Hilarey Kirsner is the current board president at the professional organization Women in Film and Video (WIFV). She is also an award-winning producer whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with on two cable television series. Hilarey is very smart, very organized and very cool under pressure. When I joined WIFV several years ago, she was the head of WIFV’s events committee. I joined that committee because of her. Because of her hard work planning events and with WIFV overall (the board and committee members are all volunteers), she was voted as board president.
WIFV is a Washington, DC based media organization that supports and celebrates women’s achievement in the television and film industries. Women, and men, join for the support system, growth opportunities and production contacts. I’ve enjoyed many of their informational panels, being a panelist and asking questions on the email list-serve where I can draw on the collective intelligence of the entire membership.
I recently spoke with Hilarey about her role as WIFV President.
What type of work do you do?
I am a freelance producer and I do a lot of different types of work – in fact it’s usually different everywhere I go. Sometimes I’m on set directing the camera and actors, sometimes I’m in an office setting up shoots and writing scripts; and sometimes I’m sitting in an edit suite and working with an editor to create a story. I started off producing videos for live events. Then I moved to producing more corporate and government programs for the web and marketing purposes. After that, I got into producing for cable broadcast (read: reality programming) and now I’m doing work for non-profits, which I love.
Why did you join WIFV initially? And, why run for board President?
I joined WIFV back in 2002 when I had just moved back to DC after spending a year working in LA. I had just started freelancing and thought I had better start networking in DC if I wanted to find a job and everyone said- “join WIFV!” So I did. The first thing I participated in was the Image Makers program, which is a community outreach program where WIFV volunteers teach local high school students how to produce a Public Service Announcement (PSA) from start to finish. They produce the PSAs for local non-profits, who give them creative direction. I not only fell in love with the kids’ creativity, but I made some really great friends and business contacts while working alongside other WIFV volunteers. I ended up doing Image Makers for the next four years and ran the program for two of those years. From there I started attending more WIFV programs and became more involved. So, a few people encouraged me to run for the WIFV board in 2004.
I spent one year on the board and then ended up moving to Florida for two and a half years. When I moved back to DC in 2007, I was elected to the board again. Denise Moak was president and the two of us knew each other from college – so I already knew we worked well together. I served as her Executive Vice President for one year and then ran Programming for the second year. By that point, I was heavily involved in the comings and goings of WIFV and was talking to our Executive Director daily. I guess it just made sense that I move into the role of President when Denise’s term was finished. Denise gave me a lot of great training and is still there to help me if I need it. There’s also a great support system of past presidents to call and of course our Executive Director, Melissa Houghton, is wonderful and is always there to help.
What do you hope to accomplish as WIFV President?
We’re a 501c3 non-profit organization so we have to raise money for everything we do. Fundraising is always challenging, especially in an economy where everyone is tightening their belts. That’s why I wanted to put development in on the top of our agenda. WIFV is such a great resource to women and men in DC, but unfortunately we always need more funding to support the large number of programs we put on annually. I wanted to make sure our sponsors were benefitting from WIFV as much as we are from them, so we’ve been working hard to update our sponsor benefits and increase communication with our sponsors to see how we can work best together.
I also think it’s very important to listen to the members to see what they want out of WIFV. I rely a lot on their feedback for program ideas and suggestions on how to make things better. I am also hoping to establish practices in our office that will stay with the organization from board to board (we turn over half the board every year) so that there isn’t a ramp up period for new board members each time. I’m hoping they will be able to jump in with all the information right from the start.
What are some projects that WIFV has going on right now that you wish more people knew about?
Image Makers is going on right now, which obviously is close to my heart. I do wish that more people in the community knew about it because it benefits so many groups of people in our community. We try to choose students who do not have any media classes at their schools so they that are getting the most out of it. We’re always looking for good volunteers with media and teaching experience as well as non-profits who are in need of video marketing for their organization. And of course we need sponsors for this program – we give the students a gift at the end for participating and we would love to be able to buy some cameras and editing equipment for WIFV to own for this program so that we’re not relying on our volunteers to bring their own equipment every year.
We are also hosting a screening series every Tuesday in March in honor of Women’s History Month at the Martin Luther King Jr. library. All the films are about women’s issues and are made by woman – many of them local. The screenings are free and open to the public.
March 26, 2011 is SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day in Georgetown, DC where we’re going to screen our Women in Film and Television International Shorts compilation. The day is packed with readings, discussions, exhibitions and performances. For more info on this and other upcoming programs go to: www.wifv.org. We just revamped our website and are very proud of it!
What does the future look like for WIFV?
We are celebrating our 32nd anniversary this September (2011). It’s really amazing that we started with 15 members and now have about 900 plus two full time employees and an office. WIFV DC started as a group of women freelancers who wanted to get together and share ideas and honestly, the mission hasn’t changed – that’s what we still want today. I think the future is really bright for our organization and we hope to continue educating, supporting and bringing women media makers together for 30 more years.
For more interviews from production experts, visit the Expert Production Interviews category.