Award-winning screenwriter, actor and filmmaker, Rachel Noll James on empowering and supporting female filmmakers through her new philanthropic initiative, and upcoming screenings of her film INGRESS

Bainbridge Island screenwriter, actor and filmmaker, Rachel Noll James knows a lot about the struggles women face in the film industry. In 2022, a total of 111 directors were hired across the 100 top fictional films, of these, 91% were men and only 9% were women, and the number of women working behind the camera has only increased 8% since 1998. In addition, the gender wage gap in Hollywood is still 25% with women earning $1.1M less than men with similar experience. These are just a few of the statistics women face in the industry, and the primary reason, Rachel has worked hard to break those barriers.

Rachel Noll James
Rachel Noll James

In 2016, Rachel co-founded Emergence Films with Sienna Beckman. The film and TV development company focuses on supporting female-identifying filmmakers and underrepresented storytellers. Their goal is to showcase strong, complex and multidimensional women through female driven stories and characters.

With their new initiative, “The Emerging Filmmakers Program supported by The Emergence Film Fund”, they aim at revolutionizing the way women make, distribute, and market independent films by igniting a patron/artist relationship. “Through our unique support and growth model, we are nurturing the next generation of storytellers by offering them the map, the resources, and the guidance to grow a sustainable career in film,” they note on their Program Deck.

Hollywood is a billion-dollar profit-driven industry, and because the investors in film want to make as much money as possible, this more often than not, leaves many industry creatives with fresh ideas behind. The goal behind their new initiative is to break those barriers by creating a patron/artist relationship to raise funds and get women’s films into the marketplace and in front of the audiences who want to watch them. “Fine arts and performing arts are almost exclusively structured as donor-backed nonprofits… Why not film?”

As they explain in their Program Deck:

  • A patron model allows “risky” film artists to experiment and play outside the box while they are honing their craft and finding their voice, and affords a continued spirit of creative innovation as they grow their careers.
  • It rekindles the supportive, regenerative connection between patron and artist, which is a relationship as old as time. The mindset of a donor is different than the mindset of an investor, and that difference is lifechanging for the artists benefitting from their support.
  • It allows films to be offered and shared outside the Hollywood walls, rather than pushed and sold within them. Just because the gatekeepers don’t know how to sell our stories doesn’t mean no one wants to buy them. We’ve seen this proven time and time again.
  • It allows filmmakers to focus their distribution efforts on their unique target audience. Every film has an audience, and those audiences vary in size. We need to hold space for that. Whether it is 100 people or a million people, when someone sees a story that is meant for them… That impact is immeasurable. The right film viewed at the right time can alter the course of a person’s life.
Rachel and Sienna at the Historic Lynwood Theatre
Rachel and Sienna at the Historic Lynwood Theatre

The Emergence Film fund is 100% donor backed and will directly finance the education, mentorship, flagship projects, and seed the careers of female filmmaking teams from around the world. The first series of their program will facilitate three filmmaking cycles spanning six years, supporting a total of 18 female-identifying filmmakers. With no investors to repay, 50% of the profits will go back into the film fund to help support the next cycle of female driven films, and as noted on their Program Deck, “Budget tiers for each funding level will ensure every member of the cast and crew gets paid for their work. Filmmakers will also receive a living wage for the apprenticeship portion of our program to ensure they can focus solely on their art.”

They piloted this program model a few years ago with a micro budget for their feature film, INGRESS, which was shot exclusively on Bainbridge Island using local talent in 2021 and premiered last year at the Bainbridge Island Film Festival. INGRESS was 75% donor funded, and included local cast and crew members, apprenticeships and internships. They also used the same model for their low budget feature, INHERITANCE which was 100% donor funded and is currently in post-production. With both projects, they experienced firsthand the impact and influence this model has on the process of generating and releasing a film into the world. It allowed the crew and staff the freedom to make impactful artistic decisions that serve the story, and diverge from traditional Hollywood practices. It is also allowed them to finetune their marketing and distribution strategies.

