Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project
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.”