"There wasn't one woman, not one woman, that I could look up to and say 'I want to be that woman."
Things have changed in the 50 years since producer Marion Rosenberg started in the entertainment industry, said the Women in Film trustee and mentoring co-chair at the organization's inaugural Speed Mentoring session on October 29. She was talking with twenty mentors and twenty mentees, comprised of WIF members who were chosen based on the strength of their proposed questions.
Back then there were no role models for women who wanted to climb the entertainment industry ladder. "The fact that we're doing this today and that we have such a powerful mentoring committee is wonderful," said Speed Mentoring creator and WIF trustee Chevonne O'Shaughnessy. "But it took fifty years! We can't let it be another fifty years. I think we're also having this so that we won't have this problem for the next generation."
WIF is also implementing several other mentoring initiatives to serve growth in interest from women (and men) seeking guidance. While they used to pair up mentors and mentees one-on- one, their soon-to-be launched mentoring circles will include two mentors and eight mentees. These groups will meet on a monthly basis to establish supportive and dynamic network for everyone involved.
O'Shaughnessy recalls the positive influence of her own mentor, former MGM president Red Silverstein, when she was first starting out in the industry and "had no idea where to go...He guided me, I wouldn't be where I am today without that."
Here's a sampling of the best advice the mentees got.
1. "Don't take no for an answer, create your own work and distribute it yourself."
2. "You can still make a film for less than $200k, don't let anything discourage you, just get a great script together and make a great film."
3. The sole male participant: "It was a little odd [when I first joined WIF], but they opened their arms to me....from that point on I've never thought twice...as an actor, you're usually just networking with other actors, but here you are networking with execs, VPs, writer, directors, producers,..the support is just phenomenal, and the outreach is across the country."
4. "That it's okay to realize that 1. Everything takes time and that 2. It's good to be a hyphenate and to develop different tastes and to work in a bunch of different roles to get to where you want to be, because you might not actually end up where you thought you were going to end up at the beginning, but you'll end up somewhere better. ...this made me calm down a little bit."
5. "Someone told me I should start reading Indiewire."
6. "Stay in the lane that I'm in [web series] because it's so wide open,..there's endless amounts of content needed."
7. "Best advice I got was 'Don't say no to anything.'" But, another woman added, "Maybe just for careers, not for men."
8. "It's almost like a really extended icebreaker, this event. It's wonderful, in an inspirational way. There are women, they are working, they are slogging away, and they are getting results for their efforts. That's a real nice feeling."
9. "As difficult as what I want to do is, which is non-writing exec producing for television, the mentors are still very positive in saying there are ways for me to get there; they've just given me different ways to get there, a better path than just starting off as a non-writing executive producer."
10. "I've asked all of them about how to they've been able to handle the challenges of being a woman in the industry, and they've all had some really good advice far as navigating and getting to the high positions that they've gotten to; it just took them a little longer."
Full list of mentors is below: