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Animation Insiders Demand an End to Sexism and Harassment in the Animation Industry Today

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A letter was sent today by 217 women and non-gender conforming folk to over a dozen studios demanding change and an end to sexual harassment and sexism in the animation industry.  Included on the list of recipients are executives at Disney, Sony Pictures Animation, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks Animation, and Warner Bros.

Signatures are from people working across the industry, including producers, directors, and show creators. The problem is widespread, although as in live action, has been kept largely secret and discussed only between trusted colleagues and friends.

I personally have heard a number of stories of misconduct and sexism, which have sometimes been reported, but often left in the interest of job safety.  Perhaps with the proclamations happening now in other parts of the film industry, those with experiences or knowledge of improprieties in animation will be able to make the studios enact permanent, important changes.  All of us involved in animation as fans, journalists, and industry insiders should support and commit to the demands as written in this letter.  Just talking about it isn’t enough.  The human resources departments of all the studios, executives, and colleagues must take this seriously and consider the next steps.  As both a journalist, and a friend to a number of people working in the world of animation, I will always defer to when they want to tell their own stories, and amplify when possible. I am in complete support of them and the need for change.

See the letter below:

An Open Letter to the Animation Community

We, the women and gender non-conforming people of the animation community, would like to address and highlight the pervasive problem of sexism and sexual harassment in our business. We write this letter with the hope that change is possible, and ask that you listen to our stories and then make every effort to bring a real and lasting change to the culture of animation studios.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, many of the women who work in animation have begun discussing more openly issues that we have dealt with quietly throughout our careers. As we came together to share our stories of sexism, sexual harassment and, in some cases, sexual assault, we were struck by the pervasiveness of the problem. Every one of us has a story to share, from tossed-off comments about our body parts that were framed as “jokes” to women being cornered in dark rooms by male colleagues to criminal assault.

Our business has always been male-dominated. Women make up only 23% of union employees, so it’s no surprise that problems with sexism and sexual harassment exist. Sexual harassment and assault are widespread issues that primarily affect women, with women of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups affected at an even greater rate.

As more women have entered the animation workforce, it seems that some men have not embraced this change. They still frequently make crass sexual remarks that make it clear women are not welcome on their crews. Some have pressed colleagues for romantic or sexual relationships, despite our clear disinterest. And some have seen the entrance of more women into the industry as an opportunity to exploit and victimize younger workers on their crews who are looking for mentorship. In addition, when sexual predators are caught at one workplace, they seem to easily find a job at another studio, sometimes even following their victims from job to job. We are tired of relying on whisper networks to know who isn’t safe to meet with alone. We want our supervisors to protect us from harassment and assault.

This abuse has got to stop.

The signatories of this letter demand that you take sexual harassment seriously. We ask that:

1. Every studio puts in place clear and enforceable sexual harassment policies and takes every report seriously. It must be clear to studio leadership, including producers, that, no matter who the abuser is, they must investigate every report or face consequences themselves.

2. The Animation Guild add language in our constitution that states that it can “censure, fine, suspend or expel any member of the guild who shall, in the opinion of the Executive Board, be found guilty of any act, omission, or conduct which is prejudicial to the welfare of the guild.” To craft and support the new language, we ask that an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Committee be created to help educate and prevent future occurrences.

3. Our male colleagues start speaking up and standing up for us. When their co-workers make sexist remarks, or when they see sexual harassment happening, we expect them to say something. Stop making excuses for bad behavior in your friends and co-workers, and tell them what they are doing is wrong.

It has not been easy for us to share our stories with each other. Many of us were afraid because our victimizers are powerful or well-liked. Others were worried that if they came forward it would affect their careers. Some of us have come forward in the past, only to have our concerns brushed aside, or for our supervisors to tell us “he’s just from a different era.” All of us are saddened and disheartened to hear how widespread the problem of sexual harassment still is in the animation industry, and how many of our friends had been suffering in secret.

It is with this in mind that we resolve to do everything we can to prevent anyone else from being victimized. We are united in our mission to wipe out sexual harassment in the animation industry, and we will no longer be silent.

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News

Women Rocking Hollywood SDCC 2017 panel with Cinema Siren ROCKED HARD!

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Women Rocking Hollywood 2017 was Victoria MahoneyAurora GuerreroTina MabryRosemary RodriguezAngela RobinsonGina Prince-Bythewood, and Kirsten Schaffer. All Hollywood Powerhouses!  Such graciousness and talent. It’s incredible to me that at SDCC, in an environment full of famous people and A-listers, I would not trade for anyone within a 5 mile radius, the female directors I spent a day with and featured on the 2nd annual panel of Women Rocking Hollywood. I also can’t imagine most male directors working today being so complimentary and supportive of each other.  In fact, Victoria Mahoney said “When one of us rises, we all rise.”  That sentiment was reaffirmed and embodied repeatedly by all the panelists.  It was an honor to highlight their work and the importance of changing the status quo in Hollywood.

If we have more talented women being hired across all the genres of film and television, we will get more diverse art on screens both large and small.

We had a full house, in fact, we had many people outside who couldn’t get in to the panel.  We hope to have a larger room next year, and will also be posting the panel on YouTube and Amazon for those who want to hear the inspiring, positive, and very articulate commentary from these women.

