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Through Her Lens

Made In Her Image and Panavision partner for a virtual roundtable spotlighting women filmmakers of color.

On July 14, Made In Her Image , Panavision, Light Iron and LEE Filters presented the virtual roundtable discussion “Through Her Lens: Creating a Truly Inclusive Film Industry.” Moderated by Made In Her Image founder Malakai and featuring cinematographers Mia Cioffi Henry, Melinda James, Kira Kelly, Cybel Martin, Keitumetse Mokhonwana and Sade Ndya, the conversation addressed inequities within the motion-picture industry through the lens of women of color behind the camera. 

This event was one facet of an expanded partnership between Panavision, Light Iron, LEE Filters and the award-winning nonprofit Made In Her Image, which serves young girls, non-binary youths and women of color through curated and inclusive programming designed to empower through technology and education. The partnership further includes the development of thought-leadership experiences and support for the nonprofit’s ongoing educational curriculum. Additionally, Panavision, Light Iron and LEE Filters have pledged to grant more than $100,000 in services and equipment to support Made In Her Image’s mission of empowering the next generation of Black and Brown girls in film and media.

“This is an important discussion that will allow us to address inequities within the film industry through the lens of Black women behind the camera,” Malakai said while welcoming the panelists and attendees to the “Through Her Lens” event. “I’m excited and honored to not only have this platform and to have Panavision joining us in bringing forth these messages, but to also have these women here who are joining us today.”

In a video greeting, Panavision President and CEO Kim Snyder added, “Panavision is honored to provide Made In Her Image and today’s panelists with our platform to discuss how the cinematography field can foster opportunity and equity for women and people of color. We know we have a lot of work to do. Today we’re excited to listen and learn, and then work together to effect true change.”

Throughout the conversation, the panelists generously shared their personal experiences, shining a light on the barriers to entry that have been placed in front of women of color and other filmmakers from underrepresented communities. “People don’t look at me and immediately see ‘cinematographer,’” Henry said. “If nobody else recognizes you as that, you maybe don’t even see yourself as that. That’s a really big first barrier.”

“All too often in my career, I’ve had people tell me, ‘I’ve never worked with a female DP before,’” Kelly shared. “I think it hasn’t even crossed their mind that there’s so many Black women DPs out in the world shooting.”

Building a supportive network and simply seeing other Black women filmmakers at work is vitally important, the panelists agreed. “I met a lot of the gaffers and a lot of the ACs that I work with right now on social media,” Ndya offered. “Social media allowed me to counteract the divide that is between us, making us feel like we’re the only Black women in camera.”

“We have Cybels and we have Kiras now,” James added. “We have folks who look like us, who are doing great work. For the younger folks coming up, that’s going to be really great. The work that we’re all doing is really important in that way. We’re building that foundation, showing folks that we are here, we do exist, and influencing generations to come to see that this is a space that we can be in.”

The discussion’s topics included the women’s influences, the lack of access for people of color behind the camera, mentorship and allyship, being pigeonholed, the realities of trying to make a living on low-budget projects, and the need for fair and equitable access to equipment and technology. “We talk about micro aggressions a lot,” Martin noted. “I feel like a lot of people get a lot of micro opportunities that we are not afforded.”

“This has been so inspiring for me because I’m also an emerging DP,” Mokhonwana shared as the conversation drew to a close. “It’s so lovely to be able to share these experiences and not feel like I’m so alone in all the things that I’ve been going through.”

“All of you are paving that pathway for the young women coming after you,” Malakai said. “It’s not asking for a seat at the table any longer. It’s about making sure that we’re creating and paving the way for those coming after us.”