How Sundance & Refinery29 Are Already Making This The Year Of Women In Film

Photo: Tiffany Rose/Getty Images.

The Sundance film festival has, at its core, been a place for the underdog to thrive. A festival of independent film, it is Sundance that promotes small, out-of-the-blue movies like 2017's The Big Sick, when went on to earn an Oscar nomination. This year, Sundance's underdog mission meant something different. Amid the unprecedented fallout from dual exposés of film mogul Harvey Weinstein — who was closely tied to Sundance — the film festival brimmed with female fury and ambition. Women-made films made the rounds, and panel discussions provided unique insight into the ways Hollywood can celebrate women.

One such panel occurred at the Women at Sundance brunch, hosted by Refinery29 and Dove® Chocolate, where Pat Mitchell moderated a panel entitled "movement builders." The panel included actress Tessa Thompson, producer Abigail Disney, producer Tilane Jones, attorney Nina Shaw, Stacy Smith, Kirsten Schaffer, and director/screenwriter Angela Robinson.

Refinery29 also partnered with Planned Parenthood for a cocktail reception — the goal of the event was to demonstrate how Planned Parenthood can aid in the creation and distribution of women-led films. Gabourey Sidibe, who made her directorial debut with a Shatterbox film last year, spoke, as did leaders of Planned Parenthood.

Photo: Getty Images for Refinery29.
Amy Emmerich, Tessa Thompson, and Keri Putnam attend The Sundance Institute, Refinery29, and DOVE Chocolate Present 2018 Women at Sundance Brunch.

As part of the festival, Refinery29 also premiered the short film End of the Line, an adapted short story about a man who purchases a tiny man in a cage. (Watch the trailer here!) End of the Line is part of Shatterbox Anthology, Refinery29's award winning short film series helmed by women with season 2 in partnership with TNT. The film was directed by Jessica Sanders, a noted documentary filmmaker. Speaking to Refinery29 last week, Sanders explained that, in order for things to change, Hollywood just has to start hiring more women.

"What needs to change is that women directors actually need to be hired," Sanders said. "It isn't for any lack of female talented highly-qualified directors. It's just that hiring practices need to be more equitable."

Then, at Creative Playground x Chefdance x Refinery29 event entitled "49 Remarkable Women and One Really Cool Dude," Chief Creative Officer Amy Emmerich was honored. (She was among the 49 remarkable women!) At the event, Mindy Grossman, President and CEO, Weight Watchers International, Inc., pointed out that entrepreneurs must start viewing equal representation as a necessary part of their business structure.

"I have strived to use my voice and my platform to inspire people not only to believe that diversity is a business imperative, but also to motivate them to take action," Grossman said.

And, of course, the Sundance film festival fell atop January 20, the anniversary of President Trump's inauguration. In 2017, the Women's March made its way to Sundance, crowding the streets of Park City. This year, Sundance celebrated the anniversary with the #TimesUp respect rally, where Jane Fonda — yes, the Jane Fonda — spoke, in addition to the women's rights lawyer Gloria Allred and the rapper Common.

"When we are equal, we are not abused,” Fonda told the crowd, as per The Daily Beast. “This kind of change doesn’t just come about through protest. It comes through organizing.”

And you know what? Organizing often begins at hives like film festivals, where connections are forged and speeches are heard around the world.

Photo: David Becker/Getty Images for The Blackhouse Foundation at Sundance 2018.

Just 7% of 2016's top films were directed by women. Refinery29 wants to change this by giving 12 female directors a chance to claim their power. Our message to Hollywood? You can't win without women. Watch new films every month on Refinery29.com/Shatterbox.

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