The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Women's Voices Now Film Festival

Grant Information
Categories Community , Arts , Education
Location United States
Cycle Year 2022
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Women's Voices Now
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Womens voices now inc.
EIN 27-2779043
Contact Information
Contact Name Ms Soizic Pelladeau
Phone 4242476130
46-E Peninsula Center
Rolling hills estates
Additional Information
Used for The Women’s Voices Now film festival seeks to address the significant lack of representation of women in film, as well as the lack of access to essential funding for women in film. The grant from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation will support two aspects of the festival that are key to ensure long-lasting impact for our beneficiaries: professional development events for the filmmakers and communication/outreach needs for the festival.
Benefits Our film festival’s primary beneficiaries are the filmmakers themselves. We provide them with visibility towards audience members around the world, financial support, access to a community of filmmakers, and networking opportunities. Audience members are the secondary beneficiaries of this program: they benefit from watching social-change films that will raise their awareness on specific issues related to women’s and girls’ rights, and are provided with resources and tools to create positive social change.
Proposal Description


Our Women’s Voices Now (WVN) film festival is directly tied to the organization’s overall mission of using social-change films that drive social change to advance women’s and girls’ rights globally. 

Women’s Voices Now thanks the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation for its support during our last Film Festival cycle and for its consideration to support the festival again. 

We use film across our programs because we believe in its power to bring social change. Film has a unique ability to reach wide audiences, raise awareness on specific topics, generate empathy and re-shape representations. As such, it has an incredible potential to challenge gender-based and cultural stereotypes. It is a powerful influencer that can inspire audience members to reflect upon, discuss, and act in favor of women’s and girls’ rights around the world.

But currently, women filmmakers still face difficult access to the film industry. According to research from UCLA (Hollywood Diversity Report) and USC (Annenberg Inclusion Initiative), their films remain underfunded and under-distributed, especially if they are documentaries and/or focus on women or minorities. This is also known as the Celluloid Ceiling, and similar disparities exist in Europe and Asia:

  • In Europe, only 16% of the funding goes to films directed by women. (2)
  • In the United States, women direct only 21% of the films produced every year. (5)
  • In the United States, films directed by women of color earned the highest metacritic scores (62.2% compared to 54.3% for their male counterparts and 55% for their white female counterparts). Despite these impressive scores, major studios and motion picture distributors are still hiring women of color the least, amongst other demographic groups.

Yet, we know that who the director is has a cascading effect on the rest of the production, influencing who is represented on screen and which stories are being told. In other words, to ensure that the stories of women and girls are represented just as much on screen, and contribute to a more egalitarian society, we need to support more women filmmakers behind the camera.


The WVN film festival was designed to address these specific, gender-based obstacles. Our festival promotes emerging female filmmakers using social-change films to advocate for women’s and girls’ rights around the world. We focus on supporting documentary filmmakers in particular, because they are the most under-funded category yet play an essential role in highlighting authentic, high quality stories about women and girls around the world. To do so, we offer:

  • Visibility

We provide emerging filmmakers with a global platform where they can share essential, authentic stories with global audiences. In reaching these audiences, our filmmakers are able to leverage their social-change films to influence public discourse and, ideally, action on the ground on pressing women’s rights issues. For this new cycle, we have developed a more ambitious marketing strategy to promote all aspects of the festival, from submissions to events, to bring even more visibility to participating filmmakers and their films. We have welcomed a Digital Strategist on our team and allocated a budget to advertisement.

Budget permitting, we are also planning to organize an in-person screening event of the 2023 winner of the Leslie J. Sacks Grand Prize award in late August 2023, in presence of the filmmaker. We would invite the filmmakers and cover travel, lodging and food costs.

