Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project
- QWOCMAP's Mission. Your Purpose.
- How QWOCMAP creates impact.
- Community & Solidarity
- Working Agreements
QWOCMAP has a mission. You have a purpose. Find out how mission and purpose can meet to create beautiful things.
Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) uses film to shatter stereotypes and bias, reveal the lived truth of inequality, and build community around art and activism.
QWOCMAP creates, exhibits, and distributes high-impact new films that authentically reflect the lives of queer women of color both cisgender & transgender, and nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and transgender people of color of any orientation, and address the vital, intersecting social justice issues that concern our multiple communities.
We actively invest in, develop, and nurture the creativity and leadership of African Descent/Black, Asian, Chicanx/Latinx, First Nations/Native American/American Indian/Indigenous, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander, Southwest Asian, North African/Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian (SWANA/AMEMSA), and Mixed-Race lesbian, bisexual, and queer women, and nonbinary, gender nonconforming and transgender people of color, and intersex and Two Spirit people of color.
QWOCMAP strives to make marginalized communities visible and vocal in the most expensive and powerful art form in the world.
Our vision nurtures filmmaker-activists as leaders of social justice movements that incorporate the power of art as cultural resistance and cultural resilience, cultural reclamation and cultural renewal. We will fundamentally transform the world into a place where justice and equity are the norm.
We have a good sense of humor and find fun in our work. Social justice work needs joy, pleasure, and lots of love.
2. Safety, Welcome, and Equity
We say hello and welcome everyone. We are present with one another and check in if we need to be less present. We take time to get to know each other as people and are thoughtful about different needs. We are culturally humble and learn each other’s histories and traditions.
We build pan-ethnic, multi-racial spaces that honor our varied national origins and migration status, cultures, sexual orientations, gender identity and expression, physical and mental ability, serostatus, heights, weights, ages, faiths, incarceration background, parental or marital status, and social economic backgrounds. We are thoughtful about our privileges and how they affect our interactions with others.
We ensure that the people and communities who are most affected by inequity are visibly leading.
We do what we say we are going to do.
We are transparent.
We do everything with QWOCMAP values in mind.
We focus on the factors, problems and challenges we can control and communicate our needs, limitations, expectations, and successes openly. We agree to actively listen, and be open to feedback, and room for improvement. We will be accountable for our mistakes and to learn from them. We will give one another the opportunity to change and improve over time. We agree to own our part in creating and implementing solutions.
We believe, as Ella Baker demonstrated, that “strong people don’t need strong leaders.” We nurture the leadership of our community and focus on leading ourselves because our transformation is the key to social justice.
Our community deserves our best.
We are a learning organization. We will do our jobs thoughtfully, and with intentionality and a spirit of teamwork.
We value excellence in the way that work is performed and will not ask anything of others that I am unwilling or unable to do ourselves.
We are appreciative of what we are able to accomplish and support one another to succeed. We take calculated risks and view challenges and failures as learning opportunities. We are not afraid to change as more information becomes available. We are thoughtful of our impact on other beings and the environment as we do our work.
Theory of Change
These Community & Solidarity statements were created through the leadership, input, and feedback of hundreds of QWOCMAP staff, Board, interns, volunteers, Community Partners, and audience members.
As such, it is a living document that incorporates community expertise, as well as QWOCMAP’s learning about how best to meet the needs and support the dreams of our community.
As a community, our voices have been rarely heard and forcibly silenced.
Film is the most expensive and visible art form in the world. And in a media-saturated society, economic injustice is also a form of censorship.
Filmmaking training is expensive. As a result, acquiring the skills and tools for creative expression in this art form is economically unfeasible for most of our community.
Film production is expensive. As a result, budgets are measured by the minute, with independent film costs at $1,000 per finished minute, and some Hollywood mega blockbusters at $1 million per finished minute. Most of us do not have the resources to create new films, and the majority of film financing doesn’t support our community.
Watching movies can be expensive. Theater tickets increase, especially with the cost of refreshments. Film festival tickets can average $18 per screening. With the proliferation of streaming services and the cost of able, it adds up.
QWOCMAP was founded with a stubborn commitment to economic justice.
Our Filmmaker Training Program offers FREE intensive, artistically rigorous, professional training to nurture the creation of new films.
Our annual San Francisco International Queer Women of Color Film Festival provides FREE film screenings, culturally relevant foods and refreshing drinks.
