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Sundance 2021 Panel on "Women Breaking Barriers: An Industry Shift?” by Hollywood Foreign Press

Written by: Nikoleta Morales

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) hosted a special “Women Breaking Barriers: How Far Have We Come?” panel at the 2021 Virtual Sundance Film Festival. Moderated by HFPA members Elisabeth Sereda and Silvia Bizio, panelists included accomplished women from various fields in the entertainment industry, including Halle Berry (Golden Globe-winning actress, and director of upcoming feature film Bruised), Andra Day (Grammy-nominated artist and currently starring as the title character in The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Sia (Grammy-nominated artist and writer/director of Music), Robin Wright (Golden Globe-winning actress and director/star of Land) and Zendaya (Emmy Award-winning actress, currently starring in “Malcolm & Marie”) who each spoke from personal experiences in their respective industries.

Sundance Institute’s Executive Director Keri Putnam and HFPA member Silvia Bizio opened the panel where Bizio announced that the HFPA will continue to show support to the Sundance Institute’s women’s initiatives by again donating $50,000 for the Women at Sundance program.

After a tumultuous year of halted and delayed production due to the Coronavirus pandemic, worldwide discussions about equality, political unrest, Black Lives Matter protests, and more the panel explored if this year’s events resulted in a reawakening within the industry and shift in female creatives representation in the field. The HFPA posed this question and more to the inclusive group of panelists prompting discussion about the future of women in the film business post-pandemic.

HFPA member Elisabeth Sereda kicked off the event by asking panelists how the past year has been for them and what challenges they faced professionally in their projects.

Speaking about working remotely via Zoom to finish her new film Land, Robin Wright shared, “when you’re in the room and you’re creating with and picking up on that energy sitting in the room next to your editor, your sound designer, color grader, it’s such a different experience. So, challenging it was… We got it done, but I miss being with the people because it’s about the collaboration.”

The panelists next discussed how recent global events and social movements have impacted the shift of representation in the industry. “I do feel that since Black Lives Matter has become a global movement, I do think that because of MeToo and Times UP, women are being treated differently,” said Halle Berry. “We are holding everyone else to a higher standard than we ever used to, because we now realize that we absolutely can.” She continued, “As a black woman, I’ve never felt more empowered than in the last few years.”

Panelists also discussed their thoughts on the best ways to continue pushing boundaries and creating positive change.

“Now that we have a foundation… it’s about time” said Robin Wright. “Yes, amplify the voice, command that stage, and demand parity. We have to continue doing that.”

Andra Day highlighted the importance of representation behind the camera. “The same story behind a woman’s eyes actually a completely different narrative. The American history through a black lens is a completely different narrative,” she said. “We have multiple parallel existences in this country and they are different.”

Coming straight from set of her upcoming film Spider-Man 3, Zendaya joined the conversation halfway through and spoke about her experience breaking out as a first-time director during the pandemic. “It was liberating, it was a special experience,” which she later credited to women’s activism within the industry. “I think that’s a tribute to the work that continues to be done… Had it not been for the woman before me I wouldn’t be in this position in the same way. We continue to do the fight so that it’s easier for the next young black woman to make the things she wants to make or create the things she wants to create.”

Sia then joked to Zendaya, “I thought Beyonce was the last triple threat, but you’re bad!”

The HFPA is a supporter of the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program and the Women at Sundance Initiative offering creative development opportunities for women behind the camera. Since 2018 the Sundance Institute has hosted the HFPA Women’s Panel at the Sundance Film Festival as a forum to explore and foster the emerging artistic diversity.

For more than 25 years, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has donated over $44.5 million to entertainment related charities, scholarship programs and humanitarian efforts. Grant recipients of the HFPA fall in four major areas: nurturing the development of young artists in film and television through support for scholarships, fellowships and education; preserving the culture and history of motion pictures by supporting film preservation; promoting cultural exchange and understanding through support for major programs and exhibitions that utilize film to ignite critical dialogue; and supporting special projects, educational and cultural activities connected with the entertainment industry. The HFPA began giving grants as early as 1989 to institutions such as University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Southern California (USC) and the American Cinematheque, which continue to receive support today. The HFPA has created endowments at Los Angeles colleges and universities to help underserved students such as Los Angeles Community College and California State University, Northridge.

Licensing fees obtained from the Golden Globe Awards® has allowed the HFPA to support over 80 nonprofits focused on these pillars as well as journalistic organizations committed to freedom of speech and organizations that support natural disaster relief and other international and humanitarian crises.

About the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) was founded in 1943 – then known as the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association – by a group of entertainment journalists based in Los Angeles. During World War II, the non-profit organization established a cultural bridge between Tinseltown and millions of cinema fans around the world who demanded drama and inspiration through entertainment. The HFPA continues to do so today with a membership representing more than 55 countries. Since 1944, the group has hosted the annual Golden Globe® Awards – the premier ceremony which honors achievements in both television and film. The licensing fees from the Golden Globe® Awards has enabled the organization to donate more than $44.5 million to more than 70 entertainment-related charities, film restoration, scholarship programs and humanitarian efforts over the last 25 years. For more information, please and follow us on Twitter (@GoldenGlobes), Instagram (@GoldenGlobes), and Facebook (

Photo credit: Getty images


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