• Film

Women Organizing to Increase Numbers Behind the Camera

March is International Women’s Month. With global box office becoming more important in generating profit for Hollywood, and Asia Pacific (excluding China) delivering $5.2 billion in 2022 (according to Variety’s “Global Box Office” Jan. 5, 2023), women’s global representation in entertainment is coming into focus.

It was therefore no surprise to see Women in Showbiz Everywhere (WISE) founding member, Vineesha Arora Sarin, host a global initiative celebrating women filmmakers on International Women’s Day, in Beverly Hills.


Sarin, who directed Between Mountains, and hails from India where women account for about 25% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers, highlighted that it is not just in Hollywood that equality needs to be addressed.

Taking a page out of Golden Globe-winning director, Chloé Zhao’s approach to succeeding in the industry, (which Zhao shared with Variety after her Oscar win in 2021), namely, “You’ve got to surround yourself with the right people.” Vineesha Arora Sarin put the focus on collaboration, a trait common among female filmmakers.


In an interview with People magazine, The Woman King director, Gina Prince-Bythewood echoed the sentiment of access and support. “We will never take our foot off the gas. We’re ready to do something together. So we always keep that energy, no matter what happens,” she said.

Zhao, who has teamed with Johnnie Walker’s First Strides initiative and Women In Film, which promotes opportunities for women in front and behind the camera, emphasized the importance of mentoring in an interview with THR.

She noted that as part of the jury for the Venice Film Festival, she was able to share her experience with Happening writer/director, Audrey Diwan, who won the Golden Lion in 2021. “(It) reminded me that no matter how long or short your career is, you always have something to share and you’re always able to help someone else.”

It is exactly that sentiment that Vineesha echoed. “It is high time that real, door-opening opportunity and integrity be given to the talented independent female artists, who can be tomorrow’s visionaries, and merge them with a bigger, inclusive, global, and collaborative community of women in show business. It starts with women uplifting other women, which is why I am working on building a strong board of directors that can help see my vision through.”

A 2018 Women in Film commissioned study, found that Hollywood invests less in women-led companies. A condition most women filmmakers are aware of. In a Variety article, Kirsten Schaffer CEO of Women in Film explained it this way: “We realized women aren’t getting the same financing that men are getting for their companies.” “Therefore, we don’t have as many women-owned companies. (And) we don’t have as many films made by and about women.”

This is not just opinion, it’s fact. A 2018 Women in Film commissioned study done by Pepperdine University broke down the differences between male and female entrepreneurs accessing funding in the movie business and found the financial Gender Gap was no illusion.

While the average non-studio subsidized funding valuation for men ran about $24.4 million, that number was a staggering $3.3 million for women in the same category. For owners of production companies with studio-subsidized film deals, 81.4% are men – leaving 51% of the population scrambling for the remainder.

Women filmmakers often have to go the independent route, as did Vineesha, who admits it can be a lonely endeavor, prompting innovation and ‘leaning in’ to cover the lack of department heads and division of labor that a large budget allows. Her experience on Between Mountains prompted her to start WISE, which on International Women’s Day celebrated meaningful storytellers and documentaries helmed by women in film.

Guests at WISE included Oscar-winners Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga of The Elephant Whisperers (out on Netflix) and Evgenia Arbugaeva, Maxim Arbugaev, and Maxim Chakilev of Haulot, as well as film producing pioneers Amy Williams, Heidi Jo Markel, Dwight and Sandy Little, along with a host of other celebrities including Jason Richter, Amit Sarin, and Sandy Khandoze.

Johnny Walker First Strides honored seven filmmakers for their contributions: Ana Lily Amirpour, Janice Bravo, Christine Choy, Julie Dash, Calire Denis, Wanuri Kahn, and Gina Prince-Bythewood.