Capitalist society puts more value on things that have, or cost, a lot of money to participate in or attend. While QWOCMAP programs are free to our community, they do have costs. QWOCMAP works very hard to keep our programs financially accessible by seeking out grants, individual contributions, in-kind donations, sponsorships, and advertisements. Yet this only pays for a small portion of total costs.
For those who can afford it, we ask that community members join the Community of Contributors as monthly sustainers, annual donors, Producers Circle members.
QWOCMAP’s mix of skill building, community building conversations, social justice filmmaking, and welcome and inclusion for all bodies, is well worth it.
QWOCMAP serves multiple communities that have experienced direct trauma.
As we embody the intersections of oppression, we are also survivors of multi-generational trauma brought on by histories of racism, sexism, heterosexism, genderism, ableism, sizeism, ageism, and classism.
As artists-activists who work within and for our communities, we also recognize that many of us experience secondary trauma as we bear witness to the direct trauma experienced by our family, friends, and allies around the world.
QWOCMAP advocates for the creativity, leadership, and empowerment of our communities. We encourage all of us to think about our true needs and to make decisions that allow us to heal. Therefore, we support people in doing what makes them feel comfortable and safe.
As survivors of violence, abuse, and trauma ourselves, QWOCMAP supports our community by creating safety plans addressing emotional triggers, and providing space for healing in ways that honor people’s feelings, experiences, and agency.
QWOCMAP programs provide clinicians from the mental health community and crisis counselors from Community Partner San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR), are committed to assist the community so that they can actively participate in and enjoy our Filmmaker Training Program and the San Francisco International Queer Women of Color Film Festival in peace, comfort, and abundant celebration that is respectful of everyone.
As survivors of violence and trauma, as well as advocates for our communities, QWOCMAP recognizes that there is more than one type or form of justice.
To solely depend on the criminal legal system for justice sends the message that the state, institutions, and policy are not responsible for the violence we experience and witness.
QWOCMAP believes that we must define what justice is for ourselves, and work with our communities to achieve it. We believe that we must create safety for our communities with our communities.
Therefore, QWOCMAP is committed to transformative justice that allows us to develop alternatives for safety, support, healing, and accountability around violence.
QWOCMAP understands that there are times when it is necessary to call the police to intervene. However, law enforcement escalates, facilitates, and perpetrates violence against our communities. We believe that police involvement in our communities causes serious harm and makes our community less safe. Therefore, we believe that it is important to have strategies that provide safety for survivors of violence that do not involve the police.
We ask that audience members approach us first before calling the police on their own. If attending QWOCMAPpotentially poses a heightened level of fear and emotional triggers for survivors of violence, where they may feel the need to call for law enforcement in order to feel safe, we ask that you come directly to QWOCMAP staff or Safety & Care Crew members for assistance.
If the police do need to be called, QWOCMAP will make the determination to do so, and will do it in such a way that de-escalates the situation and does not further compromise the safety of the entire audience. Calling in the police without having a safety plan in place for the community creates a heightened level of fear, emotional triggers, and imminent danger from trauma, physical violence, and police murders of our peoples.
We ask that survivors abide by our request to allow us to call the police if needed. To do so will further endanger the entire community.
We ask that individuals please refrain from subjecting themselves and the larger community to the risks posed by calling police, especially in cases where an individual in in a particularly heightened level of fear and emotional triggers, does not reach out to the support provided during QWOCMAP programs, and is unable to or refuses to honor this request and boundary.
QWOCMAP believes that this is best for the healing and protection of our entire community. We ask that our community members contract with QWOCMAP in a way that is in keeping with our values around transformative justice and healing for survivors.
QWOCMAP strives to make our programs as warm, welcoming, comfortable, and as safe as possible for everyone.
We are deeply concerned by the call for us to ban certain people from attending our our programs, particularly our Film Festival. We neither have the resources nor the capacity to address all of the harms that happen outside of the spaces that we create.
It is very challenging for us as an organization to be called on to serve as police, judge, and jury for situations involving our community members. Particularly as we do not believe in the punitive and carceral nature of these systems to begin with, and understand them to create harm. We do not support the retributive and punishing nature of the criminal “injustice” system as it stands, nor do we wish to bring that system into the spaces that we create together in ways that will cause further harm to the community.
