Attendees take their seats during the 9th Annual Luna Fest held at the Canyon Theater Guild in Newhall on Friday, September 13, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Lunafest celebrates women filmmakers

There are 2.13 male short-film directors for every one female director, according to industry officials, which is exactly why the Lunafest traveling film festival has chosen to feature only short films by, for and about women year after year. 

“Women are often overlooked in the film industry,” said Jenna Phillips, a College of the Canyons student who hopes to one day become a filmmaker herself. “But events like these make me hopeful for the future. I can only hope that women’s rights continue to be heard, so that I and others like myself can continue to follow our passions.” 

Nearly 200 women, and some men, gathered to watch eight thought-provoking short films on Friday at Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley’s ninth annual Lunafest held at the Canyon Theatre Guild. 

Zonta Club of Santa Clarita President Barbara Meyer welcomes attendees to the 9th Annual Luna Fest held at the Canyon Theater Guild in Newhall on Friday, September 13, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

While each of the films shown promote advocacy and awareness for women’s rights, they also connect women, their stories and causes through film by showcasing issues being faced by women in today’s society. 

Before the screenings, guests had the opportunity to hear from Stephanie Seldin Howard, executive producer, director and writer.

Howard discussed the trials she faced through the production of her film, “The Weight of Honor,” which chronicles the lives of caregivers and families of veterans who have been wounded, both physically and mentally, in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“More than once, everyone, including myself and my camera crew full of big strong guys, were crying,” she said. 

Speaker Stephanie Seldin Howard tells her story of creating a documentary during the 9th Annual Luna Fest held at the Canyon Theater Guild in Newhall on Friday, September 13, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Howard went on to say that she firmly believes she was only able to produce her film successfully because she’s a woman. 

“I was able to understand issues through a woman’s lens,” she added. “Things like what it was like to see the best of the best go off to war and then have to cope with that warrior who came back broken or how to balance being a parent and taking care of a spouse who was physically and often emotionally mangled.”

It took Howard five years to finish her documentary as she needed to see how each family’s story would play out.

“That’s the thing about making a documentary, you don’t do it for the film festivals or the awards, and you certainly don’t do it for the money, you make a documentary because you are passionate about the topic, excited to share with the world what you’ve learned,” she said. 

Attendees crowd the lobby near the silent auction tables during the 9th Annual Luna Fest held at the Canyon Theater Guild in Newhall on Friday, September 13, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

In between films, guests also heard from Marguerite Happy, a Newhall resident and stunt woman in films such as “Little House on the Prairie,” “Men in Black II” and “Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle,” who shared her experiences in the film industry with stunt performance, and discussed how stunts become part of a film’s story.

A portion of the proceeds from the event will be given to Chicken & Egg Pictures, a nonprofit that supports women nonfiction filmmakers whose storytelling effects social change, and the remaining will be used to support Zonta Club’s scholarships, grants, programs and projects, according to Zonta’s Darleen Lyons.

“It’s one thing to be a woman in society, but it’s a completely different story when you’re trying to make it as a woman in a male-dominated field,” Phillips said. “The challenges can be tremendous, so we need all the help we can get.” 

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