Filmmakers based in LA, Jennifer Zahlit and Larkin Bell are the founders and co-hosts for A Female Lens; a podcast series for filmmakers and creatives which highlights women in the film industry. Each episode shares the work, achievements and encouragements from various women in different roles within the industry at different point in their careers. Taking note of the barriers women continue to face to enter, progress and to be recognized for their contributions in a space dominated by men, Zahlit and Bell want to be active participants in changing that context.
What we really are looking for is an artist with a point of view to come through the door.
There is a misnomer that there is a lack of female film directors. There is no lack. There are so many.
To be connecting with people with stories.
In terms of women, supporting each other and really valuing each other’s work and kind of building each other up and standing up for each other.
These are a collection of quotes made by different interviewees in Zahlit and Bell’s first recording which introduces the podcast. Each of these quotes point to the way in which they would like to inject and amplify the voices of women in the industry and how they would like to extend the podcast to do more than simply being a resource for information. Beyond sharing the stories of the women they interview and discuss, the podcast engenders a sense of community for women in the film industry. Mirroring what they do as filmmakers, the podcast tries to create connection points between the work of the women they talk to, using their own knowledge of the industry to contexualise the work within the larger filmmaking context.
In their first episode released in January 2019, listeners are introduced to their segment Women in Film in the News, in which they reviewed specific moments in 2018, discussing and celebrating the accomplishments of certain women in film. This set the tone for how A Female Lens has approached later discussions in each episode. This again reiterates their desire to present an overall view of women’s contributions to the industry. In this episode, they also have a conversation with Elizabeth Chomko, writer and director for What They Had starring Hilary Swank. In this interview, she discusses her process for writing the story, refining the script, her experience in the Sundance Institute Screenwriting Lab and the journey she went on which lead to its release as a feature film (Chomko’s first) in 2018. The intimacy in the interview, and highlighting the ways in which other women assisted in bringing the vision to life, presents listeners with an insider view on a screenwriter and directors process. It also demonstrates what happens when women are in positions to lead storytelling processes.
Podcasts such as A Female Lens are powerful in that they give listeners direct access to well-known and powerful contributors to the industry, inspiring younger and emerging filmmakers, writers, actors, film critics, etc. to keep pushing boundaries and fight against gender-based invisibility in a male dominated industry. It allows for a recognition of oneself within the stories of each women, and an imagining of what can be when narrowing in on one’s dream. It also makes one aware of the ways in the women interviewed have navigated difficulties, setbacks, gender inequality, sexism, again plotting connection points and placing guides in the map of the industry. This all adds to the desire to continue to build a community for women in film, online and in the real world, encouraging each other and highlighting the value of each contribution.
To listen to the first season of A Female Lens visit their website.