Telly Awards partner Film Fatales is a non-profit arts organization dedicated to improving the careers of filmmakers of all marginalized genders through advocacy, community building, and artist development services. Their goal is to build a more equitable film industry for all, and to do that they advocate for hiring equality and inclusive programming practices by working with key decision makers to expand the talent pool and raise the visibility of underrepresented creators. The Telly Awards spoke with Executive Director Leah Meyerhoff about the organization’s history, key practices and vision for the film industry’s future.
What’s your organization’s origin story?
Film Fatales humbly began in a Brooklyn living room over a decade ago as a small dinner party of six women and non-binary filmmakers. About to dive into pre-production on my debut feature film, I did what you do when you’re not entirely sure what to…asked for help from people who had been there. Paola Mendoza (co-founder of the Women’s March), Ry Russo-Young (The Sun is Also a Star), Deborah Kampmeier (Hounddog), Emily Abt (Toe to Toe), and Alexandra Roxo (Mary Marie) gathered in my living room to share hard-earned knowledge, offer support, and recommend resources.
Soon it became clear that these directors had tapped into something bigger; that dinner party was the first time they were all not the only filmmakers of marginalized genders in the room. It was not personal discrimination they had faced in the film industry, it was systemic. Yet here was a tangible way to connect, share, and empower. A way to spark change. That initial dinner party grew into a rotation of dinner parties, spread by word of mouth and hosted by a new filmmaker each month.
Six months later there was a waiting list to attend. The dinner parties quickly tapped into a need by mid-career filmmakers of marginalized genders for community, emotional support, and practical advice. Filmmakers began to organize events and host monthly mentorship circles in dozens of cities. A moment had turned into a movement, and Film Fatales was born.
What is your organization’s ethos and how does it set you apart from industry competitors?
Film Fatales is an intersectional and action-oriented advocacy organization championing underserved filmmakers of all marginalized genders. Our mission is to tear down systemic inequities by nurturing community, demanding visibility and advocating for transformative change.
Over the past decade, Film Fatales has continuously evolved based on the needs of filmmakers. The film industry has shifted to be more inclusive of marginalized voices in recent years. Yet we still see talented mid-career women and non-binary filmmakers who have found success in the indie film space but are unable to break through to projects with higher budget levels needed to sustain their careers.
Because we are and have always been an organization by filmmakers, for filmmakers, we have intimate knowledge of the challenges mid-career filmmakers of diverse genders face and the specific needs that will change their careers, and we have adjusted our organization to best serve our community.
What projects are you most proud of and why?
Film Fatales supports a membership community of over 2,000 feature film and television directors of all marginalized genders, a majority of whom are filmmakers of color, over 25% LGBTQ+ creators and a sizable number of filmmakers with disabilities.
The Parity Pipeline is a programming initiative from Film Fatales that provides a direct conduit for film festival programmers, production companies, funders, and other industry stakeholders to connect with filmmakers from underrepresented communities in an effort towards more inclusive programing and hiring practices.
What initiatives are you working on that you’re excited about?
Film Fatales has grown into an invaluable leader in the journey towards parity and representation in Hollywood due to our results-driven approach. Empowered by the strength of our collective voice, we have launched numerous artist development programs, including our flagship initiative the Parity Pipeline, a career-development program and talent discovery platform, and Fatales Forward, a groundbreaking mentorship program for emerging transgender creators of color. Our robust roster of industry allies continues to grow and we are hopeful about the future.
What’s one part of the video and television industry you would change and why?
Our primary focus is on hiring equality and inclusive programming. Cinema is a tool for empathy. We look forward to a future where authentic stories from diverse voices are given the institutional funding and wide audiences they deserve.
Where is there opportunity for collaboration or intersection between your community and the Telly community?
We have expanded our programming to serve a broader public audience of over 50k film lovers through our Pulling Focus speaker series meant to uplift marginalized voices, provide resources, and spark meaningful conversation. Members of the Telly community are welcome to attend Film Fatale events and we have recently begun recommending films directed by Film Fatales for consideration in the Telly Awards and screening series.
How can people join or learn more about what you do?