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Rayka Zehtabchi Participates in Free the Work Panel at the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

On Tuesday, June 18th, Academy Award-winning director Rayka Zehtabchi participated in a panel at the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, called “Reimagining Creativity through Free The Work.”

Free the Bid, the non-profit initiative advocating for more female directors on advertising assignments, recently announced that they will be expanding their efforts with the launch of Free the Work. This discovery database was designed with the goal of increasing the number of women, trans identifying, non-binary, and underrepresented creators in all aspects of filmmaking. Free the Work will also have an educational and mentorship aspect as a way of facilitating collaboration.

Other participants in this panel included Free the Bid founder and director Alma Har’el, P&G’s Chief Marketing Officer Marc Pritchard, Facebook’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, and actress, producer, and director Natasha Lyonne.

Antonio and Marc spoke about how effective it is when women are responsible for making the work. By allowing women to fill these roles, the work becomes more authentic and is able to resonate better with an agency’s target audience.

In the words of Antonio, who was previously HP’s Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, “the work can only be transformed through holistic and systemic change.” The clients, the agencies, and the production houses need to be diverse in a measurable way that is accounted for on a yearly basis. Thus, HP made a corporate commitment to promoting this kind of change, and within 18 months, HP’s percentage of female creators increased from 0% to 59%, delivering significant business results.

Marc then introduced Rayka, asking her to elaborate to the audience on her experience creating Period. End of a Sentence, the documentary short film that earned her an Oscar in 2019 for Best Documentary Short Subject. For her, the importance of making this film did not simply stem from her identity as a woman but the lack of discussion about menstruation in the mainstream media.

During filming, she was able to talk intimately with those she interviewed about their experiences with menstruation even though her Director of Photography was male. She concluded the panel by saying that these conversations are necessary and that she can’t believe it has taken until 2019 for a film like this to hit the main stage.