Christina Humphrey, Brantly Jackson Watts and Kristy Breneman, organizers of the New Mavericks program.
Christina Humphrey, Brantly Jackson Watts and Kristy Breneman, organizers of the New Mavericks program. Photo by Isadora Pennington.

By Isadora Pennington

In the world of professional film production, women directors and executives are relatively hard to find. With a ratio of more than 9 to 1 males to females in influential roles in the industry, it is through self-promotion and education that organizations such as New Mavericks hope to change these statistics.

The Atlanta Film Festival has been an integral part of putting Atlanta on the map as a film city for more than 30 years. In early 2015, the festival officially announced the New Mavericks series. The program seeks to showcase and encourage films by women, for women. In its first year, the program has already received significant praise. Beyond the annual film festival, New Mavericks has quickly expanded to include year-round workshops, meetings, social events and more.

Last month, Synchronicity Theater in Midtown hosted the inaugural New Mavericks Film Series. Synchronicity, a theater that stages contemporary plays, dance performances, independent films & arts education programs, was a good fit for the festival and played a vital role in the success of the weekend. Rachel May, producing artistic director of the theater was in attendance throughout the weekend and expressed many times her excitement and support for the program.

The weekend featured screenings, workshops, a raffle, Q&A segments with directors, and opportunities for creative collaboration through networking. Behind the scenes of the festival is a team of skilled and passionate women.

“This was our first time hosting a New Mavericks screening outside of the annual festival,” explained Kristy Breneman, New Mavericks board member and Creative Director of the Atlanta Film Festival.

Breneman said the program has evolved from humble beginnings, the name and concept originated from a shorts block during the 2012 Atlanta Film Festival, and has grown by leaps and bounds since.

“Now it has blossomed into a year-round initiative to support and highlight work directed by women, while providing resources to females involved in various aspects of filmmaking,” Breneman commented.

“New Mavericks aims to be an inclusive space where women who work above and below the line in film can come together, support one another, and collaborate,” said Christina Humphrey, New Mavericks board member and Atlanta Film Festival Senior Shorts Programmer.

She said while many of the participants and members of the group are professionals currently working in the field, the year-round programming is open to all experience levels.

“Essentially, we’re trying to not only get more women involved in the Atlanta film scene, but women making films featuring strong female characters.”

Humphrey curated a shorts block called the Herstory of the Female Filmmaker, which featured Kelly Gallagher’s film by the same name, as well as an impressive selection of hard-to-find short films produced by some of cinema’s earliest female pioneers.

Brantly Jackson Watts,  Atlanta Film Festival Filmmaker in Residence, New Mavericks Chair and board member, hosted FEMLANTA, a screening of shorts by local filmmakers.

“The response we have received from the filmmaking community has been amazing,” Watts said.

Watts is also a fixture during the monthly meetups at Java Vino in Poncey-Highland, social events that allow for networking and brainstorming. “My favorite part of the monthly meet ups is scrolling through the Facebook comments after each event, one woman said her lips were chapped from smiling so much,” she said.

In addition to screenings and networking, the weekend also featured a kid’s animation workshop presented by Marisa Ginger Tontaveetong and Association Internationale du Film d’Animation (ASIFA) Atlanta. Participating kids got the opportunity to storyboard and animate the story of Jack & Jill.

“I hope that the young girl sitting in the back of the room feels inspired to tell her stories and find her voice, or that a talented female director connects with an amazing lady cinematographer to create something special,” Breneman said.

Director Leah Meyerhoff flew down from her home in New York for the screening of her film “I Believe in Unicorns” and provided an insightful and captivating Q&A. Meyerhoff is also the founder of Film Fatales, an international group of female filmmakers who have produced a feature length film. The opening night film, a screening of “Watermelon Woman,” brought in experts O.K. Keyes and Karli Wells of the University of South Carolina, and Kiesha Webb and Bri Carter of Southerners on New Ground who discussed the film and its significance after the screening.

The New Mavericks group meets on the third Wednesday of each month upstairs at Java Vino starting at 7 p.m. In addition to regular meetings and screenings, the group also aims to compile a resource list and directory for the members to encourage continued collaboration. For more information and a list of upcoming events, go online to newmavericksfilm.com.

Photos by Isadora Pennington.

Isadora Pennington

Isadora Pennington is a writer and photographer based in Atlanta.