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All about Kent State’s Female Filmmaker’s Initiative

Kent State University is taking a big step in helping the voices of females get heard. Today, the entertainment and film industry is predominantly male. At Kent State, a group of headstrong ladies have formed an organization known as FFI or Female Filmmakers Initiative, to help women make their statement as they head into Hollywood. 


Today, these ladies announce their organization through a promo video highlighting their individual works, what they stand for, and important societal issues. As a fellow Digital Media Production major at Kent State I was approached to join this organization. As a woman who strives for equality this organization is very important to me. I interviewed my fellow members and the founder all about the organization. To begin I wanted to ask the founding members and the founder questions about the start of the organization and their aspirations for the launch and growth of the club.

Promo Video!

Check out FFI's promo video featuring female composer Pearl Yim! 

What are your names and roles? 

Juliana Butchko: In the fall (2019) my roles in FFI were to start the organization with my fellow peers, Tierra Tramble, Bobbi Broome, and Paige George. We were strong girls that each had a voice and an upstanding work ethic. Each of us had our strong suits and mine was writing. I started as the Screenwriter for our first short film we began in the fall. I am now the Managing Director. 


Ailene Joven: Creative Director 


Dana White: Assistant Professor in DMP and Founder of FFI. 

What does your organization stand for?

JB:  The organization stands for supporting female's in a male dominated industry. 


DW: I think, at the very foundation, we stand for creative equality. FFI is about the voice of women. We are all about inspiring young women to believe in themselves and to believe in their ability as artists and storytellers. 

How did the organization start?

JB: The organization started in Professor White's second year of teaching at Kent State. She saw the quality and frequent work created by the male Digital Media Production students, but not as much from her female students. She saw the opportunity to start something so unique to campus for the women and took it.  


DW: I knew before I came to Kent State that this was something that I wanted to do…to create a place for young female filmmakers to have a space and supportive community where they feel empowered to tell the stories that they want to tell. As a female filmmaker, writer, and producer in the industry myself, I know how hard it is to be a woman in the film and tv world. Luckily, it's changing, but it starts with us, women who are determined to have their voices heard.  

Once I was here at Kent, I saw what a dynamic group of young women we had here in DMP. It was so clear to me that we needed a Female Filmmakers Initiative for these powerful and inspiring young women to have a place to launch themselves as filmmakers and storytellers. I reached out to a handful of wonderful young female students. There were six to start, and they began to build it with me. We've only been around for eight months, and some of our original founding members have graduated, but we are growing and getting stronger and stronger every day. It's exhilarating. The young women here at Kent State are fantastic! 

Who Inspired the organization?

JB: I believe who inspired this organization is every woman that is and has been in the film industry. Actor, producer, director, whatever their role is, they are an inspiration. 

DW: I don't know if it's a "who" as much as a "what." 

I think that injustice inspires action. Women in many fields out there feel marginalized. My industry is notoriously guilty of a lack of diversity. Women are a big part of that .....The lack of films with strong female protagonists, the lack of opportunities for female directors, cinematographers, writers, editors. The list goes on. It has not been an even playing field, but it needs to be. The plight of women around the world is not a good one. Women and children are suffering all over the world. Much of that is a result of the silencing of women. Female artists, whether filmmakers like us or musicians or painters or novelists or poets, have the power of their voices. It's that expression that can change the world. We can open up channels of conversations and discussions that can unite us and give us hope for a better future.

What are you goals for the organization?

JB: My goals for the organization are for it to be well known on campus, between the Digital Media Production students, and for it to be one day spread to other university campuses. 

DW: My goal is to create a female film culture at Kent State. FFI is the beginning of this. I want FFI to be a place where young women can come together and create and support each other's work. I also want them to get the opportunity to practice their craft. You can only learn to make films by making films. So we hope to generate work that is instigated by our members and supported by all of them. 

What do you do as an organization?

JB: What we do as an organization is support each member and create short films led by females.

Women in the film industry are underrepresented, what do you aim to do to help women become more acknowledged?

JB: I think what FFI is doing right now with us women is exactly what we need to know we are being acknowledged. With the support of Professor White and the other members, I personally have become more confident in myself and in my work. With this confidence that I and the other women have I believe after we graduate this will help us in the industry.


AJ: I think the first step in helping women become more acknowledged is having an organization just like this. It's empowering to see talented, driven women come together to make a change. It's sort of a small, "Hey we got you. We are here to support you." From there, it's giving women opportunities to showcase their talents whether that’s writing, directing, shooting their own ideas. Kent State having an initiative like FFI is the spark to ignite a fire of creative female artists to come together. It's things like this that I believe help women feel seen. 

Can you describe any projects or events you are working on?

JB: Currently, in the summer, we are meeting once a week with six members and our advisor, Professor White. We are in the works with a promotional video for the organization and talking about fall semester plans. In the fall we would like for each of our members to make short stories about Kent campus, the Kent community, and how they have been battling with COVID-19.

What do you hope to achieve this year?

JB: This year I hope FFI achieves a name for itself. This will be our second year as an organization and now that we have an understanding on how to work things we are ready to blossom. 


AJ: I hope we can create a family of strong and creative women within the DMP program. I'd like to see FFI really take off and establish a safe environment for women to share their talents and their stories. 

DW: We have been building this last year, and now it's time to really start creating. The goal is to get content produced. There will be challenges with the new world of COVID 19, but we will not let that stop us. We will find a way to use our voices in a safe and effective way.

Why do you think it’s important to have an organization like FFI?

JB: I think it is important to have an organization like FFI because it empowers women. FFI has been proof that shows when women come together they are unstoppable.