For us, calling law enforcement compromises the safety of our entire community by creating more fear, trauma, and pain. Additionally, we do not wish to create a situation in which our teams are called on to act as police against our community and within the context of our programs. This is difficult for these loving community members who work so hard to welcome the rest of us into a celebration of who we are.
While we do not have the resources to act as mediators, we work hard to address any needs that are brought to our attention by community members, and we take that feedback to make QWOCMAP better every year. We are more than willing to ask our Community Partners to support us in developing models of community accountability.
Process For Creating Safety
QWOCMAP’s goal is to create safety through diverse means, including crisis counseling and conflict resolution.
Our teams (staff or Safety & Care Crew) will respond accordingly to any problems, conflicts, and/or altercations that may arise, always working from a philosophy of de-escalation and efficiency.
If anyone feels uncomfortable we ask that you approach our team. We will determine how to deal with the situation by asking people to leave or using other community safety measures as necessary.
People who behave in disrespectful way (aggressive, drunk, making oppressive remarks, etc.) will be met with compassionate conflict resolution. If they cannot change their behavior, they will be asked immediately to leave.
Our team will work with the support of San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR), who will have their crisis counselors on site. At any time, community members who feel emotionally triggered or challenged may communicate with the our team, who will connect them with crisis counselors for short-term support.
Designated team members will work to assess any given situation and make the determination as to whether the police should be called. We believe that police presence will disrupt our programs, and should an audience member disregard our contract and involve law enforcement without our knowledge or consent, we will negotiate with officers outside of the our venues to find a resolution.
QWOCMAP is happy to offer support within the resources that we have available, and to assist in developing safety plans within our community that utilize alternative means for creating safety.
If community need specific support around being a survivor of interpersonal or state violence, please reach out to San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) and Community United Against Violence (CUAV).
QWOCMAP centers survivors in our safety planning and focuses on processes for creating safety for individual survivors.
QWOCMAP believes that in order to effectively advance social justice in the communities that our movements aim to serve, the people doing the work must have the space and the resources to take care of themselves. We believe that survivors of violence must have the support to acknowledge the impact that oppression and trauma, which queer women of color and transgender people of color face on a daily basis, has on our well-being.
QWOCMAP is committed to the wellness and self-care of our community, filmmakers, volunteers, and audiences. We strive to provide resources and ensure that all have access to this space during our programs.
Self-Care When Triggered
QWOCMAP believes in collective care, or as SFWAR frames it, Radical Self-Care in Community.
Community Partner Community United Against Violence (CUAV) adapted their work specifically for the needs of QWOCMAP.
The process of creating a new film, the films shown in the Film Festival, as well as their environment, and the individuals and communities involved, might trigger some difficult feelings for us as survivors of trauma.
We honor that many of us might be healing from trauma or violence, or abusive or hard relationships.
We want to remind all of us that the feelings that arise from trauma are completely normal, and yours to experience in safe and healthy ways.
We encourage all community members to do the following things to promote safe and healthy experiences:
- Listen to your needs: maybe you need to not see something, take a walk, do some journaling, ask for a hug, or go home; it’s all OK and we respect your taking care of yourself.
- Drink a lot of water: it physically helps us move out toxins and chemicals that get released when we are triggered, and it replenishes our bodies.
- Reach out: ask for a break, or text or call a friend; sometimes telling someone that you love them or letting them know you are having a hard time is enough to remember we are not alone.
In addition, we invite you to remember to:
- Connect with your RESILIENCE! Being involved with QWOCMAP honors our stories of survival and resistance, and is a beautiful example of how fierce and resilient you are, and how celebratory and healing it can be to come together.
- Be GENTLE with yourself. There are all kinds of feelings that arise when we are healing, so it makes sense to have mixed emotions. We invite you to remind yourself that the feelings will pass and that you are doing the best that you can.
- Seek SUPPORT. There are many ways to feel supported, and you get to define what that means. If you need some assistance in thinking through what you need, please speak with the QWOCMAP team (staff or Safety & Care Crew) or one of the Crisis Counselors on site.
You can also reach out to
Never touch another person, adult, youth, or child, without asking for their consent. ALWAYS ask first. ACCEPT their NO.
Anyone in a position of power – mentors with participants, leads with crew members, staff with volunteers, older adults with youth, etc. – should not flirt with, ask out, or make sexual remarks to people that they are managing and leading. Period.
