Borscht’s "No Bro Zone" Funding Model Encourages Female Filmmakers

Borscht filmmaker Jillian Mayer.
Borscht filmmaker Jillian Mayer.
Jillian Mayer

If you have ever dabbled in the business of motion pictures or taken a college course on film, then you know women are underrepresented in the movie industry. That's why the Borscht Corporation, a nonprofit organization created by filmmakers, is doing more than simply encouraging female filmmakers to create. They’re launching a “No Bro Zone” female filmmaking revolution right here in Miami.

"All funding/support for female-driven Borscht Diez projects will be determined exclusively by women on the Borscht team," the organization announced this week.

Each year, Borscht inspires filmmakers of all genders to apply for grants to help them create a project either filmed in Miami, that is about Miami, or that features something related to Miami. According to Borscht, depending on the artist and nature of the project, filmmakers may be eligible for a cash grant, full production support, and/or other considerations.

However, Borscht is hardly a traditional filmmaking nonprofit. Just looking at its website, you can see it's a community of artists who aren’t afraid of breaking from the norm. “Local filmmakers created Borscht in response to the lack of regional infrastructure and support, empowering artists to tell fresh Miami stories,” the group says.

The Borscht crew realized it needed to do more to support women filmmakers when it received an email from one female artist seeking funding for her film. 

“The only funding sources I have in my Rolodex are men," she wrote. "I appreciate and love them dearly, but I’m pretty sure none of them have ever seen a tampon in their life. This is a bittersweet dilemma because this is what my animation is essentially about— this kind of dependency. I am wondering if you know any female driven funding/granting sources so I don’t have to ask these bros for money.”

It was then that Borscht realized they needed to change not only the way they encouraged women to apply for grants, but the manner in which the grants were chosen. “We’ve revamped our process so that funding/support for all female-led projects will be determined exclusively by women, and doubled down our funding for their projects,” they said. "We thought it was extra important to create a ‘No Bro Zone’ where female artists would feel safe to get weird.”

According to research conducted by the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film run by San Diego State University, major film festivals run an average of five narrative features directed by at least one woman, versus an average of 18 narrative features directed exclusively by men. Furthermore, women in festivals, such as Sundance Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival, and AFI Fest, accounted for just 25 percent of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers.

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Even in an industry full of independent films and film festivals, the disparity between men and women is apparent. But Borscht aims to be different. “While it's not an explicit part of our mission, as a female-led organization that supports many female filmmakers (for instance, 40 percent of the narrative shorts directed by women at SXSW 2013 were Borscht projects), we want to put an emphasis on the importance of this,” they said in an electronic news release.

Projects that are accepted will be created for the next Borscht Film Festival that will be held in the winter of 2016-2017. Applying is free, but before you apply, make sure to check out http://borsc.ht to see if your project is a good fit for their team. Grants will be administered on a rolling basis until July 1, 2016. 


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