Catherine Delaloye: Film Festival Groundbreaker for Females

Jeff Unger|December 22, 2020|EMINUTES Arts

Byline: Mandy Ellis

Seeking but coming up empty, Catherine Delaloye decided that if she couldn’t find a place to show off her work or a filmmaker community with a variety of voices that was supportive and encouraging, she needed to blaze her own path. The award-winning filmmaker, and founder and executive director of Female Voices Rock (FVR) scaled the mountainous task of starting and running a film festival…and in just two short years it’s become one of the Top 100 Film Festivals in the World. Without placing a ton of limits on submissions and ensuring her team is as representative as possible of the real world, her festival works hard to show the gamut of the female experience through evocative and inclusive films.

EMINUTES, who recently provided a sponsorship to FVR, talked with Delaloye about how the festival stays diverse and inclusive, why it’s crucial not to silence female voices but instead amplify them, how she grew her dream into a 5,000-member community, and how she fosters connections to make industry changes for all who identify as women.

FVR’s mission from its start two years ago is to incite and inspire change to ensure every voice is heard and championed. How does this build a foundation of equality, but also ensure diversity and inclusion?

The most important thing to ensuring we’re inclusive and representative of the world is to make sure those voices are being heard. And that’s the only way we’re going to be able to build a foundation of equality is by not silencing people that for so long have been silenced. Listening to underrepresented voices is the only way to build a new world of equality. Allowing people to speak and have a voice and listen to them is the foundation because so many people are too afraid to speak and be themselves.

How does FVR’s Film Festival create a safe space for all women, including BIPOC and LGBTQIA+? 

I started the festival because as a woman, I couldn’t find not only a community, but enough opportunities that would allow me as a filmmaker to showcase my work. And I had multiple films and multiple film festivals and started realizing that there wasn’t that opportunity or willingness from programmers to showcase these works. Most of the programming teams are made up of white males, which would start filtering certain works out. So what I did is made sure our team is as representative of the kind of films and filmmakers we want to have…and that kind of environment that allows everyone to feel included and have a voice.

We don’t have a filter, which many festivals do, and we’re allowing all sorts of topics. And that’s one thing we’ve had reviews on is how you can truly see the different voices of women in all genres. That’s something I’m proud of because even female-focused film festivals sometimes focus on women issues or things that only affect a certain type, and a lot of it is white women issues. This year, the festival had many women of color directing the films, a lot of LGBTQ+ films, and we wanted to be open to everybody.

Why is it critical to shift the narrative for women and also incorporate diverse panelists and jury members?

Because it’s impossible to get a real look at what our world is without all those views; we’re basically projecting a fake view of our current society if we’re not allowing those voices to be heard. We’ve got to make a shift in order to represent our current modern world the way it really is. Telling a real story of humanity and what we’re going through, not from one single lens, but from a lot of lenses, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to tell a real story of what we’re all going through.

Walk me through how FVR isn’t only one of the Top 100 Film Festivals in the World that highlights strong, talented, unstoppable women, but a community that exists to support all who identify as women?

It started as a community with me getting filmmakers together and starting to offer opportunities like script readings. Then we grew and the film festival became a thing from the community. Now we have over 5,000 members in our main Facebook group where we support each other and if someone has a project, we post about and support it. We’re still very young, it’s only our second year, but hopefully we’ll continue to grow.

Why is it important to support festivals like FVR?

Because it’s impossible to continue without it. If you believe in underrepresented voices and you want to hear a different lens than what Hollywood is constantly feeding us, and want to support up-and-coming, great, emerging female talent, this is an opportunity to do it because I definitely can’t do it alone. As much as I can volunteer my time, it’s something built out of pure volunteers and people like me wanting to make a change and help others. 

What do FVR screenwriting competition winners receive? How does this raise up their stories and voices to be heard?

The screenwriting competition is a very new thing. We had the winning script read live, and we were able to get some pretty well-known actors, like Milo Manheim, to read. Every winner is going to meet our jury, which is our agents so hopefully that will lead to them getting signed. Our pilot winner already met with one of our agents and they’re in talks so hopefully that’ll lead to something since she’s also about to start filming her pilot.

Being able to connect them to industry people that could change their careers is another mission of why I started the festival because I’m a filmmaker and trying to knock on people’s doors was really difficult. As soon as I approached it from Female Voices Rock, suddenly I was able to get agents and everyone else interested in the writers and festival.

How does the EMINUTES sponsorship impact FVR? Any upcoming plans for the sponsorship?

EMINUTES came in as a block sponsor this year, which was great. The funds definitely helped us pay for some platform costs because going virtual is still very expensive. I’m really excited just to see our partnership grow and it’s been super great to have them approach me. It was awesome for them to be so willing to support an up-and-coming film festival and it helped cover a lot of our costs because it’s been tough to even make this happen this year.

You’re an award-winning director and filmmaker. How does this influence your selections for the film festival, and do you ever find yourself offering advice to up-and-coming female directors at the festival?

Yeah, I do have personal preferences in movies, but one thing I want to make sure is that I’m not the only one deciding on these films because personal preference always comes up. I’m happy we have five people involved in the final decision process. 

I’ve had a lot of filmmakers, especially during the festival, ask me for advice, but it’s a hard thing to give this year because no one really has a clue. I do find myself in that position, which I’m very grateful for, and I’ve won awards, but I’m still an up-and-coming director. It’s also been great to talk to all levels. Some people ask me for advice, and I’ve had a chance to ask advice from the incredible panelists, like Heather Rae, who’s a twice Academy Award-nominated producer who chatted with all of us. An exchange of information really is what Female Voices Rock has become.

When you’re not helping diverse female visionaries and rebels get their films screened, running one of the top film festivals on the planet, or creating your own films, who are you and what are you doing?

I’m a dog mom who grew up in Switzerland, and I have two amazing shih tzus that are very spoiled. I volunteer at animal shelters, and my life has always been about helping and opening doors for others. I love to bake and exercise and honestly, every extra minute I have, I spend with my dogs. I started meditating a lot because this festival was one of the most intense experiences of my life. We did it for seven days straight while most film festivals only go for like two days.

I’ve lived in multiple countries my whole life, which is why I have such an interest in bringing out different stories because I’ve been in so many different cultures and had to learn to adapt. I feel like there’s so much beauty in all parts of the world that I wish more people would be aware of. Maybe that’s where this stems from just being in many different cultures and growing up in many different countries. 

What should we look out for from FVR in the coming years beyond 2020’s 70 fantastic films, 20 panels, and 40 filmmaker Q&As? 

It’s hard to plan whether we’re going to have a live or virtual festival, but one thing that’s for sure is working on our Pitch Fest, which is going to hopefully connect filmmakers with executives and producers. I’m going to put together a strong panel where filmmakers can pitch their projects to them. And I’m hoping to continue having monthly workshop panels the whole year to keep people engaged.

What advice would you give to aspiring female filmmakers, especially BIPOC and LGBTQIA+?

This is your time and people are starting to truly listen and you have to keep going. It might sound cliche, but you have to keep going and if you have stories that are worth telling and that you’re passionate about, find a way to tell them.

BIO: Catherine Delaloye is the founder and executive director of Female Voices Rock, which works to increase diverse female presence in TV and film, in New York City. She’s also an award-winning filmmaker: Best Director, Best Film (Los Angeles Film Awards); Finalist (Screencraft Screenwriting Awards); Best Director (Wreak Havok Film Festival); Screenplay Award (International Honolulu Film Festival and International Los Angeles Film Festival).

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