Published on in Exclusive Interviews

The production industry is always evolving, from new ways to film to breakthroughs in production technology, with many women spearheading initiatives that impact the industry and set changes in motion. For the second year in a row, we are thrilled to present a few of our favorite "Women to Watch" — women who are constantly inspiring and reaching new ceilings in an industry that was previously male-dominated. 

Aubrey Russell | Creative & Technical Producer | Live X

How you got your start:

My background is in theatrical directing. Computers, tech and gear were never something I was supposed to care about growing up. I had Barbie dolls, not video games. I was surrounded by many powerful women in my life so I knew I could be whatever I wanted, I just didn't know I could want this.

It wasn't until I moved to New York that live streaming and production came on my radar. I have always loved live content and after my first year working with Live X on The Official Times Square New Year's Eve Webcast, I knew I had found a company of people who shared the same passion for what we do. Walking into work every day and deep diving into new gear with a team of people who support and push each other sets us up to achieve great productions for our clients.

Advice to other women in the field:

Just keep going. Perseverance was a theme my grandfather instilled in me at a young age. It is important to find the people who want to build you up. As more women come into this field I am also finding it hard not to compare myself. We are all on our own journey. Every woman in a control room is a win.

How has the industry changed for women:

I have noticed first-hand women building up other women. The more of us there are, the more normal it becomes. I am the Technical Producer and Director of a daily live show with an all-female control room. This could happen because my boss and the co-founder of Live X, Corey Behnke, brought our talent onto his team and because my amazing client, the Head of Production at ClassPass Live, Jillian Ternosky, welcomed a female team.

I had the honor of being the first Technical Producer on the Times Square New Year’s Eve Webcast, which is second only to ABC for highest viewership of the night. This was not a job that existed 10 years ago. That’s a big change in our industry as a whole. Live Streaming is a new direction for broadcast and having a diverse group at the helm is invaluable.

At Live X, we have just as many women as men. I know that this is not the norm, but working in this environment promotes diversity and betters everyone on our team. This type of forward motion is what we need. The more women in power, the more women who feel empowered.

Your keys to success:

Do not feel like you need to be just like the men in the room, or the other women for that matter. I try not to shy away from the things that make me different. These things could be the reason you are in the room to begin with. Your ideas and input are of value. Whatever your gender though, we all need to know when it is our turn to speak and when it is our turn to listen.

Your impact as a woman in the industry:

Being on our weekly live streaming show, Ready Take Live, allows me to fill two roles. I am the Technical Director but I am also a co-host. While I am actively switching the cameras and coordinating with graphics I am having a full on conversation about gear with our main host, Rob Baynard. This style of show that hasn’t been done before. It showcases not only the glamour of a control room (kidding), but also the diversity of the people who can be in one.

How you expect the industry to continue to change:

So much positive change has already begun. The women who are leading the charge are fierce and bold. I hope that we continue to promote deserving people to power positions, not reliant on their gender.

Emily Gallagher | co-founder + cinematographer + editor | born lucky studios
How you got your start:
I earned my Masters degree in film at the University College Dublin, in Ireland. While I was studying there, I had the marvelous opportunity to meet Brian McCue, U2's music video editor. I convinced him to let me apprentice under him for the year and it was under his guidance and expertise that I learned the foundation of my editing style.  He taught a deeply important lesson and it has served me well: You have to make your own work.  

And 12 years later, I founded, along with my amazing partner Austin Elston, a successful boutique film production and post-production company, Born Lucky Studios, as well as creating multiple award-winning music videos, short films and documentaries.

Advice to other women in the field:

Most of the men will immediately be taken aback when they see you handling your sound kit, or building the camera. If you should dare declare yourself a cinematographer, prepare yourself for the onslaught of endless tech specs thrown at you like daggers. I am bored by people who memorize a camera manual as if that somehow proves anything. Show me what you can do with the camera, not how well you can recite specs.    Spend your time honing your skills. Make as much as you can, and surround yourself with allies. You don't need to prove anything to those jerks. Remember who they are and make a note to never hire them when you need to staff up a job. 

