You dream of making your own film – of breaking out with an indie hit, or producing a documentary that spotlights obscure but urgently fascinating corners of the world. So you pack your bags and….stay in Washington, DC.
“DC may now be the center of non-fiction filmmaking,” says Sandy Cannon-Brown, President of Women in Film and Video (WiFV), and her organization is at the heart of a large and dynamic community of Washington women telling stories from behind a camera.
Kiley Kraskouskas is one such DC storyteller who has matured under the wing of WiFV. She was magnetized by documentary film while studying sociology at NYU; after moving to DC, she landed an internship at WiFV, which proved to be the start of a new career in film production. “I fell in love with the pace, the deadlines, the creativity,” she says. “It was such a contrast from the academic world.”
Two years ago, Kraskouskas got a call from a friend with the irresistible idea of producing a documentary on the nomadic Tuaregs of the Sahara and their music festival. Kraskouskas bit. WiFV was instrumental in mentoring and supporting her through the funding process, and today Essakane Unveiled is in post production (watch a preview at www.essakanefilm.com).
“Making a film is such an intense endeavor; it’s amazing to have a community to support you,” Kraskouskas says. WiFV served as the ‘fiscal sponsor’ for the film, thereby allowing donations to be tax-deductible, and making her project eligible for grant money.
“The barrier to entry in DC is much lower than in, say, New York, where I would have been competing with NYU film students,” Kraskouskas observes. Here, aspiring filmmakers can take a $70 lighting workshop from Docs in Progress – a non-profit that helps local documentary filmmakers – which makes the whole process more accessible to those without an expensive film school education. “DC is more grounded in reality,” says Kraskouskas, who also serves on the board of Docs in Progress. “It’s the place to cut your teeth, build your resume, and find gratifying work.”
In addition to helping filmmakers like Kraskouskas through fiscal sponsorship, WiFV also offers job fairs, scholarships, book clubs, roundtables, and community involvement. Part of this community involvement is WiFV’s popular Image Makers program, an 8-week course run by WiFV volunteers that introduces high school students in the DMV area to filmmaking. Student teams are paired with a local non-profit, which they treat as a client, learning its mission and needs. The students then make a public service announcement, gaining experience in everything from story boarding to filming to post-production.
“You wind up with everybody having a sense of leadership,” says Image Makers co-chair Yolanda Arrington. “When it comes time to go out and film, the students are working with a professional production crew, and everyone gets a chance to be a director.”
So you want to hang out with the glamorous women of WiFV?
“There’s SO much; you can spend your whole life doing WiFV activities,” says Cannon-Brown. And if you’re not a woman? No problem. “We will always be WiFV – but we do have a large male contingent,” she adds. And if you’re not a member? Also no problem! Most of their events are open to the public, unless otherwise noted. You can rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 2, 7 to 9 p.m.: Entertainment Book Club at Comet Ping Pong (5037 Connecticut Ave. NW), reading Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark.
April 4, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.: WIFV Weds One – Foreign Distribution at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE), $15 members/ $30 public.
April 11, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.: Conscious Media Roundtable with One Voice Screening and Q&A with filmmaker at Interface Media Group; RSVP to SisterSatyani@gmail.com
April 20, 7 to 10:00 pm: WiFV Advisory Committee Dinners (various locations), $40 Executive Members, $50 Professional & Student Members, $65 Guests; RSVP required.
To learn more, visit www.wifv.org