At Pond5, we believe creativity and innovation can and must fuel cultural and social change. Our marketplace acts as a creative space where artists can find inspiration to tell their stories, empower the underrepresented, and play a role in fighting for justice.
Our Juneteenth program enables us to put our vision directly into action. Since 2020, together with Shutterstock, the Pond5 community has raised funds for several incredible organizations that support filmmakers of color and creators from underprivileged backgrounds. These include Mezcla Media Collective, Made in Her Image, Second Chance Studios, Queer | Art, NBAF (National Black Arts), and Black Girls Code. We recognize that the people in these teams know best how to make sustainable changes from within their communities, and we love learning about the practical ways they leverage our donations for the good of their cause! So, we sat down with Mezcla Media Collective.
Mezcla Media Collective is an arts organization offering resources and support to women and non-binary filmmakers of color within Chicago’s bustling media production scene. Co-founder Colette Ghunim and Director of Community Regina Emiliano recently took us through what our collaborative efforts have meant for them, as well as recent initiatives, member highlights, and how you can support further growth.
Pond5: What has Mezla been up to since we spoke last June?
Colette Ghunim: We focused on three main areas in 2022, starting with major infrastructure development. Pond5 was an essential support for this, allowing us to be intentional with building capacity for decades to come. We could increase the hours of staff time and expand the roles in ways that we had only dreamed of before! These include a Director of Community, who focuses on increasing membership to more women of color filmmakers, and a supporting Community Development Coordinator.
Secondly, we’ve been improving our crew database. Before it was just a Google sheet. We now have a full build-out from a design agency that employers can use to hire professionals from within our community. Third is continued fundraising. Our annual campaign raised $12,000, and holding our first fundraiser event at a hockey game was very exciting and different. We also held our annual retreat, which was all about fundraising for films. So, that was also a significant portion of the end of 2022 for us.
Pond5: That’s amazing. You touched on this a bit, but can you elaborate on how our reader’s proceeds helped make this happen?
Colette: Aside from infrastructure and the database build-out, we funneled donations into our programming. So we got stipends to facilitators for our quarterly educational workshops! We were very much able to use the buckets of funding for all the different pieces. So thank you so much; we’re so grateful for that elevation.
Pond5: Speaking of programming, you shared about different initiatives the last time we spoke via Instagram Live. Can you update us on the Annual Retreat, Industry Circles, etc.?
Colette: Yes! We made the retreat happen, and the cohort learned a lot about building pitch decks and getting advice and resources from one another.
Regina: Industry Circles was designed to give our members a place to unite and bring their projects, depending on the topic they want to cover. We have a Producers Industry Circle and a Writers Industry Circle, for example. We’re moving away from a ‘talk at you’ format to be more collaborative, and let our members take ownership to run the meetings themselves. It’s the idea of ‘let’s connect with other women of color and non-binary filmmakers within your specific niche, and ultimately have our members take ownership of their circles. Actually something amazing happened to that effect–in our Writers Industry Circle we were meeting virtually each month. Some people said, “Okay we can meet virtually but is anybody on the South Side?” Fifteen people were, and they decided to have a South Side writer’s meetup. That is the purpose of the new Industry Circles.
Pond5: When talking about their production of ‘Manifold’, your member Adia Ivey credits Mezcla as a significant conduit to their work. “In connecting with other artists through Mezcla, I and many others quickly discovered ongoing needs specific to Black, queer trans and disabled artists that aligned with our specializations in artist development and community exhibitions. Mezcla also provides an example of collaboration over competition, which is a philosophy I and other members strive to embody in our work and future collaborations”. We’d love to hear other success stories from the audience you serve, or hear about projects they’re working on!
Colette: Many members got into major film festivals this past year with projects that involved directly collaborating with other Mezcla members and funding from sources. We also had several people get jobs in the industry, both full-time and freelance, which they would only have found as part of our group.
Regina: Chan C. Smith won an Emmy at the Chicago/NorthWest Emmy Awards for her direction on the ‘All In Illinois’ campaign! Her commercial tapped into personal stories to encourage vaccinations. Another member Erika Valencia, won best Director at an LA film festival, and Naeema Torres and I are working on impact for Sundance winner Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project.
Colette: This industry is so connections focused, and just getting that one spark can propel all of us forward. These amazing stories speak to the power of community that makes us thrive.
Pond5: How can our readers support Mezcla this year?
Colette: We have our donation button and are always looking for those who want to support monetarily. The most important thing for us to sustain is having individual donors as a source. But beyond that, we seek mentorship and job opportunities. If people know of jobs, they can send them to the job board, and we can continue to grow opportunities that way. Another significant way to contribute is by introducing any industry connections that you feel would be useful for our community. We’re always open to talking to people outside of Chicago to bring those resources to our community.
Regina: We want our filmmakers to utilize all the tools possible to make themselves successful, which I feel like we’re already doing together. So I’m hoping to continue our partnership with Pond5 & Shutterstock in that way.