Kathleen Kennedy

7 Awesome Women in Film You Should Be Following Now

From directing to cinematography, writing to producing, women in Hollywood are working hard to have an equal voice and share of power in the movies being made … but we have a long way to go. According to the Annual Celluloid Ceiling Report, “In 2017, women comprised 18% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films.”

Here, we present seven women who defy those numbers and stand as role models for generations of women to come. We couldn’t possibly decide which one of these women was more awesome than the next, so we put them in alphabetical order.

Ava DuVernay

  1. Ava DuVernay was the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at Sundance Film Festival for Middle of Nowhere, and the first to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Selma. Recently, she became the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million — a staggering sum for any director — for Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle in Time.

Nina Jacobson

  1. Nina Jacobson is a producer who, in her time heading up Disney, brought such films as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Sixth Sense, and the Pirates of the Caribbean to life. After being fired from Disney, she created her own production company, Color Force, which produced the wildly successful Hunger Games movies. She is also openly gay, and has helped to create a more inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community in Hollywood by creating Out There with fellow producer Bruce Cohen.

Patty Jenkins

  1. Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman, the third highest grossing film of 2017. It gave her the biggest domestic opening for any female director. Before that, Jenkins wrote and directed Monster, another, darker, woman-centric film that garnered critical acclaim and the academy award for its star, Charlize Theron, whom we will meet below…

Kathleen Kennedy

  1. Kathleen Kennedy started out her career as Spielberg’s secretary and, as we mentioned in this article celebrating women film producers, rose to become one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. She heads up Lucasfilm, and is hence responsible for the Star Wars franchise and the highest grossing movies of the past few years, including The Last Jedi.

Reed Morano

  1. Reed Morano is a cinematographer, known for Frozen River, Kill Your Darlings” and The Skeleton Twins. More recently, she picked up critical acclaim for directing the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. In 2013, she became the youngest member of the American Society of Cinematographers, and, according to Wikipedia, is one of only 14 women in this prestigious organization of approximately 345 active members.

Mina Shum

  1. Mina Shum is a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker who prefers to be known simply as an independent filmmaker. Her feature films, Double Happiness and Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity, premiered at Sundance. Her most recent film, Meditation Park, starring Grey’s Anatomy’s Sandra Oh, will hit theaters March 2018.

Charlize Theron

  1. Charlize Theron is a South African-American who has established her career beyond her acting talent and beauty by founding her own production company, Denver and Delilah, named for her two dogs. Its first production was Monster, and its latest was Atomic Blonde.

For more on the usefulness of turning actor cred into producer cred, check out this article on why so many actors turn to producing, where you’ll find more awesome women like Viola Davis, Salma Hayek and Drew Barrymore, who all started production companies of their own.

 

 

 

How To Find A (Good) Film Producer

Or, more importantly, how do you find the right producer for your film?

It’s a daunting prospect for any filmmaker, let alone for independent filmmakers who may not have a huge collection of previous box office successes with which to market themselves. And in this scenario, finding a good producer is even more importantwhile just about any producer may be able to get a production financed, will they be able to go the extra mile and market it successfully to the right audience?

Getting the movie made is only half the job, and getting it seen is arguably the more important half.

And of course, this is a two-way street. Simply finding a producer who you feel would be perfect for the project is no guarantee that they’ll want to get on board; as writer and director Ryan Koo puts it, “Finding a producer is like dating: you need to spend some time getting to know the other person, and you’re not going to like everyone you meet. Nor is everyone going to like you back.”

Assuming you’ve already crawled through IMDB and the like to construct a longlist of possible matches, here’s the NYFA guide to:

Finding the Right Film Producer

Super producer Kathleen Kennedy.

Super producer Kathleen Kennedy might not be the right producer for your microbudget feature.

The operative word here is ‘right’, and ultimately, only you can decide on who qualifies for that distinction but the following tips will at least help you begin whittling down the list in search for ‘the one.’

Avoid Pigeonholing

If you’re looking to craft a movie which centers around the theme of, say, addiction and substance abuse, don’t discard any and all producers who have never tackled the topic before since it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to undertake it.

Also consider that just because a producer has worked on a number of titles similar to your own doesn’t mean they’ll want to retread the same ground againin fact, the converse is usually true.

Finding a Kindred Spirit

Given all of the above, it’s often wise to ignore producers who have worked in similar genres or themes and instead focus on those who share the same essence (for what of a better word.) Do they draw from the same influences? Approach storytelling in a similar manner? Do the kind of work you admire as an independent filmmaker? If their previous work makes it clear that they share the same sensibilities as you when it comes to making movies, you’ve potentially got a match.

Do Your Homework

This will come naturally in the process of finding out if they appear to be on the same page as you creatively, but you’ll also want to dig a little deeper and find out where they are in their career. It’s not uncommon for new filmmakers to make the mistake of trying to contact those who have retired from the industry, and it’s also a poor use of time to reach out to someone now working on multi-million dollar productions expecting them to drop everything to work on a micro-budget movie. The same goes for most producers who are working full time for a particular studio.

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry’s Atlanta-based Tyler Perry Studios offers opportunities for filmmakers from the area.

Location, to a lesser extent, is also a factor for considerationwhile the producer being based on the other side of the planet isn’t necessarily a locked door, it makes sense to focus your search (at least initially) to your local area.

Word of Mouth

Tying into the idea of casting your net locally, never forget the power of a personal recommendation. Proportionately speaking, most matches between directors, screenwriters, and producers are forged thanks to personal introduction and very few arise from random emails fired into the aether.

Attend Film Festivals

Don’t feel like you’ve got any contacts to hit up? Get yourself to as many film festivals and screening events as you possibly can, and that’ll soon be rectified. You’ll be surprised at how many golden opportunities arise in extremely strange ways…casually mentioning you’ve got a killer screenplay about the civil war to a key grip at an after party who then goes on to mention it to an agent who just so happens to have a client looking for a writer who’s got a killer screenplay about the civil war, et cetera.

Producers Reception 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

A group of producers at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival’s Producers Reception.

These million-to-one occurances happen nine times out of ten in an industry as close-knit as filmmaking, so get out there and start making ripples (while being courteous to everyone you meet, given that you don’t know who may be the catalyst to turn one of those ripples into a wave.)

And most importantly of all…

Be Courteous to the Producer

As a screenwriter or director, you’ll no doubt be familiar with that dreaded line: “Oh, that’s neat! I’m something of a writer myself…will you read my screenplay?”

Effectively this is what a producer gets on a daily basis, ad nauseum. And while it is his or her job to read and select screenplays, it doesn’t negate the fact that when you email a producer you’re asking them to give their time for free.

You may have already figured out that they’re a good match for you, but you should strive to make it as easy as possible for them to do the same. A full script is industry standard, but becoming increasingly popular is the idea of a “presentation package.” This typically includes a director’s statement, mood reel, any stills or promo shots available (compiled into a ‘cookbook’), and all related contact info and social media links…and definitely make sure you’ve got a strong logline!

This generally only applies to outreach that has been previously welcomed; with unsolicited inquiries, a simple two-paragraph email explaining the movie and why you’re contacting that particular producer is preferable. No need to send the full screenplay until it’s invited.

Above all, keep your initial contact brief, to the point and free from any kind of gimmickry. Even if things fall through, if your professionalism leaves a lasting impact it may earn you a coveted recommendation.

With a bit of luck and perseverance, you’ll hopefully find a perfect match with your producer-to-be. Best of luck!

PS: Before you write a single email, be sure to get intimately familiar with what a producer actually does! Our previous guide on the topic is a great place to start your research.

Learn more about the School of Producing at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.