Women Rocking Hollywood was covered by some great outlets both before and after the convention.

The point of this panel and why I wanted to have it at San Diego Comic-Con, the mecca of all things pop culture, is that SDCC is for the fans. It gets fans of all genres and all subjects excited about what’s coming, celebrates what they love, and allows contact with the filmmakers and stars they love.  I believe fans can and will have a huge impact on moving us toward a 50/50 balance of women directors, writers, and artists below the line.  Fans can force Hollywood and the extended film industry to consider the Bechtel Test and how women are represented. They can do it by voting with they pocketbooks and by word of mouth.  SO…follow these women on twitter, see their shows, (like Queen Sugar, which has ALL female directors), support Women in Film:LA, which is doing amazing work towards changing the industry, go out to see new movies created by women at the theater, and promote their projects.  For myself, I take it far enough that I don’t see movies without female representation in the crew, unless the film offers some other aspect of diversity, although interestingly, diversity and acceptance/hiring of women for the crew often goes hand in hand (but not always)…

DO I SOUND LIKE A BROKEN RECORD? Well, something more important is broken, and we have to fix it. We can do it together.  We don’t have to support crappy untalented directors, either.  Every woman on my panel is exceptional and is well-regarded by critics and film academics, and that is just a small sample of the great talent out there.

Here was the panel description:

Women Rocking HollywoodWomen Directors Changing the Face of Film and Television Wonder Woman broke all records in Hollywood for a film helmed by a female directors.  Now What? While there’s still a long way to go to equal the number of women behind the camera with women, who make up 51% of the population, shows like Jessica Jones, Queen Sugar, and The Leftovers are making a huge difference by committing to the inclusion of female directors. This 2nd annual panel at SDCC focuses on the incredibly talented, successful women expanding opportunities for women in film who have made noise and winning awards with their work on both the big and small screens. Scheduled to appear: Kirsten Schaffer (exec director, Women in Film: LA) Tina Mabry (writer/producer/director: Queen of the South, director: Dear White People) Rosemary Rodriguez (writer/director: Silver Skies, director: Jessica Jones, The Walking Dead) Victoria Mahoney (director: Queen Sugar, Gypsy, American Crime) Aurora Guerrero (writer/director: Mosquita y Mari, director: Queen Sugar) Angela Robinson (writer/director: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, True Blood) and Gina Prince-Bythewood (writer/director: Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights), the first woman of color hired to helm a superhero film for the upcoming Silver & Black.. Moderated by Leslie Combemale (Cinema Siren)

Here are some of the great articles written about it:

Pre-con:

SDCC Unofficial Blog “Spotlight on Behind-the-Scenes panels”

Nerdist “Guide to Best San Diego Comic-Con Panels”

LA Times “Must-see Panels at SDCC”

Huffington Post “Highlights you may have Overlooked”

The Week “Comic-Con 2017 Top Shows and Films taking part”

Fox5 “What Not to Miss Saturday”

Glaad “Guide to LGBTQ-inclusive programming at Comic-Con”

Nerdophiles “Ladies Love Comic-Con”

Post-con so far:

Good.is “Women had their Best Showing Ever at this year’s Comic-Con” (shared over 800 times and counting)

LA Times “Gina Prince-Bythewood Discusses Landing the Spider-Man Spinoff”

Huffington Post “Highlights Beyond the Highlights”

The Game of Nerds “Women Rocking Hollywood: SDCC puts female directors front and center”

Paste “Gina Prince-Bythewood is One of the Women Rocking Hollywood”

YES IT WAS A SUCCESS, BUT…women in film have a mountain ahead of them to climb, whether they are directors, or below-the-line crew.  Just look at this video, which gives just a tiny look into the experiences they routinely go through:

[get-youtube vid=”ZP3n72BQK0U”]

If you want to see all the “Flip the Script” shorts, go here.

They need fans and film lovers to act as support sherpas on their way up the Everest that is patriarchal Hollywood. It’s up to all of us to help them in all the ways we can by following them on twitter, supporting their films, and loudly echoing each other to become one the voice for equality.

We will be back next year, and will cover women-centric and female written and directed projects throughout the year, both on Cinema Siren and WomenRockingHollywood.com.

Read us, and also other great sites supporting women like Women in Film: LA, and Women and Hollywood.

We’ll write more about the experience when we post the video of the panel!!

News

WOMEN ROCKING HOLLYWOOD San Diego Comic-Con 2017 panel announced!

wecandoitSDCC

We are pleased and so excited to announce our panel, date, and time of the 2nd annual Women Rocking Hollywood panel at SDCC!  We were thrilled to once again partner with Women in Film: LA, with executive director Kirsten Schaffer once again on the panel, OWN and the folks producing Queen Sugar to bring 2 directors from the show, some super powerful women directors representing some of the best shows and movies on now and coming soon!! We also are grateful for Wattpad for sponsoring the panel.

We hope those of you who will be there will come see the panel, and as with last year, we’ll be filming it so those of you who can’t make it will be able to watch it on YouTube, hear their wisdom, insights, and their excitement about their current and upcoming projects!!