“I know I did a better job on set because of how they supported me. I know that I am a stronger person because of who I have been allowed to be on Emergence Films jobs,” says Allie Seibert, who worked on both films. “Being a female filmmaker means often navigating a world that was not built for you, I think sets like these show us what we’re capable of when the production is built around supporting the crew, I’m proud to stand by the work I did for them, and I look forward to what they have to show the world going forward.”

“When I found out my friend, Rachel, was going to make a movie right here on Bainbridge, I asked if there was some way I could be involved even though I had absolutely no experience. I thought it would be fun to see how a movie was made. And it was fun – aaaand – it was also a real eye opener as to how much hard work goes into it,” Tracy Dickerson recalls. While filming INGRESS, Tracy saw firsthand how the work doesn’t stop with filming and pre/post production. After a full day of filming at a local home, Tracy witnessed both Rachel and Sienna studiously cleaning the house top to bottom, and when Tracy volunteered to assist, they sent her home. “And it was then that it really hit me and I knew in my heart just how committed these women were to their project, how much they loved their craft, how much they respected everything they’d been given to work with, and how much they cherished the people they worked with.”

And their hard work has paid off! They recently signed the distribution deal with Glass House Distribution for worldwide streaming rights and INGRESS has been picked up by 10 theaters in Washington, Los Angeles and New Mexico for a limited run before finding its home on streaming platforms this spring. They are currently shopping the film at EFM in Berlin and hope to have official word on where the film can be watched from home very soon.

2024 INGRESS_Bainbridge Cinemas PostcardDuring the months of February and March the film can be seen for a limited time in theaters, with several of the showings to include a one-night talk with Rachel, Sienna and members of the cast and crew.

Local INGRESS screenings will be shown at the following locations:

  • Kingston Firehouse Theater(Kingston, WA) ONE NIGHT ONLY. Thursday February 29th at 7PM. Rachel will be in attendance for a post-screening talk.
  • Bainbridge Cinemas from March 1st – March 7th. Showings at 7PM on Friday, 1:00PM and 7:00PM Saturday and Sunday, and 3:30PM Monday-Thursday. Rachel will be in attendance for a post screening talk back on Friday March 1st.
  • University Theater(Seattle, WA) on March 8th – March 14
  • Historic Admiral Theater (West Seattle, WA) on March 8th – March 14th

Additional screenings will be shown at Laemmle Glendale (Glendale, CA): February 23rd – February 29th; Stanwood Theater (Stanwood, WA): March 1st – March 7th; and Anacortes Cinemas (Anacortes, WA): March 15th – March 20th.

For tickets, screening times and updates, visit: Ingress – Emergence Films

The Emergence Film Fund is currently in the process of raising donor-backed film funds, and welcomes your thoughts, ideas and contributions to help get their initiative off the ground. To learn more about the program, visit their Program Deck here.

Rachel has written, co-written, directed and produced several award-winning films, receiving Best Feature Writer at the L.A. Femme Festival for her film Dont Pass Me By, which she produced and acted in alongside Hollywood veterans Keith David and C. Thomas Howell. Her film, The Storyteller, won the Silver Prize in the Family Film category in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards and was released on Hallmark Movies Now. She is also credited with numerous award-winning short films including Paramnesia (part of acclaimed collective Fun Size Horror Volume 1), Half Light (released exclusively through Seed&Spark), and the proof-of-concept  Follow The River, which premiered at the Port Orchard Film Festival.

If you’d like to learn more about Rachel and her films, visit our previous article here: Rachel Noll James – Carving a Path for Local Filmmakers | THE ISLAND WANDERER

If you’d like to read more articles from The Island Wanderer Blog website, click here, to subscribe to The Island Wanderer Blog, click here.

ADVERTISE WITH US! We offer exceptional rates and packages for advertisers, to learn more, contact us at Contact Us | THE ISLAND WANDERER

Scroll to Top