As awards show season progresses and the film industry buzzes over the actors and actresses in the limelight, it is necessary to recognize those who work behind the camera: the directors, producers, cinematographers and editors who create from the shadows. Furthermore, as only 24% of the film industry is composed of women, it is important to highlight the role of female creators as beacons of representation and inspiration.
The history of film is inseparable from women’s history as women have been involved in film for as long as the art has existed — even while having to battle gender inequality and barriers to entry both in front of and behind the cameras. Female filmmakers are paving the way forwards in an industry where they are still underrepresented.
At Tech, student film is almost an industry of its own; various film clubs on campus are constantly creating and allowing students a creative voice through these productions. One such student film studio is Buzz Studios, a filmmaking club in which members create original short films that are fully student-led, from the screenwriting to the editing and all stages in between. One female filmmaker behind Buzz Studios that the Technique wanted to highlight is Sneha Malneedi, second-year CS. She serves as External Vice President and Webmaster of the club, focusing mainly on outreach within her role as well as filmmaking.
About 20 years ago, Buzz Studios was founded. Today, “we have probably about 30 members that come really frequently to everything, [and] we’re really active, making about four films a semester,” Malneedi said.
Her interest in filmmaking emerged in high school, as Malneedi always considered herself a storyteller. She was writing for hours every single day, until she got the idea to start making movies with the pieces she had spent so much time creating. She would use any project as an excuse to make a movie, no matter what subject it revolved around. While her school did not have a film club, it did have a filmmaking class that helped her curate her passion. Upon coming to Tech, her involvement in Buzz Studios helped her grow her passion alongside peers who shared her love for writing and film, allowing her to thrive in the incredibly uplifting community around her.
She made her directorial debut with Buzz Studios through her film “On Demand,” which follows a child flicking through TV channels, with the channels’ content hinting at the limitation of gender perception by the media; he gazes longingly at the makeup on screen and in his mom’s purse while halfheartedly playing with his toy cars. “On Demand” reflects Malneedi’s understanding of the importance of acceptance (and the hollowness of the lack of) and of the human condition.
“One thing I use a lot for movies especially is music, so ‘On Demand’ is heavily influenced by ‘How to Be a Human Being’ by Glass Animals,” Malneedi said.
The title “How to Be a Human Being” itself characterizes the short film as the child, through the media on screen, is learning how to be a human being. However, as the film progresses it becomes increasingly apparent that this education is through an extremely gender-biased lens.
Malneedi added that while making the film, it was her first time dealing with so much management throughout the process.
“I also edited it in 24 hours and slept for one hour,” Malneedi said about the experience.
Her personal understanding of gender and humanity shines through “On Demand,” her creative voice and life experiences intertwining with the narrative, cinematography and the editing itself. Upon being able to create her own films with Buzz Studios and gain a creative outlet, Malneedi said that she had recently been thinking about the importance of female representation within the film industry.
“Growing up, I always thought, ‘Do I really need representation? [I] can just do it myself,’” Malneedi said. “[Now], I think representation is super important because you don’t [understand] how it affects you internally until you realize that [the representation] is either there or it’s just not,” she said. In film, “I think I’ve seen a lot of films with male perspectives, especially student films shown at competitions. I realize because they’re written by men, a lot of men write female characters two-dimensionally or very tropey,” Malneedi said.
In regard to why female filmmakers are important to uplift, “I think it’s really important to have that eye in student films or more professional Hollywood films because you don’t want to miss that perspective,” Malneedi said. At Buzz Studios “we have people that will stand up for me,” Malneedi said.
Filmmaking organizations like Buzz Studios, who are committed to education and diversity, are important going forward as the industry progresses. “At Buzz Studios, we let everyone write if they want to and we’ll try to get them in before they graduate,” Malneedi said.
As Malneedi has gone on to work on many more film projects such as “As Long As I Can Remember,” “E Pluribus Unum” and “Canned” with Buzz Studios and even in collaboration with the Tech Square Times, she described filmmaking with Buzz Studios as “a student voice for creativity.”
“We reach out to commercial businesses [and clubs] and do commercial products to make a lot of our own money. … We’re all for the most part self-taught, so honestly a lot of people aren’t film majors,” Malneedi said. “It’s really just a diverse group of people who like doing this for fun.”
“There’s still some diversity needed in media so people can see it and normalize it. … Whether you are a man, woman, nonbinary, director, actor or anyone at all, anyone can write, direct or hold a camera if they want … going into the film industry, it’s going to become a lot more diverse,” Malneedi said. “Buzz Studios has really helped with my confidence. Especially being in a group of men and knowing that they actively choose to uplift me.”
In “Ratatouille,” Gusteau says “anyone can cook … but only the fearless can be great.” So too, anyone can film at Buzz Studios — anyone can achieve greatness through their passion and peers.
To find out more about Buzz Studios and their work, follow them on Instagram and Tiktok using the handle @gatechbuzzstudios.