Moms-in-Film’s Mathilde Dratwa & Christy Lamb — & Their #BudgetTheBaby Campaign
Christy Lamb and Mathilde Dratwa are American filmmakers with a revolutionary idea: to #BudgetTheBaby. Their non-profit Moms-in-Film has a beautiful and highly informative website, and at this year’s SXSW they trialled their Wee Wagon concept, a service for filmmakers on set and at festivals. And there’s lots more! And lots more coming soon!
WW What gave you courage to propose that every shoot should #BudgetTheBaby and how does the Wee Wagon fit into this?
Mathilde We are both filmmakers and relatively new moms. When I had my baby, I wrote a blog post about how difficult it was to be both. The response to that blog post was really phenomenal, so I decided to meet in person with the other moms who were commenting on it — or at least, those that were in New York, which is where I’m based. That was exactly a year ago, during last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Luckily for me, Christy came on board shortly afterwards — and as she lives in LA, we were able to really make progress bi-coastally, offering regular meetups in both cities. At these meetings, childcare keeps coming back up, so that’s why we decided to start by focusing on that. We do have other programs in the works that address other issues, but the advantage of starting with the Wee Wagon was that it was two things: a practical, hands-on solution as well as a visible advocacy tool to remind everyone that some filmmakers are parents.
Christy #BudgetTheBaby wasn’t actually our idea — British actress/comedian/writer Sarah Solemani came up with it in an inspired conversation with Line Langebek, one of the founders of the UK organization, Raising Films (both women have toddlers). As they sat on the bus one night, right before the premiere of Bridget Jones’s Baby, they had an idea…
And that’s the story behind Sarah showing up on the red carpet brandishing this sign — and we asked her if we could co-opt it :)
Sarah, who now lives in LA, was a guest speaker at the most recent LA meetup, just a few days ago. So it’s all happening!
As Director of Strategy & Development for Moms-in-Film, I’m working to capture the momentum gained from the SXSW Wee Wagon launch, figure out which of our ideas to implement next, and figure out how to incentivize models like the Wee Wagon.
We’d love to do some research into the statistics around parents in film and television, and help the industry implement parent-friendly practices across the board. Ideally, we’ll keep working on the Wee Wagon — getting it on sets and festivals — and at the same time, we aim to work on our other programs. We’re looking at a number of things, from family residencies to advocacy and lobbying for tax incentives if productions meet certain requirements (childcare, work hours, etc).
WW Is the Wee Wagon’s name supposed to be a pun?
Mathilde Ha! Funny you should ask. It’s just a wagon for wee ones… But there were one or two festival-goers at SXSW who approached the Wee Wagon looking for a toilet! Apart from those few disappointed bladders, most people were thrilled to see what we were doing. Responses ranged from ‘revolutionary’ to ‘why doesn’t this exist yet?’ Good question!
WW How did you get this first Wee Wagon up-and-running so quickly? At such a major festival?
Christy We were very fortunate to receive a community grant from SXSW. It was actually the first grant we applied for, so we’re 1 for 1 so far! The grant was supposed to just help develop the idea, but Mathilde and I are pretty ambitious people… We thought: why don’t we just go ahead and do it at SXSW since we clearly have their buy-in?
It may have been considered a ballsy move, but it paid off. The response on the ground was phenomenal, and now, we can go to other festivals and say — not only does this work, but it’s really a gamechanger for parents in the industry. If you care about gender equality, you should think about providing childcare. The two go hand in hand. It’s not impossible to do — we’ve made it happen, and we can help you.
WW What age group are you aiming at?
Mathilde We are focusing on children between 3 months and 4 years old — the children who aren’t yet in school. But we learned on the ground that we can provide for older kids too — that it’s important to be flexible. Otherwise, parents who have more than one kid might not be able to use the unit for them all, which just adds to the logistical challenges instead of lessening the burden.
WW How do you approach quality control?
Christy I’m so glad you asked! I live in LA, and I used to work from home but It was nearly impossible to get anything done, as most parents of young children will recognize. I was so thrilled to discover COLLAB & Play — LA’s first coworking space with on-site childcare. Now, I work there, and the most amazing professionals engage with and care for my daughter while I work in the other room.
COLLAB & Play has also given me a new community of parents — most of whom work in film and television, as we live in LA. They’re a part of my tribe now. Silvana Arzeno Toledo and Magen and Arielle Jennings from COLLAB & Play have a mission that is so aligned with ours that they now host our LA meetups. And they decided to come to Austin with us — at their own expense! — to care for the children in the Wee Wagon.
Of course, this made total sense. We knew they’d be in good hands and that’s definitely the most important factor to consider. Our team made sure that the Wagon was safe, clean, and had a separate rooms for napping, for playing, and for storage.
WW What have you learned from the process that may be useful for others thinking about something similar?
