This Health Foundation is Investing in BIRTHRIGHT, a Critical Public Health Film for Women

Leading discussion at the opening New York City screening. Left to right: Luchina Fisher, producer; Lynn Paltrow, Executive Producer, National Advocates for Pregnant Women; Civia Tamarkin, Director, Writer and Executive Producer; and Dr. Ruth Shaber, Founder, Tara Health Foundation and Executive Producer

Collectively, state legislatures passed 288 restrictions on women’s reproductive rights between 2010 to 2015. Now, a new film tells the stories of women’s horrific health experiences, and the imprisonments, both actual and threatened, that are a consequence of these laws.

Birthright: A War Story is a new documentary that exposes the radical religious right’s infiltration state legislatures. This movement’s goal is not only to strike down women’s constitutional right to abortion but also to curb women’s access to birth control. Some seek to put the rights of fetuses above those of women.

This is the Real-Life ‘Handmaid’s Tale’

The 1 hour, 40 minute film just completed a highly successful week’s run in New York City before engaged and enthusiastic audiences. This Friday, July 28 it opens in Beverly Hills at the Laemmle Music Hall for another one week run. These two theatrical runs qualify the film for consideration for an Academy Award, a critical step in a documentary’s path to notoriety and success.

Director Civia Tamarkin, a seasoned television investigative journalist, was motivated to produce BIRTHRIGHT after the Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in Hobby Lobby. “I was shocked not only by the Supreme Court ruling, but by the lack of awareness from young women that their rights were being jeopardized. People were not taking to the streets.”

Unlike most filmmaking, Tamarkin said, “Ironically, it proved easier to raise money than to get people to go on camera.” The director underscored in an interview with Philanthropy Women, “Practitioners were reluctant to come forward. They were worried about repercussions…..especially about repercussions of violence. ”

Lest we forget, the National Abortion Federation keeps records of this violence. Eleven people have died and 26 attempted murders have occurred due to anti-abortion violence. A federal law, Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE or the Access Act), passed in 1994 to address such violence. Rewire recently produced an informative short video about the daily harassment that continues to occur at clinics.

Dr. Ruth Shaber, after a twenty five year career as an obstetrician and gynecologist, in 2014 created the Tara Health Foundation. The mission of Tara Health is to “improve the health and well-being of women and girls through the creative use of philanthropic capital.” Tara Health Foundation takes a holistic approach to its grant making as well as its capital management.

Most intriguing to this author was Shaber’s focus on bringing the principles of evidence-based health medicine into philanthropy. She explained,“Evidence-based health is conceived using science. You have an intervention, and then you look at the impact on a desired outcome. In philanthropy, on both the granting-making and the investment side, decisions are more driven by intuition. It is not a sufficient scientific methodology.”

At a national meeting, Shaber heard Dr. David Grimes of the Center for Disease Control speak of the threats to public health that regressive abortion laws are creating. Shaber, as a doctor turned philanthropist, came home from that meeting in November 2015 and realized: “We needed to remind people that abortion and contraception were protecting women’s health.”

Shaber started networking like crazy, on a mission to make a movie akin to An Inconvenient Truth for women’s health. “I knew nothing about filmmaking or media, but I put my name out there and let people know that I was interested in doing this work.

Those in film know how exceedingly rare it is for a potential backer to be knocking on the door of a film director, but not long after putting out the word, Dr. Shaber heard of Tamarkin’s project and called her up. By this time, Tamarkin had completed development and shot a few interviews, enough to create a fundraising trailer.

The two women realized their goals were aligned. Instead of a grant, they struck up an equity investment agreement. Dr. Shaber recounted, “I wanted to have more of a business relationship with the film, so we had to  strike new ground.”

Shaber and Tamarkin found very few in the foundation world who could advise them. But by discussing strategies, the two were able to conceive up a straight-up investment plan. The key selling point of the strategy for investors would be that they would be able to say that profits from the film would be returned to Tara Health Foundation and be deployed for the reproductive rights of women and girls. 

