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Women Making History, Part 1

In honor of Women’s History Month, Panavision kicks off a five-part interview series highlighting women making an impact on the industry.

The month of March marks Women's History Month and, on the 8th, International Women's Day. These are important opportunities to focus on stories from women in our industry who are incredible role models. As we approached this month, I reflected on how we could amplify and elevate those stories, and I connected with women who are impacting our industry with their artistry, craft, and leadership. I asked them all a series of questions, and in the process gained invaluable insights into their inspirations, the role mentorship has played in their lives and careers, advice that shapes their decision-making, and much more.

I'm thrilled to present Panavision's Women Making History interview series. I hope you'll follow along each week throughout March to learn from and be inspired by these amazing women as we share their stories in their own words.

I am truly energized by those who have and continue to pave the way for women to be the influential storytellers they are meant to be. I'm so excited to share these special conversations with you, our community.


Kim Snyder signature

Kim Snyder (President and CEO, Panavision): What impact do you hope Women’s History Month may have over the course of time? 

Chris Wairegi (cinematographer and camera operator; founder, 600 Black Women): I hope we inspire future generations to do things we never dreamed of. I hope Women’s History Month gives a little girl the strength and courage to chase big dreams and to not listen to anyone about what she can’t do. I hope we inspire anyone in need of a little inspiration and that our presence here shows them they can do it too. 

Chris Wairegi

Chris Wairegi (photo by Sophia Romulo)

Autumn Durald Arkapaw, ASC (cinematographer): Encouraging women to believe in their strength and abilities is important. 'You need to see you to be you.' That's one of the best quotes I've heard recently in regard to women mentors today. Unfortunately some of the greatest accomplishments of women in our community or around the world are not highly publicized. It's important for women to seek out other women in their industry and get advice.

I would never have picked up a camera had I not read two words: Ellen Kuras. She is the reason I started to believe that I could one day do this job. Early on I was told by someone in the business that only men were cinematographers. Ellen's name changed that for me, and I am forever grateful for her existence and amazing accomplishments.  

Kira Kelly, ASC (cinematographer): I hope that more and more we can use the frame of Women’s History Month to honor the women who laid the path for us, but also look towards the future. 

Terra Bliss (managing director, Panavision UK and Ireland): I hope that celebrating the achievements and contributions of women will help inspire future leaders and innovators, to see people who look like them achieving success.

Johanna Gravelle (managing director, Panavision Canada): I actually hope that by highlighting and celebrating women today, these kinds of things become unnecessary in the future. I hope there will be a time when everyone is on a level playing field with opportunities and salary, where hard work and talent counts more than gender and the color of a person’s skin.

Johanna Gravelle

Johanna Gravelle

Patti Lee, ASC (cinematographer): I really don’t know how to answer this question. I’m glad the accomplishments of so many extraordinary people get highlighted, but I’m also looking forward to a time when being a ‘woman’ isn’t a qualifier we have to use. 

Polly Morgan, ASC, BSC (cinematographer): I hope that as we learn to recognize the incredible achievements and contributions of women, that gender equality will become less of a struggle and we will break the barriers of inequality. I hope that women will be given new opportunities and have a chance to develop more self-respect and that we lose the idea of ‘imposter syndrome.’  

Sandy Ferguson (chief human resources officer, Panavision): When I first got to the level of leading HR teams, I was usually the only female in the executive team meeting. This has changed over time, and my hope would be that business culture continues to evolve so that traditional stereotypes surrounding female leaders continue to change. I also hope that women can continue to support each other in their career growth, and by learning about experiences of women in leadership, I hope it inspires more women to believe they can be successful. 

Mandy Walker, AM, ASC, ACS (cinematographer): I hope that more women become empowered to pursue their career goals and that the industry embraces a more equal and diverse representation on set.

Laura Merians Gonçalves (cinematographer): [I hope] that there will be no more qualifiers — that a woman will naturally be seen in the role as a DP.

Laura Merians Gonçalves

Laura Merians Gonçalves

Michele Channer (business development director, Panalux; managing director, Direct Digital and Island Studios): By acknowledging the careers and journeys of women, we can inspire others to reach for their goals, whatever route that may take them. Careers are not just an upward trajectory at a steady pace. We hit crossroads and at times go off in different directions. By highlighting in Women’s History Month the various journeys we make, maybe we can inspire a few along the way. I was seriously lacking role models in my career development, but now I see fabulous role models all the time. It’s exciting to see, and now we can showcase them. My daughter is already an inspiration to me, and I hope that I have had a little impact on her.

Victoria Emslie (actor; founder and CEO, Primetime Network): Women’s histories have received relatively none of the attention and immortalization in comparison to men. One of the questions Primetime was founded on was, ‘Where are all the women?’ We all need role models to reassure us that we can step into spaces which might have traditionally been withheld from us, and so committing our legacies to history and giving greater visibility to those who have come before us creates a fire to continue and add to the work they have carried out.

Working alongside those of all genders, we aim to increase understanding of barriers and both individual and collective experiences in order to navigate our industry — and society at large — with greater kindness and compassion, staying away from tropes or forcing marginalized voices to be seen as a monolith.  

Mara Morner-Ritt (general counsel and chief compliance officer, Panavision): I hope that Women’s History Month reinforces that every woman has a story, and that it’s important to tell that story out loud. I hope that those stories lead to greater understanding in all who hear them.   

Alice Brooks, ASC (cinematographer): It is an amazing time for women, and continuing to celebrate women will only make the contributions we are making to the world more apparent. Working in film, I’ve noticed that when artists come together from all different backgrounds, the storytelling becomes so much more interesting — the point-of-view changes and stories that haven’t been mainstream get to be shared with the world. Whatever we put our attention on will grow, so recognizing a woman’s success, however big or small, is important to do every day. 

Alice Brooks, ASC

Alice Brooks, ASC (photo by Macall B. Polay, SMPSP)

Laura Borowsky (vice president, business development, Light Iron): Women are multitaskers by nature. They take on more than they can chew, but I believe part of them thrives on that. I hope that Women’s History Month brings awareness to women that there is no ceiling to what we are capable of, and that with the support of one another, anything can be accomplished. 

Amy Vincent, ASC (cinematographer): I hope that Women’s History Month will encourage and inspire women and girls everywhere to continue to fight for inclusion and gender equality. It’s a time to reflect on the struggles as well as the triumphs of the past and acknowledge there is still so much work to be done. Let’s champion one another and inspire women to participate in governance and take leadership positions. Let’s empower women in our industry by giving them access to education and training, and by promoting creative and artistic talent.

Amy Vincent, ASC

Amy Vincent, ASC

Lesley Kantor (chief marketing officer, Panavision): Representation is everything. If we see it within another, we are more likely to believe it within ourselves. I hope this month continues to be a bright spotlight for women around the world who are changing the rules and challenging norms right now. If we can do that, we increase the exposure of the message and purpose of Women’s History Month for young girls and women. Hopefully it will inspire the rising generation to dig deep and harness the courage to go after anything they want to create for themselves.

Quyen Tran, ASC (cinematographer): By highlighting women and nonbinary folks and their achievements, I hope that others will find the strength and courage to pursue their dreams. We must not ever give up, and may we find strength in numbers. Visibility and representation are everything, especially in these ever-changing times. I'm grateful to be able to support my family as a filmmaker, and I hope that others keep their hopes alive.

Quyen Tran, ASC

Quyen Tran, ASC (photo by Chris Willard)

Read the rest of the series here:
Part 2: On valuable career advice

Part 3: On mentorship
Part 4: On career highlights
Part 5: On inspiration