Hollywood has far to go when it comes to gender and racial parity both in front and behind the camera. The local nonprofit Made in Her Image is manifesting this change and empowering the next generation of filmmakers. It's just won a Community Service Award from South by Southwest (SXSW).
“When I saw their films, I was so taken aback,” says Keiona Eady, who serves on the organization's board. “I thought, ‘Wow, these young girls did it. They’re so proud and confident. Where was this when I was a kid?’”
After attending the organization’s launch event at Phoenix Center for the Arts in June 2018, Eady was so moved by the organization and the girls’ films that she decided to join the board. She currently serves as its communications director.
She recalls, “I sat in my chair and cried. This is empowering me. These girls were really able to express how they felt through these films, and I was touched.”
The organization now has a chapter in Los Angeles, but was founded in Phoenix in 2018. Its stated mission is to bring about social equity in the film, media, and entertainment industry. The organization serves young people ages 8 to 18 through a variety of programming meant to mentor the youths, and foster media literacy and empowerment. One of its programs is the Catalyst Incubator, which was held at the Phoenix Art Museum this past July.
“At the summer camp, they were able to work one on one with local film industry professionals [in making their films],” says Eady. “They get all the components. They get a class on editing. They get a class on directing. They get a class on acting.”
All of these programs are led by volunteers, but the organization still incurs costs.
“There’s equipment purchase and rental, supplies, venue rentals, travel, even feeding the kids," Eady explains.
The grant will give the organization a big financial boost.
“The SXSW Community Service Award honorees are creating a better and brighter future by improving the lives of under-served voices across the globe,” says Jann Baskett, chief brand officer of SXSW. The grant will allow Made in Her Image to host more events, both here and in L.A.
Made in Her Image already has begun collaborating with industry powerhouses like Sundance, Disney, Universal, and Paramount. Youths in the program have a chance to meet filmmakers in the industry, take behind-the-scenes tours, get feedback on projects, and get mentored by successful women and people of color working in the entertainment industry.
“We want to empower youths to create whatever they want to create.” Says Eady. “We’re a grassroots organization, and we’re still trying to figure out how to make things happen. But mentorship is our mission. Our goal is to have at least 100 films made by youths in our program by 2025.”