The $675,000 equity investment from Tara Health Foundation enabled Tamarkin and her production team to concentrate solely on conducting the interviews, editing and polishing the completed film. Ruth Shaber became an executive producer of the film, in essence leveraging both financial and human capital to produce the film


The Global Women’s Philanthropy Network Aligning Health with Human Rights for Women and Girls

In addition to investing in the production, Tara Health Foundation has also provided a $325,000 grant for community outreach for the film. In this writer’s experience, this promotional work is a most vital component of the process, and is rare in the production of independent advocacy films like BirthrightPicture Motion, with a track record in this arena, has been hired to design the national campaign strategy that will maximize the film’s social impact. 

Dr. Shaber is optimistic about the outreach screenings. “Each one will have its own character whether it is individuals or organizations, whether they do them as fundraisers or awareness builders.” So far, one outreach screening has occurred in Colorado, a very successful event organized by the American Civil Liberties Union in conjunction with numerous other groups. Birthright’s theatrical distributor, Abramorama, just launched the commercial/art house run of the film, which precedes any community campaign. 

Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), one of the participating organizations in the July 10 community screening, talked about the value of the film in terms of women and maternal health, noting that the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world where maternal mortality is on the rise. “Women of color are experiencing an increase in pregnancy complications. On top of this tragic and unacceptable public health crisis, the bodies and pregnancies of marginalized communities are a target of unjust and discriminatory laws and policies.”


Gender Justice Uncovered — Help Promote Sound Judicial Decisions for Gender Equality

Kelly Baden saw the film at the partnering organization, Center for Reproductive Rights. Thirteen partnering organizations, listed in the Take Action pulldown, are the initial core outreach network. Baden is now in a brand new position as the first Director of Reproductive Rights of State Innovation Exchange, a national resource and strategy hub for advancing and defending progressive policies at the state level. 

In an interview with Philanthropy Women, Baden noted that laws restricting abortion and other reproductive rights are often pushed through hostile state legislatures without input from the very women who will feel their impact most. “Anti-abortion legislators should – at the very least – listen to stories like those featured in Birthright and be forced to grapple with the consequences of using women’s healthcare to score political points.”

State legislatures are not the only problem. A fundraising appeal from Jodi Jacobson, publisher of Rewire , sent out July 19, reminds readers that Teresa Manning, who now runs the Office of Population Affairs at the CDC, does not support evidence-based health contraception. “[She] relies on junk science and falsehoods to advocate for anti-choice policies,” the Rewire appeal states. $286 million is at Manning’s disposal in federal family planning funds to low-income Americans. Decades of health progress for women are at stake.


How Are Women More or Less Free? And What Can We Do About It?

When asked about how Birthright fit into the long history of women’s health films like After Tiller and Trapped, director, writer, and executive producer Tamarkan was adamant that “Birthright is an overview. The issue is not abortion. It is about women’s bodily integrity.”

Additional theatrical screenings are in the works. Small Star Art House in York, Pennsylvania, is listed, as is Gateway Film Center in Columbus, Ohio. Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY is on the roster, too. None yet have dates. Other potential screenings are in the works in Lincoln, Nebraska: Dallas and Austin, Texas, and Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona.

If you want updates on the screenings, keep checking the Birthright website. If you want a screening in your community, simultaneously contact your local movie theatre and fill out the form on Birthright’s webpage. Make it happen. You’ll be glad you did. Women Make Movies is handling educational distribution for college campus campaigns. 

Fabulously,” was Shaber’s response when asked how the New York opening screenings went. “I think we are really lighting a match under people so they are connecting to an issue that they have not thought about enough.”

(Full disclosure, the author is a co-founder of Women Make Movies, the non-profit, educational feminist film organization.)


Women, Hide Your Wallets: The GOP Wants to Defund Your Health Care

Imagining What Is Possible: This Young Feminist Funder is Growing Women’s Media Globally

Women, Hide Your Wallets: The GOP Wants to Defund Your Health Care

A massive defunding for women is now under consideration in the United States Senate. All told, it represents billions of dollars annually that will come straight out of primarily women’s wallets. 

