Allison Vanore, secretary-treasurer of Women in Media and a CAMERAderie producer, with Tema Staig, executive director of Women in Media, at Television City in Los Angeles.
The future of film is female — if women can get in the door. Women in Media’s CAMERAderie Initiative is working to make that happen. Tema Staig founded the Los Angeles–based organization in 2010 and transitioned it into a 501(c)3 in 2017, turning a grassroots community into direct action for women to flourish above and below the line on set.
Women directors and producers should not be solely responsible for the industry’s evolution, Staig says. If the focus were “also on the crew and the department heads within the crew — and getting more women up through that — that’s how we’d really change the industry,” she explains.
Now in its third session, the CAMERAderie Initiative not only helps women develop and produce professional short films, it also aims to increase their on-set experience and technical skills and to build an industry network.
Participant Holly Lander, who works as an art director and production designer, found inspiration meeting other women who were also learning and helping each other. Paying it forward, she’s already passed on names to producers she knows from outside the program. Fighting back tears, she says, “The community that was built through this program was amazing.”
The CAMERAderie Initiative also introduces participants to working members of the industry, including past mentors like Dear White People producer Effie T. Brown, NCIS: New Orleans director Mary Lou Belli and HBO New Writers Program creator Steve Kaplan.
The program has already seen real-world success: directors Sati Kaur, Aisha Ford and Maritte Go, who participated in 2019, have shown their short films at festivals like Tribeca, Newport Beach and Atlanta. Go, whose short Remittance was picked up by HBO, also directed Black as Night, which debuted on the Prime Video anthology series Welcome to the Blumhouse.
This round’s participants prepped for nearly eight months, attending preproduction labs via Zoom. The workshops were led by women editors, sound designers, art directors and visual effects supervisors, the latter including Brigitte Bourque (9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star). They also learned
about fundraising and business affairs and how each department breaks down a script and collaborates with other departments.
Producer-director Bex Francis found these labs invaluable: “When you get to speak with people and learn from them, it opens up your world... especially seeing women who are already doing this.”
From there, participants went into production on their short films, shooting at Television City in L.A. They learned hands-on what a grip does (with Amy Snell, Better Things, For All Mankind), how sets are built and how a propmaster makes, for example, a moon rock.
“It challenged me to go out of my comfort zone,” Francis says of the grip class. “To see other women do it — no matter their body size — it’s an inspiration. It makes me think I can do this, too.”
CAMERAderie also aims to get more women into unions. Naoe Jarmon, for example, had worked in the camera department on various sets including HBO Max’s Generation, but she hadn’t operated a Steadicam. Having done so on the CAMERAderie short film Smashed, she says, “There’s no more second-guessing yourself. I’ve done it. That’s what most people need: the opportunity.”
The most rewarding part of the process? For Francis, it was “seeing other women get jobs from this, because that was an issue. It’s not that we can’t — it’s that sometimes the doors are not open."
This article originally appeared in issue #12, 2021, of emmy magazine under the title, "This Way Up."