If you are in a position of leadership and you notice ongoing flirtation among the people you supervise, please clarify that this is not the place or time for flirtation. Check in with your crew (workshop participants, film festival volunteers, interns, etc.) and refer to leads, such as the Managing Director, Safety & Care Crew, or on-site Crisis Counselor for support.
Do not presume that everyone is interested in flirting or being asked out for a date. Again, ASK first.
RESPECT their boundaries and NO (anything other than a clear yes, including maybe, I don’t know, etc. is NO), and thank them.
There are always people of many genders. Do not presume people’s gender identities.
Always ask which pronouns people use. And USE them.
If this is a challenge for you, you can always call people by their names.
Be aware that there are people of many different sexual orientations and identities. People are asexual, demisexual, pansexual and aromantic, demi-romantic, etc. Do NOT presume anyone’s sexuality or sexual interest.
It is not the responsibility of that person to explain their gender or sexual orientation to you. Prioritize their comfort over your curiosity.
Make sure not to stare at people. Be aware of the difference between welcoming eye contact during a conversation and unpleasant staring.
If you notice a situation that appears to compromise the sexual safety of another person (e.g. frequent comments about attractiveness, clear body language that signals discomfort, someone leaves their tasks to constantly talk to the person they are interested in, etc.), please approach your supervisor, the Safety & Care crew, or a lead to immediately address the issue.
QWOCMAP is fully committed to Disability Justice.
The QWOCMAP community encompasses people with disabilities who are part of our Staff, Board, Festival Crews, Volunteers, Community Partners, and Filmmakers. As disabled people, we strive to learn more about disability justice and do better.
QWOCMAP understands that disability justice is more than accessibility. We strive to create access intimacy by providing multiple forms of access and following the leadership of disabled people. We strive to make our programs accessible and welcoming to all who want to come. We also acknowledge that ending ableism is an ongoing process, even among those of us with disabilities.
“People usually think of disability as an individual flaw or problem, rather than as something partly created by the world we live in. It is rare that people think about disability as a political experience or as encompassing a community full of rich histories, cultures and legacies. Disability is framed as lacking, sad and undesirable: a shortcoming at best, a tragedy at worst. Disabled people are used as the poster children of environmental injustice or the argument for abortion rights. For many people, even just the idea that we can understand disability as ‘not wrong’ is a huge shift in thinking.”
— mia mingus
The bodyminds of disabled people are NOT liabilities, limits, causes of pity, or something to nobly transcend or be courageous about.
Being attentive to needs of disabled folks is not to assume that they are a problem or that something is wrong with them.
Being attentive is another way to create equity by making sure that disabled people’s leadership, needs, skills, and lives are recognized and treated with honor and dignity.
Many thanks to Patty Berne, of Sins Invalid, who has informed QWOCMAP’s learning process, practices, and activism, and provided tireless, multi-decade leadership for disability justice.
Fat bodies deserve respect as they are.
QWOCMAP strives to end body policing based on race, ethnicity, gender presentation, ability, and size. We encourage our accomplices in justice to accept and respect the natural diversity of body types, shapes, and sizes. We encourage us all to find joy in our bodies in the ways that we can, to increase our vitality.
We refuse to engage in the body shaming of fat people.
Sizism and fatphobia take a toll on our wellbeing, and our mental and physical health, because they cause people to become alienated from their own bodies through both hatred and the various methods through which people seek to control or shape their bodies. They have resulted in oppression, self-hatred, and preoccupation with food, our bodies, and the bodies of others. It means people of all different sizes are not at peace with their bodies, and that fat people bear the brunt of this collective unhappiness through specific size oppression.
There is a distinction between the ways that fat phobia affects the body, the structural oppression that reinforces, and is reinforced by, sizism and fatphobia, and the personal journey toward self-acceptance experienced by the many people affected by sizism and fatphobia. They affect fat people and everyone else, whether they love their bodies or not. The effects can be due to oppression related to discrimination in employment, education, and healthcare that have dire and life-threatening consequences. We do not accept the medicalization or pathologization of different kinds of bodies based on stereotypes and oppression, especially those found in science. We believe that all bodies can be healthy at every size (HAES). We focus on the overall well-being of our community and know that good health is achieved independent of size. We also know that health is not a measure for worth. That fat and disabled people are worthy of regard and respect.
