Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Christine Stoddard of Quail Bell Press &…

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Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Christine Stoddard of Quail Bell Press & Productions Is Helping To Change Our World

Reflect on what you want. So many people will try to tell you what you should want. Forget them. Be honest with yourself about what you actually want.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Stoddard.

Christine Stoddard is a multimedia creator, artist, producer, and founder of Quail Bell Press & Productions. Her feature film, Sirena’s Gallery, distributed by Summer Hill Entertainment, is now streaming on Amazon Prime, Hoopla, Roku, and other platforms. She hosts the feminist talk show Badass Lady-Folk and co-hosts the comedy show Don’t Mind If I Don’t with Aaron Gold on Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

I’ve been making art since childhood and never grew out of it. When most people think of artists, they think of paintings. And while I do in fact paint, I’m better known for my writing, film, and theatre conjurings. Right now I have a solo exhibition of paintings at the Queens Botanical Garden in New York City; it’s called “A Forest of Ancestral Dreams” and runs through March 18, 2024. It draws from ideas about heritage, folklore, geography, and recycling both materials and stories. These are themes I’ve been mulling over since childhood, with pacifist, resourceful parents who met during El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s. These themes emerge in my film and videos, too. I’ll recycle and remix footage just as I do with my mixed media paintings. Searching and wandering and perhaps never finding but yearning still are central to my moving image works. All of these are apparent in my new feature film Sirena’s Gallery, which is now streaming. On the note of backstory, I was tickled to return to Richmond, VA, where I went to college, to shoot the film. It brought back so many memories of who I was and who I am becoming. I was the first in my family to be born and raised in Virginia, so in a sense, I was the first Southerner. Yet I never felt quite at ease there and I eventually chased my dream of moving to New York City because of it.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

An early mistake that’s funny in a sad kind of way is thinking I had to replicate the films and videos shown to me in school. My undergraduate film program was run by an American filmmaker with a strong European bent, so our cinematic curriculum was pretty narrowly focused. I expanded my horizons a bit more through independent study with an experimental filmmaker on the faculty. I took theatre and world studies courses with required viewing lists, too. Unfortunately, I just had too much anxiety and fear to follow my own instincts. That’s not to say my personal style didn’t begin to emerge, but it wasn’t until my MFA that I truly began to trust my vision. Early on in the program, a professor told me that nobody needs a license to be an artist. After that, something clicked. My confidence soared. Funny that the project that I turned in that week was animated piece featuring skeleton orgasms, but that’s beside the point.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

With my day jobs in journalism, I’ve met many famous and otherwise notable people, but I truly don’t think they’re always the most interesting. That being said, it’s hard to pick because even “dull” people have something interesting about them! For the sake of answering the question this time, I’ll nominate my dearly departed Professor Colin Chase, who taught sculpture at The City College of New York-CUNY. He encouraged me in every piece I brought to him, no matter how I felt about it. He taught me to “see” like a New Yorker and he made me feel that I had a place in this very competitive scene. Of course, he reminded me of the importance of humility, too. Once, I left a critique early because of some fancy obligation and believe me, he teased me and called me “Miss Thang” for it. For Colin, few things trumped work ethic.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Lately, I’ve been very inspired by the Guatemalan Indigenous people who’ve demanded accountability from their government for its human rights violations. Guatemala has a history of state-sanctioned Indigenous genocide. This year, I watched a few films that made me more aware of these activists and admire their actions. I loved the narrative fiction film La Llorona by Jayro Bustamante and the documentary Finding Oscar. In order to hold people accountable for their violent actions, that violence must first be named. The Mayan people have suffered long enough, but they have also triumphed before and I believe they will triumph again.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I get such joy from choosing the right collaborators and introducing people who are on the same wave-length to one another. Human connection is so critical to any kind of art-making. After all, we aspire for our art to connect with our audience. I like championing people who are talented and hard-working, but who perhaps haven’t earned recognition for those qualities yet. People thank me for the opportunities I’ve given them and the introductions I’ve made for them all of the time. This one-on-one approach is one way I bring goodness to the world and I hope that I can continue to do it for the rest of my career. Feminism, anti-racism, and children’s rights are social causes apparent in much of my work. More recently, suicide prevention and mental illness advocacy have become more prevalent, such as in my stage play “Mi Abuela, Queen of Nightmares,” which was filmed and has a related visual art series.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

I never really gave up. But I do know that there were times I delve more deeply into my journalism career than my arts one, and that was purely for financial reasons. Luckily, the two are compatible in many ways, but not every journalism outlet is a good fit for me. I’m a weirdo. I have personality. I don’t dry. I don’t stuffy. I have opinions and I demand to be treated fairly. When I had a magazine employer who wasn’t paying me, the decision to step away was easy. Navigating small claims court, applying for my MFA, doing an artist residency that challenged my entire notion of my personal capabilities…it was a domino effect that brought me to where I am today.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I really have to credit my current romantic and creative partner Aaron Gold, who is an actor, comedian, and writer. He met me at a very vulnerable time in my life and championed me for my artistry, always with love and kindness but also with a certain firmness. He won’t let me give up on myself or my art. We make film, TV, theatre, and all types of silliness and earnestness together. Like me, he cares a lot about social impact.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Support your friends! Just about every individual can show support for the artists in their lives. Making a film, for example, takes a lot of work and it doesn’t end with post-production. We have to market it, too! Keep that in mind when you’re struggling with deciding what to watch. Stream your friend’s film! Subscribe to their YouTube page. Sit down for that local TV program or a buy a ticket to that film festival. There are movies outside there besides Marvel blockbusters.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. You define who you are. Don’t let others label you. Claim your identity as an artist and filmmaker.

2. Always be ready to learn. Soak up knowledge, grow in your thinking, and build your skills.

3. Act now and manage your time. Start today, make progress everyday, and don’t obsess over perfection. Opt instead for consistency.

4. Be gentle with yourself. There’s enough pressure in the world. Accept that you will make mistakes. Rectify them and keep going.

5. Reflect on what you want. So many people will try to tell you what you should want. Forget them. Be honest with yourself about what you actually want.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

You are not the center of the universe, nor should you be. No matter how much acclaim you achieve, you must think of others. Think of your audience. Think of the socio-economic impact of your work. You have the power to change hearts and minds. Even to put it in selfish terms: In film and TV, you are highly dependent on other people. Lead with kindness. Be the kind of leader you wish you had on previous projects. Change the industry and how things are done. You can do that by starting small. There’s no shame in small. Small leads to big over time.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Tina Fey! I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished in art and journalism so far and feel confident about my trajectory in those fields both separately and where they overlap. However, I’ve been thinking more about projects I want to pursue that are solidly entertainment. And Tina Fey is someone whose style would complement mine perfectly.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” — Joan Didion. Telling stories isn’t a hobby or casual interest for me; it’s a passion and vocation. It’s brought me joy, catharsis, optimism, and brought me closer to so many other people.

How can our readers follow you online?

My website is I’m on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok @stoddardsays.

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Christine Stoddard of Quail Bell Press &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.