The Empowerment Project Mentees Share Their Experience

The all-female crew from The Empowerment Project have been doing something special other than making one of the best documentaries we are ever going to see about women! In each city where they are filming around the United States, they are having interns, local girls, to come and be part of their crew for the day and get some hands on experience with some of the best producers out of Hollywood! We wanted to give them a chance to share their experience, as we hope it will inspire other female filmmakers to get out there and not be afraid to get into the industry because of their gender.


LOS ANGELES – Rocio Ortega

“Calling all aspiring female filmmakers!”

Imagine seeing that as the headline of a Facebook post from your news feed.
I immediately clicked the link and found myself being exposed to a group of amazing and successful female filmmakers as they were about to embark in their journey called The Empowerment Project.

After working together on a youth filmmaking program, Directors and Producers Sarah Moshman and Dana Michelle Cook founded Heartfelt Productions in 2007. Heartfelt Productions started as a way to tell stories, and showcase uplifting, positive content to inspire women everywhere. Joining their team is Director of Photography Alana Fickes, Associate Producer Ashley Hammen and Documentary Shooter Vanessa Crocini. Their current work includes The Empowerment Project where literally a group of five women pack their camera, light and sound equipment, making stops across the country from Los Angeles to Chicago and New York, to interview successful women from diverse professional careers and produce a docu-series about women.

Talk about a lot of work! But wait, it gets better! Along the 10 stops on their journey across the country, they are mentoring one young girl who is interested in filming – experience not a requirement but simply willing to learn and be part of an all-female crew.

Here’s where my Global Girl Media experience kicked into place. As I kept scrolling down this calling for submissions, I found myself applying to be part of an all-female crew for the Los Angeles stop. I was fortunately enough to be a mentee on August 29, 2013 as we interviewed Ellen Rakieten, co-creator of The Oprah Winfrey Show and founder of her own Productions Company.

The day was full of setting up camera, sound and light equipment, running over interview questions and of course experiencing what it was like to be part of an all-female crew and interview a successful woman in the media. I was in amazement from how a professional female crew conducts an interview to listening to Ellen Rakieten say “I do not have any regrets in my career.” This was probably one of the highlights of my day, listening to a woman who is already successful in her career and getting the opportunity to learn from her.

As a Global Girl Media reporter, trained in Los Angeles and be able to work with girls from Chicago, Morocco and South Africa, I know there’s a constant need to learn from women who already work in the media. I definitely feel like I enhanced my filmmaking skills and even learned jargon words/phrases in the media industry.

The Empowerment Project is truly inspiring and lives up to its name. I wish the Heartfelt Productions team a successful and fun journey! You are definitely creating positive content for young women like me to look forward to and learn from. Thank you for letting me be part of an all-female crew and can’t wait to watch The Empowerment Project in its final product!

Rocio ortega

You can read more about Rocio on her blog. She is 18, a student of Wellesley College in Massachusetts, is involved with the organization Girl Up and is also a teen reporter for Global Girl Media. Her passion is female empowerment and gender equality for the future.


SAN FRANCISCO – Angelisa Candler & Caitlin Dong

ANGELISA CANDLER: My name is Angelisa and I am a 21-year old from San Francisco, CA. I have always loved photography, education, youth empowerment and art.  It wasn’t until high school (at fifteen years old) was I exposed to filmmaking and realized I could combine all of my passions into one. I learned all that I know through a program called NextGen at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC).I have been doing freelance filmmaking since.
A mentor of mine at BAVC forwarded an e-mail describing the Empowerment Project and the two women funding the trip, Sarah and Dana. I did some research on the two, read more about the position and instantly knew it would be a perfect fit. I recently received my Associates Degree at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and completed a summer internship at Common Sense Media as their Video Intern. I primarily edited movie reviews, which meant I was constantly sitting at my computer.  I am now taking a year off of school to work on my portfolio and apply to four-year universities for film, so I was itching for an opportunity to be on a set with other professionals. Best part, they were ALL women!
I think as a woman, we are constantly discouraged to follow our dreams if they do not fit within socially constructed career norms. This is a particular difficulty for women interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Mine being technology. Working with an all female crew only solidified my passion for filmmaking and allowed me to acknowledge and accept this. Although I may have family members who may never understand my passion for art and technology, I will no longer let that hold me back. It is perfectly OK for me to be a filmmaker, I am just as talented as a male filmmaker so you’re just going to have to deal with it!
angelisa candler
You can connect with Angelisa on Twitter and
CAITLIN DONG: I am currently a third year college student, pursuing a degree in Media Studies and a minor in Education.  I am still unsure of what I would like to do once I graduate, and knew that being involved with the Empowerment Project would be a unique hands on experience and serve as a way to gain some experience in the production field.I’ve known about the Empowerment Project for a while, and was pumped about it from the beginning.  People often talk about female empowerment, but the Heartfelt Productions crew is spearheading a project that is long overdue. To know that they have the power to plan and execute this project themselves is a breath of fresh air.  That being said, I was more than ready to take advantage of the opportunity of being their mentee/production assistant for the day. Working with a production crew while in college is quite a rare opportunity in and of itself and the fact that this is an all female crew made this opportunity even more unique and exciting. In the past year, I mentored underprivileged fourth and fifth grade girls once a week.The primary goal of this program is to help build up their self esteem and confidence through fun and interactive projects dealing with science and technology, typically fields where women are marginalized.  Believe me, I’m no scientist or super tech-savvy individual, but working and bonding with these girls was always the highlight of my week. This simple once-a-week commitment made me feel empowered, and helped me strengthen my foothold in this crazy world.

