As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues to face backlash for their lack of diversity in Oscar nominees, this year they also took heat for not having a single female director nominated in the category of Best Director.
Here in El Paso, local filmmakers have decided to help create the next generation of female filmmakers.
During the El Paso Media Fest in Jaunary, a couple of female high school students walked away from one of the panels feeling less than inspired.
Like any panelist session, the celebrity guests spoke on how they overcame obstacles in the industry and gave their heartfelt personal narratives. However, when one girl asked the question, “what is your opinion on the lack of diversity, especially lack of women, in the industry?” The reply from the all male celebrity guest panelists was not exactly inspiring or inclusive, it simply stated the obvious.
“Well if you want to be an actress find a good acting school and look up casting calls…”
After word went around about what happened, one local filmmaker decided she wanted to do something to help.
Leslie D. Lanier – one of the directors featured at El Paso Media Fest – reached out to her business partner Joshua Paul Smith, and together they came up with curriculum, course ideas and an overall plan to help aspiring filmmakers in high school get started.
“The way I see it, there are kids in that school and every other school here in El Paso that want to do film but don’t have the resources, the mentors or the knowledge of how to start…that needs to change,” Lanier shares.
Smith and Lanier have officially launched the “Summer-Set Pictures / Ardent Moon Emerging Filmmaker Mentorship Program” which will focus on providing creative support to junior filmmakers as they produce their own short film.
The program is seeking ambitious, visionary students who have an idea for a film, and the drive to get it made. Our goal is to offer our resources to populations traditionally marginalized in media production settings, including women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and those with financial limitations.
The mentorship program will provide assistance with the creative process from pre-production to post-production, personalized one on one mentorship and weekly hands-on workshops.
“I know it’s ambitious but these kids deserve to have this. It’s time they tell their own stories, and I’m going to do whatever I can to help them. We’re running this as a pilot program right now. We’re not charging them and we never will, but if this project goes well, then I’m going to present it to the Board of Education and the City Council next year so that we can get funding for them, Lanier states.
“I’d love to have this as an after school program or an in school elective. This is going to be so great, I know it.”
Participants will exit the program with a completed short film that they can submit to film festivals and/or add to their reels as well as letters of recommendations from the owners of the production companies. They will also be able to add these experiences to their resumes, giving them a head start on future jobs in the industry.
The mentorship program kicked off last weekend and already they have seen a good turnout. There are currently 21 students – aspiring filmmakers – expected to attend the next workshop.
Lanier adds, “They are brilliant first of all…they started a film club at their school and the films they’re making now are about 100 times better than the first film I ever did. They just need guidance and discipline and in a few years, they’ll be hiring me to work for them.”
You can find more info on the program’s FB page: Emerging Filmmaker Mentorship Program of El Paso