Mathilde We were so lucky to have COLLAB & Play with us. Knowing that the childcare component was taken care of by these wonderful experts allowed us to focus on the other components. We also learned on the ground that the lead time needed to prepare for on-site childcare is longer than expected, not least because the filmmaker-parents themselves need adequate planning time to make decisions about traveling with or without their children.
We also have found that childcare is only one piece of the equation. There are a plethora of steps festivals can take to make the experience more parent-friendly: providing places to check car seats and strollers, clear directives about events that welcome children, places to pump and nurse, places to store milk, lists of local sitting services or family activities, recommendations for getting around town with babies, and more. We learned a lot about how to make this work — from insurance to generators. If anyone is thinking about something similar, please do reach out to us! We’d be happy to chat through the details.
WW Can you say a bit about the economics of running a Wee Wagon? What’s the best structure? Commercial? (Can you imagine people starting a business, like on-set catering, that would be part of #BudgetTheBaby just as feeding the crew is?) Non-profit? (for funding and tax reasons?) Or mixed?
Christy We do hope that onset childcare will become a common occurrence on sets, just like on-set catering, yes. That’s why it was important for the SXSW pilot to be on wheels — to show that it is possible.
There are, of course, a number of ways to do it. Moms-in-Film is a non-profit and the Wee Wagon is only one of our programs. The fantastic folks of Ready Set Play are looking at a commercial version in the UK. We have a series of different models to propose depending on budget and duration. The landscape of a film festival is different from a film set. But ideally, some funding from the Wee Wagon use on larger productions would go towards sponsoring the Wee Wagon on indie films. We’re excited to look into tax incentives for productions that use the Wee Wagon, to help offset costs, as one possible solution.
WW What’s the next step for #BudgetTheBaby? How do you propose to continue with your activism *and* your filmmaking work?
Mathilde Raising Films, our UK sister company, has been extremely helpful to us on this journey. In the States, we are connecting with a number of like-minded organizations. There are some really exciting collaborations around the corner! And we’re busy forming our board and our team of ‘spokesmamas’ and ‘spokesdadas’. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary by awarding Marielle Heller with the inaugural Moms-in-Film award.
At the event, there was a collective sense of amazement at what we’ve accomplished in just one year… We are confident that the upcoming year will be just as fruitful, now that we’ve really found our wings. Both Christy and I are adamant that we both continue to work on our own creative enterprises while growing Moms-in-Film (and parenting!). We’re lucky that we found each other and our Moms-in-Film allies- it would be impossible to do this alone.
We are always looking for sponsorships and partnerships — don’t hesitate to contact us.
Here’s Moms-in-Film’s SXSW panel — includes discussion of film representation of mothers and their motherhood at other work, their #MakeThemMums posters (which I love!), being a mother and a filmmaker and and…
Mathilde (founder of Moms-in-Film) has been a Sundance Channel Shorts Contest finalist, a co-leader of the FilmShop collective and a member of the Independent Film School’s writer-director lab. Her latest short film Peta Pan stars Independent Spirit Award nominee Nisreen Faour. She co-created Almost Anonymous, a web series about a support group for celebrity lookalikes (Best Original Concept, NYC Web Fest 2016).
Mathilde also produces animation videos; she has received two Pulitzer Center grants and has had her work featured in a number of publications, including French newspaper Le Monde. When the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists received thousands of leaked documents about Luxembourg’s complicated deals with corporations, her tax haven explainer was translated into seven languages and featured on the websites of ICIJ’s media partners around the world.
Mathilde is a Teaching Artist for the New Victory Theatre and Roundabout Theatre Company. She lives in NYC with her husband and son, Leon.
Christy (Director, Strategy & Development) is an accomplished producer of films, festivals, and nonprofit programs. Christy’s film credits include: These C*cksucking Tears (dir. Dan Taberski, SXSW Jury Award 2016), Bad at Dancing (dir. Joanna Arnow, NYFF), American Dresser (dir. Carmine Cangialosi), HOV (dir. Kamala Seals), Last Night (dir. Whitney Meers), When the Night Falls (dir. Ed Bergtold), Window Dressing (dir. Stephen Girouard), and Toe to Toe (dir. Emily Abt, Sundance 2009).
Previously, Christy served as Executive Director of Dance Films Association, co-producing the Dance on Camera series with the Film Society of LincolnCenter and as Development Director for the NYC Screenwriters Collective. During her nine years in NYC, Christy developed Cunningham 3D (dir. Alla Kovgan), Liminal Spaces (dir. Lucas Smith) and Another Telepathic Thing (dir. Jonathan Demme) as well as film/tv/commercial production for Scripps Network, Rain Media, and National Headquarters.
Christy currently lives in LA with her husband, 2 kitties and infant daughter, Parker Jean.
Originally published at wellywoodwoman.blogspot.com.