Diverse Perspectives Series

Diverse Perspectives Series

The Diverse Perspectives in Digital Media & Design: 2021 Speaker Series

From Festival to Distribution: Getting Your Film Seen as a Female Filmmaker
Friday, March 19, 2021, 5:00 PM, EST

Featuring CherryPicks and SXSW 2021 Female Directors:
Paola Calvo, Director of “Luchadoras”
Kelley Kai, Director/Writer/Star of “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)”
Meg McCarthy, Content & Programming Executive at CherryPicks
Jennifer Holness, Director/Writer of "Subjects of Desire"
Leah Purcell, Director/Writer/Star of “The Drover’s Wife (Legend of Molly Johnson)”   

Moderated by: Nikki Stier Justice, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut and Head of Distribution, Buffalo 8

Film festivals play a critical role in shaping cinematic tastes - and filmmakers’ careers. But the distribution landscape is constantly evolving, and women face significant obstacles from buyers. In this panel, we spotlight talented female directors with films at SXSW 2021, highlight how festivals provide a platform for the global film industry to showcase stories created and told by women, and discuss the ways that they have utilized their festival experiences to launch their directing careers.  

Watch the Recording of the Event:

About the Panelists:

Paola Calvo is a Venezuelan-born Director and Director of Photography. The feature-length documentary “Violently Happy“ was her graduation film at dffb (German Film and Television Academy Berlin). She received the National Prize for Cinematography at IFFF 2017 for it, and was nominated for the Michael Ballhaus Camera Prize at the prestigious First Steps Film Awards. LUCHADORAS is her most recent feature documentary.

Calvo’s film, Luchadoras portrays the courageous female wrestlers of Ciudad Juárez, a city known for its high femicide rates. There is Mini Serinita whose biggest dream is to become a full-time Luchadora and leave the factory work that disenfranchises so many women for good. Lady Candy, who can see the US Border, where her daughters were taken, from her house but due to visa regulations can never cross it. And Baby Star, the young single mother who was a Lucha Libre Star at an early age and now makes her way to a comeback. With Mexican passion, they present a new image of what it means to be a woman in Mexico.


Jen Holness is a happy workaholic. She writes, produces, and directs. She is the only Black woman in Canada to win a CSA for writing and is the 2021 Indiescreen Producer of the Year award-winner. She recently co-produced Stateless (2020 Hot Docs Special Jury Prize). Her narrative feature films include Home Again and Love, Sex and Eating the Bones. Both films have won numerous festival awards, including the Best First Feature Film Award at TIFF for Bones. Subjects of Desire is her feature directorial debut.

Holness’ film, “Subjects of Desire,” is a thought-provoking film that examines the cultural shift in beauty standards towards embracing (or appropriating) Black aesthetics and features, deconstructing what we understand about race and the power behind beauty.

Filmmaker Kelley Kali, one of the breakout talents in Hollywood, won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Film for her narrative short, Lalo's House, and brought in a number of talented filmmakers including co-director Angelique Molina, fellow USC Cinema School graduate Roma Kong as well as award-winning producer Capella Fahoome. Kelley developed the plotline of "I'm Fine (Thanks For Asking)"  looking around the L.A.-area as the COVID crisis started to shutter businesses, diminish earnings and jeopardize so many single parents' ability to pay rent and feed their families late last spring. The storyline centers on a recently widowed mother who becomes homeless and convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while she works to get them off the streets. 

"I'm Fine (Thanks for Asking)" was one of the first selects at one of the most prestigious film festivals highlighting indie film, one of eight selected out of more than 2000 movies submitted to premiere at this year's SXSW 2021 (March 16-20th), and was chosen solely from the strength of its trailer. This important movie, which incorporates humor into the most important issue of our recent times, is a refreshing film that emphasizes the reason this early 30-year-old filmmaker has been watched this past year by the biggest names in Hollywood. This film adds a riveting Deon Cole, a truly authentic cast, and a gifted crew to the theme addressing issues within often marginalized communities and uses the art of filmmaking to create dialogue and action towards positive change.



Leah Purcell is a proud Goa-Gungarri-Wakka Wakka Murri woman from Queensland, Australia. She is an internationally acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, director, novelist, and actor - and a cultural icon and activist, whose work stands at the forefront of the Black and Indigenous cultural renaissance and protest movement sweeping Australia and the world. Australian Financial Review named Purcell as one of Australia’s Top 10 culturally influential people because ‘she allows white audiences to see from an Aboriginal perspective.’ The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson was written by and directed by Leah. She stars in the leading role of the film, and is a co-producer through her production company Oombarra Productions.

Leah Purcell’s THE DROVER'S WIFE THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON is a reimagining of her acclaimed play and Henry Lawson’s classic short story. A searing Australian revenge tale and a stark revisionist Western, the film offers a powerful new interrogation of Australian history and a universal story of what a mother will do to protect her children.

In 1893, on an isolated property, a heavily pregnant woman named Molly Johnson (Leah Purcell) and her children struggle to survive the harsh Australian landscape; her husband is gone, droving sheep in the high country. Molly then finds herself confronted by a shackled Aboriginal fugitive named Yadaka (Rob Collins). As an unlikely bond begins to form between them, secrets unravel about her true identity. Meanwhile, realizing Molly’s husband is missing, new town lawman Nate Clintoff becomes suspicious and sends his constable to investigate. The deadly encounter between Molly, Yadaka and the constable results in a tragic chain of events with Molly becoming a symbol of feminism and anti-racism.

Meg McCarthy is the Content and Programming Executive at CherryPicks. At CherryPicks, she hosts the hit IG live series, CherryChat, a platform to share options, advice, personal experiences, and promote womxn in entertainment. Meg also hosts and produces CherryPop, a podcast exploring how the representation and misrepresentations of sexuality, intimacy, beauty, and more have culturally impacted womxn of all ages and gender expressions. 

Meg has worn many hats in her professional career: Host, Writer, Director, Producer, and Social Media Strategist. She directed and wrote an animated short film winning awards at multiple festivals. Meg was the Writer, Producer, and Host of weekly web shows for some of the largest YouTube movie content networks including Movieclips Trailers. At Fandango, she continued to develop web shows and worked as a contributing writer and content creator. As a social media strategist at Turner, she produced digital content across all platforms for TBS and TNT. 

This event is brought to you by UConn’s Department of Digital Media & Design.

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