Women and men gathered on top of Old Town Newhall’s parking structure Thursday for an evening of drinks and recognition of local leaders in the film industry as part of Zonta’s women’s film festival, Lunafest.
“We identified this need in Santa Clarita, were women who wanted to get in the film industry behind the scenes,” said Zonta chair Francine Fiel. “It’s a hard industry to break into, and so we rounded up women who are successful in either their company or as high-level executives, and we are honoring them and having them talk with younger women on how to get into and thrive in the industry.”
A large percentage of filming in Los Angeles County is filmed in the Santa Clarita Valley, and there’s an untapped market here for women to get involved in the industry, she added.
Zonta member Patrice Rifkind said the reception for Lunafest is a way to acknowledge the women who’ve had to struggle and triumph to get where they are now, and the second part, is to host a panel discussion with young women as well as showcase films by women for women.
“Lunafest has been sold out for weeks now,” said Rifkind. “The focus is about how to get in and get ahead in the film industry for women. We’ll be recognizing women for their work in the industry in all different kinds of film areas.”
Zonta is an international nonprofit dedicated to the empowerment of women. The chapter in the SCV was founded in 1974 to advance the status of women and girls locally, and beyond, according to Rifkind.
Monica Harrison, president and owner of L.A. Film Locations, was among 11 honorees. Her company, founded in 2003, provides location services for filmmakers.
“I actually hesitated to enter the film industry because I have a lot of family members in it,” Harrison said. “There was a dire need for a good location service back then, and I was convinced to start one.”
She described the film industry as male-dominated, and although there has been an increase in women, it’s still tough. Harrison said she was honored to be among those recognized at the event.
Gloria Mercado-Fortine, a 30-year member of Zonta, said the nonprofit assists many women in the community.
“Film is a powerful tool for storytelling,” Mercado-Fortine said. “Women can tell their stories, especially in those areas that we’re interested in telling — whether it’s its domestic violence or issues that women are faced with.”
Zonta’s Women in Film Conference continues on Saturday at the College of the Canyons University Center from 9 a.m. to noon. Organizers will screen two to three films and host a panel discussion with five of their honorees.