You may not usually think of the federal government as a philanthropic institution. Yet from our country’s start,  congressional acts have subsidized various segments of the population and for a variety of reasons. Take the 1792 Postal Act. A spirited debate went on in the second session of Congress, over maintaining access to information. That Congress voted to create low postal rates for newspapers and to improve roads by creating postal routes to ensure expansion and development of our fledgling country, rather than solely serve existing communities. Americans still benefit from reduced media postal rates today.

The proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) put forth by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the 115th Session is an entirely different matter. It will adversely impact the finances of women – particularly poor women and women of color, and all rural people, especially women. By cutting off funding – just so the wealthy 1% can get tax breaks – American adult women, 126 million strong, will again have to shell out of pocket money for all kinds of basic health care or forego health services, often to the detriment of their own well-being and the well-being of their families. People will die as a result of this bill. The greater proportion of those deaths will be women.

Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated it succinctly, “It is outrageous that a group of men are negotiating to make it harder for women to prevent unintended pregnancy, harder to have a healthy pregnancy and harder to raise a healthy child.”

The Impact on Medicaid

The Better Care Reconciliation Act proposes gigantic cuts in Medicaid, rolling back the expansions that were put in place by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. An estimated $772 Billion will be siphoned off from this program that benefits low income people. This impacts 25 million women in the US, who are 36% of the Medicaid beneficiaries. Their children, under age 18, are another 44% of Medicaid recipients. Over the first 10 years of this proposed bill the deep cuts into medicaid are expected to be 25%, but in the 2nd decade starting after 2027, the cuts go far deeper to 35%.

These Medicaid cuts threaten rural hospitals. Simply, many will close. As a group, 14% of their budgets come through medicaid reimbursements for their services.

Though not named, criteria specifically targets Planned Parenthood for the chopping block, however, at present, only for one year. This vital health service agency provides everything from cancer screenings to birth control. It has historically served one in five women in America. Planned Parenthood would be denied reimbursement, like other health care agencies, for the low income women, who comprise over 50 percent of their patients. In 2015 Planned Parenthood affiliates received $553.7 million in government reimbursements and grants for services. This means some 2.4 million women who regularly use the 600 Planned Parenthood facilities across America will no longer have access to these vital services.

Many conservative lawmakers claim women can as easily be served by other existing clinics.“…[Community health centers] are vastly bigger in network, there are so many more of them, and they provide these kinds of services without all of the controversy surrounding this [abortion] issue,” touted House Speaker Paul Ryan in January. But a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that these other community clinics could not make up for the flood of uninsured patients to their doors.

Further, in an investigation by Rewire, numerous of these clinics are religious in affiliation and fail to offer a full range of reproductive health care. They restrict family planning. So, in fact they are both in contradiction to the services offered at Planned Parenthood clinics and fail to adhere to the tenets of the ACA.

Being Female, A Pre-existing Condition

The Senate’s BCRA bill, like the House’s version, the AHCA, avoids outright omissions of the essential success of the Affordable Health Act. That is the inclusion of all people in health insurance despite so-called pre-existing conditions. Prior to the ACA women universally had to pay higher premiums solely due to their sex as a pre-existing condition.

The BCRA and the AHCA theoretically keep pre-existing conditions. But the laws pass the political buck to states to allow for waivers that effect various types of pre-existing conditions. “Because they [the states] are closer to the public’s health needs,” numerous Congressional supporters of the two bills disingenuously claim, the states can make the decision on how to handle pre-existing conditions.

But combined with all the fiscal cuts, many states will be hard pressed to shoulder the costs related to pre-existing conditions. Instead, the public will get a hodge-podge of programs that will make some states semi-bright beacons of partial health coverage and others wilting lilies where poor citizens are on the hook personally for the high and rising costs of health care that they cannot afford. This dynamic will have larger ramifications on the impact of businesses to attract workers and other developments and programs within certain states. It is a far cry from the 1792 Postal Act. Or Obamacare.

People of color in larger numbers have historically lacked insurance. The ACA started to close that gap, though there is far more to go. The Groundswell Fund and Ms. Foundation for Women are two foundations that for decades have supported women of color health groups addressing these disparities. It is from these groups that new theoretical frameworks and progressive advancements like Reproductive Justice have emerged and that, in turn, have impacted the international health community.

