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Wonder Women Hold Court

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Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam, Catherine Hardwicke, Lauren Greenfield, and Jacki Zehner. Photo by Calvin Knight.

Jessica Buzzard

On Monday morning, a small crowd of filmmakers, philanthropists, and media leaders gathered at the Park City home of Jacki Zehner to hear Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam and Women in Film Los Angeles President Cathy Shulman announce a collaborative effort to support women working in narrative and documentary independent film. The brunch was co-hosted by Zehner, Putnam, Schulman, and Sundance Institute Trustee Pat Mitchell.

Lauren Greenfield (Queen of Versailles), Katie Aselton (Black Rock), and Sheila Johnson were among the 120 guests treated to brunch served with Wonder Woman-themed party ware and complimentary handbags provided by Coach. In her welcoming remarks, Zehner claimed her status as a life-long Wonder Woman fan, saying that she had been among those to sign a “We Want a Wonder Woman Movie” petition in the 1970s.

Today, as co-chair of Women Moving Millions, Zehner’s philanthropy and activism center around advancing the lives of women and girls around the world. Zehner then introduced Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of the Paley Center for Media. Mitchell reminded guests that women make up the largest single group of media consumers. “If we all decide we’re going to spend our money to reflect our values, we can make a difference,” she said.

The filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke (thirteen, Twilight) shared stories of life as a female director. Recalling the challenges of securing funding for her first feature thirteen, Hardwicke said that the paltry budget available to her ultimately led her to, “make a movie about poor people.” According to Hardwicke, her own furniture served as set décor and her own closet was the official wardrobe for the production. “Even the car we used was mine,” she said, laughing and serious at the same time.

The morning’s program concluded with Putnam and Schulman announcing the joint initiative of the Institute and the Los Angeles branch of Women in Film. Putnam said that the effort reflects the Institute’s belief, “in the value of diverse storytellers contributing to a vibrant culture.” Schulman shared facts and figures related to the roles of women in the film industry.

Of the 250 top-grossing films released in 2010, 7% were directed by women, 10% written by women, and 24% produced by women. She also cited early research showing that more women behind the camera leads to more roles for women in front of the camera, and to more content that interests women and girls worldwide.

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