Here’s the description of Women Rocking Hollywood, which takes place on Saturday, July 22nd:

1:00-2:00 Women Rocking Hollywood: Women Directors Changing the Face of Film and Television Wonder Woman broke all records in Hollywood for a film helmed by a female directors.  Now What? While there’s still a long way to go to equal the number of women behind the camera with women, who make up 51% of the population, shows like Jessica Jones, Queen Sugar, and The Leftovers are making a huge difference by committing to the inclusion of female directors. This 2nd annual panel at SDCC focuses on the incredibly talented, successful women expanding opportunities for women in film who have made noise and winning awards with their work on both the big and small screens. Scheduled to appear: Kirsten Schaffer (exec director, Women in Film: LA) Tina Mabry (writer/producer/director: Queen of the South, director: Dear White People) Rosemary Rodriguez (writer/director: Silver Skies, director: Jessica Jones, The Walking Dead) Victoria Mahoney (director: Queen Sugar, Gypsy, American Crime) Aurora Guerrero (writer/director: Mosquita y Mari, director: Queen Sugar) Angela Robinson (writer/director: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, True Blood) and Gina Prince-Bythewood (writer/director: Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights), the first woman of color hired to helm a superhero film for the upcoming Silver & Black.. Moderated by Leslie Combemale (Cinema Siren). Room 23ABC

IF YOU’LL BE AT SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON, put the panel on your schedule and show your LOVE for women in film!

Link: http://sched.co/BQ21

News

SEEING WONDER WOMAN? See it Early and Support Women in Film!

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How excited are you about seeing a Hollywood film featuring the most popular and beloved female superhero? Maybe you think you’ll go soonish, or certainly, of course, see it while it’s in theaters.  Have you bought your tickets yet?  What are you waiting for, an invitation from Diana herself?  Let me suggest you go as soon as possible. Here’s why:

As you may know, Wonder Woman is directed by Patty Jenkins.  She is going to be only the 4th woman to be hired to helm a live action. film with a budget over 100 million dollars.  The 4th woman if you only count live action, or if you count animation features as well, the 6th.   That number is out of 361.  There have been 361 movies made with budgets over 100 million, and Wonder Woman will be the only the 6th movie ever with that big a budget to be helmed by a woman.

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Ok, why will going to see Wonder Woman early help?  Money talks in Hollywood, as with any money-making business. If lots of people go to early screenings and the movie breaks a number of box office records, it offers further proof that hiring female directors is as smart and financially sound a choice as hiring another male for the next movie with a big budget.

It might surprise you to know that the movie-going public, much like the general makeup of the population, is 51% female.  Women don’t avoid movies, and they certainly don’t avoid them if they have a female lead character. Unfortunately, in the US, they do have to contend with the fact that way less than half of the films released by studios in this country pass the Bechtel Test, meaning fewer than 50% have two named female characters that speak to each other and about a subject other than men.  Obviously since Wonder Woman partly takes place on an island entirely inhabited by women, this film will pass the Bechtel Test with flying colors!

Things are changing very slowly around the world for women behind the camera, but they are changing.  Just this year at the Cannes Film Festival, Sophia Coppola won Best Director for her remake of 1971’s The Beguiled.  She is only the second woman to ever win Best Director, with Russian auteur Yuliya Solntseva being the first for The Story of Flaming Years all the way back in 1961. This puts Cannes, the festival who turned away women in flat heels in 2015, ahead of the Oscars, which has only bestowed one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, the honor.  Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation are the only other female directors ever nominated in the entire history of the Academy Awards.  Hurrah for Cannes!  The Academy has a lot of work to do, especially given recent snubs including Ava DuVernay and her glorious movie Selma, Jennifer Kent, the writer/director of genre-buster The Babadook, and Maren Ade and her very strange, yet delightful dramedy Toni Erdmann.

It may seem like this sort of campaign, the desire for a female-helmed superhero movie to do well at the box office, is trivial in comparison with heavier subjects like world health concerns for women.  The fact is that directors are able to bring attention to subjects and issues with smaller, Indie films, when they can make big, high-profile money-making movies as well.  Even Steven Spielberg will tell you, clout and box office success as a director get many a passion project made.  Female directors have important stories to tell that can change public perception about any number of subjects. For example, no one would have ever known the real-life story of brilliant female chess player from the Ugandan slums, Phiona Mutesi, had it not been for Mira Nair’s film, Queen of Katwe.

Numbers matter. They open up opportunities for women in front of and behind the camera, in the writer’s room and editing bays, and for any number of other positions ‘below the line’, like production design, art direction, and sound design. Gratefully for the fans and filmmakers of Wonder Woman, the film has gotten nearly universal praise by top film critics around the world.

So… you and your friends can be some of the first to talk about the beauty, grace, courage, and strength of the beloved superhero.  At the same time, you’ll be adding strength to the numbers of current and future women in film. You just have to buy a ticket, put on your Wonder Woman converse shoes, and head out to the closest multiplex. See you there!

News

This Weekend The Middleburg Film Festival Celebrates Women in Film

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This Weekend The Middleburg Film Festival Celebrates Women in Film: A wide range of films and panels feature women in front of and behind the camera.

2016 has been a topsy-turvy year for women. On the one hand, it’s possible we’ll elect the first female president in history. On the other, disrespect and ignorance around women’s issues have been in the news all year, with the insults during the election, sexual exploitation by celebrities, the questioning of women’s stories of abuse, and more, making the headlines. One subject that has gotten positive attention is the importance of and genuine interest in balancing the numbers of women working in Hollywood, both in front and behind the camera. The Middleburg Film Festival, happening this weekend from October 20th through the 23rd, is playing a powerful and positive role in highlighting the best women working in all roles both inside and outside the studio system.

