SBIFF Women’s Panel

Hollywood’s Talented Females Behind and in Front of Camera


Torrential rainstorms and ensuing road closures couldn’t keep the nearly 500 attendees of this year’s Women’s Panel from showing up to pay homage to the stories and accomplishments of some of Hollywood’s most talented professionals behind and in front of the camera. Marketing whiz Madelyn Hammond presided over this year’s powerhouse panel of no less than nine 2019 Oscar nominees, in categories that ranged from Best Supporting Actress (Marina de Tavira for Roma) to Production Design (Hannah Beachler for Black Panther.) Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in attendance, in the form of a tabletop action figure that Hammond brought along “in case we needed any more inspiration.”

In an engaging round-robin discussion, sound editors and mixers Ai-Ling Lee (First Man) and Nina Hartstone (Bohemian Rhapsody) shared poetic descriptions of curating distinctive sound palettes for every new body of work, and underscored the value of unrelenting perseverance. “I made tea for sound editors for many years before I actually became one,” remembered Hartstone. Animated Short directors Louise Bagnall (Late Afternoon) and Domee Shi (Bao) discussed the meticulous intricacies of creating fantastical landscapes for animated storytelling, while Beachler nodded in agreement before sharing the painstaking process of bringing the fictional nation of Wakanda to life, generating more than 1,000 descriptive pages on everything from social structures to architectural landmarks.

Documentary filmmakers Betsy West (RBG) and Rayka Zehtabchi (Period. End of Sentence) recounted lessons of patience and negotiation as torchbearers to the real-life stories of resilient and multifaceted women, echoed by producer Lynette Howell (A Star Is Born) who reminded the crowd, “We have an incredible responsibility to make sure there is diversity in the stories that get told, and we know that audiences want that, too.”

As a result of their success, the panelists described a desire to pay it forward, creating mentorship opportunities and overhauling hiring practices to ensure more women are afforded the opportunities they now enjoy before challenging the audience: “If you’re in a position to hire — for any position and in any field — you have a responsibility to hire equally,” said Howell, to a chorus of approval.

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