How 3 Women Broke Through as Filmmakers

“Maestra” follows the several conductors leading up to the charged competition, with interviews in the United States, France, Poland and Greece. In some of those places, it was difficult to find female workers, Ms. Contreras said. With a tight schedule and budget, there was pressure to fill jobs with men. She held firm to her quota.

Ms. Contreras credits the female-led crew for the project’s success. Her subjects open up, telling tales about child abuse, discrimination and body insecurity. “Because of my own experiences as a human being, as a woman with my own thoughts and fears and struggles and joys and the way I show up in the world, we were able to have a conversation,” she said.

That perspective, she said, echoes other arguments for giving women more opportunities: Diverse directors expand the possibilities of storytelling, which is the heart of filmmaking.

Her next directing project centers on an “Erin Brockovich” type who triumphs, though in a different context from classical music. She plans to keep the same philosophy when assembling an inclusive production staff.

“It’s now my responsibility to hire people who will then hire other people,” she said. “That chain cannot be severed or we go backwards.”

Ms. Smith, whose academic research has made her a leading proponent of equity in the film business, said that chain affected the experiences of audiences, as well as the careers of female filmmakers.

“If you have a female director, you’re more likely to have a whole series of things,” she said. “More female-driven story lines, more women over 40 in films, more women working behind the camera, and more people in below-the-line crew that are women.”

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