Sophia Banks On Navigating a Male-Driven Film Industry as a Female Film-Maker

Sophia Banks On Navigating a Male-Driven Film Industry

As A Female Film Maker

When you think of the Film Industry, you typically think of famous directors such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino.

While those are some talented directors and titans in the industry, Sophia Banks felt that the statistics showed the need for more female talents as she commented that “Only 7% of the world’s directors and film-makers are female. I wanted to change that”. 

That is exactly what Banks sought out to do and what she hopes will inspire other women in her field to do the same.

She spent 15 years in fashion before turning to the film industry, founding the legendary store Satine and winning multiple awards including Vogue Australia’s Top Fashion Expert and Harper Bazaar’s Fashion Leader many years in a row. She then launched her fashion line Whitley Kros worn by many celebrities and touted by Forbes as one of the Top Ten Designers on The Rise. However, while Banks experienced a whirlwind of success in working with A-List celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra, Kylie, and Kendell Jenner, Amber Heard, she knew that her hard work and determination would ultimately allow her to create a platform for her true passion- filmmaking. 

“Breaking into the industry that I was passionate about, took starting from the bottom, and there’s absolutely no shame in that. At the end of the day, especially as a female fighting for a sliver of the spotlight, you should get your hands into every opportunity that does come your way. They are all experiences you can learn from.”

And learning is a primary focus that Banks stressed in order to achieve success. The Australian native studied film, acting, fashion and business in three countries including acclaimed institutions like; USC’s school of cinematic arts and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. 

With that being said, Banks offers insight to what comes after all of the studying, the most important step, applying those skills to translate that work into a stunning visual piece that invokes a specific message catering to each client’s needs. “It’s one thing to study and to understand what someone else is telling you, what to do, or how to do it. It’s entirely another thing to develop your own unique style and give your project life. That is how we can leave our mark as female filmmakers in today’s industry.” 

Banks pulled inspiration from her own experiences in order to develop that personal style. Her passion for edgy design and forward thinking to break the mold of what we conventionally see in a film shoot, commercial or short is what makes her stand out, as seen in her award-winning film she created with fashion icon Christian Siriano titled Making it on Time.

In this fashion editorial style commercial, Banks creates another view for a woman on the go. It starts out with fashionable women in rush-hour traffic wearing ornate couture gowns. Who then borrow skateboards from unwitting onlookers to get to their event on time (for more on this video visit: www.sophiabanks.com for this film and other inspiring works).

This short was nominated for over 15 awards and won Film Fest Miami. The film was nominated for Best Short, Best Fashion Film, and Best Director at film festivals around the world including; Oscar-qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival, Moët & Chandon Tribeca Film Festival, Berlin and Milan Fashion Film Festivals, Los Angeles Film Awards and many more.

She brings a raw and exciting element that is unexpected and creates something beautiful and thought-provoking. “It really came down to breaking the mold for me. I feel like there is more focus on empowering women and breaking through stereotypes – but in the fashion world that is still very much a new concept.” One that Banks continues to work towards. “Every project that I work on is personal to me. It has to be. That passion is what is the difference in a sort of ‘run-of-the-mill’ piece of work and a piece of art.”  

But how did she get to that point? Banks explains further: “after studying and developing your skills as someone newly starting out in this industry, it is important to take on as many projects that you can in order to really hone in on your passions. Most of the time, we might not know which direction we clearly want to go in until we try”. I was also able to sit on sets and have the experience of watching directors. I got to sit behind Wim Wenders for a week, which was amazing, plus all the experience I got from just being on set.  

Gigs for top brands like  Chobani, BMW, Pure Leaf Teahouse,  Dell, Cheeky for Target, Doritos, and Ford soon followed as well as work with fashion brands;  Pam & Gela, Ralph and Russo, Anine Bing, RSEA, Valentino, and Gen Luxe magazine. Banks has also distinguished herself in the world of music videos with a fast-paced electronic romp for the Aussie band Strange Talk Music, with projects taking her all over the world. 

This brings Banks to her latest project, starring Trevor Jackson (Grownish, Superfly), Dylan Penn (Condemned), Dp Paul Cameron (Westworld, Man on Fire),  VFX Producer Ivy Agregan (Revenant, Birdman), Producer Peter Winther (Independence Day, Patriot), and Original Score by Liam O’Neil from Kings of Leon.

This sci-fi short titled Unregistered has a unique cast and script all in of itself, but what makes it even more compelling is how Banks, her team, along with PRG North America has accomplished to bring this film to life, as Banks says; “the viewers are going to see what it’s like to live in a virtual reality world”. And she is putting it mildly. What has been accomplished, in essence, is an entirely new way of visual arts in real time and without the use of greenscreens or after effects by way of superimposing images in post-production. The film is set to launch by the end of this year, and it is absolutely one to look out for. 

Sophia Banks is now the CEO of Banks Films and is now in development of their first feature. She hopes to see many more women who have been on the sideline join her in the movement to even out the balance in this male-dominated industry. The quote she lives by is: “The Future is Female” and with all that we have learned, we think that the future is closer than we know.

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