Since their beginnings only a few years ago, Middleburg Film Festival has always paid attention to the best films in which women play an essential part. Seven films out of the featured 25 are directed by women, but when asked if that’s a conscious effort, executive director Susan Koch said, “We think about it, but we don’t make our selection just because it’s directed by a woman. I think what we’ve found when you look at the statistics, when only 4% of films in Hollywood are directed by women, and we have over 25%, we’re really happy about that. The films we have also hail from all over the world. They just show you the women are out there are making great films. We like to mix it up, not just showing Oscar buzz films, but the independent gems, and especially when you’re talking about women, they often have to do the independent, smaller films, because they’re not given the break to do the larger studio films.

Some of the highlights supporting women in film include the seven films directed by women:

  • Certain Women: a feature film directed by Kelly Reichert, starring Laura Dern and Michelle Williams
  • Toni Erdmann: a feature film directed by Maren Ade about a father attempting to reconnect with his estranged adult daughter, which has already won awards including Best Film at Cannes this year.
  • A Classy Broad: a documentary directed by Anne Goursaud about Marcia Nasatir who was a powerful woman in film and the Vice President of United Artists in the 1970s.
  • The Man Who Saw Too Much: a documentary directed by Trisha Ziff about a tabloid photographer in Mexico.
  • Sonita: a feature film directed by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, which won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary, about an undocumented Afghan refugee women living in Iran who dreams of being a rapper.

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  • The Edge of Seventeen: directed by Kelly Fremon Craig starring Hailee Steinfeld.
  • L’avenir (Things to Come): directed by Mia Hansen-Love, who won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival, stars Isabel Hubbert as a Parisian philosophy teacher who finds herself having to start again.

There are also films featuring a diversity of women onscreen:

There are also a number of films featuring women in lead roles, including Aquarius, starring Sonia Braga, Custody, starring Catalina Sandino Moreno in a courthouse drama, Jackie, starring Natalie Portman, about Jackie Kennedy, a documentary about a 13 year old eagle hunter in Mongolia, the first ever in her region calledThe Eagle Huntress, and Loving, co-starrring Ruth Negga about the landmark case that changed the laws for interracial marriage that took place in Virginia.

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Panels and discussions with powerful allies of women in film are also a highlight of the festival:

There is a panel discussion called Women in Film: Changing the Numbers on Friday morning, with high-profile female producers including Angie Fielder (Lion, Wish You Were Here) and Lauren Versel (Custody, Arbitrage) as well as Cassian Elwes (Blue Valentine, All is Lost, Dallas Buyers Club) one of the most powerful independent producers in Hollywood. About the panel, Koch says, “We think that you can’t talk enough about it. We have one male on that panel, Cassian Elwes, who is a very well known producer. The reason he’s included is because he has a mentoring program and he’s bringing in his mentee. When we talk about how to solve the problem, it’s not just the women who are going to solve it, the whole industry has to step up and make a commitment to change these numbers”.

The keynote address for the Middleburg Film Festival is being delivered by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs on Saturday, and there’s “Wine and Conversation” with Oscar nominated Production Designer Jeannine Oppewall (Seabiscuit, LA Confidential, Pleasantville) also featuring Anne Hornaday, Chief Film Critic of the Washington Post. About the subject of women in film, and creating equality in Hollywood, Sheila Johnson, Founder of the MFF says, “We’re two pretty powerful women and we go after what we want. We have Sheryl Boone Isaacs coming in also and we’ll be talking more about all this and i’m very excited.”

Film lovers in the area, as well as the increasing number of fans who are making an effort to get here, should also be excited, too. Those who want to see more diversity in storytelling, portrayal, and film artistry will benefit from the festival’s natural inclination to be more inclusive. As to expanding awareness and being ever more inclusive, Johnson believes “the word is getting out there. We have female filmmakers now calling us wanting us to show their films, because they know we are so inclusive of them, and really do want to celebrate women in film. I think that reputation is out there, so I think it will keep getting easier and easier for us to attract women doing film.”

The Middleburg Film Festival runs from October 20th to October 23rd in Middleburg, Virginia, which is located one short hour from the center of Washington, DC. For more information, visit: www.middleburgfilm.org.

News

SDCC 2106’s Women Rocking Hollywood panel: “IF SHE CAN DO THIS, I CAN DO THIS”-Marvel and DC producers and famed directors speak

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Angela Robinson, Leslie Combemale, Catherine Hardwicke, Kirsten Schaffer, Deborah Snyder, and Victoria Alonso backstage before the San Diego Comic-Con Women Rocking Hollywood panel

A NEW COMIC-CON PANEL “WOMEN ROCKING HOLLYWOOD” inspires, and celebrates the power of women to create great art and bring equality to the film industry.

The inaugural panel of Women Rocking Hollywood, which took place at Comic-Con International: San Diego on Saturday, July 23rd, which was sponsored by Wattpad, was an unqualified success, delivered to a packed house. The enthusiastic audience heard from a diverse panel of women changing the industry from the inside.  Women Rocking Hollywood was the only panel with official representation from both Marvel Studios and DC Entertainment. Leave it to the powerful women in the film business to turn what is often portrayed as a rivalry into a cooperative exploration of how all studios can make the industry more inclusive!

