The Archer Film Festival is celebrating its fifth year this week, and they continue to work towards their admirable goal of of making women a part of the conversation in the world of filmmaking from a young age. According to their website,
The Archer Film Festival is a high school student film festival dedicated to empowering female filmmakers. Our goal is not to exclude men, but rather to include women. As a result, the festival is open to all high school student filmmakers.
It’s an admirable goal, and the project seems to be really taking off, as they landed a big fish for their keynote speaker this year: J.J. Abrams. On Wednesday evening, Abrams met with the group of ambitious teens for a lecture and Q&A, leading the Star Wars: The Force Awakens filmmaker to drop some excellent words of wisdom on the crowd.
On top of championing the arts and encouraging those who feel like they must share their voice turn their words into action, he also specifically addressed the expansion of female roles in the Star Wars universe.
“She [producer Kathleen Kennedy] and I talked [at] that very first meeting about this young woman who would be at the center of this story. It was a very clear thing for the both of us, and it was just this instinctive thing. It helped to have incredible producers [like] Kathy, who’s a woman and is [at the] forefront of this: trying to make sure [women] are behind and in front of the camera.”
Representation for women and people of color has been a hot button topic in Hollywood these days, and Abrams addressed the importance of getting a wide range of voices out there head on.
“I think [representation is] something that people need to see,” he emphasized. “That there’s a benefit to voices not just of women, but people of color and people that are typically not as well-represented.”
He also shared an anecdote about working with director Mike Nichols and how Nichols showed him the importance of believing that your voice matters. However, Abrams was quick to emphasize that while words and ideas are critical, taking real action is the biggest step.
“But wherever the inspiration comes from, when the inspiration comes, I think the most important thing is action,” he said. “And figuring out a way to trust yourself enough and know that your voice is important enough and that you should express it.”