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  • Writer's pictureAlina Fridman

Women in Film: The Rise of City of Angels Women's Film Festival in Hollywood

In the heart of Los Angeles, where glitzy premieres and star-studded events are the norm, a new movement is taking center stage. Led by Lisa K. Crosato, an accomplished actress, writer, and producer originally from Vancouver, Canada, City of Angels Women's Film Festival emerges not just as an event but as a revolution. Having previously acted in numerous independent films and tasting success with her film "KENMORE AVE" at Cannes, Lisa's foray into the labyrinth of the entertainment industry was marked by her relentless pursuit of recognition for women's voices in film. With the festival, Lisa stands at the forefront, rewriting Hollywood's narrative one film at a time.


Lisa K. Crosato

The Spark Behind the Screen: Lisa K. Crosato's Vision for Celebrating Women


Imagine, for a moment, the bustling streets of Los Angeles. Neon lights, iconic palm trees, and the famed Hollywood sign shimmering under the California sun. Amidst this dreamscape, Lisa perceived a gap – a missing spotlight that should have been shining brightly on the talented women of film.


Having been mentored by famed screenwriter, Mardik Martin, and with several accolades under her belt, Lisa's commitment to championing underrepresented voices was unwavering. "City of Angels Women's Film Festival was inspired by wanting to create a platform for women," she shared with conviction. "To nurture a community where people could come together and celebrate diverse women's stories." This sentiment, drawn from her rich experience in the film industry, resonated deeply.


Embarking on this ambitious venture in 2019, Lisa faced the dual challenges of a fresh start and the global onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a presence on FilmFreeway, the standard platform for festivals, or even a website to begin with, the situation seemed daunting. Yet, Lisa's resourcefulness and vast network in the film industry shone through.


She approached prominent women she'd interacted with over her career, either through direct work or familiarity with their artistic achievements. Alison Eastwood was not only a notable name she drew in, but Eastwood Ranch also stepped up as a sponsor. Another substantial name that aligned with Lisa's vision was Elisabet Ronaldsdottir, renowned for her editing prowess in major action films such as John Wick and Atomic Blonde. This revelation brought to light a significant point: one of the most influential editors in the action film genre is a woman, an accolade not widely acknowledged.


These alliances and the festival's mission became even clearer with such influential figures backing Lisa's initiative. It underscores a pivotal message: women, both in front of and behind the camera, are accomplishing remarkable feats in the film industry. Their achievements, often overshadowed, deserve recognition and celebration.


Seizing Control: The Dawn of Women’s Empowerment in Filmmaking


The buzz around town? It’s change. The crescendo of women in film taking the reins, and ensuring their vision isn't lost in translation. “Women are aware now that they need to control content,” Lisa commented, setting the tone for a conversation that's been a long time coming. We're not just talking about a cursory presence on the set or screen, but a holistic involvement – writing, directing, and producing. The whole shebang.


"This isn't about sidelining or competing. It's about having an equal seat at the table. And if the table is full? Well, women like Lisa are teaching us to build our own."

She went on, “It starts with the writing.” Ah, the alchemy of creating stories! The birthplace of all cinema. It's at this nascent stage where the narrative takes shape, where the first inklings of the plot unfurl. But if this is where it begins, surely those who pen the stories should have a say in how they're translated on screen?


The industry is in the midst of an exhilarating transformation. Just glance at the big movie of the year - the much-anticipated Barbie movie. Under the directorial prowess of Greta Gerwig and brought to life by Margot Robbie, it exemplifies the shift. And let's not forget, Margot didn’t just grace the screen, she produced it. Lisa's words resonated deeply when she pointed out, "Producing is also a very creative endeavor." A sentiment that breaks the stereotype that production is solely logistical.


There's an empowering momentum building. Women in film are no longer waiting for the spotlight to find them. They’re creating it, shaping it, and ensuring it reflects their true essence. "More and more women are realizing that rather than wait for the phone to ring, if you're an actor, people are just saying, 'I'm making my own project, I'm going to do it’,” Lisa remarked. This is the evolution of empowerment in the entertainment industry – learning, adapting, and taking charge.


