The force is female at Archer’s annual film festival


Photo credit: Anika Bhavnani

Frank Marshall, Billie Wakeham ’17, Alex Sherman ’17, Kathleen Kennedy and Elizabeth English pose for a photo at the film festival. Kennedy was the keynote speaker at this year’s film festival.

“I ran into resistance, but I never let it stop me,” film producer and Archer Film Festival keynote speaker Kathleen Kennedy said.

Kennedy, who has been in the film industry for 40 years, began her involvement at age 19, when she worked as a camera operator for NFL games. Since then, she has produced such iconic sagas as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.

From the beginning of her career, Kennedy never thought that her gender would be any sort of impediment to her success.

“If some obstacle or challenge presented itself, I never thought, ‘Oh, I can’t do that because I’m a girl,'” she said. “I just figured out a way and stayed focused and proactive, and occasionally I ran into resistance, but I never let it stop me. I think that that’s really the attitude girls and women should have today.”

The festival was arranged by seniors Billie Wakeham and Alex Sherman and film teacher Steven Jacobson.

Sherman called working with Kennedy “an honor” and said she fit perfectly with the festival’s theme: “focusing in on the female voice.”

“She was very inspiring,” Sherman said, “and hearing her words for the first time during pre-show was one of the most gratifying moments throughout our festival prep, because her message is what we strive to communicate.”

Kennedy’s focus during the keynote speech and interview was female representation and empowerment in the technical fields of entertainment.

“It’s a conversation we’ve had really going back to what George Lucas did with Princess Leia,” Kennedy said. “And we carried on in that tradition, and I think we’ve created some really strong females with characters like Rey in ‘The Force Awakens’ and Jyn in ‘Rogue One.’ [We’re] having strong, empowered females in these stories, and really allowing them to become heroes, which seems to be, oddly, a new concept, but fantastic— that seems to be getting some traction, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

As well as making major strides for women in film, Kennedy is also inspiring many young females interested in the industry, such as Wakeham.

“Kathleen Kennedy was the most inspiring woman to work with,” Wakeham said. “Beyond her credits and status within the industry, she is a genuine example of what it means to work really hard. She was extremely professional throughout the process and on the day of, her speech and time spent with us during the interview spoke volumes as to what she has achieved and the hope she provides for many.”

Kennedy is hopeful for the future of women in film because of the attention the topic is currently receiving.

“I want to believe that things are changing in the industry and that we’re beginning to make headway,” Kennedy said. “I think there’s still a lot to be done, but I think just the fact that this is a conversation and it’s a continuing conversation, hopefully, will result in change.”