrates the technical and creative achievements of trailblazing women in media. We want to ensure that you can celebrate people who inspire you, and that you can also hear insights about their journey to success. The recent Women of Vision Awards honoring Joan Darling, Dawn Porter, and Christine Vachon focused on creating a forum to allow audience Q&A with these outstanding media makers.

When our Women of Vision honorees share their thoughts and career experiences, networking and connections happen between the speaker and audience, and from member to member, person to person. The stories we tell are an important way of sharing experiences across generations, cultures, and points of view. When the media community comes together in mutual support across organizations, like TIVA and
WIFV, it creates a positive energy in turbulent times.

Your stories can change the world.

Women in Film and Video: January 2017 President’s Message


Repost from WIFV.org

One of my favorite films in 2016 was BAD MOMS. It also sparked one of my favorite social media groups, a private one, devoted to women sharing their imperfect, hilarious, and honest confessions of parental shortcomings that honors the funny bit at the end of the movie when Mila Kunis’ “I’m-not-perfect” speech inspires a room full of PTA women to stand and share their own parental “fails”. I had to giggle when one parent exclaimed, “I can’t tell my twins apart.” My own mother recommended this movie to me, because she said I needed a good laugh.

I also managed to wrangle a signed copy of Amy Schumer’s THE GIRL WITH THE LOWER BACK TATTOO this year, which includes some soulbaring moments about family,  relationships, and of course, sex. The book ranges from amusing anecdotes about her start in stand-up comedy to excerpts from her teenage journals to lists of her favorite things. It ends with a chapter titled “Forgiving My Lower Back Tattoo”, which sums up the journey to self-acceptance that everyone goes on – although Amy does it with her signature honesty and humor.

BAD MOMS and Amy reminded me that these things should be in my new year’s resolutions:

#1: Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake. (In fact, share it with friends who will help you laugh about it and keep you from taking yourself too seriously!)

#2: Stand up for who you are, and what you believe in. It makes the world a better place.

#3: If you want something, go after it. You deserve the best. As 2017 unfolds, a sense of humor and the courage to stand up for what we believe will help us, as a community, to stay strong together.

Thank you for your commitment, dedication, and support to film and media makers in the DC metro area.

Women in Film & Video: December 2016 President’s Message

Reposted from WIFV.org

In November, the TIVA Peer Awards celebrated the many accomplishments of media makers in the DC metro area at the French embassy. The theme of  the evening was finding ways to build bridges between organizations to help support production
across the region. Last year, our own Melissa Houghton, Executive Director, was honored with the Community Partner Award at this event. This year, 2002 Women of Vision honoree, past president, and WIFV advisory committee member Rosemary Reed was honored with the Steve Wallace Community Service Award. Both women are shining examples of giving back to the community, connecting people to the resources they need, and mentoring emerging talent to become professional media makers. Every year, WIFV also recognizes a member who exemplifies community service with the Liesel Fleshenberg Award. Past winners include the Flashenberg Family, Rona Fitzgerald, Vicki Warren, Hillary Kirsner Leonard, and Carletta Hurt. The Liesel Flashenberg Award for Community Service was created in 2010 to honor the memory of Liesel Flashenberg, a past president of WIFV, to acknowledge her many contributions to her communities through her work with immigrant women and establishment of Through the Kitchen Door International. The award is presented each year to a WIFV member who exemplifies Liesel’s dedication to giving back and making a difference to non-profits in the area. If you know a member that you would like to nominate, fill out the online nomination form here. The winner will be announced at the annual WIFV/ TIVA Holiday Party on January 27, 2017. We invite you to join the movement and give to our community this holiday season. Some ideas include:

1. Use the hashtag #WIFVDC to talk about Women in Film & Video and why you support our organization on your social media accounts, and post a #UnSelfie to show how your work creates a positive impact.

2. Donate to the Documentary Seed Fund. Because start-up funding is so difficult to raise, many worthy media projects with women in above-the-line positions never get off the ground. But with even a $35 contribution, you can help a filmmaker test a concept or conduct background interviews for a compelling documentary. Our second round of grants will be awarded in 2017.

3. Identify an in-kind donation for WIFV events and services. Providing a venue for a membership event or volunteers for outreach programs like Image Makers and the Kids World Film Festival helps WIFV to improve media literacy for our youth and develop future filmmakers.

4. Visit the WIFV.org website to learn more about how you can make a difference.