This isn't about sidelining or competing. It's about having an equal seat at the table. And if the table is full? Well, women like Lisa are teaching us to build our own. Now, isn't that exciting?


Navigating Disruption: The Current Landscape of the Entertainment Industry

The glitz and glamour of Hollywood often overshadow the struggles of those who make it all possible. The writers, the actors, the behind-the-scenes artisans. When the whispers of a writer’s and actor’s strike started echoing, the spotlight turned to a darker corner of the industry – a simmering cauldron of discontent.


“It’s a fight of the ages,” Lisa says, her tone weighted with the gravity of the situation. As both a SAG AFTRA actress and a writer, she stands at the crossroads of this transformative moment. While she holds her cards close, speaking of the intricate details of the disagreements, her main focus remains clear: “We cannot allow these major powerhouse production companies and studios to treat the actors the way they have.” It’s about respect. It’s about fair treatment.


But the strike isn’t the only undercurrent of change. The dawning age of Artificial Intelligence brings another wave of uncertainty, especially for the entertainment world. “It’s scary,” Lisa admits. In an era where one’s image, one’s very essence, could be replicated, reused, and recycled, the line between innovation and exploitation blurs. “Nobody should be able to take your image and continually use it as they want for their own financial betterment without your approval, without your consent, and without remuneration,” she says, driving home the point with conviction. It's a sentiment that resonates deeply in a world rapidly advancing technologically.


This isn’t just about actors and writers; it's a reflection of the broader societal transformations we're grappling with. The challenge? Navigating the tumultuous currents of change while ensuring the dignity, rights, and creativity of individuals remain untarnished. And as the industry goes on this daunting journey, pioneers like Lisa serve as the compass, ensuring we never lose sight of what truly matters – the heart, soul, and authentic voices of those who tell our stories.


The Power of Inclusivity: Celebrating Diversity in the Heart of Hollywood

The evolution of the film industry isn't just about the actors or writers; it's also about the festivals, platforms, and communities that amplify these voices. After all, what's a story if it isn't heard or seen?


"It's a testament to the idea that every story, no matter how small or big, young or old, has its place under the spotlight."

Returning to the heart of the matter, City of Angels Women’s Film Festival stands as a beacon of hope in the tumultuous landscape of Hollywood. “For me, it’s about celebrating creativity at all stages of life,” Lisa shares, her eyes brightening up at the mention of the 93-year-old filmmaker whose documentary "The Nine O’clock Whistle" encapsulates a poignant chapter of the Civil Rights Movement. This is the heart of the festival: giving a platform to diverse voices and stories, regardless of age or background.


While the festival is centered around amplifying female voices, it's more inclusive than one might initially realize. "We do have male filmmakers,” Lisa clarifies, “provided they feature women or have female protagonists.” Diversity, it appears, takes on multiple dimensions at the festival, not only championing women of all ages but also embracing the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a collective growth, bringing together stories from students to seasoned filmmakers, all under one canopy of inclusivity.


Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Lisa, clearly brimming with excitement, hints at a stellar line-up. "We have Cathy Tyson flying in from the UK and Penelope Ann Miller gracing us with their presence. Both will be honored with the Angel award," she reveals. The mention of Tom Holland, renowned for classic horror films like "Fright Night" and "Child’s Play," promises a diverse genre representation. And while Lisa teases more surprises on the horizon, she doesn't leave us completely in suspense. Partnerships with industry giants like Adobe, Shout! Studios, and a collaboration with Deadline Hollywood underscore the festival's growing significance.

In a world often overwhelmed by big studio names and star-studded events, City of Angels Women's Film Festival is an embodiment of passion, purpose, and community. It's a testament to the idea that every story, no matter how small or big, young or old, has its place under the spotlight. And Lisa, with her unwavering commitment, ensures that the festival remains a platform where these narratives don't just survive, but thrive.


