Current Panelists – Women Rocking Hollywood 2023: How Female Filmmakers Reach the Hollywood A-List 


It’s mixed news about female representation behind the scenes in Hollywood. Recent findings show gender balanced hiring is still not a priority in the industry, with women of color having the hardest time getting hired, despite critical acclaim. However, studies have also shown female filmmakers hire more women in key roles on feature films, so female-fronted films are more gender-balanced overall. There’s a small list of directors and producers with household names that have the juice to go after the biggest gigs, but how does a female filmmaker get on that list? The 2023 WRH panel, now in its 8th year, features women who have claimed their power, or are climbing to the top through big studio, streaming, and high-profile indie projects. Join writer/director Rosemary Rodriguez (director, Peacemaker, director, upcoming indie horror/drama mashup Hail Mary) Sam Bailey (producer/director, Dear White People, Marvel’s IronHeart), Jen McGowan (director, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek: Discovery), Nzingha Stewart (director, Daisy Jones and The Six, director/EP, the upcoming Cross), Laura Merians Gonçalves (director of photography, Black is King, Dead Ringers) and Andria Wilson Mirza (director, Sundance Institute and Women in Film’s ReFrame Project) as they share their thoughts on positive impact unions have for women in film, talk about their newest projects, and offer insights about finding success in the industry and moving the needle forward for everyone. Moderated by Leslie Combemale (creator, Women Rocking Hollywood, lead contributor, The Alliance of Women Film Journalists). Room 5AB.


Rosemary Rodriguez-producer/director


Rosemary wrote and directed the Sundance feature 'Acts of Worship', was nominated for 2 Independent Spirit Awards and received a glowing New York Times review. Her second feature, 'Silver Skies', executive produced by Fred Roos and Arthur Sarkissian, went on to many festival awards, including the Audience Award at FLIFF.

Rosemary was Executive Producer/Director on Apple’s new show 'Home Before Dark', with Brooklynn Prince. She was Producing Director on Jason Katim’s 'Rise'. Her other TV work includes Apple’s 'Dickinson' with Hailee Steinfeld; 'Truth Be Told', starring Octavia Spencer; 'The Walking Dead'; 'Jessica Jones'; 'Sneaky Pete', starring Bryan Cranston; 'The Tick';'The Good Wife' (18 episodes, including the 100th), and 'Rescue Me', and most recently, she directed on James Gunn's The Peacemaker for HBO Max, and on Your Honor, starring Bryan Cranston.

She has a new scifi/horror mashup released at SXSW called Hail Mary, starring Jack Huston currently seeking distribution.


Sam Bailey-producer/director


Sam is the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based writer and director chosen as one of two filmmakers helming the new Disney+ series Ironheart.

She began stage acting as a teenager and received her bachelor's degree from Columbia College Chicago. Frustrated by the quality of roles she was cast in, Sam was inspired to create a sketch that would become You're So Talented, a semi-autobiographical self-produced web series about a struggling 25-year-old actress in Chicago. It was her first time directing and writing. You're So Talented was nominated for a Gotham Award in 2015.

In 2017 she co-produced the web series Brown Girls with poet Fatimah Asghar, which starred two young women coming to terms with queer identity, and navigating career and relationships. It was nomination for a 2017 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series. Bailey and Asghar signed a deal to develop the series with HBO. She co-produced the short documentary film Masculine/Masculine with Hank Jones at the 2018 LA Film Fest.

Sam has directed on the small screen for shows like Diary of a Future President, Grown-ish, The Chi, First Wives Club, and Dear White People.

Laura Merians Gonçalves-director of photography


Laura is the award-winning cinematographer behind the Darren Aronofsky produced drama Pacified (aka Pacificado), which won the Golden Seashell for Best Film at the San Sebastián International Film Festival as well as the Jury Prize for Best Cinematography, resulting in Merians being the first woman in the history of the festival to ever win this award. Pacified then went on to win the Cinematographers’ Debut Competition at the prestigious Camerimage Film Festival. Gonçalves was a cinematographer for Beyonce’s highly anticipated film, Black is King. Other credits include the musical John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch for Netflix and A24, and additional photography on Josephine Decker’s Sundance winning film Shirley. She was selected as one of the Rising Stars of 2020 by the ASC. Most recently, she lensed episodes of Prime Video's Dead Ringers, starring Rachel Weisz.


