By Christy Lamb and Mathilde Dratwa
How One Non-Profit Changed The Game for Parents at SXSW
The Wee Wagon Project: a Recap

Actress and director Foster Wilson has just found out that a film she worked on, "The Archer," will be having its world premiere at SXSW, one of the country's biggest and more widely-publicized film festivals. Her eyes move from the email on her phone informing her of the news to a nearby bassinet, in which lies her second bundle of joy: her five month old daughter Matea. The look on Foster's face says it all. Maybe if she were to bring the five month old along for the trip…

The reality of actually attending a screening at the festival seems like a far-off fantasy.

But this is Hollywood, folks, so of course there is a happy ending.

For the first time ever, thanks to a 2017 SXSW Community Grant, our non-profit Moms-in-Film provided free on-site childcare to parent-filmmakers at this year's SXSW Festival. Moms-in-Film is a bi-coastal organization, and our mission is to energize the careers of parents in the film industry. Our project, The Wee Wagon, is the first mobile childcare unit designed purposely for use on set and at film festivals. The interior of the Wee Wagon is a play-based care space that allows children to become familiar with a consistent physical environment no matter the location, while its exterior is designed for travel and easy identification on set. The Wee Wagon is not just a practical approach to combating the industry's gender disparity issue, but a necessary step in helping mothers in the film industry retain the careers of their choice.
The response from parents on the ground in Austin to the Wee Wagon was phenomenal. SXSW narrative feature Jury Award Winner and new mother Ana Asensio says she hopes to see a Moms-in-Film Wee Wagon at "every single set and every single film festival." The director, writer, and star of "Most Beautiful Island" says it's time to start having this conversation publicly because "the lack of available childcare in the industry is a reason that female directors lag behind their male counterparts." Actress and producer Iris Ichishito used the Wee Wagon to pump milk for her daughter, calling it "an oasis for families." The team behind "Stranger Fruit," a doc revisiting the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, described the Wee Wagon as both "classic" and "dope" while "Spettacolo" director Chris Shellen says that "free, mobile childcare at festivals and on sets is "a gamechanger in the fight for gender equality."

Suzy Starke German, Program Manager for LUNAFEST, attended SXSW and used the Wee Wagon's childcare for her infant daughter every day while in Austin. The Wee Wagon allowed her to not only attend important meetings and events, but to also present the SXSW Luna Gamechanger Award to "Inflame" writer-director Ceylan Ozgun Ozcelik and the SXSW Luna Chicken & Egg Award to "I Am Another You" helmer Nanfu Wang. Suzy was so thrilled with the services that LUNA made a generous donation to Moms-in-Film during the SXSW festival. And of course, even Foster Wilson herself was able to attend a screening of The Archer while Matea was cared for in the Wee Wagon.

Moms-in-Film not only received support from SXSW and Luna, but also from a number of enthusiastic sponsors including Virginia-based sign manufacturers Everbrite who donated all Moms-in-Film signage and mock-up illustrations for future Wee Wagon build-outs, and Babyganics who provided the Wee Wagon with everything from diaper rash cream to baby sunscreen and face and hand wipes. However, the Wee Wagon would absolutely not have been possible without Collab&Play, a Los Angeles-based freelance membership workspace that provides childcare for members. Collab&Play founder Silvana Arzeno Toledo and her partner Arielle Jennings accompanied us to Austin — at their own expense — providing the crucial care component the Wee Wagon required for successful implementation.

After the success of SXSW, we aim to integrate the Wee Wagon into film festivals and both location/studio shoots on the East/West coasts. Our hope is to use these larger opportunities to offset the costs for independent productions and smaller festivals seeking to provide similar care. Given Moms-in-Film's status as a fiscally-sponsored non-profit organization, we are able to accept tax-deductible donations and apply for grants that will allow the Wee Wagon to support productions of all sizes. Moms-in-Film will lobby for tax incentives for provisions like the Wee Wagon to ensure the hiring and retention of parents in the field.

The Wee Wagon is just one initiative for Moms-In-Film. Our bi-coastal non-profit seeks to shift film industry norms and welcomes like-minded organizations, individuals, and partners looking to integrate family within the film industry, move the needle on hiring parents, retain mothers in the industry, and ultimately create equal representation both on and offscreen.

For more information about Moms-in-Film check out our website.

Call your mother. Then call us.

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