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Women's Weekend Film Challenge co-founders on creating opportunity

June 15, 2022
3 min read time

Does making an original film from start to finish over a weekend sound exciting to you? If so then you might want to check out the Women’s Weekend Film Challenge.

The challenge, which is taking place from Thursday, August 11 through August 14 in New York City, puts together six crews of 30 women and non–binary filmmakers to create a film that will be showcased at the Village East Cinemas followed by a networking after-party on August 25.

Filmmakers Katrina Medoff and Tracy Sayre formed the Women’s Weekend Film Challenge back in 2017 when they realized that most of their gigs came from the people they knew or who had worked with them in the past. “We also realized our talented female peers weren’t reaching the same career level in the industry as easily as men,” Medoff tells Final Draft.

They came up with the unique film challenge as a way to put strangers together as a crew – all women and non-binary folks - to shoot and edit a short film together so they could create a network that participants could use to collaborate with on future projects and walk away with a high-quality short film that could be entered in film festivals and serve as a work sample.

 

Ready, Set, Action!

“This is probably the most intense filmmaking experience you’ve been through. Afterward, you will have 30 other people who will want to refer you and hire you because they have had that experience with you,” says Sayre.

Applications are open to those 18 years and older in the New York area with filmmaking experience for a wide array of positions, including writers, script supervisors, directors, actors, production assistants, and editors.  

The panelist of judges accepts 200 applicants and places them onto six crews of 30 women and non–binary filmmakers. On Thursday of the weekend challenge, they pull a genre out of a hat and a crew is assigned a random genre and one required prop. They place two writers on each crew and those writers write the script that night with the genre in mind. Filming begins on Friday and shooting continues over the weekend. Crews are required to submit their fully finished and edited film by midnight Sunday.

“It’s a fast turnaround,” says Medoff. “These filmmakers will only have met each other about a week before the challenge starts at a pre-production meeting. Part of that is a writer and director orientation and workshop so we get these creative teams together for the first time because you do need to learn how to collaborate with a specific group of people and get used to that.”

 

Collaborating until the gritty end

Teamwork is a huge benefit of the challenge and one that past participants have most appreciated about the experience.

“When we ask what their favorite part of the challenge is they almost always mention the things that went wrong,” says Medoff. “It sounds counterintuitive but it’s always where the magic happens when people come together and problem-solve together. When people talk about the things that went wrong, that’s how they bonded as a team.”

Working under a tight deadline is another skill that participants can walk away with.

“For writers, you’re learning how to collaborate under a tight time crunch,” says Sayre. “That's such a useful skill if you ever want to be in a writer’s room. You’re also learning how to deal with notes quickly and working off the cuff. Working on production deadlines is always helpful for anyone who wants to work in TV and film production.”

The finished films are screened less than two weeks later at Village East in Manhattan along with 400 filmmakers as a way to celebrate and to continue with the networking theme.

 

Challenge accepted?!

As Medoff points out: “It’s a challenge, not a competition. There’s no winning team.”

In terms of who they are looking for, Sayre says, “We are looking for people who feel they are not being represented on screen and want more representation for themselves.”

Past films have gotten accepted in over 90 film festivals but Sayre says beyond the success of the films, “What hits home is the success of the participants’ career. We hear every day how their professional network started at the film challenge. We had two participants who started a post-production company together. The collaborations that are happening post-challenge are the real success stories for us.”

As for any tips on how to handle such a whirlwind of a weekend, Sayre suggests, “Definitely get some sleep beforehand!”

 

Applications are free and open until June 27.

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