‘Reel girls’ focus on gender issues

LeAnn Erickson will bring high-school aged girls to Temple for a workshop.

Eve Siconolfi (left), a freshman FMA major, and Caroline Vana, a freshman MSP major, work as co-directors with Professor LeAnne Erickson on her project, Reel Girls. Their goal is to teach women about film because the film industry is heavily male dominated. | MARGO REED TTN

In 2010, LeAnn Erickson compared the demographics of Temple’s Department of Film and Media Arts with the demographics when the program first opened more than 40 years ago.

She said she found the data disturbing.

“It was very upsetting, the very low percentage of both women and people of color in the program,” said Erickson, a film and video production professor. “We always had a feeling that [representation of genders and races] were very skewed just by looking into our classes, but not like this.”

After this, Erickson set out to get more young women into the Temple program and introduce them to the film industry.

Erickson and her co-director Dede Maitre, an assistant professor in the film and media arts department, will host a one-day workshop titled “Reel Girls” on April 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In this workshop, girls from high schools within an hour driving distance of Temple will write, produce, film and screen their own short film.

“If we didn’t start doing something about [the disparities among genders and races], then it would just continue,” Erickson said.

Reel Girls is returning for the first time since 2010 and 2011.

Erickson said by fostering the interest of young girls in filmmaking through Reel Girls, she hopes when these girls are choosing schools, they remember Temple.

“If they want to study filmmaking, the hope is that they think of Temple Film and Media Arts department,” she said.

After the first time scouting for girls to attend the Reel Girls workshop, Erickson said she only looked at surrounding high schools which had media arts programs. Since then, she has expanded her outreach to photography classes and musical theater programs.

This year, the Reel Girls workshop organizers targeted 60 area high schools. The workshop has pushed their original goal of 15 girls to a cap of 30. If they reach their cap, Erickson said she would consider adding a second April workshop.

“I really feel strongly that every person has a story to tell and we want [Temple] to be the program that can support everyone on their journey,” Erickson said. “Everybody’s work is enhanced by diversity.”

“Some of the problem of what we’re seeing in Hollywood and the industry is that the same old guys keep on hiring people who are like them because they feel comfortable with them,” Erickson added. “But that never pushes art forward. … Working with people with a different point of view, who bring something else to the table, ends up making work that in my opinion is much more exciting and creative.”

Freshman film major and co-director of Reel Girls, Eve Siconolfi, said she became interested in film  while studying at her arts-concentrated high school, but she never understood why the film field was so competitive.

When Siconolfi learned that only four women have ever been nominated for best director for the Academy Awards—and only one woman has won the Oscar in the category—she wanted to see more representation for women in the film industry.

“It’s just like women in the STEM subjects—women want to do it, but it’s hard to do something when you go to class, but it’s predominantly boys,” Siconolfi said. “In one of my classes now, there’s only 10 girls out of 40 students. And it’s kinda like, ‘Really?’”

“It’s time for a little change,” she said.

Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at gillian.mcgoldrick@temple.edu or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.

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