Our Sincere Gratitude!

AWD is able to provide so much to its members because of the dedication of its volunteers. We are thankful for the years of work given to AWD by Board of Directors Member Kim Furst, and AWD South Leadership Committee member Edina Kishonthy. Read about what inspired them to get involved in AWD, and what the future holds for these fantastic filmmakers!

KIM FURST joined AWD in 2003 after directing several short films and a successful eight month-long stage play which garnered an LA Weekly Critic’s Pick.

After volunteering off and on for years, she joined the Board of Directors and served for two terms.

AWD: Why did you decide to join the Board?

Kim: If I’m part of something, I like to be an active part of it. I always find that so much more fulfilling. I had been volunteering on the Festival Outreach Committee, which led to launching the Works in Progress Program (WIP), which I ran for over 4 years. Nikki Braendlin asked if I wanted to be considered to come on to the Board. I wanted to see if there was more I could do to help as I knew many of the members all the way back from when we were just 30 directors in someone’s living room meeting with Jennifer Warren and talking about diversity in the early 2000’s. It’s such an exciting time for female directors. I’ve always felt it was important to support female directors and support other women. This feeling became even stronger after I became a parent. Being a mother of a young child AND a director I realized — women need support. I remember I was on a documentary when I became pregnant and I had to hide my pregnancy. I didn’t like that. That fired me up to see what more I could do to get to know other women and women identifying directors.

AWD: Let’s talk WIP! How did the idea come about? How did Canon get involved?

Kim: Nikki Braendlin and I were working on helping to get more of our members into high-profile festivals, and also making lists, advocating for them. And we asked — why aren’t members getting in. Then we realized we wanted to know what their films looked like. We found it was a mixed bag — some very strong films, some less so. For all the films it was clear that if the director had received some feedback, or a test screening, that valuable feedback might have improved the film. I deal with that all the time, as I’ve been a professional film editor — specifically of Docs — for two decades. And we go through so many test screenings, surveys, and there is always feedback. And I wanted to provide that safe space and very trusted environment for filmmakers to share their work and get the feedback they needed from their peers — without anyone “teaching” them or asserting their viewpoints on the filmmaker. Just “what works, what doesn’t work” and to make it clear that the film is their choice and this is just feedback, and they should hear all the feedback and see what might be useful. The program has been extremely successful.  I asked Canon to come on board. I gave them a proposal and they believed in what we wanted to do for filmmakers.  They partnered with us four years ago and has supported the program ever since.

AWD: Do you have a memorable WIP story?

Kim: We kept things running through COVID on Zoom, but WIP in-person sessions, with a large screen, were always the most fun — helping the filmmaker see their film on a bonafide screen, in a screening room— giving them that experience. We also had a one-year sponsorship by FotoKem which was wonderful. For a while we did WIP twice a month, the first Wednesday of the month with Canon and then two weeks later on the third Wednesday of the month with FotoKem.  It was truly so much fun — the mingling before was part of the best part of the events. For favorite guests, it’s really impossible to pick favorites — there were so many — however a few of my favorite tech talks came from Oonalee Blank, multiple Emmy Award winning sound re-recording mixer from Game of Thrones, director Tara Miele, and Emmy Winning editor Catherine Haight. Also CAA director Sophia Banks was great. And because we have a policy of not taping these events, the best part is our guests have always been very candid in their talks with us — which makes our “biz talks” different than just another Zoom chat or clubhouse talk.  Over 78 talks — and the guests were always so generous and gave so much to our group.  It was very satisfying thing to run and pull together every month, with my wonderful team of volunteers and partners, for over four years!

AWD: What is your favorite aspect of AWD?

Kim: The people. Jennifer Warren being our fearless leader for so many years. I dreamed of going to USC film school growing up, and now I’m friends with the woman who runs their directing program and helping to come up with enriching programming for female directors. So I feel like I’ve been very fortunate. And I love our events. So much talent, and fun too. 

AWD: What’s in store for you professionally?

Kim: My latest documentary just went to MIPCOM in Cannes and is being repped internationally and domestically by American Public Television. It’s a very special piece — MODERN NINJA: THE LAST GRANDMASTER. We filmed in Japan in December of 2019 — it’s a nuanced and lyrical piece about Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, the 88 year old grandmaster (head of the “family”) of nine Japanese martial arts lineages. He is not tall and has bright purple hair — and just throws these level 15 blackbelts from all over the world around. Next, I’m about to take out my first feature, HIGH FLIGHT — a narrative feature/coming of age about a young poet who was among the first American casualties of WWII who at 19 years of age wrote one of the greatest poems about the human spirit ever written.  

AWD: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Kim: My favorite part of programming WIP for the last 4+ years was bringing talent who could shine a light on the path for everyone. To help members see what is possible. It has been my honor to serve on the board for four years. And I’d also share one thing — you never know who will help to carry the torch for AWD and continue helping to create the group for everyone. Julie Janata was a fellow documentary director I met and I invited her into the group — and she ended up running it for a number of years! So if you find an awesome woman or woman identifying director, invite them to get to know us. There is power in numbers, we are standing on the shoulders of women like Nancy Malone every day. It’s women like her and Jennifer Warren and Mary Lou Belli that I aspire to be — women who do great things and support a lot of women along the way — from a sincere place of simply wanting to help.  I feel lucky to have been able to help a little.

EDINA KISHONTHY has been a member of AWD for about 7 years. She joined the AWD South Leadership Committee after moving from Los Angeles to Nashville.

AWD: Was there an reason that you wanted to join the South Leadership Committee? 

Edina: When my family and I moved from Los Angeles to Nashville, I wanted to be part of a community of women filmmakers, just as I was in Los Angeles. I was also curious about how the film industry in the South is different from the one in LA… what are the opportunities, what sorts of projects are people working on? 

AWD: What was your focus while on the Committee?

Edina: My focus was career development. I wanted to create opportunities for members, and to hone the skills we all need to get those opportunities. 

AWD: Do you have a favorite event that you spearheaded?

Edina: My favorite event that I spearheaded was the Pitch Session we had in 2021. We sent invitations to Producers who are active in the South – and some in LA as well – to attend this virtual pitch session on Zoom. Leading up to it, we held practice pitch sessions, where we rehearsed our pitches and gave feedback to one another. It was fantastic! It was fun to hear what other members are working on, and very rewarding to see that producers appreciated this event because they wanted to work with women. 

AWD: What is your favorite aspect of AWD? 

Edina: From my perspective, in the South Branch, it has been the openness to program / event initiatives. Members came up with amazing ideas and we received interest and support for them from other members.  

AWD: What’s in store for you professionally?

Edina: I am working on setting up an episodic psychological thriller that I wrote, in the vein of Squid Game / Killing Eve, with an international cast, to be shot in my former hometown of Budapest. I am also working on a dramedy feature script which is about a female health issue very personal to me. 

AWD: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Edina: I have really enjoyed working with the ladies in the South Branch of AWD. It has been a special experience I will always treasure. Even though I am no longer on the Leadership Committee, we still keep in touch. I look forward to seeing what they are working on and help them if I can. 

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