Women’s Weekend Film Challenge Helps Women Break into the Industry
Photo Credit: Grusho Anna/Shutterstock
Today, women have more of a foothold in the film industry, not just as actresses, but as directors, producers, set designers, and more. Katrina Medoff and Tracy Sayre are the founders of Women’s Weekend Film Challenge (WWFC), a women-in-film organization that places professional filmmakers on teams to write, shoot, and edit a short film in one weekend. The Girl Scout alumni have worked with over 700 professional female filmmakers to produce 30 short films, which have been accepted to more than 70 film festivals.
According to Medoff and Sayre, “WWFC is an intensive networking opportunity that creates a pipeline for talented women in the film industry and tells women’s stories on screen — and it’s free to apply and participate.”
CircleAround caught up with the founders to learn more about their organization.
CA: What inspired you to create WWFC?
KM: We were both working in the NYC indie film world — me as an actor, writer, and producer, and Tracy as a screenwriter and producer. We knew so many talented female filmmakers who just weren’t reaching the same career levels as their male peers, even though they had the skills. Plus, I knew that I got all of my work from people already in my network.
So I had an idea: What if we could put together crews of all strangers that would write, shoot, and edit a short film in one weekend? That way, participants could get to know women in every role of production during one intensive weekend, and we could tell women’s stories on screen.
CA: How did you kick it off, and what was the response like?
TS: Katrina posted that idea to Facebook to see if anyone would be interested, and I saw her post: more than 300 women had responded in just 10 hours. They were saying things like, “I’ve been a composer for 15 years and I’ve never gotten to work with a female director,” or “I’m tired of being the only woman on set.” I called Katrina to see if she needed help organizing this, and within two months we had completed our inaugural film challenge!
KM: Our first NYC challenge was really scrappy, and our screening was in a room that NYU generously let us use... It was such a great moment because everyone was greeting each other as old friends as they arrived. We realized that we’d really created a community.
CA: How has WWFC evolved in the past two years?
TS: We’ve recently brought on a part-time social media manager and part-time events coordinator, but for two years, Katrina and I were doing everything — from marketing to fundraising to updating our website. As the founders of a small social-justice organization, we really have our hands in every aspect of the organization.
Our most recent screening was at a 400-seat theater at ArcLight Hollywood, and that was amazing in a different kind of way! But the spirit is still the same: building community. One participant told us that she attended Thanksgiving dinner at the house of the producer from her team; another told us that her main social and filmmaking network is from the team we put her on. We love hearing stories like that.
KM: Not only do we put the crews together, but we also provide everything the filmmakers need: cinema-quality gear courtesy of our sponsors, production insurance, stipends to submit to film festivals, location permits, and premiere screenings at ArcLight Hollywood and the Museum of the Moving Image.
CA: How has WWFC adapted to new production guidelines in 2020?
Every day, we get emails from our past participants letting us know that they hired or were hired by someone from their team.
TS: During the pandemic, WWFC has pivoted to virtual workshops that give filmmakers access to advice and feedback from the most accomplished women in the industry, including Alma Har’el (director, Honey Boy), Elle Johnson (showrunner, Self Made), Mimi Leder (director and executive producer, The Morning Show), Karyn Kusama (director, Destroyer), Leslye Headland (co-creator, Russian Doll), Stella Meghie (director, The Photograph), and many more.
KM: It’s been so amazing to bring these conversations with our role models in the industry right into our filmmakers’ living rooms. Plus, since they’re virtual events, we’ve had participants from all over the world, so it’s been great to be able to make these opportunities available to so many more filmmakers.
CA: What are you most excited about moving forward?
KM: Every day, we get emails from our past participants letting us know that they hired or were hired by someone from their team. One of our teams even reunited to make another short film together after the challenge! It’s so rewarding hearing these stories because we know that the challenge is really working the way we intended it to.