Girls Make Movies encourages movement in film studies, industry

Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino are listed as some of the most influential film directors of all time in Total Film Magazine’s Top 50 Directors.

The list, which encompasses almost a century of filmmaking, includes 47 other directors, all of whom are male.

In recognition of the imbalance of women in the film industry, four female SIUC faculty members created the program Girls Make Movies, a one-week summer camp held at the university for high school girls interested in the film industry.

The camp focuses on teaching girls to create their own films and other media projects in a collaborative situation under the direction of practicing filmmakers, film students and film teachers.

To wrap up Women’s History Month, SIUC held a film screening Saturday with Girls Make Movies, which featured movies made by girls at the camp, a few films by undergraduates and a film by Lilly Boruszkowski, associate professor of cinema-photography, that won the Audience Award at the Taos Shortz Film Festival.

Susan Felleman, associate professor of cinema-photography who was part of the planning committee for Women’s History Month, said she suggested the event because it would be a great opportunity to honor students for their work.

The event raised more than $1,000 from admission and silent auction items, which goes toward keeping the cost low of the Girls Make Movies camp, Felleman said.

The camp, which debuted in July 2010, is a faculty-driven initiative that works to highlight the opportunities available for the girls in the film industry, said Clare Mitchell, assistant dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

“As you may have noticed, most well-known film makers are not women,” Felleman said. “It’s still really a problem for women to become film makers.”

The idea for the camp was born from conditions observed in the classroom, said Angela Aguayo, assistant professor of cinema-photography.

She said it was difficult enough that many classrooms were significantly imbalanced with male students outnumbering female media makers.

“I wanted all of my students to feel comfortable and skilled behind the camera, and I realized it all starts much earlier than college,” Aguayo said. “We needed a space for young women to find their voice and feel empowered behind the camera before they arrive on a college campus.”

The camp is meant to empower the high school girls, make a career in the film industry more attainable and encourage them to continue to study film, whether at SIUC or elsewhere, Felleman said.

She said one key thing about holding the camp at SIUC is the campers and their families get to see an aspect of the university they may have been unaware of.

“It’s not just a party school or a place for the well-known majors, but a place where people are working hard to do creative things,” Felleman said.

She said while roughly 85 percent of the film students are male, a large number of the instructors are females, all of whom teach, create and study film.

Having instructors who practice in the industry and know how the gender inequalities resonate in different aspects of the career can help the campers and female students understand that they can overcome it, Aguayo said.

She said they might find information and advice at their fingertips at SIUC to help mentor them.

Aguayo said she hopes the camp, which she said is designed to encourage a film culture where women feel comfortable picking up the technologies and using them, influences the girls to learn a powerful means of self-expression and find a creative outlet for their ideas about the world.

She said learning filmmaking is like learning how to write or become a great public speaker. It is a powerful means to communicate ideas to others, she said.

“Being able to understand film, to be critical in watching it as well as being able to use those skills to produce it is an empowering process, especially in a world where we spend almost more time with media than anything else,” Aguayo said.


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About Tiffany Blanchette

Senior at SIUC majoring in photojournalism and zoology. Can be easily reached at or 618-536-3311 ext. 254.

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