With the release of Suicide Squad, and the recent official announcement of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Women Rocking Hollywood, which included the executive producers for both films, Deborah Snyder for the former, and Victoria Alonso for the latter, couldn’t be more timely.  The entire panel had strong, influential members of the film industry.  Catherine Hardwicke currently holds the box office record for the highest grossing opening by a female director with Twilight.  She more recently racked up over 33 million views for the short film that accompanies Lady Gaga’s award-winning song “Til it Happen to You”.  Angela Robinson, who currently writes for How to Get Away With Murder, has directed episodes of True Blood, The L Word and Hung. She was the first out lesbian to direct a Disney family comedy with Herbie Fully Loaded. Also speaking was Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women in Film: LA, the non-profit organization working to bring equal representation of women within the global entertainment, communication, and media industries.  WIF has spread the word through their initiative #52FilmsbyWomen.  Women Rocking Hollywood was moderated by Leslie Combemale, who has years of experience curating panels at SDCC and writes as Cinema Siren, and has recently created a website for the panel.

Watch the panel by clicking below:

[get-youtube vid=”zyLkaFh9N40″]

Or you can watch the panel HERE.

The panel began with WIF: LA’s Kirsten Schaffer, who discussed the statistics for women currently working in the film industry.  She referred to a study by USC released in February of 2016, which reported, among other startling statistics, that only 15.2% of directors in the industry are women, with 3.4% in film, and 17% in television.  Women in Film: LA is dedicated to helping change that, and has launched a systemic change project within the industry to increase those numbers.  She invited the audience, as well as those who watch the panel post-convention, to pledge to seeing #52FilmsbyWomen.  She also mentioned the a tee designed by The Vikings’ Catherine Winnick, and all profits from sales go to Women in Film.

Kirsten Schaffer on the SDCC 2016 Women Rocking Hollywood panel

“It took a hundred years to build the studio system that works the way that it does, and it thousands and thousands of years to build a patriarchy, so it’s going to take a little while for us to move those numbers, but I really believe that with the people who have already made commitments to moving those numbers, that over the next years, as these reports come out, we’re going to see dramatic shifts in those numbers.”

Deborah Snyder is one of the most powerful producers involved in making the current and upcoming crop of superhero films at Warner Brothers, and is one of the producers of 2017’s Wonder Woman as well as Justice League, The Flash and Aquaman.  She flew in from London from the set of Justice League to be part of the panel.  She discussed the importance of and her part in including talented women in the crews of her films, and about mentoring young female filmmakers to inspire them to follow their paths, (which both she and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins have done). Snyder mentioned that it is important to not just have women working on female-centric films like Wonder Woman, so on Justice League, they made a conscious effort to hire women for head of department positions, including a female assistant director they hired up from the ranks, whom Snyder knew had the ability and talent.  When she asked this new female AD about wanting to work in film, she said, “When I was coming up, there was a woman, I remember going to the movies and I saw her name.  I said ‘If I she can do this, I can do this.’”

Deborah Snyder on the SDCC 2016 Women Rocking Hollywood panel

About hiring women, she says:

“I think it has to be, right now, a conscious decision, and hopefully that will turn into something that we just do, but for now it’s something we need to do.”

Of the women on the current Hollywood A-list she has worked with, Amy Adams, Margot Robbie, and Gal Gadot, she says:

“What’s so beautiful about them, is that they are strong, spirited women making choices that I think empower women empower themselves and it shows they can be strong and beautiful, and you don’t have to be one or the other.”

Victoria Alonso, as the head of physical production at Marvel Studios, has worked on Ant-Man, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and pretty much every other film the studio has done.  She is executive producing Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, and Captain Marvel.  She is a wonderful example of someone who rose from the bottom, as a production assistant, to the top of the industry.  She talked about how she got to where she is by being willing to go the extra mile.  “I did every job nobody wanted to do. I was very interested in what people didn’t want to do, because I’m very interested in people.”  She told a great story about being mistaken for “the coffee girl”, which is definitely worth watching the panel for, and gave a bit of advice to everyone in the audience she thought the most important thing to remember in the business:

Victoria Alonso on the SDCC 2016 Women Rocking Hollywood panel

“Don’t let your ego get in the way. The high road makes for a better story, every time, trust me.”

When asked to talk about Captain Marvel, she started speaking in Spanish with a broad smile on her face.  Marvel officially announced Brie Larson as the star a few hours later in Hall H.  She did say of Marvel,

“You will see things very soon in the coming days and weeks. We have a conscious effort to bring more balance, and by that I don’t just mean women, I mean balance of what I call ‘The United Colors of Benetton’.  I long for the day when movies are directed, not because Black Panther is an African story is directed by Ryan Coogler, and not because Captain Marvel is a female story is directed by a woman, I live for the day when all of our stories are directed by all kinds of people.”

Angela Robinson, as a gay black woman, joked about being asked to be on a lot of panels. She related how, early in her career, she realized she could use to her advantage the fact that those she was pitching to didn’t know where to pigeonhole her. She said she would just fill that moment of confusion, when they were trying to figure out where to place her, with words.  Before they would write her off by putting her in a box, she was able to focus them on her ideas.

