She Started Her Own Film Festival in an Industry Dominated By Men

Sarah Simon
Jan 11 · 5 min read

As her LinkedIn lists, Freia M. Titland is an actress, model, writer, and arts educator.

She is also, might I add, quite badass-ly the founder and festival director of The Midnight Film Festival in New York City.

You read that right. A film festival, begun by not only a single person, but a woman. Organizations like Women In Film and New York City Women Filmmakers (NYCWF) highlight the industry’s stark gender inequality; the following screenshot shows the statistics.

Where is Freia in all of these percentages? Well, she, like so many other female-identifying individuals, are learning to work behind the camera. After all, Freia started in front of it: “First and foremost, I’m an actress.”

In the field of acting, the statistics seem to tilt more towards the middle. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, 40% of 2019’s top 100 films featured a female as a central character. And sure, that makes sense — shouldn’t the world on camera faithfully reflect the one off it? (But the statistics don’t regarding people of color.) And why can’t the world behind the camera do the same?

If the following is true, Freia can serve to tip the skewed scales:

In the top 500 films of 2019, movies with at least one female director employed greater percentages of women writers, editors, cinematographers, and composers than films with exclusively male directors. (Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film)

Below, you’ll find an interview with Freia, which will share her process, as well as some tips for anyone interested in her line of work. If you happen to be in New York City this January, come check out the film festival!

Sarah Simon: Just go. Tell me everything.

Freia Titland: As an actor, there can sometimes be periods of time during your career where you’re not actively working on a film or show and you’re craving the work. I’ve always loved creating my own work and exploring ideas that were important to me or that I enjoyed. I also wanted to create roles for myself while learning about the production process and what it was like to be on the other side of the camera. Thus, my production company, Midnight Films, was born.

Through Midnight Films, I was able to explore the ethereal concepts that spoke to me in a personal way. I can now try new things and create projects that aren’t typically seen as “mainstream.” It’s been a riveting learning process and has allowed me to express myself creatively. But working outside of the “mainstream” can sometimes leave you feeling a bit lonely, or like you want to connect more with others. In that spirit of collaboration, I decided to create a film festival where people could come together and celebrate their work.

I started The Midnight Film Festival last year and was overwhelmed by the number of submissions and the incredible work that was received. Halfway through the submission process, I thought, “Oh boy, I better get some team members involved to help me out!” and I did. I drafted some good friends who work in various avenues of the entertainment industry to help me select and judge submissions. I’m also very grateful to have FinalDraft Screenwriting Software as our sponsor as well as the digital distribution platform, Cinistream, as our partner.

Due to the number of submissions and the different genres of work received, we expanded our festival from just one day last year to six days this year! On January 11th, we have our Screenwriting Event where actors will table read three original short screenplays for an audience followed by a Q&A session. Then on the 12th, 15th, 16th, 17th, we’ll have featurettes, documentaries, shorts, animated shorts, micro shorts, student films, music videos, and dance films. Our awards ceremony is on the 19th. We’re very excited!

This year was all about “How can we provide quality to the creative individuals who took the time to submit their work to us?” They could have submitted their work to any festival in any country, but they chose us and we’re honored by that. So, we try to give submitters and attendees a fun, entertaining, and quality experience. We encourage networking, collaborations, and are always happy to connect people.

Filmmaking, theatre, art in general; these are all ways for humans to express themselves and to connect with others. We want to be a part of that connecting dialogue.

Festival info.

SS: Freia, what more could I possibly ask you? You’ve told me everything, and with such energy. I guess the only thing left on my mind is: That’s a wonderful partnership with your sponsor and partner. How did you seek them out?

FT: Excellent. I wanted to provide some kind of award to the filmmakers that would be useful as a creator. I actually reached out to a few different organizations that provide either services for filmmakers, or programs that creatives use, and asked them about their sponsorship opportunities.

FinalDraft got back to me very quickly and I’m thrilled to have them involved. I found Cinistream in a similar fashion. I think it’s great that they provide an opportunity for a digital distribution that allows filmmakers and creators to really take the distribution of their work into their own hands.

SS: Just like that, after contacting them, they agreed?

FT: It feels like it should have been more difficult — there were a lot of places that didn’t respond at all, and I get it. They were probably thinking, “Who is this girl?”

Gosh, I remember creating all of these pitch decks and emailing soooo many people to hear nothing back at all. But with FinalDraft, I filled out their form, gave them info, and crossed my fingers.

You can learn more about the festival on their website:

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories…

Sarah Simon

Written by

New Yorker at soul living in Uruguay. ¿Cómo andas? Poetry, película, people.

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

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