The Archer School for Girls hosted its fifth annual Archer Film Festival empowering female filmmakers, featuring director and producer J.J. Abrams as the keynote speaker. Seeking not to exclude men, but rather to include women, Archer received thousands of student-produced film submissions from young filmmakers globally. Celebrities, medi, and the public viewed screenings of finalist films at the Arclight Cinema in Culver City after a pink-carpet reception at The Culver Hotel.
Abrams opened the event with a keynote and interview led by students in Archer’s Institute for Film and Video Literacy program. Abrams, an outspoken proponent of female representation in film, was invited to provide his perspective on the empowerment of women in the industry. “It’s my intention to make films that are inclusive, that reflect the look and feel of the world we live in,” said Abrams. “In entertainment, our talent needs to reflect our country’s demographics, which is 51 percent women. I’m grateful to institutions like The Archer School for Girls who are preparing the future female leaders of the film and television industry.”
The Archer Film Festival is a student-run and student-led event. Archer’s Film students pitched the Festival to bring Abrams and panelists including Executive Director of Women in Film Kirsten Schaffer and Modern Family’s Ed O’Neill on board. “Part of the reason we were so excited to involve J.J. Abrams in this year’s Film Festival was because his vision of representing women and men equally in film sends a strong message,” said Film Festival coordinator and Archer junior Alexandra Sherman.
The second day of the Festival, April 28, was held on the Archer campus and featured a moderated panel of industry experts speaking on “Women in Film,” “Breaking into the Business” and “Television Now.” Schaffer and O’Neill were joined by industry leaders including Academy Award-winning sound editor Karen Baker Landers, producer Suzanne Todd, producer Rena Ronson, Executive Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Communications at CBS Entertainment Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, director and producer Jason Reitman and President of TriStar Pictures, Hannah Minghella. Panelists addressed questions from students after discussing topics in filmmaking and their firsthand experiences related to women in film.
There is a dearth of women in film. According to a 2016 report from the USC Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg, two males appear onscreen in speaking roles to every one female, and female characters fill only 28.7 percent of all speaking roles in film. Only 18 percent of stories evaluated were gender balanced, with film the least likely to depict balance. Behind the camera, about 85 percent of directors were male and 15 percent were female. Women also represent only 20 percent of corporate boards, chief executives and executive management teams in the film industry.
The Archer Film Festival’s mission is to bridge that divide by empowering and highlighting young filmmakers who share the goal of increasing the number of women in the film and television industry, and to participate in the conversation about women’s representation onscreen. Throughout the development of the Festival, student filmmakers are given access to insider industry knowledge, further strengthening their foundation to effectively pursue careers in the field.
“The Archer Film Festival was created to encourage our student filmmakers, give them hands-on experience in the industry, and to help achieve gender parity in front of and behind the camera,” said Head of School Elizabeth English. “Archer students have run with this idea, making the Festival their own and bringing exposure and attention to a problem that affects the way young girls see themselves and their place in the world.”
For more information on Archer School for Girls visit their website at www.archer.org.