Freedom’s Just Another Word

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Another Women’s History Month is upon us and International Women’s Day just passed. Something this year feels…different. Even with gender issues being nearly completely swept under the rug at this year’s Academy Awards (thank you, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, for speaking up), we all sense the electrifying energy in the air this year.

Freedom is on our minds, from the tyranny of words and social stigma, to being liberated from our own mental limitations. Efforts of women who worked tirelessly for years in pursuit of gender equity are finally seeing their work bear fruit. New companies and initiatives lead by women are springing up and flourishing in a welcoming climate of change. Women are finding each other on-line and in live person communities, and bonds of sisterhood are being forged. Instead of feeling competitive, we find pride in our sister’s efforts to step up and contribute. There is truly enough pie to go around. We are realizing that our tribe is here, and has been all along, and that most of us (no matter our professional level) have a natural desire for community. We are free to love each other, love supporting one another, and not fear the death of our own individual career egos.

I’ve been thinking deeply lately about the purpose and ethos of my non-profit, Cinefemme. I believe, above all, in being inclusive…especially in an industry that is built upon the mummified skeletal remains of exclusive patriarchial dogma, boys club ethos, and a 1% mentality. I don’t bust my ass 30 hours a week for free, for nothing. I do this work for Cinefemme because it’s up to us to make the change we want to see. I don’t feel entitled to jobs or respect I haven’t earned, but in the full knowledge of this industry’s sexism, I sure as hell am willing to create my own jobs instead. Females in social settings often show their great power in different ways. It can be reflected in the “mean girl” social groups that find power through exclusivity, bullying, and disenfranchisement of other females. It can also be seen as a self-fueling empowerment system, where females support other females, are empowered by each other’s acts of generosity, and are inspired to pay it forward.

For me, it’s a beautiful thing to see another woman succeed, because I understand the struggle, challenges and uphill battles every women faces along the way. I know her success does not take away from my success. I am proud of her for doing what needs to get done. It’s an abundant, love-based mindset where we are all free from limitations of scarcity, competition, and in-fighting. We are liberated to be our authentic, creative selves, and discover the perfect placement for our professional selves. We are creating a new system for women in the industry that thrives with each woman’s success and perpetuates positivity. We all benefit, everyone in our culture and society, by the uplifting and empowerment of women. Hopefully next year, when the Oscars roll around, we will not find women erased and made invisible by those in power. Ideally, more women nominees will be acknowledged, but beyond that, that exclusive system of recognition will eventually be diminished in its importance in the wake of this new light of inclusivity. We won’t need it as much, because we’re recognizing, valuing, hiring, and supporting one another. Maybe then, and only then, will Oscar just be another five-letter word for a wiener.

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Michelle Kantor

About Michelle Kantor

Michelle Kantor co-founded Cinefemme, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization for women directors, while studying at San Francisco State University. She is the youngest daughter of political refugees who fled Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960's, and is currently producing two films about her family's historic escape from behind the Iron Curtain: RED STAR, a feature documentary following her father's return on the 50th anniversary of his escape, and THE REBEL, a narrative feature film screenplay written by Michelle, based on their lives. She also directs performance art videos for painter Tara Savelo, former Haus of Gaga member and writes the blog www.ultra-luxurious.com. Michelle's body of work includes short films, experimental narratives, documentaries, and live work for circus performers at San Francisco's Teatro Zinzanni. Her music video "Highway To Yodel-Ay-Hee-Huuu," starring America's Got Talent's Manuela Horn, won Best Music Video at LA Femme Film Festival in 2014. Her production credits include work for HBO, FYI, The History Channel, Sony, Universal, and NASA. An advocate for epilepsy, her groundbreaking film "Bettina in the Fog" won the Thunen Award by the Illuminating Engineers Society. Michelle's other distinctions include the Goldfarb Award for Best Student Film and funding from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for Cinefemme. She holds an MFA in Cinema from San Francisco State University and BFA in Film Production from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Michelle is a certified paralegal, mother, writer and artist. An active member of the female filmmaking community, Michelle belongs to WIF, AWD and Film Fatales.