We see that fatphobia takes an economic toll in extra costs that are incurred from clothes that cost far more or are simply unavailable; or the extra charges for plane seats. We understand the connections of fat phobia to white supremacy, with so much focus on weight, fat children are not only bullied but can be seen as the result of bad parenting, which increases institutional scrutiny of our communities.
We want to make sure that loving our bodies is tied to activism, justice, and the end of structures that perpetuate harm and oppression.
To that end, we focus on pleasurable activities, we celebrate rather than shame foods, we offer wider, sturdy seating, and additional seating options, we create enough space for people to move freely.
If there are other ways that we can accommodate audiences and develop additional practices that counter size oppression, please let us know.
We were influenced by the Lesbian Health & Research Center at UCSF to follow the World Health Organization’s definition of health:
“Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Loving fabulous fat people and changing structures that oppress us bring us all to a state of wellbeing for our entire community.
We value healing, health, and wellness in our communities.
QWOCMAP strives to create vibrant, multi-faceted, and inclusive events. We encourage audience and community members to approach us with their requests.
We will do all that we can to create welcoming, respectful, and fantastic spaces for everyone to enjoy.
We were influenced by the Lesbian Health & Research Center at UCSF to follow the World Health Organization’s definition of health:
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
QWOCMAP values take root in our cultural legacies of sustaining the earth, sowing seeds of resistance, and cultivating justice.
We know that low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately bear the burden of environmental pollution and injustice. We see the impact that it has on the land we inhabit, our waterways, our food, and our health.
One of the ways that QWOCMAP honors the earth and beings on it, it through reducing our environmental impact, including Zero Waste protocols for our programs.
As QWOCMAP grows, we continue our steadfast commitment to sustainable and earth-friendly practices by recycling and composting during all of our programs, especially for the duration of our three-day Film Festival. For almost a decade, we have maintained an average of 97% diversion rate, the “trash” comes from what the audience brings in with them.
QWOCMAP provides re-usable or compostable utensils, cups, plates, and napkins so that we can move toward zero waste. We use compostable cups at our Water Station. We do not serve bottled water (as per SF Department of the Environment regulations), or use vessels with BPA or other endocrine disruptors. We encourage everyone to bring their own containers made from stainless steel, glass, or other materials.
Please help us uphold our commitment to a sustainable and healthy environment by following disposal protocols.
As environmental injury and severe chemical sensitivity increase, it is important that we examine the intersection of environmental justice and disability justice. Please refer to the “Environmental Injury” section.
As people of color, we are environmentally at-risk every day.
Our communities disproportionately bear the burden of environmental injustice, and this has an intense impact on our health and our bodies.
We have less access to healthy foods, clean water, and sustainable energy. Affordable housing can be filled with pests, molds, and chemicals. As workers, we deal with toxic cleaning products, artificial nail & polish fumes in salons, hair dyes & straightening relaxers, high volatile organic compound (VOC) paint & wood stains, pesticides & lawn chemicals, off gassing electronics, fossil fuel exhaust, and synthetic oils. And our neighborhoods are sometimes built upon radiation, or military and industrial pollution.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), or Environmental Illness or Chemical Injury, is a chronic condition in which a person develops adverse symptoms from exposure to chemicals in their environment. Soap, body products (lotion, deodorant, perfume/body spray), hair products (gel, oils), smoke, petrochemicals, and even “natural” products (essential oils, incense) can create a chemical cloud that does lasting damage to people.
It is important to note that most chemicals and fragrances are potentially harmful to ANYONE, not just a person with MCS. However, a chemically sensitive person may react in ways that are more severe, debilitating, and prolonged.
Migraines, headaches, breathing difficulties, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, drowsiness, and irritation to the mouth, throat, skin, and eyes are some of the potential reactions that chemically injured people sustain when exposed to certain chemicals. Shutting down of the lungs, seizures, fatigue, confusion, liver and kidney damage, and other illness, may require hospitalization (where further exposure to chemicals may occur).
Use of fragrances and damaging chemicals causes harm and makes people sick.
For QWOCMAP, we strive for disability justice. We work to create Fragrance Free spaces that allow everyone to participate.
We appreciate feedback and loving support from Billie Rain, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Devi Vadiya, and Patty Berne as well as the members of Sick and Disabled Queers for People of Color, Two-Spirits Facebook group.