Teresa C. Younger, President and CEO of Ms. Foundation said, “The bill is called The Bettercare Act but it will only result in worse care for women of color. [ It ] siphons resources to pay for yet another tax cut for rich white men. It’s clear women of color are in Conservatives’ anti-woman, pro-billionaire crosshairs with this bill, but women of color won’t stand for it. We are literally fighting for our survival.”

The Impact on Birth Control

Not until 1965 did birth control become legal. State laws prohibiting it were struck down that year in Griswold v. Connecticutt by the Supreme Court.

Post 1965, with oral contraceptives available since 1961, almost three generations of sexually active women have practiced birth control. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, contraceptions make up an estimated 30-44% of out-of-pocket spendingfor their health care by sexually active women.  The ACA recognizes the unique health needs of women throughout their lifespan. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) created a set of guidelines for women’s care. This includes contraception. An estimated $1.4 billion in the first year alone of Obamacare was saved by 55 million women because they had access to birth control through copayments in their health insurance.

Despite 71% of the US population being in favor of full coverage of birth control, the current administration is not listening. The BCRA does not directly strike down the birth control provision, but already rumors are afoot that the Tom Price lead Health and Human Services Department is about to do away with a component of the benefit.

The first line of attack on this widely acceptable copay is based on religious and moral grounds. In a leaked rule, the Trump administration may be poised to significantly roll back birth control through the ACA. Building on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, it would allow any employer or university to deny coverage based on their beliefs. Religious and moral grounds of women are obliterated. Also, there seems to be an attempt to bypass the mandated 60-day public comment period.

$200 Billion in Incentives Luring Senators to Pass BCRA

Women are primary caregivers, tending to the upbringing of children and caring for aging parents. The majority of this work is unpaid labor. Women’s reproductive organs warrant greater health care. Combined, these factors mean women interact with health care providers far more frequently than men. Cutting funds for some of the most essential health needs of women as provided in the ACA is a direct slap in the face to 51% of the US population.

McConnell’s pulling of the BCRA just before the Fourth of July recess was momentary. To understand better the horse trading that the Senate Majority Leader has at his disposal to get Senators on board his health care train wreck, long time Hill correspondent, Michael McAuliff, has written an especially informative article. Hint, the reporter calls it “Candy”. While he makes no mention of women per se, McAuliff explains how the Majority Leader has about $200 billion worth of incentives at his disposal. That’s our tax money at play, being used as inducements to decimate our health care systems.

Gloria Feldt, who for thirty years worked with Planned Parenthood, ten years as President and CEO of the Federation, and is now co-founder of Take The Lead Women, summed it up this way: “Families who thought their company plans would cover a new child’s birth may find themselves paying a very high premium just to have coverage–and then be bankrupted by devastating costs if there are complications of pregnancy or birth. [The BCRA creates] high profits for insurance companies. Now that’s about as foolish a piece of legislation as you can get.”

Imagining What Is Possible: This Young Feminist Funder is Growing Women’s Media Globally

FRIDA is a global feminist funder dedicated to social change. It has made $1.3 million in direct grants to over 150 groups in over 80 different countries.

Young feminists have been organizing across the globe for decades, but their work, particularly in the media sector, has been woefully underfunded. I know, since I was one of them. In 1969, when I co-founded Women Make Movies, women’s funds didn’t exist.

Over the decades, thousands of young activists have gathered at events like the International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development, the flagship event of AWID (Association of Women’s Rights in Development), and have talked about the need for more funding for young feminists, particularly in media. As the last decade closed, many young activists lamented that no women’s fund specifically addressed their youthful organizing needs. So they decided to start their own, with AWID and Fondo Centralamericano de Mujeres (Central America Women’s Fund) incubating this spark of an idea.

In 2011 FRIDA was born. With the purpose of providing more resources to young women leaders, FRIDA aims to amplify feminist voices and bring attention to feminist work. FRIDA recognizes bravery, creativity and resilience as essential qualities that guide their efforts. A lively timeline of the young funds’ evolution from budding idea to full scale operations – six years out – provide an insightful history of the fund. (See timeline link at bottom of page).

