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Monday June 5th

Graduate ‘pioneers’ workplace in film

<p>Ashley Maria (left) speaks to Maddy Yara, a person of focus in her new documentary “Pioneers in Skirts.” Maddy Yara is a 14-year-old from Charlotte, N.C.</p>
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Ashley Maria (left) speaks to Maddy Yara, a person of focus in her new documentary “Pioneers in Skirts.” Maddy Yara is a 14-year-old from Charlotte, N.C.

She earned good grades, and when she graduated UNC in 2008, she took the University of Southern California’s film school by storm, becoming one of the best students in her class.

It wasn’t until she entered the workforce that she started losing steam.

“When I entered my career as a film director, I was quickly put into the woman category, being a woman director,” Maria said. “That and with a combination of many things I didn’t understand at the time, I lost confidence and lost my ambition, and it made me look into why suddenly this person who entered my career with such excitement was such a shell, really.”

Maria responded by delving not only into the gender dynamics in the film industry but in underlying problems women face in the working world. Her documentary, “Pioneers in Skirts,” is currently in production with an anticipated early 2016 release.

Since 2012, Maria and her production team have been traveling across the country, interviewing women in different positions in the workforce: women who return to work after having a baby; Rosie the Riveters — the original pioneers of the female workforce; and young female robotics engineers who have yet to enter the workforce. Maria will cap the production process by taking a look at her own experiences in the film industry.

The film, which will mainly target college students, is meant to illuminate and subsequently eradicate the gender biases in the workplace before current college students graduate.

“I want women and men to be more aware of what they bring to the table in the workplace,” she said. “I want them to be more aware of the biases that enter their mind as they see women in roles they’re not used to, and I want women to see the biases too.”

Lauren McDonald, a UNC senior and a public relations major, has experienced Maria’s passion firsthand. She’s been a full-time volunteer for the film, working on public relations since the beginning of summer.

“Living in North Carolina, there aren’t too many films that come to here, so the idea of being on a film set was just really cool to me,” McDonald said. “As I’ve gotten more and more involved in the film and learned more and more about it and seeing how much of an issue this has been, I’ve become more and more passionate about the film.”

McDonald said she met Maria through their parents. From there, McDonald said Maria has become an inspiration and a mentor, and she’s learned not only about women’s rights in the workplace but also enjoyed the opportunity to network with powerful women in the film industry, where she hopes to work in public relations after graduation.

“I’m being able to meet people, I’m having the opportunity to learn amazing things,” she said. “I would say that’s one of the greatest things this movie has been able to offer.”

For junior Sarah Howard, sociology major and self-described feminist, she appreciates the movie’s intention but said she hopes the movie speaks to all women.

“I hope she incorporates perspectives of demographics of all women with an emphasis on women of color, trans women of color and nonbinary and queer women.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misattributed the source of the photo that accompanies this article. The photo was provided by the "Pioneers in Skirts" production. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.


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