Meet the Women Who Are Revolutionizing the Film Industry

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Women are taking the production industry today by storm—holding positions in all roles, including film directors, actresses, cinematographers, film producers, film critics, and other film industry professions.

ProductionHUB spotlighted a few of these incredible women to discuss how they broke into the industry, why they love what they do and how they continuously inspire other women to pave the way for their own careers.

Kristen Robertiello is the owner and head stylist of KR Wardrobe Design. She began her fashion career in New York City and have since traveled nation-wide to style celebrities, commercials, print advertisement and more. She currently resides in New Jersey where she's featured on local television segments and in magazine spreads as an expert in her field as a production and personal stylist. On Instagram, she loves to share fashion inspiration and trends as a brand ambassador. 

Where you can find her:

Jacqui Blue is a filmmaker, hypnotherapist and writer raising her five sons in Southern California. She has a lifetime background in theater and writing. After leaving an abusive marriage she put herself through film school, moved across the country and released her first film in 2014, Beautiful Births. She was then one of 10 Directors selected by James Franco for his Master Class, "Sex Scenes". She went on to work with Jared Padalecki & T.O.N.E-z in her suicide awareness documentary, I Chose Life. In 2016 T.O.N.E-z hired her to co-write, direct and edit a passion project of his. In 2019 she was invited to be a judge on the Directing Change Suicide Prevention panel and has been a contributing author to Film Inquiry since 2016.

Where you can find her:

Jillian Clare has worked both in front of and behind the camera and has graced the big and small screens in numerous projects. She is best known from her double award-winning portrayal of pre-teen ‘Abby Deveraux’ on NBC’s Days of our Lives and as ‘Haley Ferguson’ on the hit Nickelodeon Victorious film, Freak the Freak Out. She has appeared in films including The Kitchen, alongside Bryan Greenberg and Laura Prepon, the recently released faith-based holiday feature, By God’s Grace and a starring role in Alien Abduction by famed producers Lawrence Bender and Mike Fleiss for IFC—their highest grossing film to date. Most recently, Clare stepped behind the camera for her directorial debut on the feature film To The Beat!  (2018) and for the sequel, To The Beat! Back 2 School  (March 2020),  making her one of the only female directors to helm both films in a series. In addition to her career, Clare is an outspoken environmentalist and activist. She has been an ambassador  for several causes over the course of her career, including Ape Action, St. Baldrick's Foundation and Starlight Children's Foundation. In 2018, Clare launched her own holiday event called "Joy of Giving," benefiting charities for both animals and humans.

Where you can find her:

Jenna Segal is a Tony Award-winning producer and founder of Segal NYC, which develops and produces
theater, digital content, television and film using an impact investment strategy to incentivize parity in
the top ranks of creative teams. To date, Segal’s productions have received 17 Tony nominations and 12
Drama Desk nominations and most importantly to Segal, her last two producing credits have recouped
their investment and are revenue positive. In January Jenna’s OP-ED “Awards are Nice, Checks Better”
was published by THE WRAP, generating discussion around the misaligned importance of awards
systems that fail to recognize women. Today, Segal serves as a trustee of the American Ballet Theater (ABT) and is the Champion Supporter of ABT Women’s Movement, which provides means for the creation, exploration and staging of new works by female choreographers. The organization is set to honor Jenna in fall 2020 for her generous support. Jenna Segal has been featured in multiple publications, including Variety, the Star Ledger, the Bergen Record and the Wall Street Journal. She received the 2015 Women of Achievement Award by the WP Theater, the Glammy Award by GlamourGals Foundation and the Women of Achievement Award from Hadassah. Segal has been a Tony Voter since 2016.

Where you can find her:

PH: What got you interested in a career in the production industry? 

Kristen Robertiello: Fourteen years ago, I had a chance encounter with a live-action producer and owner of production company Pic 2 Productions (Jennifer Pearlman).  At the time, I was seeking a new career which would afford me the flexibility to raise my children, while at the same time, provide personal growth and satisfaction. In other words, I wanted to be a present mother, but also tap into my passion and create a business outlet where I would be known and recognized as my own self.