QWOCMAP believes that food nourishes bodyminds and souls.
Oppression has impacted what and how we eat.
Throughout history, our communities have developed recipes using a variety of ingredients to create dishes that would sustain us. We acknowledge the value of foods developed out of hardship. While we strive to decolonize our foods and substitute components that are now deemed “healthier,” we accept the historical variation of our food as vital to our cultural heritage and memories. We do not vilify these foods as unhealthy.
We acknowledge that our traditional foods also face gentrification, and that often “slow food” and home-cooked meals can be inaccessible. The “elevation” of our foods, as they become food industry or “health” trends, means that formerly affordable food items are now expensive and inaccessible. Yet these ingredients are still healthy, nutritious, and delicious.
As our traditional foods move out of our reach, dietary restrictions based on religion, allergies, access, cooking, or storage capabilities mean that we have less access to foods that we enjoy or that nourish our bodies and souls. More “affordable” food items are often the most processed and can be the most unhealthy. Many of our neighborhoods suffer from food apartheid, lacking basic affordable healthy options that constitute food security. This is injustice.
In celebration of the vital role that food plays in our communities, QWOCMAP offers nutritional support and receptions during our programs.
We honor the sacredness of food at our events by paying special attention to food quality. Our formal nutrition policy outlines a variety of whole, unprocessed foods that include organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and allergen-free options whenever possible. Our procedures prevent cross-contamination of non-vegan items or allergens. We strive to provide foods that speak to our multiple cultures, traditions, and delicious heritages.
These working agreements have been collectively developed by QWOCMAP volunteers, participants, and Community Partners to guide our work together. Everyone that is working with QWOCMAP can add to and revise these agreements.
Art & social justice activism need love and joy.
Community building needs compassion and a sense of humor. Great work makes you amazing, badass, chingonx, and sexy.
We’re doing powerful work!
Be responsible and accountable
Arrive on time.
Call IF you will be late, BEFORE you are already late.
Let everyone know if you cannot make it to a meeting/shift. If you need to miss a meeting/shift, call to check in.
If you have already missed a meeting/shift, call to check in. Speak up about your own needs.
If you have a good idea:
Take the lead and follow through to make it happen. Communicate with all interested parties BEFORE taking action.
Be patient and understanding, especially when initiating new projects.
Be aware that if you drop the ball, someone else has to pick it up.
Follow through and do it!
If you can’t, let people know and help find someone who can. Ask for support when you need it.
Distinguish between the intent and impact of your words.
Distinguish between your curiosity and another person’s comfort.
Use collaborative non-violent communication that is non-blaming and non- defensive.
Use “I” statements, e.g. “I felt when I heard ” to address universal human needs.
“I feel vulnerable” NOT “I feel that you…” or “I’m sorry that you…”
Make productive and constructive comments. Ideas and responses are important.
Be respectful and inclusive in your language and actions.
Constructive criticism & comments
Trust the process and the team.
When offering a critique, also present a solution. Be upfront and communicate directly.
Complaint cliques destroy trust & hurt the morale of the whole team. Negative gossip hurts QWOCMAP and our community.
We value your intuition, experience, and voice, and we encourage feedback that will help QWOCMAP grow and thrive.
One person speaks at a time. Be brief so everyone can speak.
Be conscious about taking up space.
Be aware of how much or how little you speak.
Clear the air to address hurt and anger.
Oppression exists in all spaces, so be mindful of power-privilege dynamics.
Check-in with yourself and others about group and individual dynamics.
QWOCMAP gives communities of people that do not typically have a voice in mainstream media a chance to nd their voice and be heard. QWOCMAP opens doors. And those of us that have somehow managed to be so lucky to make it in are opening up more doors.
