Updated: Apr 5
What started as a project that grew out of friendship, right timing, and intersecting paths is now a community of like-minded creatives, working to provide a platform for Hawai‘i women filmmakers.
After a year of planning, Co-Producers Vera Zambonelli and Shirley Thompson, are excited to announce that Season 3 of Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i is coming into fruition. Production has begun as the crew of Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i welcomes a new set of women filmmakers in front of and behind the screen.
For those who are new to this film series, Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i documents the real-life stories of Hawai‘i women filmmakers through a female gaze, while also redressing gender inequity in the film industry.
While the first and second season of the series focused a bit more on well-known pioneers of women filmmakers in Hawai‘i, the third season will introduce some new and fresh faces of Hawai‘i-grown talent. Among the filmmakers featured will also be two women from Big Island. Through this third season, the producers hope to continue to uncover the hidden jewels of women filmmakers in Hawai‘i.
Through featuring the narratives of these women, Vera and Shirley hope to create pieces of work that document the often untold stories of women filmmakers -- to make sure these stories are told, so that people can go back to and learn about and from them.
The producers said that besides creating these important documentations, they said that at the core of Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i is to create community and to provide women with the opportunity to make films that matter.
Although the film industry is making small strides to diversify, there is no doubt that it is still dominated by men and more specifically white men.
For Shirley, who mainly works as an editor for other people’s films and projects, she said that she rarely gets the opportunity to produce and direct. “I don’t really have the opportunity to direct films often,” said Shirley. “No one is bestowing director positions on women very much at all. Women have to fight for these positions and usually have to raise the money themselves and pitch themselves to get the opportunity or make the opportunity for themselves to be able to direct.”
“Because of this, we decided to do just that and make this opportunity, not only for myself but for other women as well.” Instead of conforming to the standards and rules that are often set by those prominent in the film industry, Vera and Shirley decided to take matters in their own hands and create this space for professionals and aspiring filmmakers. “Let’s instead make this about our community, and make it super local, and focus really on our heart space -- which is this idea of women making films,” Shirley said.
Since the start of Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i, 12 women filmmakers have been featured on screen, sharing their stories.
However, besides these women that are featured in front of the camera, there are also entirely women crews behind the camera -- who direct, produce, edit and plan these episodes.
In accompaniment with this film series, Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i also offers internships for aspiring women filmmakers, who are able to receive hands-on experience of working on set and in pre- and post-production. In general, these young filmmakers are able to build the skills and gather the tools that they can use and bring with them as they go on to pursue their own projects.
With all that being said, Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i is more than just creating films that highlight women, but it is also about creating a community with more opportunities and mentorship for women filmmakers to thrive and succeed.
Vera and Shirley said that as this project continues to grow and transform, they hope to continue in their mission of creating more intersectional spaces as well as creating new methods in dismantling systems.
While speaking with the producers about the goals of this project, Vera said that on top of documenting the often untold stories of women filmmakers and being conscious of what stories are being told and who are telling these stories -- is creating a new system of values in filmmaking.
Vera shared this quote: If health means adjusting to a sick society, what kind of health is it? “If we are simply working to adjust our women and girls into a system that is sick and that needs to change, what kind of health and success are we promoting?,” Vera said. “So, in a sense Reel Wāhine is a very revolutionary project.”
Hearing Vera say this was incredibly inspiring and eye-opening as a woman who hopes to one day work in the film industry because she is so right. Projects and opportunities like this are essential in making change and creating positive collaborative spaces.
Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i is more than just creating a space for women, but it is about creating a new standard of mutuality, equity, and equality, so that women no longer have to fight to be accepted in these spaces. Instead, through creating projects like Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i, I hope the industry and those who consume media and film will see women filmmakers as not only women who do film, but simply as just talented filmmakers.
As someone who was born and raised on Oahu, I never thought Hawai‘i had much of a film scene and on top of that I wasn’t even aware that there were so many successful women filmmakers from Hawai‘i. Being a part of this project is truly a gift, and I am so happy to be a part of this and work to continue amplifying the voices of Hawai‘i women filmmakers.
Having spoken with both Vera and Shirley, it is so evident that for them, this project is about more than just passion, it is a way of life. It encompasses a hope for change that starts with them and continues to inspire future generations of Hawai‘i women filmmakers.
Emily Cristobal is a journalist and digital content producer born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii. She has a passion for telling diverse and impactful stories, including topics of culture and diversity, social and environmental justice, and entertainment.