How has the industry changed for women:
It hasn't. We have to work harder, know more and be prepared for more abuse and dismissal than (white) men do. We are passed over for jobs and ignored on set. This is a huge reason why my partner and I have been built our own company with a focus on hiring women, POC and LGBTQ into our cast and crew.

Your keys to success:
An amazing attitude and a strong work ethic. It can be really stressful on set. Austin and I work really hard to keep our sets very calm and relaxed environments. We have no tolerance for bad attitudes, bullying, or negativity. At the end of the day, you get to create art for a living! How can you be in a bad mood about that?  

Your impact as a woman in the industry:
My impact as a female cinematographer is that I am using my female gaze to capture the world of our film. I am taking back the lens, and shifting the gaze. I am also asserting power over a field that is heavily dominated by men. Each time I step onto set with a box of lenses and a great attitude I am showing the world that yes, I do have a perspective, that yes, it is important and yes, I do demand you listen.
How you expect the industry to continue to change: 
I don't know how much I expect the industry to change on its own, but I will tell you how I am working my ass off to change it. In 2015, my partner, Austin Elston, and I transitioned our boutique film company into a Zero Waste firm. This means that we work really hard to not generate any trash destined for a landfill on set, in pre-production nor in post-production. We believe that we all must live our values and this includes in our workplace. This planet is facing a major crisis and unless each of us shift our behaviors, we are going destroy our home.  
Austin and I believe that we as filmmakers can be leaders. You don't have to make trash to make art. You also don't have to make environmental documentaries to make an impact. In the 5 months it took to conceive, rehearse, film and cut a music video for the punk rock band Mannequin Pussy, our entire team generated only 4oz of garbage. 4 ounces! The equivalent of a few shots of espresso. The music video was a dance piece, with costumes designed by the incredible Allison Pearce (SNL, Strangers, Ma), and had absolutely nothing to do with environmental activism - but by choosing to stay true to our values, we protested the destruction of our planet through action behind the scenes.
I would very much like to see the film industry be leaders in this change. I see no reason why huge film sets can't start hiring catering services that use reusable plates and cutlery while banishing straws and plastic water bottles. And for those who are creating low/no budget films - going zero waste will save you so much money. Money better spent on renting more lights or actors or a few extra lenses. Make art, not trash.
Fabiola Hesslein | CEO of Tryon Entertainment

Fabiola has led a rewarding career as a multifaceted entertainer for over 25 years. Her instincts and abilities as a dancer, choreographer, singer, actress, and designer were instantly recognized by industry professionals at an early age and ultimately propelled countless credits spanning the spectrum of the entire entertainment industry.
She has graced the stage with global artists that include Michael Jackson, Pink, Marc Anthony, Usher and more; television commercials and various programs including HBO specials, SNL, The View, The VMAs, Concert specials; as well as a recording contract offered directly by the CEO of Warner Music Group Germany. She has also worked alongside celebrity concert producer David Gest and luxury fashion designer Reem Acra, which inspired her to further her career in show producing, casting, styling/fashion directing, and costume design. This led to various creative roles for high-profile corporate and social events, product launches, trade shows, experiential marketing, concert productions and more. 

Fabiola's entrepreneurial spirit led to the launch of Tryon Entertainment with her husband and business partner.  With a degree in business, cultivated talent, and progressive mindset, Fabiola not only provides her creative expertise but a hands-on approach and a top-notch team for all entertainment and production needs big or small.
Yovanka Sanchez | Founder of The Storytelling Studio | La Mariposa Films
How did you get your start?