I have always been an avid fashionista. In my younger years, I worked retail, but in order to pay my bills I had to take my career in a different direction. I knew very little of the inner workings of the production world—but was very intrigued. This producer saw something in me and offered me an opportunity to work as a “must hire” assistant to her current stylist. I took the opportunity and ran with it, doing whatever tasks were required, including the highly embarrassing returning of huge wardrobe pulls and holding a talent’s baby during a fitting. I spent six months learning and observing. I was hooked. The production world, while frenetic and full of insanity, is also addicting and extremely satisfying. Six months after my first assistant wardrobe stylist job, I was hired as the lead stylist and never looked back. I started my own company, KR Wardrobe Design, LLC, and since inception have styled hundreds of commercials, promos, print editorial and television show openers.

Jacqui Blue: My grandmother started taking me to see plays at the Actor’s Playhouse when I was little. Once a month she would take my cousins and I to see live theater, for kids. I loved it.  At the age of 6 I started taking acting classes at the local Actor’s Playhouse but I had anxiety about being front and center. I was too introverted, too shy and quiet. I realized I preferred this world from behind the scenes. I continued acting until I was 19, throughout high school but stayed on the sidelines and in the background. I was always playing with cameras, photographing and documenting as much of life as possible. In the days before digital cameras, I always had a disposable camera on hand. I had been writing poetry and stories since I was 9.  I had a lot of stories and a great vision for them. Over time and many years I began learning how to write in my stories in screenplay form, I learned editing and started directing and producing my own projects. Looking back, it seems like my natural evolution in life just kinda led me here.

Jillian Clare: I’ve been an actor since I was six or seven and I was always interested in the other side of filmmaking. I was always asking directors questions and trying to learn as much as I could. Filmmaking is my creative outlet. 

Jenna Segal: In the mid-90s I was at a conference in Washington, D.C., that was being covered by many news outlets. A friend recognized Dana Bash then Dana Schwartz and went over to say hello. She was a PA at CNN and I expressed how much I would love to work at CNN. She told me she needed an intern. I jumped at the opportunity, moved all my classes for the following semester to two days a week and worked at CNN 50 hours a week for credit instead of taking a fifth class. I was hooked. I loved every minute of the bustle of television news in Washington. 

PH: What was the first big project you worked on? And what was that experience like? 

Kristen Robertiello: The first really big project I worked on was the show opener for HBO’s Award Winning Boardwalk Empire. At the time, I wasn’t fully aware of the scope of the project and had no way of knowing that the show would ultimately become an award-winning success. Since the show is based on 1920’s prohibition, the wardrobe was more like costume design and very specific. Every detail was scrutinized by multiple levels of production and had to go through layers upon layers of approval. 

One of the most important wardrobe items was Lead Actor Steve Buscemi’s (now famous) wing-tipped shoes. In the shot, we see “Nucky Thompson” standing on the beach, looking out at the vast ocean. The waves roll in over Nucky’s perfectly polished shoes, and as the waves roll back out to sea, we see a close-up shot of his shoes.  Perfectly untouched, because, Nucky Thompson is “untouchable”. Sounds perfect. But for a wardrobe stylista major challenge. A perfect shot is rarely/never achieved in one take (or two, or three or four). After presenting and ultimately receiving sign off from the HBO executives on the perfect shoe in alignment with their vision (designed and crafted in Italy by shoe designer Forzieri), I placed an order for seven pairs. This order subsequently was held up in customs for over 48 hours. Doesn’t sound panic-inducing, however, we were scheduled to shoot during this timeframe. I had allowed as much time as possible to receive my order, but anyone working in production knows that production can be very unproductive and everything is always last minute. Between tears, phone calls to customs, and panic, I ran around trying to find a backup shoe. At the end, luck or fate was on my side because due to rain we had to push the shoot one day. Thankfully the shoes arrived and all went as planned. I spent many hours blowdrying, polishing and removing sand from the shoes between each take and the end result was achieved with perfection.

