By Aaliyah Humphrey
Last week’s 3rd Annual Women’s Film Festival featured workshops and panels.
On Thursday March 22, three independent female filmmakers held a filmmaking and entrepreneurship panel: Lisa Russell, Thembisa Mshaka and Marie-Helene Carleton all shared their film career experiences.
Before becoming an Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Lisa Russell was a humanitarian aid worker during the war in Kosovo in 1999. She was determined to do great work there, until she witnessed some journalists disregarding the accounts of two Kosovo women.
According to Russell, the journalists wanted to tell one story about how the Kosovo women were raped, but the women did not want to be remembered for just that.
“I embarked on this mission to tell these stories differently using sort of my global development hat and then trying to become a filmmaker.” Russell said.
Currently, Russell documents serious events and is anticipating to launch her new website, Storyshifter, in April.
“What Storyshifter is about is that it’s really hard to quantify art. How do you quantify the impact of a painting? But my work is really based on sort of advocacy work.”
After Russell, Thembisa Mshaka spoke. A five-time Telly Award winner, Thembisa Mshaka has been a part of all forms of media for over 18 years.
Her work expands from touring and management to voiceover and television.
Throughout her career, she went from being a Copy Director at BET Networks, to the founder and director for SEEIT Films.
Like Russell, she is a self-taught and self-made filmmaker, but her films are not quite documentaries. Rather, her films capture the beauty of personal relationships.
In her short film First Kiss, the audience follows the anticipation of a woman’s big meeting with her boyfriend. Directed in 2011 as an assignment for her film school, Mshaka brings sweet romance in under five minutes.
“That film cost me about a 1,000 dollars and I didn’t have to rent the camera equipment because the film academy gave us that… I just want to put across that you can do the project for less money than you think and you can still create a certain level of production value” Mshaka said.
Marie-Helene Carleton, award-winning filmmaker and contributor to the New York Times, was the last speaker on the panel.
Her production company, Four Corners Media, focuses on character-based storytelling.
“I love the theme of this panel because a production company, a film – everything is like a startup. Everything is a new project each time. So, if you don’t think about it like a business, it’s never gonna work” Carleton said.
Afterwards, she screened the film she made for Vanity Fair. Her documentary-short, Light on the Sea showed a Syrian-American woman helping refugees from Turkey move to safety in Lesbos, Greece.
In the middle of the world’s refugee crisis the film was meant to show the tiring struggle that refugees had to go through to stay alive.
International affairs had always been something Carleton has been interested in. For her, filmmaking is about bringing these stories to life, so it can touch someone.
“You know the story of the mother who had to make that terrible choice of her 17-year old son who was gonna be drafted into the army and her 2 sons were in prison; she left them behind. She can never go back to Syria and she had to make that heartbreaking choice. And so, bringing these stories to life – I think is the main reason why…we make these films.”
Once the panel finished, the third film screening was held.