  • Support

Filmmakers enter to win one of seven awards and a cash prize to invest in their next project, and sometimes to help them cover their living expenses or other urgent needs. For the 2022/2023 film festival, we are increasing the total amount of cash prizes from $10,000 to $12,000, recognizing that many independent female filmmakers have faced financial difficulties in the last year. Yet, we want to ensure that they can continue to create important and current films about women’s and girls’, in a time of overlapping crises.

  • Network

We create a supportive space and opportunities for filmmakers to connect and increase access to film industry professionals. This season, we will organize a second private event for all pre-selected filmmakers and local film industry professionals, to further support their professional development.

To date, we have received over 1071 film submissions from 81 countries, awarded $118,000 in cash prizes to filmmakers and gathered online audience members from 178 countries.


Submissions are open between August and November, in three categories: documentary short; documentary feature; and youth short documentary. Submitted films must address or shine light upon issues affecting women and/or girls through a social-change lens, but are not limited to a specific theme. The point is to leave it up to the filmmakers to bring our attention to important topics regarding women’s rights around the world. Each year, a theme naturally emerges from the pool of pre-selected films.

Filmmakers enter to win seven awards:

  • Leslie J. Sacks Grand Prize Award for Best Feature Film - $3,500
  • Best Documentary Short - $2,000
  • Best First-Time Filmmaker - Feature Doc $1,500
  • Best First-Time Filmmaker - Short Doc $1,000
  • Best Creative Documentary - $1,000
  • Best Youth Documentary Short - $1,000
  • Best Human Rights Documentary - $2,000

The festival then takes place in March, at the occasion of International Women’s Day, and is centered around a panel of filmmakers, film professionals, and women’s rights experts. Additional events (online screenings and Q&As with audience members, filmmakers networking events) are scheduled throughout March.


The WVN film festival goals align perfectly with the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation’s mission to “give a clear voice for those who wish to be a part of the many, worthy, forces for change in our world”. The grant from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation will allow us to further the festival’s impact for filmmakers and audience members. Specifically, the grant will support:

1/ the Women’s Voices Now Programs’ Director and Programs’ Assistant hours:

The scope of the festival is growing, and both our Programs’ Director and Programs’ Assistant need additional hours to oversee and implement all components of the festival. That includes:

(i) continuing to research film partners all over the world (film schools, other festivals, local filmmaking companies or associations) to ensure that our festival receives submissions from as many countries as possible.

(ii) dedicating more time to develop and deliver new components of the festival (a new private session with industry professionals, and a possible in-person screening in August 2023)

2/ In addition, our marketing strategy is evolving:

(i) we will work with a publicist to increase the festival’s coverage in local and international outlets, 

(ii) our Digital Strategist will create, oversee and deploy proper marketing campaigns at different stages of the festival. 

In return, these investments should drive the number and diversity of submissions and increase the number of attendees. It should also improve the festival’s visibility locally, making it easier to form connections with local industry professionals and potential sponsors.

Please refer to the budget submitted with this application to see the details of how the grant funds will be allocated.

The direct beneficiaries of the festival are the winning filmmakers, as well as the pre-selected filmmakers to a lesser extent. They will benefit from professional and personal support in all the shapes and forms our festival and staff can offer. From our last Film Festival, we can share that 88% of the films were submitted by women, 36% of which were first-time filmmakers, and 11% first generation immigrants, and that the average of filmmakers was 38 years old.

In addition, audience members will benefit indirectly from the program by watching films that will raise their awareness on specific topics pertaining to women’s and girls’ rights, and having the ability to take part in conversations on these topics, designed to move them from empathy to action.


Women and girls’ rights are threatened and rolled back in many parts of the world, from Afghanistan and Iran to Ukraine, Poland and the United States, just to name a few countries. These trends are deeply connected to larger (geo)political, economic and environmental crises happening in many parts of the world.

It is critical that women’s and girls’ lives, stories and needs continue to be documented and shared in times like these. Without awareness of what women and girls are experiencing all over the world, there can be no action or improvement. We cannot afford to exclude women’s voices.