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Women of Cinematic Arts launches Feminist Media Festival

The aim of the first-time event, which organizers hope will become a perennial at USC, is to support diverse voices

Haifaa al-Mansour
Haifa al-Mansour will speak at the first annual Feminist Medial Festival organized by Women of Cinematic Arts. (Photo/Haylie Niemann/Wikimedia Commons)

Women of Cinematic Arts, an organization founded at USC in 2005, will launch its first annual Feminist Media Festival today.

Taking place throughout the school year, the festival will consist of workshops, networking opportunities and guest speakers, all leading up to an awards ceremony in April. The festival is organized and run by students with the help of faculty and alumni whose goal is to encourage networking and collaboration.

WCA president Sarah Jones said the festival “is all about connecting and showing everyone that there are really awesome creators who are women and minorities.”

WCA was founded by students, faculty and alumni who felt that female filmmakers were grossly underrepresented in the entertainment industry. The founders felt that real change would have to come from colleges. If women were able to find and make connections in college, they thought, they would be more likely to have a network once they graduate. The current undergraduate population at the USC School for Cinematic Arts, for example, is 50 percent female.

The organization’s goal is to support diverse voices and create a feminist community of both male and female filmmakers.

“It’s not just women who have to contribute to the problem solving,” Jones said, “it’s everyone.”

Advice and opportunities

WCA is sincere about inclusion, she added.

“The organization is open to everyone and that’s not something we just say. We genuinely want everyone to participate.”

Launching the opening ceremony is keynote speaker Haifa al-Mansour, the first female Saudi director. Al-Mansour wrote and directed Wadjda, the first full-length feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first made by a female Saudi director.

Over the next few months, there will be panels of screenwriters, professors and special guests offering advice and networking opportunities.

Jones said their vision of creating a festival came about when a board member described Hollywood as “an old boy’s club” where men in power hire their friends who are also men. Their hope is that the festival will become an annual event that all students look forward to, no matter their gender, major or class ranking.

“We need everyone’s involvement and support to really make this festival a reality,” she said.

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