Member Focus: Melissa Silverstein

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As the saying goes: if you want success, see a need and fill it. That’s what NYWIFT member Melissa Silverstein has done with her popular blog Women and Hollywood.

It was 2007 and not many people were writing about women who work in the male-dominated film industry. To fill that void, Silverstein launched a blog, a new format to her, and one that took a while for people to notice. “I felt like I was talking to myself half the time,” says Silverstein.

Fast-forward a few short years and today, Women and Hollywood attracts close to 10,000 readers each week.

Silverstein says the blog is the greatest job she has ever had. “I love it. I can put my ideas out there and people respond immediately. I’m glad to be part of something as it’s happening, as people are talking about these issues.”

Despite her efforts, Silverstein says not much has changed in Hollywood. “There have been incrementally small shifts for women behind the scenes,” she says, but points out that there hasn’t been a visible increase in women-directed films. That number is almost the same as in 1998.

In front of the camera, women haven’t faired much better. “Women are still a small minority on screen,” she adds.

Silverstein sees the Women and Hollywood format as part of a broader discussion about the difficulties women face in general. “I describe it as pushing a pebble up a hill against a boulder coming down—push, push, go around, go underneath, do everything you can.”

Her blog has become a treasure trove of information about women’s issues, and led her to write a well-received new book, In Her Voice: Women Directors Talk Directing. Silverstein is already working on volume two — single-handedly making a dent in a subject dominated by books on male directors.

And that’s not all Silverstein is currently up to. She also co-created the Athena Film Festival with Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College. Just completing its third year, the festival celebrates women and leadership in the film industry, whether in front of or behind the camera. Four thousand people attended the February 2013 festival, up from 3,300 in 2012. Silverstein calls it a great opportunity to stimulate conversation about women’s leadership in society.

That’s also a role she sees for New York Women in Film & Television. “It’s a body, it has members, it can take positions,” she says. “Women in Hollywood are basically a constituency without representation. Someone has to step up and lead.” Many NWIFT members join the organization to take an active role in advocacy for women in the film and television industry.

Silverstein points out that the issue is not just one for women in the industry. “I think about the kids watching TV shows; I think about my nieces and nephews. I want them to have great role models for their future; I want people to think female-centric works are just as worthy as men’s.” — MIMI SPILLANE, NYWIFT member (@mimispillane)

NYWIFT Blog readers can take advantage of an exclusive discount offer to download the ebook of Melissa Silverstein’s In Her Voice: Women Directors Talk Directing by using code IHV-DISC at checkout.

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