By Leah Ullman and Amelia Mendro
On February 2nd, 2019, nine fierce women, with especially fierce outfits, gathered for the SBIFF’s Women’s Panel to laugh, learn, and discuss the current political climate with moderator Madelyn Hammond. To showcase women’s careers, the panel selects leaders in Hollywood recently nominated for an academy award and/or have had a film premiere within the last year. This panel, which has been meeting for nine years, focuses on women’s careers rather than recent conversations about women in the industry. It seeks to highlight the unique experiences of women in Hollywood. Moderator Hammond asked insightful questions about their beginnings and journeys in the film industry.
Hannah Beachler, production designer of Black Panther and Moonlight, got her start early on with her father being an architect and her mother being an interior designer. Despite her original college degree in fashion design, Beachler once again fell in love with the grit of production design, and moved to New York. Beachler had a personal connection with her most recent film, Black Panther, as it dove into her African heritage and ancestry. She talked about how being an African-American woman it was hard to find her own story, but Black Panther brought those callings to the surface. A lot of African-Americans don’t know about their history before the 1700s, but in the utopia of Black Panther, “No Wakandan every has to wonder about their past.” She specifically added record towers (the round buildings that flank the palace) to document the history of Wakanda and her people. Beachler started with a blank page and made an extraordinary world.
In the panel, the women also discussed underlying discrimination in the film industry. Betsy West, director of RBG, commented on the 4% gender equality challenge in Hollywood. Only 4% of top 100 studio films over the last decade have been directed by women. To fight this issue, West encourages highlighting on facts instead of ignoring not-so-subtle discrimination. Lynette Howell, producer of A Star is Born agreed, and said, “When you have the opportunity to hire, you have the responsibility to hire equally.” Everyone in the industry has an incredible responsibility to do anything they can to fill the gap.
The Women’s Panel showcased talented women at the top of their professions who contributed greatly to the movie industry. The panelists highlighted the lack of female representation in their fields, and especially how to introduce more women into Hollywood.