Danielle Leblanc stands at the front of a classroom. Behind her, a wall with “Women and Film” projects across a pull-down screen. She prepares activities for the evening as dozens of young women pile in, eager for the hour-and-a-half long meeting. Later, Danielle and I sit on the floor of her townhouse which is garnished with movie posters and DVDs. She conveys the struggles with sexism in film she faced during high school, which inspired her to start the club. Danielle’s school had a film department within the school, but every time she asked to join the crew, they refused to let her use the equipment or contribute ideas. Danielle expresses, “I had to do it on my own and I had to do it with my friends because I couldn’t do it with this ‘boys’ club,’ essentially.”
In addition to her experiences in high school, Danielle noticed other pre-professional groups on college campuses that existed for women in traditional male-dominated fields.
“If I had felt confident and supported at such an early stage in my life I feel like I would be a lot further in my film career than I am now.”
Danielle joined a sorority during her freshman year because she wanted to feel the support of other women, but believes she would have benefited from an organization that was career specific. Danielle was motivated to create a supportive environment for women that she wished she had when she was a younger student.
“So much of college for me has been finding the ability to feel confident enough to take opportunities and take chances and ask for what I want.”
Women and Film is a branch of the University Film Organization, which was previously the only cinema club on campus. According to the Women and Film Facebook page, the club is “dedicated to increasing roles for women, non-binary and trans individuals within UO by promoting equal opportunities for creative projects.” The club hosts events, such as movie nights where members watch screenings of films created by women. Women and Film also holds biweekly meetings where members discuss film production and practice skills and equipment use. The club also offers the opportunity for members to be matched with mentors who are experienced in the field of their interest.
When Danielle was a freshman, she saw female students in leadership positions within film which inspired her idea for the mentorship program within Women and Film. “I think it was really important for me when I was a freshman to see girls creating content at the level that I wanted them to.”
Shami Zellers, who has been attending the club since the second meeting, expressed the positive impact Women and Film has had on her.
“This club has made me stronger in going for things that I wouldn’t normally have volunteered for, such as this internship that I have.” Shami is currently a video editor intern, and credits the club for encouraging her and other young women to be confident in pursuing their passions.
Though Danielle will be graduating in June, she hopes Women and Film will continue to provide a supportive community for young women at UO.
“I hope women who are a part of this community feel empowered so that they can live their college careers to the fullest and never let an opportunity that they want pass them by and I hope that this organization will grow and inspire women for generations and generations to come because I think that even if we make progress it will still be a good resource, an empowering place to be.”