Beyond the Curtain: Crafting a Year-Round Celebration of Female Filmmakers


For Lisa and her team, City of Angels Women's Film Festival isn't a mere annual event, but a perpetual rhythm of celebration, appreciation, and recognition. The period from November 9th to 12th may be the focal climax, but the symphony begins much earlier. "We're active all year round," Lisa states, illustrating the continual outreach and support the festival provides for female filmmakers. The festival's social media spotlight on "Female Filmmaker Friday," echoes the organization’s commitment, amplifying the stories and achievements of influential women in the entertainment industry week after week.


Choosing which films to spotlight during the festival itself, however, is a nuanced process that calls for discernment. "The narrative is essential," Lisa begins, emphasizing the importance of the subject matter. However, she's quick to point out that storytelling and the craft of filmmaking go hand in hand. A movie could be centered around a pertinent feminist theme, but if the technical execution doesn't measure up or if the performances fall flat, the film won't make the cut. Excellence, for Lisa and her team, lies in the harmony between message and medium.


That's not to say the festival's repertoire is sternly serious. A genuine appreciation for levity shines through as Lisa explains, "We love films that can make us laugh." Comedy, in her view, isn't just a genre but an art form in itself. In a world brimming with stories, those that can bring laughter while maintaining a high caliber of craftsmanship are especially cherished.


In terms of prevailing themes, Lisa paints a diverse picture. The echoes of the pandemic certainly resonated in past submissions, with many filmmakers grappling with the realities of COVID. But as we inch further away from the pandemic's apex, these topics seem to be receding, giving way to an array of creative narratives. "There's a rich tapestry of themes this year," Lisa observes. "It's hard to pin down one overarching trend, but the originality and quality remain consistent."


Lisa's observations and insights provide a glimpse into the inner workings of the festival — a dance between preserving artistic integrity, promoting inclusivity, and fostering genuine talent. It's evident that for City of Angels Women's Film Festival, the celebration of stories isn't just an event; it's a commitment.


Red Carpets and Global Aspirations: Amplifying Cinema's Unsung Voices

In the world of cinema, success isn't solely about a well-executed script or masterful cinematography. It's about the moments of celebration that acknowledge these achievements. The Red-Carpet Awards Gala at City of Angels Women's Film Festival encapsulates this sentiment. For Lisa, it's a symbolic culmination of hard work, talent, and passion. "It's crucial to recognize and celebrate our successes," she asserts, painting a vivid picture of the elegant event. From the red carpet's glitz to complimentary champagne toasts and stellar entertainment, the gala is not just about celebrating cinema, but the people behind it.


City of Angel's Film Festival Awards

Yet, the festival's ambition doesn't end at Hollywood's doorstep. As Lisa shares her vision for the future, it's clear that the festival has global aspirations. A key figure in this international vision is


Paul DuBois, an old childhood friend, who pursued a career as a theatre director in London's prestigious West End. Later, he established UK-based company, Apropos Productions. "One of my goals is to build a bridge between LA and London," Lisa explains, underscoring the shared language and equally high creative standards of both regions.


BAFTA award-winning actresses and filmmakers have already joined the festival's mission, including Lisa Marie Russo, head of the new BFI Doc Society Fund for documentaries, and award-winning producer Rosa Bosch from Spain. "The European and UK component is growing," Lisa mentions, emphasizing her goal to further strengthen this international bridge. While celebrating international filmmakers is paramount, the festival also recognizes local talent with awards like the Community Filmmaker Award, supported by Dream Magic Studios, exclusive for LA-based artists.


Lisa's recommendation for budding filmmakers is direct: "Visit our website and consider submitting your work." The sense of urgency is palpable, with upcoming deadlines looming. She's eager to see fresh talent take center stage. An acknowledgment of the festival's growing reputation concludes our conversation. As one of the top 100 best-reviewed festivals globally, according to FilmFreeway, City of Angels Women's Film Festival stands as a testament to the relentless pursuit of excellence and the commitment to spotlighting female talent.


As our conversation draws to a close, Lisa's passion remains evident. Behind every film showcased and every award conferred, there's a story waiting to be told. City of Angels Women's Film Festival ensures that these narratives don't just find an audience, but also get the celebration they deserve.


 

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