Once Terra Renee got struck by the entertainment bug, she achieved moderate success in TV and film. Then she got the call for a 6-foot tall African American woman that sent her to a Warner Brothers audition. She entered a room with a thousand other 6-foot women answering the casting call, and found her passion, “I must create jobs for women.” Nineteen years later, she has written and produced films and founded African American Women in Cinema, the event that became an organization that has supported the vibrant filmmaking work of people for more than a decade with a heritage that includes African American, Latino, Asian or Native American Diaspora.
Terra says that the greatest challenge for women in filmmaking is lack of resources. Even if they make a film, as she did, they can’t get distribution outside of the Hollywood industry. The industry is so competitive that its largely white male leaders see no need to incorporate diversity. The recent blow-up at the Academy Awards finally shined a spotlight on how few people of color are even nominated for an award for the second year in a row. Terra says the blow-up has had a positive effect on other industries whose members’ eyes opened to their own lack of diversity.
Although the publicity helped, nothing changes overnight. However, Terra says that today’s women filmmakers have the advantage of field-leveling technologies. With the prevalence of YouTube, a filmmaker can show her film to friends and family and boost viewership to gain recognition. Once you hit a certain number, your film cannot be ignored. She sees this access to technology as the means to create real change in the film industry.
How to Help Women in Film
Terra says the struggle is for resources and access and that it has been an uneven playing field for a long time. She included Latinos, Asian and Native American women in AAWIC’s support, because she realized that they had even less access than African American women. AAWIC provides a platform for people willing to assist women to further their careers in cinema. Terra notes that you can have the best product in the world and if no one knows about it, it goes nowhere. Dr. Nancy agrees and stresses the need for women to tell their stories and provide diverse role models that represent all our lives.
Women Help Women and Celebrate Their Accomplishments
Now Terra has branched out with the Women of Excellence Salute Awards. In its second year, the awards that were created to honor leading women in various industries have paved the way for others following in their footsteps. Hosted by Morgan Stanley, the Women of Excellence Salute will take place on Oct. 13, 2016 in NYC. Check this link for more information. For advertising and sponsorship opportunities, contact Terra via the AAWIC website.
To find out more about film festivals and additional opportunities from AAWIC, check out Terra’s website. And listen to this interview for more details about Terra’s exciting journey through cinema from writing and producing to the Cannes Film Festival and the Red Carpet.