The actual name – FRIDA – spells out five core values: Flexibility; Resources, Inclusivity, Diversity and Action. (That dispels any myths I held about it being an homage to a special artist!) A quick survey of its website shows a vibrant team of some 72 young women who act as advisors, associates, and board members guiding the fledgling fund.

To date, FRIDA has provided $1.3 million in direct grants to over 150 different groups in over 80 different countries. The sheer scale of such an effort is a remarkable feat. The young fund is also a strong model for participatory grantmaking. In its most recent cycle, 450 groups from across the globe participated in voting on grant proposals that would address priorities in their regions.

My own experience with FRIDA came about when the former founding coordinator, Amina Doherty, attended a workshop on Media as a Feminist Activist Tool that I organized at the 2012 Women’s Funding Network conference in Los Angeles. In her blog, Doherty amplified the voice of one of the workshop participants: J. Bob Alotta, Executive Director of Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, who said, “If we are committed to different outcomes, we have to invest in them. Period. In order to fight, in order to do more advocacy, we need media and we need to be willing to invest.”

Back then I took a hard look at the first group of FRIDA grant partners, which included such groups as Association of Young Women for the Culture and Development of Haiti and Crested Crane Lighters in Uganda. What impressed me, as I so often find with grassroots activism, is an overt perspective of the incorporation of feminist media as a tool within their work. And if media is not a major focus of the work, it is intuitively incorporated as a means of action. This I saw repeated over and over in the summaries of the groups that FRIDA funded.

Just a month ago FRIDA announced its latest – its fifth – cycle of grants. From an applicant pool of about 1,000, composed in 7 different languages, 106 groups from 73 different countries were selected to receive grants.

A Space of Affection”

Colectiva Feminista Gordas sin Chaqueta is one of the current grant partners of FRIDA. Based in Colombia. they work with a model called “Artivism” on issues related to gender-based violence. Through various media, documentaries, photos, songs and texts, they seek to “contribute to the cultural transformation of the violence that is exercised on the bodies of women, as well as stereotypes that reproduce inequality in the context of patriarchy.”

Their vision by 2020 is to gain local, national and international recognition “for contributing to transforming stereotypes that reproduce violence in the larger patriarchal system.” As a group, they believe their most significant contribution has been to create a “space of affection” to heal the wounds left by “machismo” (male violence). Lively, creative and determined, the Gordas are working to break down stereotypes that lead to women being abused. They have a Facebook page where readers can follow their work.

A Comic Book of Bad-Ass Women

In Poland, the first teenage NGO is forming, called MamyGlos, which translates loosely as “We’ve Got Voice.” Starting with the most minimum number of three, but with relentless organizing, over 400 girls came to a teen workshop. The girls published coloring books featuring ‘bad-ass women’ and an educational card game. The point of MamyGlos is to help girls stand up for their rights, and feel safe in their communities. These young women are fighting within Poland, where statistics for women’s safety are particularly grim, with one in five women surviving rape. It’s exciting to see young women leaders in Poland stepping up to educate others about the pitfalls of girlhood within the dominant culture.

MamyGlos are on Instagram and Facebook.

Journalism is for Social Change

Also funded by FRIDA is Wlaha Wogoh Okhra, an online Egyptian journal of women’s rights, history and cultural analysis. With a strong belief that film and drama can alter mindsets, they have launched an expanded investigation into Egyptian and Arabic movies. In particular, they explore the portrayal of women and craft a feminist analysis of these movies, allowing for a more nuanced feminist perspective among viewers.

The publication has been a leader in tackling numerous contentious issues. It has reported on women living with HIV, the commodification of women in the media and drama, and how Egyptian feminists suffer  stereotyping and tracking within the society.

One article especially caught my eye: “Women’s Graffiti in Post-January 25 Egypt. A Feminist Revolution On The Walls”. The highly informative piece is enriched by a broad range of powerful images on street murals. These images depict an evolving sensibility in the country that is beginning to incorporate the voices and images of women.