Angela Robinson on the SDCC 2016 Women Rocking Hollywood panel

“My mom was always worried it would be hard to not be white, or straight, or whatever, but I always thought it helped me because I wasn’t able to be assigned to a box and I was just able to address the work. People, once you started talking, would just meet you and you could move forward, and be creative, and try to make art.”

Her advice was that It’s always important to be ready.

“They say that when they play your song, be ready to sing. When I got the opportunity, I was prepared.  People can help you only when you’re ready to be helped.”

One of her projects she talks of being most excited about, and the only one of the many in the works she can discuss, is called The Players, about the relationship between screen sirens Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.

Catherine Hardwicke, a Texan, has the vibe of your favorite laid-back friend from the South.  She studied architecture and film production before becoming a production designer for movies like Vanilla Sky, Three Kings, and Tombstone. She used her own house and props to make the Oscar-nominated Thirteen, which she co-wrote with then-13 year-old Nikki Reed.  She talked about how she was able to leverage fan interest in Twilight while she was filming by showing producers articles and blogs put online by fans, and about the power of fandom.

Catherine Hardwicke on the SDCC 2016 Women Rocking Hollywood panel

“When we are talking about the power that everyone in this room has, on Twilight for example, no studio in town thought would make money with a young female protagonist. Lionsgate, which was Summit, started looking at all the internet chatter and that there were fans that cared about it, and so every time I would read something online about fans that loved this scene, I would take it in and ask ‘could you give me a few more bucks to make this scene?’ We love the feedback of fans, and it supports what we do.”

Hardwicke also talked about her new connection with the production company ‘We Do it Together’, announced in February, and her part as one of nine female directors creating shorts for the film Together Now.

The panel ended with all those involved putting the suggestion out into the audience and fans to help: creating buzz, following and promoting women working in the industry, and actively connecting with like-minded people who don’t yet know about the new projects of women working inside and outside of Hollywood. They all repeatedly reminded the audience of the power of movie lovers, to call attention to underused talent who deserve a chance on the A-list in all roles in front of and behind the camera.  They also mentioned that as Hollywood is a business, their money has power as well.  Victoria Alonso specifically suggested buying movie tickets for women-fronted and women-supported films.  She, as well as the other panelists, urged women to never give up on getting into the field.  Alonso referenced the fact that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige got denied multiple times before being accepted to film school.  “No is temporary”.

Based on post-panel responses, if there was one message that resonated for the audience on this first Women Rocking Hollywood Comic-Con panel, it was the quote Deborah Snyder recalled from her colleague, “If she can can do this, I can do this.”  This group of women, who are bringing about great changes, and expanding the artistic output of the film industry to achieve a better balance of voices from both genders, ably demonstrated just that.

Interviews & Reviews News

NOW MARVEL & DC Represented on SDCC Women Rocking Hollywood panel!

Leave it to the women of the world to bring together Marvel and DC in peace and harmony.  As if it wasn’t already an embarrassment of riches to have the director of Women in Film LA Kirsten Schaffer, the director of Twilight Catherine Hardwicke, and respected Indie and TV writer/director Angela Robinson on the inaugural Women Rocking Hollywood panel, we also now have both Marvel AND DC represented with Victoria Alonso and Deborah Snyder! Now you really have to drop everything else and come be a part of it!

OUR NEW UPDATED PANEL DESCRIPTION:

Saturday July 23rd:

2:00 – 3:00 Women Rocking Hollywood-This exciting new panel features powerful, talented women changing Hollywood from the inside.  As creatives, directors, and producers, they are breaking box office records and showing Hollywood altering the status-quo just makes for better movies. Scheduled to appear are Victoria Alonso (exec producer, Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War), Deborah Snyder (producer, Wonder Woman, Justice League) Angela Robinson (writer/director, D.E.B.S., True Blood, How to Get Away With Murder) Catherine Hardwicke (director, Twilight, upcoming Love Letters to the Dead) and Kirsten Schaffer (exec director, Women in Film: LA)  talking about positive changes in tinsel town, their work, and future projects. Marvel, DC, blockbusters, indies, and powerful women-This panel brings it all! Moderated by Leslie Combemale of Cinema Siren. Room: 25ABC

News

SDCC 2016: MUST-SEE WOMEN-DRIVEN PANELS-The Definitive List of Diverse Panels by and for women and fangirls coming to San Diego Comic-Con 2016

MUST-SEE WOMEN POWER PANELS AT SDCC:  A Diverse Collection of Great Panels by and for women and fangirls are coming to San Diego Comic-Con

In the case of female fans and professionals in the film, animation, and comic industry and conventions, we came way before they built it.  I started going to SDCC over 15 years ago, I’m sure I’m not alone.

So if you’re a girl geek looking to surround yourself with other girls who can rattle off Game of Thrones or Star Wars trivia, or you just love supporting and celebrating powerful women on your favorite shows and movies both in front of and behind the camera…ALERT: at this year’s San Diego Comic-con, there’s some great programming for you.

