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LA Femme Film Festival: 15 Years Supporting Women in Film in DTLA

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I had the pleasure of spending a fun weekend at the 15th Annual LA Femme Film Festival this October, and if you’re a filmmaker (especially if you’re a #womaninfilm) this event should absolutely be on your radar. Interesting panels, fun parties, a stellar lineup of films, web series, and music videos make up an awesome event that’s been making strides for women in film for 15 years. As festival director Leslie LaPage says, “We have been supporting women before it was cool!”

LA Femme Film Festival

LA Femme attendees having fun at the Sony sponsored party

Filmmaker Focused

As a producer myself, one of the things I notice immediately about any festival is how beneficial the event is to filmmakers over the long-term. What does that mean? To me, giving creators assets that can be used to help their film down the road is as key as getting audiences to the theatre for the festival itself. With that in mind, I was really impressed by LA Femme’s thoughtfulness in having a great red carpet setup with both photo and video interview opportunities at their events throughout the weekend. Having those high-quality interview clips are a great tool for filmmakers both during and after the festival.

Innovative Panel Discussions

LA Femme Film Festival

Actress Lee Purcell speaking on a SAG-AFTRA sponsored panel at LA Femme Film Festival

I spent a full day attending panels at LA Femme, because I was genuinely interested in their offerings. My Saturday included:

  • A very informative discussion on getting distribution for short films and web series.
    • The panelists were a mix of managers/distributors and creators whose work has been picked up for distribution which made for a well-rounded conversation.
    • One of the great tidbits that came out of this panel was that when you contact a manager or distributor for yourself or a project, think of your email to that person as a logline. Keep it short and to the point, but excite your reader!
  • An in-depth session on pitching (with some great example pitches given by brave festival attendees!)
    • The focus of this panel was less on the content that makes a good project, and more on the structure and elements that make a good pitch, which was very valuable for attendees.
  • An absolutely lovely conversation put on by SAG-AFTRA with a panel of senior women in the industry on writing for and casting mature actors.
    • I loved everything about the women who came in from SAG-AFTRA senior committee, most especially a discussion Jane the Virgin‘s Ivonne Coll about how she was able to bring in her own experiences and cultural background to her characters.
    • This also included a great rundown about age discrimination women face in the industry, and the work SAG-AFTRA has done (and continues to do) to fight against things like performer ages being listed on the internet. What these women are doing is really important work. I wasn’t even aware a senior committee existed until now, and in case you weren’t either make sure to check out more about the committee here.

The variety in these panels was a huge plus for me, especially seeing one right after the other.

Awards, Networking, and a Fun Atmosphere

LA Femme Film Festival

Seriously, how cute is this cake?

Each of the four nights of LA Femme include a party with opportunities for networking and celebration. We all know the work of putting a film together and bringing it to a festival is a huge undertaking, so having some great nights to kick back and celebrate is important when it comes to choosing festivals to attend. LA Femme found some unique spaces in DTLA for these events, from a night in the Arts District, to a private loft, to a pub. I loved the inclusion of fun activities like a Tarot Card reader, and that opening night cake was a stunner!

The final event at LA Femme is an awards show, where filmmakers are invited to drink, dine, walk the carpet, and celebrate their work. Comedian Sandra Valls did a great job hosting the ceremony, and the whole night was well organized and a lot of fun.

LA Femme Film Festival

Comedian Sandra Valls Hosted the Awards Ceremony

Seeing woman after woman walk up onstage to accept awards for their work directing, writing, and acting was really wonderful and I don’t think it can be overstated how necessary festivals that support women in film truly are. One winner, Screenwriter Elise Jackson Lamm, accepted her award with her newborn child in her arms–which was just a fantastic thing to see! I left the event feeling such warmth and inspiration from fellow filmmakers. I think especially as we navigate the current cultural climate, and the spotlight on women and diversity in the industry that has come about because of it, it is so important that we have events and opportunities for women to come together and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.

Thanks so much to LA Femme for putting on a great event, and helping women get their work in front of audiences!

Laura Hunter Drago

About Laura Hunter Drago

Laura Hunter Drago is a producer, writer, and actress living in Los Angeles, California. Laura is a proud SAG-AFTRA member, is the assistant editor-in-chief of Ms. in the Biz, and is the co-founder of New Girl Pictures. She also likes baking, obsessing over Olympic ice dancers, and having long conversations with her dog Buffy. She dislikes being bored. Most recently, Laura just completed her first feature film as a producer, To The New Girl, which will screen at festivals in 2020.