Though I spent only five and a half hours with the production team and our empowered woman, Mina Bissell, I learned more than I anticipated, from how cameras are set up to knowing how the lights work to more logistic aspects, such as ensuring release forms are signed, and so the list goes on. Though, the best part of this experience was having the privilege of spending time with Dana, Ashley, Sarah, Alana, and Vanessa.  Each of them comprises an important and integral part of the team.  To witness their dedication toward and their passion for the Empowerment Project was and continues to be inspirational.

Caitlin Dong

You can follow Caitlin on Twitter.


PORTLAND – Krystal Abbott

Hi I’m Krystal Abbott and I helped out on the Portland set.  I currently live in Seattle and I write, produce, and perform comedy shows.  It was kind of random that I even found out about the Empowerment Project. A friend sent me a link to the application and I submitted.  What interested me in it mainly, was that as an emerging female artist in the entertainment industry, it was important that I witness/be a part of a project that is specifically intending to empower women in a heavily male dominated industry. I needed to feel refreshed and hopeful that there are women out there that are interested in building each other up as opposed to beating each other down, climbing over each other, backstabbing, manipulating, etc.  Women can be more cut throat with each other than with men.  I even hear myself at times being extremely harsh on women. To climb the ranks, women almost have to transform themselves to even compete in an established man’s world.  We have to speak like men, hang like men, and almost forget that we’re women.  Teri, in her interview, touched on a great point.  Instead of women focusing on trying to talk like men, we have to reshape the conversation.  Her example being instead of asking the question, “Can you carry a 75lb keg?” it should be, “How would you get a keg to the top of the stairs?”

It was fantastic being on set with these amazing women.  I love the intention that was set for this project. They were very upfront about what they were doing.  How they set up lights, audio, what they try to think of when they pick a spot to shoot, etc.  There’s no room to be jealous of that girl over there, because  you’re working together and what’s important is having a finished project that’s amazingly done.  Each member on the team was working their ass off to ensure everything was getting done.  I love strong women!  I learned some cool on set jargon and certain things that could be considered “rookie” moves.  I loved it.  It allowed me to visualize for the first time that I can be a woman behind the camera.  I came out feeling confident and dare I say, EMPOWERED!  I also realized how much work, and it is a lot of work, can go behind something as simple as an interview.  It gave me a major reality check that if I want to be in this business, you’ve got to have stamina.  I held the camera for under 5 minutes and was tired.  It’s carrying bags, cases, loading, unloading, lifting, shifting, setting, resetting, waiting, patience, and trusting that everyone is doing their share.

I think it’s a beautiful thing these gals are doing. I am so grateful that I got to be a part of it. At a minimum, it was an invaluable networking opportunity.  I now know 5 more bad ass ladies that are in the same industry as me and I cannot wait for our paths to cross again.  I send loving beautiful vibrations your way and that you find the grace and endurance for the rest of the journey.
Much love to you Dana, Sarah, Alana, Vanessa and Ashley. You have beautiful energy and brilliant souls.
Krystal Faye
PS. I’d say the coolest thing I got to do or at least the most satisfying was getting to clap the slate marker.  Ugh. so cool. my 5 year old self was doing backflips.
Krystal Abbott
You can follow Krystal on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.
Check out The Empowerment Project Ladies behind the scenes and what they got up to in between takes around the Pacific Northwest:


  1. Oh my gosh, love the update!!! Look what you have done for these 3 interns already! This is such an epic adventure already! (Epic is the new word, used instead of awesome~~~I learned this from my grand nephew, Owen!) See no matter how old you get, you can still learn, and usually it is from the younger generation! Love following you and your journey. Safe travels.
    Love, Gma

  2. Pingback: Teen Nick HALO Award Winner Speaks Up For Girl Power! - GirlTalkHQ

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