Jacqui Blue: The first feature film that wasn’t one of my own that I worked on was written and starred in by Anthony Montes, and directed by Tracy Pellegrino, a romantic comedy called The Last Train. I was a production assistant on the project and it wasn’t a big crew, it was a very busy 11 days but I loved it. I enjoyed watching Tracy work and thought it was cool that the first feature narrative I was a part of was being directed by this woman who had a solid vision for the film. I took note of how she tended to the actors, who had full trust in her abilities. 

The first big project of my own was my first documentary, Beautiful Births, which I shot the interviews for before moving out to Los Angeles and had just released independently prior to working on The Last Train. That process took a lot longer than I expected but I learned that most documentaries tend to take about that long. There are a few years involved when making a film and documentaries are a little different than feature narratives. I did a bulk of the documentary work on my own and I learned a lot. I did all the writing, editing, directing, producing and had some help with recording the voiceover, music, and compiling the stories and information together. My best friend in Florida was a birth photographer and donated her work to my film, so most of the visuals came from her and I utilized the available resources I had to make this film because I had passion, drive, the skills to put a movie together but the only thing I didn’t have was money, no investors, no backers, no studio behind me. So I learned how to make and release a film DIY style. 

Jillian Clare: I guess the first big project I worked on would be the original Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. I was just a tiny kid on a huge set. It was an awesome experience and everyone was so kind and wonderful. If you pause it at just the right moment, I have a nice close-up with a single tear going down my cheek during the final battle with the Green Goblin.

Jenna Segal: For my first four years in production I was working on live national news shows. CNN was the only 24-hour news network at the time so each day truly felt like a big project. One day I was cleaning up and getting ready to go home and noticed an alert on the intranet saying shots had been heard near the Prime Minister of Israel. No one was around so I ran upstairs to the newsroom and the first person I saw was Wolf Blitzer so I told him. The room went into hyperdrive and I just knew I would never forget that moment.

PH: Can you talk a little about some of the projects you're currently working on?

Jenna Segal: I have four theater pieces right now that I’m either producing or investing in that are, in various stages of development all with either a female writer or director, following my business model of impact producing/investing. Recently I’ve been dipping my toe back into TV with a brilliant woman whose coattails I would love to ride and I’ve been writing a book loosely based on my experience trying to raise money. I expect that to be finished soon and I would love to see it turned into a film one day. It’s a hilariously accurate account of being a woman trying to raise money. I love using comedy to talk about complicated misogyny issues. It eases digestion.

PH: Can you talk a little about the Heidi Thomas Initiative? 

Jenna Segal: Yes! I love to talk anything Heidi Thomas because she is the Jane Austen of our time. Signature Theater in Shirlington, VA, asked me to help them fund an initiative that would not only guarantee a world premiere production by a female writer and director but bring other non-profits to see the production resulting in more productions of the production. Notice a theme? The Heidi Thomas Initiative has spurred Signature, since the 16/17 season, to produce seven world premieres, six of which have had women writers attached.  The result is that over the past four seasons, 85% of Signatures world premieres have been written by women. I’d like to believe that having the initiative named for Heidi encourages female writers to submit work to signature. Her name doesn’t just inspire, it shows what’s possible.

PH: How is acting different than playing a role behind-the-scenes? What are some of your favorite things about getting to do both?

Jillian Clare: They are completely different roles and require entirely different prep work. As an actor, I have to dive into my character, create the backstory, develop the quirks and the nuances, etc.. As a director, I need to think about every character, every scene, every shot. How it’s all going to come together to create a fluid and interesting story. How I can help my actors and my crew achieve the vision we’ve set forth to accomplish? The process is the best part of both jobs, and I love them equally.

PH: What are some of your favorite projects you’ve styled and why? Any particular outfit stand out the most?

Kristen Robertiello: This is a difficult question because I have done so many projects that I love, even if while in the middle of them, I may not have felt that exact sentiment. One of my favorites was a shoot for Microsoft’s flagship store opening in New York City’s midtown. The store opened its doors in fall of 2015 and launched their massive multi-display video walls of unlimited size and scale. The 30-ft video screen can be seen rising up in the background through a second-floor balcony. My job was to style the various scenes created by their team which included violinists playing on a rooftop, ballerinas twirling on cobblestone and hip hop dancers flipping in Central Park. I custom-designed (in collaboration with Project Runway Finalist Garo Sparo), four similar with slight variation ballerina dresses, styled two violinists in dresses that perfectly flowed in the wind and put together colorful and trendy hip hop clothing for multiple dancers. Walking into the flagship store and seeing the amazing footage on every wall in the store was almost as gratifying as being on set and witnessing the making of this stunning video collage. 