I’ll start with my own panels.  Through Cinema Siren, and as a female critic and film lover, I really wanted to create some panels that were specific to women in the film and animation industry. I approached two non-profit organizations I respect, Women in Animation and Women in Film: LA to be part of panels that talked about the state of the industry, statistics, and how fans can make a difference. They were both wonderful and supportive of the idea, and honored me by sending their best and most knowledgeable to take part, Marge Dean, co-president of WIA, and Kirsten Schaffer, Executive Director of Women in Film: LA.

Then I pulled it together a diverse collection of women who have done, and are doing amazing work, to talk about their experiences and their future projects.  The main purpose, beyond education, is to activate fans to get buzz going or spread the word for their current and coming endeavors.  We were incredibly fortunate to have Wattpad sponsor Women Rocking Hollywood.  Reward them by checking out their website, and become one of their millions of monthly users

Ultimately, this led to two panels, **Cartoon Creatives: Woman Power in Animation and **Women Rocking Hollywood.  Both are planned to be yearly events, and not only am I thrilled at the lineup for this year, some of the women who couldn’t do it but loved the idea are already excited about taking part in 2017.  See in the list below for more information on these, which are happening on Thursday and Saturday.

Here, however, are all the panels bringing some balance, inquiry, and celebration of fangirl power to SDCC:

ART HEROINES

Thursday, July 21 • 3:00pm – 4:00pm

Learn from this group of veteran female artists working in film/live action, TV, animation, commercials, and toy industries. There will be new announcements of current projects and how you can get involved. They will bring an exclusive look into their work, including displayed props, puppets, and works in progress, and discuss how to maintain a successful career while staying creatively fulfilled.Danelle Vierkant (designer/builder, The Revenant, Comedy Bang Bang), Ivonne Escoto(designer/builder,Tron Legacy, Alien vs Predator, The Creature Shop Challenge), Denise “Dee” Chavez(background designer, Nickelodeon’s Sanjay and Craig), Melissa Doss Diwa (designer/builder, The Creature Shop Challenge), Kristin Donner (painter/illustrator, Nickelodeon’s The Fairly Odd Parents), and moderator Christine Papalexis (fabricator, Team America: World Police, Alien Resurrection), with special panelist Tracy Black (curator, Unlocking Wonderland and The White Rabbit Project).  Room 25ABC   http://sched.co/7f0m

**CARTOON CREATIVES: Women power in Animation

Thursday, July 21 • 4:30pm – 5:30pm

While Women in Animation’s initiative strives to have a 50/50 workforce in the animation world by 2025, there are women leading the charge right now, creating, innovating, and guiding cartoons into a future filled with talent that goes beyond gender, and their fans are loving every minute of it. Scheduled to appear are Lauren Faust (creator, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), Brooke Keesling(director of animation talent development at Disney TV Animation), Lauren Montgomery (co-executive producer, Voltron: Legendary Defender), Stevie Wermers-Skelton (co-director, the upcomingFrozen Holiday Special), Gina Shay (producer, the upcoming Trolls), Katie Krentz (senior director of development: Cartoon Network, Steven Universe), Daron Nefcy (creator/executive producer, Star vs. the Forces of Evil) and Marge Dean (co-president, Women in Animation), talking about their experiences and upcoming projects. Moderated by Leslie Combemale of Animation Scoop. Room 24ABC  http://sched.co/7f1S *sponsored by Women in Animation!

THE MOST DANGEROUS WOMEN AT COMIC-CON: To Bechnel, or Not to Bechnel

Thursday, July 21 • 5:30pm – 6:30pm

You might be seeing more popular media starring women, but are there more that are actually about women? With so many stories failing the Bechdel Test (a test that measures whether a story has two women in it who talk about something other than a man), it leaves many wondering if pop culture is making any progress at all. Here to discuss the Bechdel test as well as diversity in media (and the lack thereof), are Action Flick Chick, Katrina Hill (100 Greatest Graphic Novels), Janina Scarlet (Superhero Therapy, Star Wars Psychology), Jennifer Stuller (Ink-Stained Amazons, GeekGirlCon), Patricia Tallman(Babylon 5, Quest Retreats), Jessica Tseang (Little Geek Girls, Girl on Geek), Tony B. Kim (Hero Within, Crazy4ComicCon), Ashley Bles (Henderson State University), and moderator Jenna Busch (Legion of Leia, Most Craved). Room 24ABC  http://sched.co/7f1m

WOMEN BELOW THE LINE

Friday, July 22 • 1:00pm – 2:00pm

Sheyne Fleischer (assistant editor, Project Runway, The Bachelor), Alicia Minette (prop master/fabricator, Hellevator, Paradise Run), Sabrina Wichner (miniature VFX artist,Interstellar, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday), Claire Hummel (production design, BioShock Infinite, Fable Legends), and Rachel Noel (narrative designer, Armored Warfare) explore the nontraditional rolls of women in the entertainment industry. They will discuss their careers and experiences working in their various fields, focusing on success stories and how to follow your dreams in the industry while exploring gender roles in the creative professions. Moderated by Glenn Freund (League of S.T.E.A.M.). Pacific 24, North Tower, Marriott Marquis & Marina   http://sched.co/7fnJ