I’ve always loved to tell stories. As a young girl, there wasn’t a day that I would not have imagined an amazing Universe with incredible characters and journeys. I got my start in television with Televisa, the largest media conglomerate in Mexico as a TV host. From there I jumped to working with Univision and then Telemundo, the two largest Latin networks in the US.
I not only worked as talent in front of the cameras but behind the scenes as a producer, production assistant, director, scriptwriter, even carried the big tapes (at the time cameras used them) when there was a need in a production. Television was my best school and greatest experience because it gave me the opportunity to learn about production from all angles. But even when I was working in television I was creating and telling stories. This fantastic ride lasted for over 17 years.
As the digital media world began to evolve and offer storytellers the opportunity to put their stories in front of an audience, I realize this was the perfect time for me to finally get behind the camera and bring stories to life, my true passion and dream. This decision naturally led me to my present involvement with branded content, short films, documentaries, films and digital media under my recently launched storytelling studio La Mariposa Films. But if you want to know when I got my start I think it is really the day I learned how to speak because then I was already “telling stories” to my family and friends, so I have always been a storyteller.
Advice to other women in the field:

I believe if women are not giving the opportunities they want, they have to go out and create them for themselves. The more experience they get, the more doors that they will open in productions that are bigger both in budget and scale. I also think reaching out to other women in media and finding ways to collaborate together is very important. And never be afraid to ask for help or for that “opportunity” you want.
At the same time either finding a woman who can become your mentor or mentoring other women is part of an important and needed change in our industry. I am particularly focused on supporting and placing as many women as possible in different roles within my productions and mentoring the new generation of younger women in media and future storytellers. Also, through my storytelling studio La Mariposa Films I want to bring to the screen as many women’s stories as possible.

How had the industry changed for women?

As we’ve all seen “women in media” are living a very important time today with the #metoo movement and #timesup, unfortunately until now opportunities behind and in front of the camera have been very difficult for our gender. However, I believe there is finally light at the end of the tunnel and many great men listening to and supporting us.
At same time important media companies are starting to place more women in key decision positions which in turn will benefit greenlighting a lot of more women’s projects. And finally, Hollywood is seeing that women’s stories are not just a “good thing to do” but an “important enhancing, moneymaking commodity." Let’s just look at the worldwide success of Wonder Woman or The Hunger Games. These big productions have proven also that women have “the pants” to lead large-scale projects. Exciting times for us!
Things are changing for women and not only in media, within all industries, but again women have to continue speaking out, so their voices can be heard. And they need to be loud, this cannot be just a “momentum thing” but a real change for women around the globe.

Your keys to success:

When I think of success I think it relates to three aspects of my personality: persistence, ingenious and humor. I truly like to have fun and I remain unaffected by people’s harsh words and no’s. I don’t internalize other people’s criticism. I use it as my fuel to push myself harder. And believe me, I’ve had a lot of no’s in my career and life. I also use other women’s stories as my “road map” to success. When I read or learn about how other women accomplish their “dreams”, the struggles they faced and how they overcame them it is just a great and inspirational tool for me.
I never let opportunities pass me by because sometimes I know it only happens once, so I take them all. There’s never going to be a precisely right moment to speak, share an idea, or a project I just take the chance. I just take the moment and I don’t let thoughts like ‘I don’t feel like I’m ready’ get in my way, never! And if I make a mistake, I own up, apologize, make it right and move on, I don’t ruminate. Educate and educate, the more knowledge I have about x, y or z the better decisions I can make so I am always eager to
continue learning and polishing my craft.
Your impact as a woman in the industry:

I always say that my father Fernando Sanchez Mayans who was a great writer and poet in my natal country Mexico, left amazing books to delight the world, I want to contribute to humanity but with stories that will inspire and create a positive change. Again, I also want to put more women at work within my productions and in all areas. Teach and guide the younger women about this industry and how they can overcome many of the challenges I faced as a woman in media. But I think the biggest impact I want to make is to bring to life as many women’s stories as possible. Geena Davis once said, “if she can see it, she can be it.”, when we see other women doing great things, we can see the possibilities for ourselves. And I also believe that if different stories are told about women, we can change the world.

What do all of these women have in common?

Their dedication, drive and intelligence have led all of these women to be inspiring, successful figures in the TV/film production industry. We are proud to acknowledge their hard work. Check out last year's women to watch. 

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