My Women in Entertainment Summit Experience

I had the pleasure of attending the 3rd Annual Women in Entertainment Summit. Although held in a large auditorium of the Skirball Cultural Center, I felt as though I was engaged in a day-long intimate conversation among girlfriends. Not only were the speakers and panelists outstanding, but I also networked with many women who were warm, supportive and as thrilled as I was to be there.

The day kicked off with a keynote address by Geena Davis. She opened with the statement, “The days are over where we’re supposed to figure this out ourselves — bring a man.” I agree with her. However, not just any jackass but a man that is willing to empower women, no strings attached. Ms. Davis dished out a hardy serving of encouragement which made swallowing many of the realities of the media industry she shared a bit easier. She delivered a report card based on results measured by the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ) tool. For example, women are seen and heard in films two times less than men, and when women do speak, they use fewer words and more words with one syllable than men. To counteract this, Ms. Davis suggested (1) doing a gender pass on a script before finalizing it; (2) consider changing male characters to females; and (3) don’t kill off the mother in the 1st ten minutes of the film!!

As if Ms. Davis’ inspiring keynote was not enough, every speaker that climbed the stage throughout the day was amazing. There were five separate Director’s Chair discussions. They featured Writer/Director Jennifer Lee (Frozen, A Wrinkle in Time), Victoria Mahoney (Yelling to the Sky), Dee Rees (Pariah, Mud Bound), Writer/Director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Frances Ha) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman). They each shared their invaluable perspectives and proved we all share the same goals and insecurities at some point in our careers. They were also completely approachable after their time on stage ended.

Victoria Mahoney shares her smile and straight up wisdom

The numerous panel discussions were delightful and informative. They included “Content is Queen” featuring women from STARZ, DreamWorks Animation, and ABC Family. There was a “Technology and Hollywood” discussion and my two favorites, “Designing Disruption”, a discussion on counteracting stereotypes of gender in entertainment; and “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” which featured a discussion with Hayley Pappas, a strong Canadian woman who spent three years as a volunteer soldier battling ISIS as a member of the YPJ, an all-female Kurdish army. Talk about sensory overload. My head spins just thinking about it again.

My favorite quote from the day was from Greta Gerwig — “It’s difficult to learn if you won’t say I don’t know.” I’m not sure whether it was her original quote. However, hearing it come from a woman who has paved her way in the film industry makes it a keeper. To say I left the WIE Summit pumped and inspired is an understatement. I’m ready to disrupt some ‘stuff’ and willing to admit, I need help. Who’s game?