Jacqui Blue: I recently wrapped post-production on my second documentary that is my current baby and I’m preparing to release it in the late Spring of this year. I spent the last five years working on this project, since The Last Train, which inspired this second documentary, wrapped production. It’s a documentary tackling the suicide crisis. 

Suicide is a subject that everyone acknowledges that we need to break the stigma, we need to talk about it, but no one seems to know how or where to start. My film is intended to be the ice breaker on that topic. I covered many topics within the suicide epidemic including youth suicide, bullying, mental health, military and veteran suicides, suicide within the LGBTQ community, effects of nutrition on the brain, warning signs, risk factors, coping mechanisms and solutions.  

Jared Padalecki, T.O.N.E-z and Kevin Briggs are all featured in my film and share personal stories and their own insight. I also follow the story behind the making of The Last Train. I think there are a lot of people who will benefit from this film and the information in it. Film-wise, my focus is 100% on this documentary’s release and getting it out to everyone who needs it. But once that’s out there, I am pre-production with two other documentaries.

I co-produced, co-wrote, edited and directed a short vampire noir called Sed, a passion project of T.O.N.E-z and he's planning to release that online shortly as well.

PH: Can you discuss the teamwork necessary to pull the film together?

Kristen Robertiello: Teamwork is HUGE in production. There are so many moving parts and everyone has an important role to ensure that an amazing final product is delivered. From set design, to hair/makeup, to lighting, to the cameraman (and so many more), no one can effectively do their job unless everyone is playing on the same team. For me, it begins with conversations with client, agency and director, honing in on a vision. Everyone MUST be on the same page. Moodboards typically follow, then fittings and collaboration with the set designer. Something most people probably don’t think about, but set design and wardrobe flow are essential for visual effect. If talent is sitting on a couch, and that couch has a throw pillow and perhaps a blanket, the wardrobe must be cohesive with that. The colors must work together without looking contrived and matching. Visually, it all must come together. Every single crew member has a skill and a role and everyone must respect each other's part and work together.

PR: The industry is full of amazing women both behind and in front of the camera - how are you paving the way for other women in the industry?

Kristen Robertiello: Recently my business has expanded beyond production to speaking on-air (Iheart radio, along with several talk show programs) as well as writing for Bella Magazine. I have also spoken on a few podcasts about my journey and am planning on writing a book. I hope to inspire all women to do what they love PERIOD, but also educate them on how to get into an industry that has always been perceived as “who you know”.

Jacqui Blue: I hear a lot of my peers say they can’t get their projects going because they can’t get funding. They don’t have money and their crowdfunding didn’t work out as they’d hoped. It always comes back to money and not having the funding to create their projects. If I had that same mentality I wouldn’t have two documentaries under my belt. I had no money to make either of my films. I had to get creative and ask myself what resources did I have available to me and how could I make these films with what I did have instead of focusing on why I couldn’t make it because of what I didn’t have. 

I hope to show other women that even if the executive producers aren’t knocking on your door, that even if you have no money in your own pocket to fund it, that if I can do it living hand to mouth while raising five kids, twice, what’s the reason you’re really holding yourself back? Is it a fear of success? Fear of failure? Lack of self-confidence?  Because “I have no money to do it” is just an excuse. If you have the passion, if you have the drive, if you really want to do it, you will find the way and you will do it. I did. And it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.  

Jillian Clare: Yes, the industry is full of incredible women with visions and stories to tell! I think any woman who is making her own films is paving the way. We’re all part of a movement screaming out, “Hi! We’re here!” I get why these questions are thrown at women because we’re “unique” for apparently doing what we want, but I think these are questions that need to be thrown at men more often. Men in power, producers, CEOs, even directors. How are they being more inclusive?  What are they doing to pave the way?

