When Women in Film calls, Hollywood likes to answer. WIF supports charities that can’t afford their own PSAs by corralling showbiz folk to donate their time and filmmaking talent.
“Organizations that promote the lives of women and children are the kinds of charities we look for,” says WIF president Jane Fleming. “We have a committee of about 150. Every November we invite the charities to a pitch night. WIF funds it along with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.”
Five charities make the final cut. Then volunteer crews of female producers, directors, cinematographers, editors and writers do the creative bits. “They all work together to come up with how they want to do the piece,” says Fleming. “The committee approves it. The charity weighs in. It’s shot.”
The editors, directors and cinematographers come from all areas of showbiz — television news, lifestyle television, feature films. The biggest demand for many of these film professionals is the narrative format of PSAs and getting that message across in a 60-second spot, a 30-second spot, a 15-second spot. Rewarding stuff for sure. But challenging nonetheless.
For Rachel Eisengart, editing the “City Ballet of Los Angeles” PSA was a doubly tricky task. Eisengart’s day job is with Lifetime’s broadband department editing videos for MyLifetime.com. “I’m used to working in shortform, but this was definitely a challenge. And where most PSAs are an actor or a narrator speaking to camera, this is more of a narrative approach,” she says. The script’s storyline: A young girl has a passion for ballet. Her grandmother, who was once a ballerina, enrolls her in the City Ballet of L.A. She helps her granddaughter bring her dream alive.
“You see this girl as a 7-year-old starting classes, and by the end of the 60-second piece, she is a young woman dancing for the City Ballet of L.A.,” says Eisengart. “It was a challenge bringing the story to life in 60 seconds. It was even more of a challenge to bring it to life in 30 seconds and keeping in all the main story points. We (also) did a few 15 and 10-second pieces.” It wasn’t Eisengart’s first PSA, but working with WIF was definitely “a cool partnership.”
Regina Davis, editor of the “Gang Alternatives Program,” came in on the back end of this PSA. “It had already been shot and they were looking for an editor to put it together for online.”
The spot features a Latino girl going through her day in the inner city. “She has these old pair of sneakers she decides to paint pink,” says Davis. “It’s a young girl trying to avoid the gangs. She wants to be a kid. And she keeps her books nearby. At the end it shows her in her graduation outfit and her pink sneakers are now pink pumps.
“I’ve been in entertainment news for 20 years. I’ve edited hundreds of three-minute movies at ‘Entertainment Tonight.’ I sit down with a script and I piece it together. The next morning you’re watching my work. It’s like a factory what I do,” says Davis. “To do this PSA, to see all that time invested in creating a 30-second spot, a 60-second spot — it took six months to get it to completion from the point of when I came in. I had to learn patience. But this was about being creative. And I thought that was cool.”