Author and journalist A’Lelia Bundles shares the legacy of her great-great-grandmother, Madam C.J. Walker, who helped women become entrepreneurs in the 20th century

On this edition of the Women’s Film Institute podcast, host, Scarlett Shepard, speaks with author and journalist A’Lelia Bundles about her book On Her Own Ground, which is slated to become a TV series about entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist, Madam C.J. Walker (1867–1919). A’Lelia Bundles shares the legacy of her great-great-grandmother, Madam C.J. Walker, the country’s first African-American millionaire, who helped women become entrepreneurs in the 20th century. Kasi Lemmons is attached to direct the series. Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer has signed on to play Madam C.J. Walker, and will become a producer of the show. LeBron James, in association with his production company, SpringHill Entertainment, has joined the team as an executive producer. The series is still in development for the kind of limited series we’ve come to expect on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime.

Madam C.J. Walker’s story is one that should be in all history books. She worked as a washerwoman, making as little as $1.50 per day. She suffered from hair loss, and created a shampoo and scalp ointment to remedy her condition. She called it, “Wonderful Hair Grower,” and in 1910, she built a hair training school and factory, the headquarters of the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Co. The company trained thousands of African-Americans to become “Walker Agents,” and provided opportunities to women who otherwise would have been maids, cooks, and laundresses to gain financial independence.

I got my start by giving myself a start.” – Madam C.J. Walker

By the time Madam C.J. Walker died in May 1919, she and her teaching faculty had trained more than 20,000 Walker agents. Tune in to our latest podcast episode with A’Lelia Bundles, and learn how Madam C.J. Walker inspired women to become entrepreneurs in the 20th century.

Podcast: Susan Silver, Author, Hot Pants in Hollywood: Sex, Secrets and Sitcoms

In this podcast episode, Scarlett Shepard (Founder of the Women’s Film Institute) speaks with trailblazer Susan Silver and comedy writer for The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Susan talks about her latest memoir, Hot Pants in Hollywood: Sex, Secrets, and Sitcoms. Susan  has written for some of the most iconic sitcoms of all time, creating laugh lines for Mary Tyler Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker, Beatrice Arthur, Bob Newhart, and The Partridge Family. A female comedy writer in an industry overwhelmingly dominated by men, she is perhaps the first and only television writer to be featured in TV Guide wearing hot pants. Now, Susan dishes about the highs and lows of both her comedy career and love life in her new memoir, Hot Pants in Hollywood: Sex, Secrets and Sitcoms. Sign up for FREE chapter here.

Women’s History Month: Change your profile to a woman who inspires you!

Women have always played an important role in our nation’s history. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we invite you to change your profile picture on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to a woman who inspires you or has made a positive impact in your life! Whether it’s a woman you know personally or well-known public figures, women play an important role in our lives. Share her story with the world. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #extraordinarywomenofhistory


#ILookLikeAFilmDirector: 21 Films for Women’s History Month

fss-masthead3For Women’s History Month, KQED put together a playlist of 21 of their films. It features shorts like I Feel Stupid, directed by Milena Pastreich and written by A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’s Ana Lily Amirpour, and Kiss Me by Jules Nurrish, who was recently named a Film Independent Directing Lab Fellow. You can check out the complete collection here.

Film Fatales is a collective of female feature film directors

12291152_407453432781812_2698296464638560181_oHave you heard about Film Fatales? Film Fatales is a collective of female feature directors who meet regularly to mentor each other, collaborate on projects and create a supportive community in which to make their films. The group was founded in 2013 in New York City and has since expanded to include over two dozen local chapters around the world. Members meet in small groups hosted inside the homes different filmmakers each month, to share a meal, update each other on their projects, and engage in a moderated discussion about relevant topics in film.

Film Fatales provides a space for female filmmakers to support each other, share resources, and help get their films made. In addition to the monthly meetings, Film Fatales supports a number of other collaborative programs including: writing groups, master classes, panel discussions, film festival programming, educational workshops, theatrical field trips, and numerous other special events.

Film Fatales has quickly become a grassroots community of collaboration and support. By offering a space for mentorship, peer networking and direct participation, Film Fatales continues to promote the creation of more films by and about women. Film Fatales is based in New York City with additional local chapters in Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Detroit, Memphis, Missouri, New Orleans, San Francisco, and internationally in Costa Rica, London, Melbourne, New Zealand, Sao Paolo, Sydney and Toronto. More info:!local-chapters/c12yx

SFWFI_collage_002Looking for funding and support for your film? Welcome! You’ve come to the right place.  The Women’s Film Institute has compiled a comprehensive list of funding opportunities and professional development programs to serve U.S. and international women filmmakers.


