HFPA's Women Breaking Barriers Panel: "Solidarity is the only way"

January 28, 2020
Women breaking barriers panel at Sundance 2020

From left: Julie Taymor, Frankie Shaw, Kerrie Washington, and Lisa Jackson.

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For the third year in a row,  Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) hosted the panel Women Breaking Barriers: How Far Have We Come? at the SundanceTV Headquarters. Moderated by HFPA member Elisabeth Sereda, this year's panelists represented diverse aspects of the entertainment industry: actress Kerry Washington, director and filmmaker Julie Taymor, actress, producer, writer, and director Frankie Shaw, and filmmaker and #1 New York Times Bestselling author Lisa Jackson.

Sundance Institute’s Executive Director Keri Putnam and HFPA member Elisabeth Sereda opened the panel with a brief Q&A followed by an HFPA announcement that the organization will continue to show support to the Sundance Institute’s Women’s programs by donating $50,000.

Sereda kicked off the panel by asking panelists about a specific moment in their careers when they felt they were truly breaking barriers within the industry. 

“It’s hard for me to not say Scandal because there was so much attention when Scandal first premiered that there hadn’t been a woman of color as a lead in a network drama in almost forty years,” Washington said. “I think it will be exciting when the only firsts we are talking about are the innovations in our creative endeavors rather than the identity and the politics of the work we’re making.”

When it came to specific obstacles women have to work to overcome, Taymor pointed to the current political climate. “Our democracy is failing us.” Taymor said. ”That’s what’s really holding back the leadership of women right now.”

Panelists also discussed their thoughts on the best ways to continue pushing boundaries and creating positive change. 

“Women supporting women is the only way. Solidarity is the only way. It’s the only thing that’s ever instigated change.” said Shaw. 

Jackson highlighted the importance of representation behind the camera. “I think we’ve all experienced when you watch a movie that’s about your community and you know it’s not an inside job,” she said. “There should be nothing about us without us.”