Wlaha Wogoh Okhra has also tackled Egyptian movie posters in a feminist light. Called the Feminist Cinematic Study, this monthly series explores how women are shown on the posters. The series is highly thought provoking. The group, further, organizes on-line trainings for women journalists and mass communications students on feminist journalism. In addition to their own website and their publication, they’ve accounts at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

I am grateful that FRIDA has stepped forward to provide resources for these critical efforts of young activist grassroots groups. Such support is vital in early stages of a group’s growth.  Keeping alive these global media efforts by young feminists is vital to changing hearts and minds.  They enable the hard organizing work of these young women’s energies and programs to survive. More about the other funded projects in the current cycle can be explored with links to fuller descriptions.

A social media vehicle that bridges the communication gap between AWID’s International Forums is the AwidFeministFutures.tumbler site. There, as well on other parts of AWID webpages, is an empowering Bell Hooks quote: The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible.

Where’s the Dough for Women in Film? Ariel Dougherty Surveys the Scene

Still image from film BORN TO FLY, featured on the Chicken and Egg Accelerator Lab site.

The telling of more women’s stories is necessary to advancing women’s lives. Regrettably, though, a mere 4.6% of Hollywood features today are directed by women. As a result, women have fewer speaking parts – 34% according to Dr. Martha Lauzen’s 2015 annual report “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World.” And only 22% of the protagonist were women.  This leaves a huge gap in one of America’s most popular exports. Is this really the picture people in the United States want to offer around the globe?

For decades, film women have been working to change this picture. Especially since the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officially took up a complaint over a year and a half ago, discussions among women in Hollywood and elsewhere have intensified.

Why? In one such discussion with Selma Hayek at Cannes in 2015 she underscored, “The minute they see the money, things will instantly be different…. Show them the money.” Actually data currently shows that films with women protagonist actually do better at the box office.  So, while money is a huge factor, simple unadulterated gender bias is actively at work.

Maria Giese, a Director’s Guild member, was the major force behind the EEOC challenge. Earlier this year she joined forces with other women, including film producer and film festival organizer Christine Walker, to lead an inaugural Women’s Media Summit. The three-day think tank, held in Provincetown, MA brought 115 women in various aspects of film together.

In our collective task at the Summit (your humble writer was in attendance), we explored new actions and endeavors to change the dynamic of entrenched Hollywood male domination. An ambitious seven task forces formed. They are just starting to coalesce into working groups.  Among the most ambitious is FundHer, with hopes to raise between $25 and $50 million to assist completed films with reaching audiences. This is a critically-needed endeavor, where many films that do get produced sadly languish for lack of adequate promotion money. The Megabator structure also hopes to offer financial incentives “from script to screen,” along with three other services involving education, policy and outreach.

While these projected programs are under development, it is important to see them as part of a long continuum. Over decades, many support services for women filmmakers have emerged.

Film Finishing Fund, June 30 for Submissions

Women In Film (WIF) in Los Angeles, started in 1973. It is the first of over 40 such chapters that have formed across the US and around the globe. Among WIF’s many programs, 32 years ago they initiated a Film Finishing Fund. Specifically they grant awards to women’s films that are 90% shot and have a sample trailer to show. Grants are for both short and long formats in all genres. Deadline for the next cycle is coming up June 30th. 

This year additional support for these submissions is coming from Stella Artois, a long time sponsor of independent films through the Independent Spirit Awards. A $100,000 award from the Belgium beer company will provide four $25,000 finishing grants for fiction and documentary films that inspire social change. A special interest of the company is films with a water theme. More details about the program and how to apply are available.

Last year’s cycle funded four narratives and six documentaries. Among the awarded works was SOLACE, directed, written and produced by Tchaiko Omawale. Another project, MUDFLOW, was directed and produced by Cynthia Wade and Sasha Friedlander. See a complete list with descriptions here.  Numerous of the awarded films over the years have gone on to win Academy, Emmy, Sundance, Berlin Film Festival and Peabody Awards, among other recognitions.

Accelerator Lab, July 10 Deadline.

Chicken and Egg Pictures is one of the best examples of practitioner- created funding models. Initiated by three women filmmaker-producers – Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettenger and Judith Helfand – they have awarded $5.2 million in grants and thousands of hours of creative mentorship to over 220 films since 2005. Over the past decade they have crafted numerous tiers of support. For first and second-time women directors of nonfiction works they have established the Accelerator Lab.  A deadline approaches July 10, 2017. Aimed to support ten feature-length productions, the Accelerator Lab especially assists underrepresented voices. $35,000 will be awarded to each project – in three parts – over the course of a 12-month program. An intensive series of workshops with industry experts are geared for all the awardees to glean the most creative aspects of filmmaking in a peer-to-peer supportive atmosphere.