AJ: I think we need to represent and acknowledge the face that there is a flux in female storytellers. By showing we are present and we care about this matter, I believe we can change the dynamic. I especially think having an organization like FFI in the DMP program will be extremely beneficial because the program has been growing in size. I can only hope as time progresses, the organization will continue to do so as well.

New Members names and roles!

Along with speaking to the founding members, I asked the new members some questions about the organization and how this organization will help them in their future careers!

Jessica Hickson: Post Production Editor 


Ailene Joven: Creative Director


Hana LeBrew: Operational Manager


Tori Johnson: Outreach Manager

What attracted you to the organization?

JH: My experience in the film and television industry has never been easy. I have had many of my ideas looked down upon and I wouldn’t be taken seriously just because of my gender. However, this organization caught my attention because they are dedicated in showing that women have a say in this industry and are looking to prove that we are just as talented at creating films.  


AJ: I think FFI's overall sense of community and acceptance. When Julianna first approached me and as I started to come to meetings, I could really tell that this was an initiative they were passionate and serious about. That itself makes me more eager to join. I also think working as a freelancer in the industry as well has exposed me to the realities of the divide. I've always felt under presented and overlooked, so having FFI is a reassuring place for me. Knowing that we are working to overcome these issues is exciting.  


HL: I was fairly new to the film production world by the time I had entered college, so I was nervous about fitting in and figuring out how to go about making a film. I had been approached by a professor my Sophomore year about FFI and what their mission is, and I was very excited. It was comfortable to be with a group of girls of all varying experiences, and it was the first time I felt sure about what I want to do in my life. I was very interested in getting real experience from a set while also learning from the talented women around me.  


TJ: As passionate as I’ve been about film, I’ve always felt a little lost. I came into filmmaking from a weird situation and it left me feeling behind everyone else. When I was invited to FFI, I knew it’d be the perfect opportunity to grow both as a person and as a filmmaker. I could overcome my own fears and be supported by women of all experiences who shared the same passion as me. I knew that FFI would push me further down my path and encourage me to be creative. I felt excited just reading my invitation and that’s how I knew it was for me. 


What are you most excited about now that you are a member?

JH: I am very excited that I can work with other women to create films and ideas that can captivate viewers. Knowing that this organization supports women filmmakers and believes our voices should be heard is really inspiring. I look forward to how this organization will break the mold and will allow women to feel more confident to start working in the film industry. 


AJ: Similar to what I said before, building a community of artists. I love the idea of creatives coming together to make something meaningful and hopefully will be inspiring for others to see. I am also excited to explore my leadership skills and learn new things while we shoot our projects.  


HL:  I am most excited to be part of a group of like-minded individuals who have an idea to bring women’s voices out in the male-dominated film industry. I feel that this group can champion so much potential in light of women’s stance in film. I am so thrilled to be a part of it. And, I love to make new friends! 


TJ:I’m excited to make my ideas a reality. I’m always thinking up ideas in my head and writing them down, but I felt like it was overwhelming to try and take it all on alone. In FFI, I have the chance to actually get these ideas done and see them come to fruition. 

How do you think being a part of FFI will benefit you when finding a job in the entertainment industry?

JH: Being a part of FFI will really help benefit me because my ideas are a big part of this organization. Companies will notice that I helped play a big role in making films and videos. Plus working with a group who’s looking to make a difference in the industry will help me stand out and show that even though I am a woman, I am still dedicated to making amazing films. 


AJ: I'm confident FFI will teach me the professional and technical skills I will need in the entertainment industry. I am also hoping FFI can help me expand on my communication skills and get my feet wet with working on sets. It's overall just a great learning experience that is bound to give us great preparation for future work.  


HL: FFI will benefit me when finding a job mainly by helping me in real life experience of production of film, from beginning to end. I feel that this group resonates the practicality of being involved, not just as an individual, but as a collaborative team, which is what a successful film looks like. 


TJ: FFI will help me in my journey toward professional filmmaking by giving me the chance to be a leader and build upon my skills. Through FFI, I can show off what I’m good at. FFI shows that we all are part of a team – a family – and that family wants to help create amazing works of art. 

Ending Advice from Founder Dana White

FFI’s founder and professor, Dana White has first hand experience in the film industry as a female. I felt it was important to hear her voice not only in the above questions but to ask her advice for all female filmmakers moving forward. Here is Professor White’s advice for aspiring females looking to make waves in the film industry. 

DW: We're all scared. Scared, we're not good enough or interesting enough or smart enough or talented enough. But I say … Do it scared. Life is not about confidence. Confidence is overrated, in my opinion. Life is about courage. Don't wait until you think you're ready. Just do it. Just be courageous and forge ahead with your dreams. I have been told on so many occasions that it wasn't possible for me to do things I wanted to do. But I did them anyway. I learned to do them better and better. And the more you do what you want to do, the more you begin to believe in yourself. When people tell me that I can't do something, it usually fires me up to prove them wrong. It makes me better at what I do. Ultimately you only have yourself. So you have to be at one with your own purpose and your dreams. Always protect that part of yourself, and don't let anyone get in your way. 



FFI has an important message to all females in the film industry; Our stories matter. This organization aims to help bring together female filmmakers to not only get their voices heard, but also bring together women to lift one another up in the workplace and everyday life. Check out the launch of their website and learn more about the women behind the cameras here; https://ffikent.wixsite.com/mysite

 Shelby Rabideaux is currently attending Kent State University. She is majoring in Digital Media Production and will have a minor in Fashion Media. Her love for entertainment and film came from actively going to concerts. She currently is on a TV show called The Blurb that focuses on entertainment news that her school produces. She dreams to be able to inspire others like how she was inspired. Shelby is currently the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus Kent State and the President where she strives to share her love for Her Camps with the Kent community. 
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