WFILM Institute mobilizes diverse voices and audiences through the power of visual storytelling, education, mentorship, and shared resources.


WFILM Institute (formerly Women’s Film Institute) was founded in 2004 by Scarlett Shepard: activist, producer, curator, writer, and educator. The WFILM movement started when she took a Film History class in 2004 while earning her film degree at San Francisco State University. The entire semester went by and the class was never shown a film directed by a woman, nor was there ever a discussion about women’s contributions to cinema. Shepard’s solution was two-fold: create a film festival showcasing women in the director’s chair, and develop leadership workshops to help girls express themselves through the power of visual storytelling and discover careers in media. Her dream was to shatter stereotypes, break down barriers, and empower audiences through film. After Shepard graduated from film school, she took WFILM off campus and it became an independent not-for-profit organization.

I didn’t know the first thing about producing a festival, but I knew it was necessary to accelerate progress and awareness inside the classroom and beyond. I was so inspired by the outpouring of women, men, students, teachers, filmmakers, community groups, film fans, and business professionals who understood that when we make representation a priority, everyone wins.” – Scarlett Shepard

Celebrating Independent Film

WFILM has transformed from a three-day film festival into a thriving global network of individuals, professionals, and organizations dedicated to gender equality while working toward bringing greater diversity to the film and entertainment industry. Since its inception, WFILM has showcased over 600 films from around the world. Such notables as Danny Glover, Penelope Spheeris, and Isabel Allende have chosen WFILM as a premiere venue and platform to showcase their work.

WFILM has been a fiscally sponsored project of Independent Arts & Media (IAM), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, since 2006. This partnership allows us to operate as a charitable entity. IAM is dedicated to increasing access to independent voices. IAM currently provides fiscal sponsorship to over 60 affiliates dedicated to non-commercial work in media and the arts, including publishing, theater, dance, music, visual art, film and video, journalism, history, and public events production.