Making the investigative documentary Pioneers in Skirts™ has been a true learning experience for me, to say the least. The film development phase began when I was trying to figure out, soon after graduating with my master’s degree, why I was losing my career ambition. I needed to find out why I was experiencing things that my mother, and her mother, experienced.
Since then, and now that we’re in the production phase, I’ve learned a tremendous amount. Supporters, both women and men, have circled their wagons around this social impact film. It’s been great.
Learning has gone far beyond the investigation
But it hasn’t always been a hand-holding supportive learning experience. Early on my producer and I heard from people who misunderstood the topic, and our intent. Some thought we were making a film about older women who did great things. Some felt this was a “women against men” film. Or, “just another film about whining women complaining about how life is treating them.” We had complaints about the films name, “why do you have to use the term, ‘skirts’ to represent women? Women can wear pants too!”
Oh, and my favorite, “You’re trying to make a documentary about how to Lean In.” (The answer is No, by the way.)
Even though the film has never changed it’s meaning or it’s approach, these inaccurate perceptions have caused us to work real hard at getting our messaging just right.
Pioneers in Skirts Logline: Dreaming big led to an impressive start to her career, but when this young filmmaker experiences her confidence and ambition slowly chipping away, she sets out on a personal journey to find out why careers are much more complicated and difficult when a woman tries to have one.
And when it became clear that not only were some people just not getting it, I couldn’t help but wonder if people reading (and denying) our film grants were thinking the same wrong thing!
Something had to be done
We decided to find ways for people to better understand what we’re doing. As the film was in production, my producer and I started to speak publicly about the obstacles that women face – and what solutions we’ve learned. We sought out interviews with the media, wrote blog posts and LinkedIn articles, and started to release behind-the-scenes footage for people to see for themselves.
Some of the footage we share include lessons for women trying to make it in their careers today. Some help to bring our story to life by introducing the people we interview. And other footage — well, I needed people to get to know me better too, so I decided to speak and share my thoughts on camera.
Sharing footage in advance of a films’ release can be a challenging effort. Not only does it take a tremendous amount of time and effort that we’d prefer to put into the making of the film, it’s a big risk. What if we share so much that we no longer have a fresh story to tell? Well, we’re doing it — and not only for those who just don’t get it, but for the many women and men who are looking forward to this films’ premiere!
You can check out some behind-the-scenes video at the Pioneers in Skirts bonus video page. Here we’ve thrown in a few videos to give people a flavor for the film, but you can see even more on our Pioneers in Skirts vimeo page – if you want.
Here’s an example: Behind the Scenes: Colorado – 2:04 min
Do you get it? Click through to watch a few more — they’re not long, super easy to watch. Do you get that these “obstacles” and “setbacks” aren’t your typical career-newcomer things?
My producer and I are trying to help women, and men — and me, and young women who are coming behind me…and their parents.
Do you see that we’re trying to advance a conversation that’s been treading water much more than it’s been advancing?
I hope so!
The film will, but it’s not ready yet.
Finishing the film
Pioneers in Skirts depends on individuals, foundations and businesses to help with funding. The success of a recent Kickstarter campaign will allow us to finish production of the film, and transition into the post-production stage.
But we’re not there yet! We need sponsors and people to donate to the film. Supporters who provide funding and in-kind donations are not only our heroes, they get their name in the credits of the film, and depending on the level of support, they may get their own title page!
- By Ashley Maria
That’s right! The first week of January, we – the team behind Pioneers in Skirts – will pack up our truck with camera, sound and lighting gear and drive to Charlotte, North Carolina to follow two subjects of our “Pioneers in Skirts” documentary – Maddy and Sophia. They are teenagers interested and skilled in robotics but also interested in other hobbies like dancing and theater. We are following them during a time in their life when choice is imminent. Will they or won’t they follow a career in STEM? What outside factors play a role?
It’s Time to Rally the Troops!
Dear Pioneer Troops: As we wait to hear back from grants, we need to keep moving forward in making this film – so we need your help to make this trip happen through either monetary or in-kind donations – all of which are tax-deductible through our Fiscal Sponsor Fractured Atlas. [Contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more!]
Here’s what we need:
Gift Cards to Restaurants
It doesn’t matter the kind of restaurant (we aren’t picky), but you would be surprised how quickly the numbers add up when you are feeding a crew of 3 or 4. Gift cards to fast food help when we are on the road, and then gift cards to sit-down restaurants help us to treat our crew right after a long, hard day!
Gift Cards to Grocery Stores
We drink a lot of water on set because it’s easy to get dehydrated while you’re running around, plus we also get hungry! Granola bars are my favorite on set pick me up… but I like to make sure we have enough healthy and enough sweet to keep the crew satisfied until it’s time to eat that big meal. It’s all about food with me…
Gift Cards for Gas
YES we want GAS! We will be driving A LOT to our various locations following these young ladies, so help filling up the tank would be much appreciated. Costco gift cards are also a cool work around for this.
Do you know of a hotel that has an initiative to support women in their company? Would they want to support this film by donating a night or two to us? We will be in Charlotte for 5 days total. And, did we mention it is all tax-deductible as In-Kind Donations? Cool, right?
Businesses Can Help, Too
If you are, or know of, a business that would like to help – please send them our way. We have all sorts of ways to recognize business sponsorships. To be honest, documentary films are funded more by people and businesses than Grants and crowdsourcing. We need YOU!
Here is a link to our sponsor page for monetary donations:
What do you get in return?
Other than the satisfying feeling you get when you support a movement – a film that will influence change – every donor to the film receives a special Thank You in the credits – YOUR NAME up on the screen!
Why are we are following Maddy and Sophia?
Maddy and Sophia’s interest and skills in engineering plus their super fun personalities as best friends drew us to them when we first met back in March 2014 at the NC First Robotics competition in Raleigh, North Carolina.
They began learning about engineering on their all-girls middle school Robotics team where they thrived. Now, they are on the high school co-ed team, and their mentor tells us they are exhibiting an elevated level of confidence – much higher than the girls who didn’t come from an all-girls team.
Is this a solution to encouraging more women to join the STEM fields? Studies show that young girls are interested in STEM fields but are discouraged along the way from ever pursuing a career in it, thus making it an industry highly dominated by men. What happens, and will this same thing happen to Maddy and Sophia?
Check them out in our teaser (they’re the ones wearing the cool hats):
Pioneers in Skirts – Exploring the obstacles women face in their careers, and how to overcome them.