FANGIRLS LEAD THE WAY: SHE MADE ME DO IT

Friday, July 22 • 6:30pm – 7:30pm

As the demographics of the industry continue to change, this panel focuses on the impact of female fans (not female creators) and how they are changing comics from the ground up in surprising and positive ways. More than ever, their grassroots efforts can be seen everywhere from comic shops atond conventions, and from cosplay to social media. Panelists include Jamie Broadnax (Black Girl Nerds), Sam Maggs (Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy), Rose Del Vecchio (Fanmail), and Constance Gibbs(Black Girls Nerds). Moderated by Ed Catto (Bonfire Agency). Room 26AB   http://sched.co/7fp6

SHE MADE THAT: NICKELODEON WOMEN IN ANIMATION

Friday, July 22 • 6:30pm – 7:30pm

A group of innovative and pioneering female cartoon creators discuss their careers and the opportunities for women in animation today. Panelists include women responsible for the original Nicktoons from the 1990s and others who are making some of today’s best animation for TV and the web. Hosted by Rachel Heine (Nerdist) and including panelists Lauren Faust (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), Mary Harrington (The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rocko’s Modern Life), Vanessa Coffey (Rugrats,Doug), Rikke Asbjoern (Pinky Malinky), Margaret Dean (Women in Animation), and Maija Burnett(California Institute of the Arts).  Room 24ABC   http://sched.co/7fp5

RISE OF THE  FANGIRLS: WOMEN IN RECENT GEEK CULTURE

Saturday, July 23 • 11:00am – 12:00pm

In 2010, nine women gathered onstage in front of a packed and engaged crowd at Comic-Con International to dispel the myth that “Geek Girls, like unicorns, don’t exist.” The subsequent six years have seen an explosion in female representation in geek spaces. Surveys tracking attendance numbers at fan-based events, as well as data regarding women gamers and comic book readers, are suggestive of gender parity within geek culture. Headlines coming out of Comic-Con itself proclaim that “women totally dominate” the event and that we are experiencing the rise of fangirls. But how far have women in geek culture really come since that landmark “Geek Girls Exist” panel? Andrea Letamendi (Pop Culture Hero Association), Jamie Broadax (Black Girl Nerds), Kristin Rielly (Geek Girls Network),Suzanne Scott (UT-Austin), Sam Maggs (Bioware, Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy), Marie Poole (Lone Shark Games), and moderator Jennifer K. Stuller (GeekGirlCon, Ink-Stained Amazon) talk about what interventions are being made in the culture, what areas still need work, and what the fangirl future holds. Room 25ABC http://sched.co/7gHr

THE FEMALE GEEK: WOMEN AS FANS AND CREATORS

Saturday, July 23 • 12:00pm – 1:00pm

There’s more to being a geek girl than meets the eye. From Princess Leia, to Katniss Everdeen, to Hermione Granger, fandom is full of awesome female characters-but what about the women who create these iconic individuals? Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy), Sabaa Tahir (A Torch Against the Night), Kiersten White (And I Darken), Sarah Kuhn (Heroine Complex), Kathleen Smith (The Fangirl Life), andMargaret Stohl (Black Widow: Forever Red) discuss feminism and fandom in a panel moderated byMadeline Ashby (Company Town).  Room 7AB  http://sched.co/7gI9

**WOMEN ROCKING HOLLYWOOD

Saturday, July 23 • 2:00pm – 3:00pm

This exciting new panel features powerful, talented women changing Hollywood from the inside.  As creatives, directors, and producers, they are breaking box office records and showing Hollywood altering the status-quo just makes for better movies. Scheduled to appear are Victoria Alonso (exec producer, Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War), Deborah Snyder (producer, Wonder Woman, Justice League) Angela Robinson (writer/director, D.E.B.S., True Blood, How to Get Away With Murder) Catherine Hardwicke (director, Twilight, upcoming Love Letters to the Dead) and Kirsten Schaffer (exec director, Women in Film: LA)  talking about positive changes in tinsel town, their work, and future projects. Marvel, DC, blockbusters, indies, and powerful women-This panel brings it all! Moderated by Leslie Combemale of Cinema Siren.

  Room 25ABC  http://sched.co/7gIs  *sponsored by Wattpad!

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: WOMEN WHO KICK ASS

Saturday, July 23 • 4:30pm – 5:15pm

A discussion among fierce, fearless actresses Morena Baccarin (Gotham), Melissa Benoist (Supergirl),Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead), Tatian Maslany (Orphan Black) and Connie Nielsen (Wonder Woman), who open up about the power and privilege of playing women that redefine the rules and refuse to yield.  Hall H http://sched.co/7gJn

MARVEL: WOMEN OF MARVEL

Sunday, July 24 • 12:30pm – 1:30pm

From Ms. Marvel to the A-Force, from Twitter to tumblr, women in comics has been one of the most talked-about topics in comics recently. Join the conversation as women from multiple disciplines in the creative process at Marvel discuss what it’s like working as a woman in comics today and what it means for the future of the industry. Panelists include content development director Sana Amanat, producer Judy Stephens, social media manager Adri Cowan, Marvel Live host Lorraine Cink, writer G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel), Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. costume designer Ann Foley, and others.  Room 6DE http://sched.co/7gfs

I hope you’ll sign up for my panels, because they promise to be fun and informative! See and support as many as you can, especially those that most resonate with you, and get you even more excited about the crazy whirlwind that is SDCC!  Let me know if I’ve missed any, and write below about which ones you are psyched about…Congrats to all those who put these together and the panelists taking part!  We’ll see you there!