The organizers of SeriesFest today announced the launch of their Women Directing Mentorship, a program that will give one woman the opportunity to shadow the director of a Shondaland production.
The Denver-based nonprofit created the program as part of its Featuring Women initiatives (it also has Featuring Creatives and Featuring Students initiatives).
“Last year, Variety put out an article that said only 21 percent of the directors in the last television season were female, and clearly we’re not even close to parity,” SeriesFest co-founder Kaily Smith Westbrook said. “It’s important for us to do initiatives like this to continue to bring attention to the fact that women are not getting the opportunities that men are. It also opens the door for us to really meet a bunch of other female creators and directors that are out there.”
It’s a nationwide search, and applications are asked to submit a three to five-minute video introduction of themselves showcasing their voice and style and explaining why they’re the right fit, along with a short film or a reel shorter than 15 minutes and a resume.
“It’s not about production value at all. I think you can see a lot about someone’s vision in how they can do something even simply,” Smith Westbrook said.
It all started at SeriesFest: Season 3 two years ago, during a panel focused on women in the industry. Jamie Jackson, a composer who works a lot in television, enjoyed being on the panel so much that she introduced the SeriesFest team to the Shondaland team. There was eventually a meeting, which Smith Westbrook described as a “casual conversation,” that led to a soft pitch for a partnership.
“It was really interesting while speaking to them because the way that Shonda really has built her company — she really builds people up within her company,” Smith Westbrook said. “Her assistant was moved to a writers’ assistant and became a write on the show and the became a show runner.”
The idea of getting a currently unknown woman in the door appealed to everyone.
“We’re really excited to be working with Shonda and her team and creating this opportunity for someone,” she said, “and hopefully more people down the line.”
Submissions are open now until March 4, 2019. The winner will be announced at SeriesFest: Season 5 in June 2019. Applications and more information on guidelines, entry materials, fees and key dates can be found at seriesfest.com.