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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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."