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When I was thirteen, I had high hopes to join a swim team. At the time, Dallas YMCA’s team practiced weekly. Who would have dreamed that right after my first practice, my first swim meet would begin? None of my “teammates” showed up on the day of the meet, and a new coach was encouraging me to still participate with highly competitive swimmers. I did. My slow freestyle won me last place. My parents and the coach pulled me out of the pool to a crowd of applause. Looking out at the roar of applause reminded me that fortitude is displayed by not giving up. By taking chances. This was one of the moments where I realized: I am resilient, and I have stories to tell.

This is why I am incredibly excited to witness Made In Her Image’s Partnership with Panavision called The Catalyst Cohort. This three-month program is designed to educate, empower, and elevate the next generation of women and non-binary professionals of color behind the camera.

This program's purpose is similar to my swimming story; 25 mentees have the opportunity to join this cohort designed for emerging young filmmakers (ages 16- 25) who share a passion for the creative and technical craft of bringing moving images to life onscreen. From April through June, the selected mentees' cohort will gather virtually for a series of three classes taught by instructors from the Panavision Group. Each class is followed by a mentorship lab led by a range of industry professionals who work on set and in post and reflect the mentees’ dedication to knowledge and advocacy within their respective fields.

We value the magic of filmmaking and we look forward to the feedback and exposure that these women of color and non-binary professionals will gain from the program. Malakai hopes this program will inspire each participant to blossom into a professional gaffer, camera person, DP, directors.

I admire the work that Made In Her Image does to present career-building opportunities for people of color. Made In Her Image calls forward the matriarchs, visionaries, and brave pioneers. To fully embrace who they are and their experiences.

Similar to my swimming story, we always show up and try our best. I believe my involvement in the industry has uniquely prepared me to celebrate this opportunity because I have often not seen people who look like me at the table. According to the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, just 4% of all directors across the 1,000 top films from 2007 to 2016 were female, a ratio of 24 males to every one female director. Women of color are often overlooked, counted out, and not given a seat at the table. I am excited that this program was created for women who may not have always had the privilege or resources to pursue a career in the film industry. Made In Her Image hopes that each person will have help to navigate through the industry, combined with practice, knowledge, and workshops to fulfill their mission. Great stories remind us that we are one and inspire us to make a difference in others' lives. My inspiration stems from imperfection, love, and real stories. With the proper guidance, these projects will not only survive but thrive. The goal is to make timeless content.

Made In Her Image embodies the values that I hold dear, and even now - they are showing up for us in a time where we need it the most through our partnership with Panavision.

As an African American woman, I know we women of color carry so much on our shoulders for the future, but with grace and the foundation set by women like Dorothy Dandridge, Cicely Tyson, Ruby Dee, and so many others, we can carry the torch forward. To let our work leave a mark and make changes in the world.

I am a part of the next generation of filmmakers who will disrupt the industry and make waves. I am eager to see what seeds we plant for other filmmakers of color. I am incredibly grateful to experience all the hard work from Made In Her Image and Panavision. This movement pushes the film industry forward by creating golden filmmaking opportunities like The Catalyst Cohort, for underrepresented voices like ours to emerge.

Abeni Phillips is a newsletter editor/writer for Made In Her Image. Artwork by Veralyn Johnson, board member for Made In Her Image.


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