Jen McGowan-director


Jen McGowan is a director based in Los Angeles. Her recent feature film, the survival thriller, Rust Creek, was released in theaters by IFC Midnight, hailed as "the feminist thriller Hollywood needs right now" by Harper's Bazaar. When it dropped on Netflix it premiered at #3 of all film & tv in the US and stayed in the top ten for over a week. Rust Creek made the top ten on Netflix in 40 countries and was certified "fresh" 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.

She was the creator of Glass Elevator (2015-2021), the free international skill-sharing, networking & jobs resource for professional women in film & television. In that time Glass Elevator had over 5,000 members who benefited from over 300 classes & events & access to over 700 jobs. Glass Elevator was named Best in LA by LA Weekly, part of the Sundance Women's Initiative Resource and featured in Forbes.

Her most recent episodic work includes directing for The Twilight Zone, Titans, FBI: International, and Star Trek: Discovery.


Nzingha Stewart-producer/director


Nzingha is a highly accomplished director, writer, and producer with an impressive portfolio of work across film and television. She graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School and quickly established herself as a trailblazer for women of color in the music video industry. Over the years, she has directed over a hundred music videos for high-profile artists such as Jay-Z, Common, and 50 Cent. In addition to her success in music videos, Nzingha has become a sought-after commercial director, having worked on campaigns for major brands such as McDonald’s, Coors Light, and ESPN.

She has also made a name for herself in television, directing shows like Little Fires Everywhere, Maid, Inventing Anna, and Black Monday.Nzingha has continued to push boundaries in her work, executive producing and directing Netflix’s From Scratch, an adaptation of Tembi Locke’s bestselling memoir. She was also a director and Executive Producer of Amazon’s Daisy Jones and the Six, based on the bestselling novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Little Fires Everywhere, Inventing Anna, From Scratch, Daisy Jones + The Six, and the feature film Tall Girl all went on to become the number one show globally on their respective platforms, with Little Fires Everywhere remaining the highest rated show ever on Hulu.

Recently, Nzingha has expanded her role as an executive producer, directing the pilot for Amazon’s upcoming series Cross, based on James Patterson’s bestselling series.

Andria Wilson Mirza-director: Reframe Project


Andria is the director of ReFrame, the coalition of industry professionals and partner companies founded in 2017 by Women in Film LA and Sundance Institute with a mission to increase the number of women in all backgrounds working in the screen industries. Previously, Andria was executive director of Inside Out in Toronto Canada, one of the world’s largest LGTBQ film festivals. As ReFrame director, she works with ReFrame ambassadors and partner companies to implement the ReFrame Rise program, which supports mid-career women directors to reach the next level of success in their careers.

Follow ReFrame at @ReFrameProject on Twitter and at @ReFrame_Project on Instagram!

Follow Women In Film at @WomenInFilm on Twitter!

Leslie Combemale-creator/moderator: Women Rocking Hollywood
Leslie Combemale is moderator and creator of the Women Rocking Hollywood panel at San Diego Comic-Con. She has been writing about film, with a focus on women and diversity, for over 14 years, on sites like, and her own site, She has a passion for artists below the line, celebrating them through her film art gallery ArtInsights, located outside Washington, DC, where she has been selling film art by the filmmakers for over 30 years. She is an expert on the history of animation and film art, and has been amplifying the careers of animators important to the classic animated features and tv shows, as well as production artists integral to films like Star Wars and Harry Potter, at conventions around the world for over a decade. She believes parity for women behind the camera and below the line will come, in part, through the support of the thousands of vocal fans at San Diego Comic-Con, that have loyally attended the Women Rocking Hollywood panel since its inception.
Follow Women Rocking Hollywood at @WomenRockFilm and at @CinemaSirenNews on Twitter.
You can see her work with AWFJ on this Alliance of Women Film Journalists page.
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