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Erica Galindo
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Last edited on: August 23, 2015.

168 Film Competition Breaks the Glass Ceiling for Female Directors to Launch Careers in Faith-Based Filmmaking

Seven-Year-Old Girl Nominated for Best KidVid Film

Since its beginning, the 168 Film Project has a strong platform for launching the next generation of filmmakers. Throughout its 13-year history, independent producers, writers, directors and actors have come together to create high-quality shorts that have inspired talent both in front and behind the camera. This year’s films will be debuted at the 168 Film Festival, which takes place at the Premiere House at Regal Cinemas LA Live on August 29 – 30, 2015.

When Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar in 2010 as Best Director of “The Hurt Locker,” her accomplishment carried an expectation that a gateway was now open for female directors. However, no woman has received a Best Director nomination since then.

The ranks of female studio film directors have fallen from 8.1 percent in 2010 to 4.6 percent in 2014 according to an L.A. Times analysis (22 February 2015), and Directors Guild of America’s 2014 statistics show that women directors comprise only 14 percent of their current membership, and head 14 percent of TV directing roles. Why are women leaving the film industry?

(L-R) Director Liz Hewes, 168 Founder John David Ware and Producer April Manor 2014 – pic By Antony Varon

(L-R) Director Liz Hewes, 168 Founder John David Ware and Producer April Manor
2014; Photo Courtesy of Antony Varon.

There are bright spots for women in independent faith film. The 168 Film Festival has been a proving ground for artists for 13 years. This year, over 30% of 2015 entries boast women directors, and nearly two-thirds of the entries overall featured women in above-the-line positions including Producer, Executive Producer, Director or Director of Photography. Entries in the 17-day speed filmmaking contest are based on an assigned biblical passage.

“We encourage women, men, and even children filmmakers to develop and grow in the 168 incubator,” said John David Ware, the contest’s founder and director. “It’s rewarding to see alumni launching their careers and establishing themselves in the film industry.”

Seven-year-old Rachel Lowry entered this year’s 168 contest with her directorial debut, “True Freedom,” the story of a young girl who is wrongly accused of a jewel heist. Lowry wrote, produced, directed and voiced all the roles in the film, which is a contender in 168’s “KidVid” category. See video interview with Rachel Lowry, Seven-year-old director here:

Second-time producer-writer April Manor returned in 2015 with the comedy, “Die Trying.” “My director, Liz Hewes, has a good rapport with our director of photography. She gave him room to do his job, so egos were left out of it. That lack of ego is magic,” said Manor. Her film is up for four awards, including Best Comedy. Last year these newbies won best comedy screenplay for their film, “The Parcel,” which starred four-time Emmy Award Winner Michael Learned (“The Waltons”).

The experience was challenging for “Birdie’s Song” director Shari Rigby. “We lost our script, location and writer at 11 p.m. on Wednesday,” she said. “Just 48 hours prior to the production, we wrote a new script (in 12 hours), complete with all new shots and locations. The 168 really puts you in a pressure cooker. I ran a crew and cast of 40 people. The contest showed us what we’re made of and who we are.” Rigby is also an actor, starring with Stephen Baldwin and Sharman Joshi in an untitled feature that is shooting in India.

Talisha Henderson’s crew told her during production that they could not film on one particular day, and so she went on a date with her boyfriend. “He had hired my crew to record our engagement,” she said, “I got engaged last night! I’m going off pure adrenaline today. This is our fourth year with the 168. I feel much more confident now.”


The 168 Film Festival takes place at the Premiere House at Regal Cinemas LA Live on August 29 – 30, 2015. Tickets are on sale at

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