Here’s Why It’s So Important to Hire More Female Directors

kathryn-bigelow-ava-duvernayFilms directed by women are much more likely to employ women in other behind-the-scenes roles

Putting a woman in the director’s chair makes it much more likely that the film will also achieve gender parity in other behind-the-scenes roles, according to a new study that examines last year’s top-grossing films.

The study makes an ongoing federal probe in Hollywood’s hiring practices all the more urgent. Women made up just 13% of directors who released a film to theaters last year and not even one-tenth of the directors on the 250 top-grossing films.

“The findings suggest that women directors, executive producers and producers may serve and important gateway function in the employment of other women in key behind-the-scenes roles,” Martha Lauzen, who conducted the study of 700 films from last year and acts as director at the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, said in a statement. (Eliana Dockterman @edockterman Oct. 27, 2015, Time Magazine) Read more:

AFI Directing Workshop for Women – American Film Institute

DWW_HOMEThe AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) is a hands-on training program committed to increasing the number of women working professionally in screen directing.

DWW offers participants intensive training in narrative filmmaking in an innovative workshop. Each participant is required to complete a short film or series by the end of the program. DWW is open to women with three years or more of professional experience in the arts. The program is tuition-free though participants are responsible for raising the funds for their projects.

Key Dates:

  • Application online: September 1
  • Open House: October 20
  • Applications due: December 6

Visit the Program section for details.

Women-produced WILDLIKE opens 9/25

unnamedIn this thrilling coming-of-age adventure, a troubled teen must face the dangers of the Alaskan wild, as well as her own past, in order to find her way home. Sent to stay with her uncle in Alaska while her mother is in treatment, 14-year-old Mackenzie (Ella Purnell) is forced to flee as her uncle’s attention turns threatening. Unable to reach her mother and afraid that the authorities will return her to her uncle, she embarks on a journey across miles of wilderness to find a way back home to Seattle. As she plunges deeper into the Alaskan interior, a chance connection with gruff backpacker Bartlett (Bruce Greenwood) proves to be her only lifeline. Mackenzie shadows Bartlett across the rugged frontier, thwarting his efforts to cut her loose until he has no choice but to help her survive, and against the backdrop of a spectacular landscape, they discover the redemptive power of friendship. You can watch the official trailer here: 

More info:

Ava DuVernay plans to distribute & support films by women & minorities

Ava DuVernay announced Tuesday that she’s widening the scope of her company and relaunching it as Array, to support women and minority filmmakers. The focus of this long awaited project will distribute films via arthouse theaters as well as on streaming platforms. More info:

Women’s Equality Day with special guest Gloria Allred

2cc2c57e-a1d5-4460-a401-c53c4d9acf4cIn this podcast episode, Scarlett Shepard (Founder of the Women’s Film Institute) speaks with feminist lawyer and activist Gloria Allred about her passion for fighting for victims’ rights and women’s rights. Gloria talks about the upcoming 95th anniversary of how women won the right to vote. Have you ever wondered what Gloria Allred would do if she were President of the United States? Tune in to find out. Listen here:

This podcast episode was part of Women’s Equality Day 2015! The Women’s Film Institute was proud to co-sponsor the West Hollywood City Council and the West Hollywood Women’s Advisory Board for an empowering and inspirational event commemorating the 95th anniversary of the certification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote in the United States. The celebration  featured an address by special guest speakers Gloria Allred,  Attorney, Women’s and Civil Rights Activist and founding partner of Allred, Maroko & Goldenberg (AM&G) and Lisa Bloom, Attorney, NBC News Legal Analyst, and founding partner of The Bloom Firm.  The event featured video shorts, a raffle, and an interactive photobooth and followed by a reception. The Women’s Film Institute was proud to co-present the following short films at the event:

Syria: Brides of Peace – In the early days of Syria’s uprising, sisters Kinda and Lubna Zaour walked through the main souk in Damascus dressed as brides, a symbol of love, and carried banners calling for peace. They were arrested almost immediately. Upon their release, each sister became a bride once again under circumstances that also called for tremendous bravery: in the midst of a sectarian war and despite death threats from their extended family, both married outside of their religion.

Miss Todd‘ is a short, animated musical about the first woman in the world to build and design an airplane, made at the National Film and Television School, England.

The event is FREE and OPEN to the public! Register Now:

Women's Film Institute