For the past six months, I’ve been partnering with the Bentonville Film Festival to help bring their mission of championing women and diverse voices in media to fruition. If you haven’t heard of this festival yet – stop. Click the link. Then forward to all of your creative friends who have films they want to finish, share, and find distribution on!
We know the media is powerful, because it shapes how we see and experience the world around us. We talk a lot about accurately reflecting women and diverse voices in the media- but did you know that only 31% of speaking characters in top-grossing films are female and only 13% of leading characters in films are people of color. Behind the camera, minorities represent only 12% of directors and 7.6% of writers.
BFF is becoming part of the solution – co-founded by Trevor Drinkwater and Geena Davis and her institute – this is the only festival that guarantees distribution opportunities to winning films, so they are taking tangible steps to turn inclusivity into a reality.
On the first night of the festival, blogger extraordinaire Luvvie Ajayi of Awesomely Luvvie and I attended the opening film Equity. I don’t want to spoil the plot – the film comes out this summer but it was awesome to watch a film about Wall Street feature two female leads. What I loved most is that the movie showed women who love to make money. They weren’t the most likeable characters but that’s what I appreciated – if we want to change the ratio of women in media we have to get used to seeing women in roles that aren’t just saints or housewives. We have to see complicated women who reflect real life.
Just like Soledad O’Brien said in our most recent episode of “Talk to Jess: Conversations with Today’s Thinkers, Movers, and Shapers”, media representation is more than just bringing in different types of people — it’s about expanding the conversation and presenting new perspectives.
BTS Fun Fact: Part-way through the project, the filmmakers decided to make some of the leading male characters female. They didn’t need to alter any of the lines while switching characters’ genders. That’s how easy it is to establish parity in media – being conscious is the first step!
The next morning, I moderated the “Progress vs. Perfection” panel with experts ranging from the queen Geena Davis herself to Mattel, Walmart, and Kraft. I was thrilled to host this panel because I know first-hand what it takes to drive change on complex topics like inclusivity.
We are witnessing culture shift quickly as businesses are bringing together economic goals with social initiatives – and proving that it’s possible for corporations and brands to do well by doing good. But in order to create tangible change, we need to unpack how that change can happen and these brands shared how they were spearheading initiatives in both product and personnel that address more inclusivity.
The Bentonville Film Festival is a truly unique festival. By guaranteeing distribution for its winners, it’s ensuring that diverse voices and stories are delivered straight into consumers’ homes.
You can help support BFF’s mission by spreading the word about the festival, encouraging filmmakers to submit their work, and following their social channels @BFFfestival for more info!