Women Leading Film Production Departments

Women Leading Film Production Departments
Photo Courtesy : Peeradon Ariyanukooltorn, Miko Malkhasyan, Greg Feiner, Kevin Khun, Audrey Biche, Theophile Simon (left to right, top to bottom)

In an industry that thrives on creativity, the significance of female leadership cannot be overstated. The film industry, historically dominated by male figures, has been witnessing a transformative era for a few years where women are not just part of the narrative but are actively shaping it. 

For the past four years, the number of Academy Awards female nominees has been close to or above 30%, finally ending the overwhelming male domination era where female nominees amounted to only around 20%. In 2024, out of the 230 Academy Award nominees, 71 are women. 

This article shines a spotlight on six trailblazing women who have carved a niche for themselves in the world of film production. From the artistry of cinematography to the meticulousness of production design, they are not just breaking glass ceilings; they are redefining the standards of excellence in their respective fields.

SooAh Cho (Production Designer) 

SooAh is an L.A.-based art director and production designer who has had a background in the Korean Film & TV industry for years. Her initial interest in film and Mise-en-Scene, cultivated during her college years, led her to continue studying production design and to work in the art department of short & feature films, TV shows, music videos, and commercials. SooAh’s creative talent for design has been recognized by winning many awards. However, she decided to leave everything behind and head to L.A., driven by her insatiable thirst for learning film and professional growth. SooAh is writing a new chapter in her life with friends from all around the world who are crazy about cinema. Not only stories told by international friends but also collaboration with them on film projects has provided good impetus to her. Her philosophy of production design and her unique approach to it focus on the psychological impact on Mise-en-Scene as she believes that movies are visual arts that stimulate emotions. When asked about dream collaborations, SooAh reveals her desire to work with director Yorgos Lanthimos and envisions creating Mise-en-Scene in unconventional ways for his unique story.

Melisande McLaughlin (Writer) 

Melisande McLaughlin is a Canadian who was raised in Thailand, France, and Wales. She began her filmmaking journey in college when she collaborated with Prof. Peter Decherney, director of the Global Documentary Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, notably as his editor. Their projects ranged from a VR docuseries on Puerto Rican artists’ responses to Hurricane Maria with support from the Flamboyan Arts Fund to a short Discovery+ doc on Ethiopia’s Jewish Community’s decades-long struggle to make Aliyah. Through them, she discovered that migration and the lives of artists are central themes in her work.

Seeing the role of an editor in documentaries as comparable to that of the writer in narrative films, she went on to pursue an MFA in Screenwriting at the AFI Conservatory, where she also discovered an interest in directing. Having just graduated, she is now forging her way as a multi-hyphenate writer-director-editor by developing the proof of concept for her first feature with collaborators from AFI. Ultimately, she wants to write-direct narrative features and write-edit documentaries that explore contemporary social and environmental issues through the personal narratives of characters on the fringes of our societies.

Audrey Biche (Cinematographer)

Audrey Biche has been a cinematographer on music videos for the likes of Teezo Touchdown and Gustavo Bertoni. She just wrapped production on a film directed by Kelley Kali and is currently in development for a feature starring Udo Kier. Audrey attended the American Film Institute Conservatory as a Fulbright/Georges Lurcy Scholar and is the recipient of an ASC Vision mentorship. She has worked on narrative films as well as documentaries throughout France, Italy, Kenya, Bulgaria, and the USA. Shooting in both film and digital, her films have screened at La Cinémathèque Française, the AFI Film Festival, Zagreb, Raindance, Urbanworld, and Wicked Queer. “We have a duty of care as cinematographers, care for our crews and collaborators, but also care for the ideas and images we put on screen.” 

Hsiao-Wei Lin (Editor)

Hsiao Wei Lin, a Taiwanese editor based in Los Angeles, has a background in TV show editing from her time in Taipei, Taiwan. Once aspiring to be a musician, she unexpectedly found herself drawn into the world of filmmaking in college. Encouraged by her music teacher to explore boundlessly, she embarked on a journey that enriched her with various television productions and collaborations with influencers on social media platforms. 

Wei’s move to LA stemmed from her desire to connect with fellow movie enthusiasts and seek compelling projects to collaborate on. She describes her role in editing as akin to that of a conductor, holding the script and wielding the final authority in shaping the narrative, much like a conductor interprets a composer’s work. She takes pride in her role as the final gatekeeper before a project’s release, leveraging her keen sense of storytelling rhythm honed from her earlier musical aspirations.

Santi Naidoo (Producer)

Santi Naidoo is a Los Angeles-based South African producer who is a recent graduate of the American Film Institute Conservatory producing program and currently works in development and production at Submarine Entertainment. She holds a triple major Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cape Town and graduated cum laude with a postgraduate degree in Film and Television Studies. Her AFI Thesis film, Mis-Alignment, is currently doing the festival circuit, along with her short, Jerome – which was recently up for consideration for the 96th Academy Awards. Santi has several years of experience in film, commercial, and stage production and is passionate about creating spaces for underrepresented and marginalized filmmakers in the industry. 

Marie Rouhban (Director) 

Marie is a Los Angeles-based director with a background in advertising from her years in Paris, France. Driven by her passion for storytelling, she made the decision to transition into narrative filmmaking in 2021 and moved to L.A. to do so. Marie believes strongly in the creative energy of this new city, saying, “I feel like L.A. is the best place to learn, as we’re surrounded by people who are incredibly passionate about cinema. This city is swarming with movie fans, and there are always film shoots happening and opportunities to collaborate”. Her favorite part of the job is actually the people she works with, as she loves the collective aspect of filmmaking. 

As a half-French, half-Lebanese woman, she believes that multiculturalism within the team on set is essential to achieve artistic richness and, therefore, always displays very diverse casts and crews. Currently, Marie is gearing up for an exciting project: the production of a biopic feature film, which is scheduled for early 2025. In addition to this, she is also devoted to the development of the extended version of her latest film, Suzie (& Jenny), which premiered at the American Cinematheque Proof Film Festival.

These stories serve as a powerful testament to the growing influence and vital contributions of female professionals in the film industry. Their successes are not isolated triumphs but are reflective of a broader movement towards greater diversity and gender equality in cinema. Women across all areas of film production are increasingly taking the helm, bringing fresh perspectives, innovation, and a richness of experience that is vital for the art of storytelling.

 

Published By: Aize Perez

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