Specifically a project must be in early production. While the subject matter can be open, Chicken and Egg states: “We’re passionate about films that address the global justice, human rights and environmental issues of our time.” They don’t insist, concluding, “Personal stories are eligible.” Interestingly they do not demand at the time of the application that a project have a US based 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, but need to secure one if accepted. They provide a list of such sponsors.

A number of Chicken and Egg-supported projects have gone on to win major awards. More importantly, though, many of these films have effected measurable change for the issues that they address. (Full Disclosure: Ruth Ann Harnisch, President of the Harnisch Foundation, which funds Chicken and egg, is also a lead sponsor of Philanthropy Women.)

Gamechanger Films, an equity model

In a slightly different vein is Gamechanger Films. Foremost, this five-year old entity is an equity firm. They attract investors who expect to get their money back and to make more money with the films they select. Gamechanger only finances feature dramatic films directed by women. A primary point of the for-profit company is to convince more and more investors that funding women-directed features can be lucrative.

The president of Gamechanger is Mynette Louie, an award-winning movie producer “with nine productions under her belt”.  She joined forces with Derek Nguyen, who is director of operations and creative affairs, and Mary Jane Shalski as senior advisor. Together they make up the team, based out of Brooklyn, NY, that has spawn the necessary financing for ten productions. Three years ago at the start of A Revolutionary Moment conference on the early women’s liberation movement, I, by per chance, struck up a conversation with a stranger. She just happened to be an investor in the first project of this equity fund, LAND HO! She was thrilled to report that she was making money on her investment. So, it works.

A recent film in the repertoire is LOVESONG directed by So Yong Kim. Released into theaters last February, the film showcased at Sundance Festival in 2016. It was nominated in February for an Independent Spirit Cassevates Award. Quite an honor! Starring Jena Malone and Riley Keough, the film is in distribution by Strand Releasing. The film can also be viewed via streaming.

Two of the four founders of Gamechanger Films were also founders of Chicken and Egg Pictures – Julie Parker Benello and Wendy Ettenger. They joined forces with Geralyn Dreyfous and Dan Cogan to create this first equity fund focused exclusively to drive finances to women directed feature narratives. The key rationale:  “Gender bias in financing is cited as the foremost obstacle to a woman’s career development in film.”

While the number of women directing Hollywood films is pathetic at 4.6%, even in the independent community that Gamechanger Films reaches women directed feature narratives are still miserably low at 18%. Gamechanger does not accept unsolicited works.

In Conclusion – Crowdfunding

Making films for women is hard. Securing the necessary funds for making women’s stories on “celluloid” is even harder. But as the awareness grows about how persistent the bias against women has been, women especially have been designing mechanism to overcome these challenges. Women In Film, Chicken and Egg and Gamechanger are all a part of that complex fabric of bringing vital women’s stories to more audiences. Many more efforts exist.

There is an important role for audiences, too, to play in this dynamic. There’s crowdfunding. Try a search for “women + film” at Kickstarter. On Indiegogo, New York Women In Film has a curated series of productions, identified as a “partner”. Women Make Movies, too, has a partner page. Unfortunately neither has a “live” production currently fundraising. I couldn’t myself easily do a satisfying search via Indiegogo. Too bad.

Here’s a campaign I recommend: VICIOUS WOMEN : The Deep Green Garden of Gordon Avenue. Of course, I’m biased. I mentored the filmmaker, Jennifer Lee, through an earlier project. She has until June 29th to raise the additional $25,909 to reach her goal. In the pacing and timing of such crowd funding efforts, Lee is well on track. Your contribution – large or small – can make all the difference, however, to seeing this lively tale onto the silverscreen.

Finally, women filmmakers: if you’re not totally overwhelmed with possibilities or focused on getting your application in after reading this post, here’s a central listing of many of the funding opportunities for women in film.