Jenna Segal: I think there needs to be a new definition or label for makers. The medium label of film, TV, theater is so limiting when there is now audio, streaming, and screen-specific programming and alternative theater outside of a proscenium. I love that it is a time where it’s more important to think where does a work belong. What medium really fits it best. Anyone working in the '80s and '90s can tell you, lack of resources and endless creativity can create astounding results. I have three kids and a husband. I basically don’t take calls after 6 p.m. because I have homework and general emotional teen management. I tell people why I can’t make the call. I tell people that I don’t do shows with no women on the creative team. It’s not a judgement, it's just not my business model. I’ve been told repeatedly by male producers who thought I’d be interested in their female protagonist show that they never thought of it from that lens, that they chose the most qualified person and I often ask who is more qualified to write about someone with a vagina than someone who has a vagina. It always gets a laugh and I genuinely hope my lack of filter makes an impact. I understand by working for myself I’m in a unique position to call out unsensibles.

PH: What do you absolutely LOVE about the work you do? 

Kristen Robertiello:  I love the energy. I love the feeling of being on set and always meeting new and talented people. It is so rewarding to not only see your vision come to life but to also make other people's visions a reality. I always say “being in production you have to have a little crazy in you” but a GOOD crazy. I meet so many like-minded people. And at the end of the day, no matter what challenges and stress cross my path, I always walk away with a huge sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction. 

Jacqui Blue: The whole journey is great. I enjoy researching and learning new things along the way. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. Documentary filmmaking involves a lot of listening to what other people have to say without having a personal reaction. Putting it all together is like creating a giant puzzle, finding what fits where, what to keep, what to cut, and how to make it all make sense. But the part that sends a chill up my spine with the most orgasmic sensation is finally watching the completed piece up on the silver screen, after years of hard work, seeing it all put together and people react positively to it. There’s nothing else that compares.

Jillian Clare: I love telling stories. I love that I get to breathe life into so many different characters and universes. And I love entertaining. If I can make one person smile or cry or laugh, I’ve done my job.

Jenna Segal: Being around people who can do things I am just not capable of and being able to make their visions a reality. I often see myself as a translator. I can translate art to finance people and vice versa.

PH: Who inspires you in the industry?

Kristen Robertiello: I am inspired by Rachel Zoe because she started out doing what I am doing and has become a huge fashion success. I have seen old photos of Rachel on the red carpet adjusting her client’s train and I think about how far she has come. The industry opens many doors and it just takes the courage and ambition to walk through them.

Jacqui Blue: There are a lot of inspiring people in the industry, both men and women. Currently, I’m really inspired by Joaquin Phoenix’s impassioned speeches he’s been giving this award season. I’m also equally as inspired by Cady McClain’s work to get more recognition out about women directors. Jane Fonda’s political protests inspire me as much as Steven Spielberg’s body of work. 

I’m also not only inspired by but also equally passionate about the work Evan Rachel Wood is doing for domestic violence survivors, going as far as getting laws changed (Phoenix Act) and feel very strongly that women who lie or twist stories about being abused, when they are in fact they abuser, as Amber Heard recently revealed herself to be in leaked audio confessions, should be held accountable in the same ways that other domestic violence perpetrators are.

Jillian Clare: A lot of people inspire me. From an acting standpoint, I’ve always loved Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Audrey Hepburn, Allison Janney, and so many more. As a director, I’ve found a lot of inspiration from Reed Morano, Patty Jenkins, Ava DuVernay, the Duplass bros, Drake Doremus, John Hughes, for example. There are so many great actors and filmmakers, and I watch so many movies, it’s hard to pin down a shortlist of films and people I’ve been inspired by.

Jenna Segal: Heidi Thomas Shonda Rhimes, Jennifer Lopez Jane Fonda and Madonna living. Edith Wharton and Anita Loos dead.

PH: What's one piece of advice you would give your younger self if you could go back?

Jacqui Blue: Trade that marriage in for filmmaking five years sooner than you did!

Jillian Clare: Be patient. There will be a lot of what-ifs and what could have beens in your career. Be patient, you are on the right path.

Jenna Segal: Take more risks. I was good at pouncing on an opportunity and fighting for what I thought I deserved but I relied more on my tenacity than my risk-taking.

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