Kristin Wygal works for NBC Universal in Los Angeles. In her commitment to diversify the industry, she also hired another QWOCMAP filmmaker, Caroline Le, who subsequently moved on to pursue other work. Kristin emphasizes the importance of QWOCMAP’s mission and programs with these words:
“To say QWOCMAP changed my life is a grossly clichéd understatement, but I’m saying it anyways—QWOCMAP changed my life. Enrolling in QWOCMAP’s video production workshop and making my first short film back in 2003 changed the course of my career, shifting my focus to entertainment. Having now been in the industry for well over a decade, I see first-hand the continued importance of QWOCMAP. There is still a dearth of women, LGBTQ, and people of color content makers as well as executives within studios and networks making the decisions that shape content and the stories that are told. Diversity of perspective is so important—now more than ever. Whether you’re making a sci-fi film or a multi-cam sitcom, we draw from what we know. If everyone in the room is the same, it affects how content is made, how content is consumed and marketed, and, more importantly, if that content gets made at all. Those of us who have come out of QWOCMAP have gone on to be producers, writers, directors, executives, and have continued the commitment to bring more voices forward. There are so many stories that have yet to be told, so many fresh ways of telling old stories that have yet to be discovered, and, thanks to QWOCMAP, we have a chance to one day watch them all.”
I recently became a recipient of a Princess Grace Award in Film and I think that has so much to do with how QWOCMAP is able to shape artists and lmmakers to tell their own truth and to believe in their work. Those are very powerful lessons to learn.
Candy Guinea is a graduate student at CSU San Francisco, studying to obtain her MFA in cinema. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in feminist studies in 2007 and began working as a case manager for a nonprofit.
“Both my parents are immigrants,” she explains. “My mother emigrated from Mexico in the 1970s and my father and his family fled the civil war in El Salvador in 1980. I wanted to do something that made a difference in the immigrant community.” Candy tells how she came to take her first filmmaking workshop at QWOCMAP. “I loved the film festivals and all the wonderful volunteers and talented filmmakers I met. I volunteered for several years and I kept admiring the filmmakers and their work. They would “ tell me, ‘You can be a filmmaker too! Just sign up for the workshop.’ I never really believed that I could actually make a film. I had no filmmaking experience, I never considered myself an ‘artist,’ and I had no technical expertise whatsoever. Finally, I signed up and made my first film, Life y Pozole. Thanks to QWOCMAP’s work in distribution, my film screened at several film festivals.” Candy talks about the impact of that first workshop: “I am still very much grounded in all of the lessons I learned. The concept that the more personal your work is the more relatable it is, that as queer people of color there is so much power in creating our own narratives, these are lessons that deeply influence my vision as a filmmaker and artist. I think because I am so grounded C in these lessons the films that I’ve created in film school have been successful in their own right.” Reflecting on the role QWOCMAP has played in her life: “There is so much I feel like I owe to QWOCMAP. After making my first film, I decided to completely shift my career. While I appreciated that I was making an impact on my community through my work with nonprofits, I often felt depleted and burnt out. After the success I had with my first film, I decided that I wanted to become a filmmaker.”
Having had that community of queer women of color filmmakers has been the foundation of my resolve to face the sexist, racist, and homophobic perspectives of the larger filmmaking community. It is very easy to become lost within the confines of one’s present world, and I always think back to QWOCMAP to find my way back to me.
Christine Liang first heard of QWOCMAP from founder Madeleine Lim, both active in the Bay Area Asian American lesbian and bisexual women’s community for many years. In the spring of 2006, she took her first QWOCMAP workshop. “Learning to write, storyboard, cast, shoot, and edit a five-minute film in four months was a demanding and exhilarating experience,” she recalls. “I wanted to make a film that I wanted to watch. The images that reflected my reality existed in a very, very small space. Within a queer women of color film class, I felt that my vision would be embraced and that I wouldn’t have to explain myself or educate people about my existence, experience, and perspective. That first film was about a Chinese American lesbian romance. It was as much about representing myself as it was creating media with which I identified.” The class planted the seeds of Christine’s creativity and nurtured her artistic growth: “Without Madeleine’s consistent encouragement, I would not have finished the film. She and that class provided a space for me to believe in my creative ability. Ten years later, I am in my third year as an MFA directing student at UCLA on a path to becoming a professional filmmaker. This path is a huge risk for anyone, but especially for someone my age. I am 50 years old now and gave up a job with consistent paychecks and a pension for six figures of student debt and no guarantee of employment after graduation. However, my passion to create, to tell stories with authentic characters and deep motivations, outweighs the risks. This passion was ignited by the QWOCMAP training program. Since my first film with QWOCMAP, I have made four more short films. All of them have women, Asians/Asian Americans, other people of color, and lesbians as the main and supporting characters in some way. I will continue to give priority to these and other marginalized voices. Our realities need to be reflected back to us to give us a sense of place in the world.”