When considering the film industry, it’s impossible to not view it in conjunction with the impact it’s had as a primarily male-dominated field. From the stories that are uplifted to their innate portrayal of women and minorities — it is too often that much-needed diverse voices are overlooked for not following the status quo. Dr. Randa Garrana and Chiara Mia Miniconi created their production company, VOXFILMS, to change that.
VOXFILMS is a female-led independent film, television, and digital production company that seeks to amplify and propel diverse voices forward. Garrana, who is also an ophthalmologist and surgeon, partnered with NYU film student Miniconi last year to combat the inequality in the media, and together, they created VOXFILMS. The Knockturnal got the chance to sit down with Garrana and Miniconi and discussed the evolution of their company — and how they hope to expand their reach worldwide. “To be able to grow and grow, to distribute our own projects, represent our own talent. We want to expand and tell as many stories as we can —including our own,” Miniconi told The Knockturnal.
Of their greatest inspirations, Garrana says she is constantly impressed by the “compassionate and amazing stories” Lebanese actor and director Nadine Labaki has worked on. Miniconi, on the other hand, says French writer and director Maïwenn “tells beautiful stories that I would have never heard about if it weren’t her movies.”
Read on for our complete interview with Randa Garrana and Chiara Mia Miniconi.
The Knockturnal: Tell us about the creation of Vox films and how you and your partner began working together.
Randa Garrana: I started studying screenwriting 10 years ago because I wanted to master the tool that would allow me to share the stories that I hear, live, and learn every day in my life. When the pandemic swept the world, I closed my practice on both coasts and found myself with ample time on my hands, so I decided to take pen to paper and start writing again. Around that same time, the Black Lives Matter movement started shaping up, and many things were happening all around our country. Through a mutual friend, I met Chiara, and we began working together on a very personal screenplay loosely based upon events that happened in my life.
A few weeks later we finished our script, which tells the story of the struggles within complex family dynamics, the challenges of immigrating at a young age, and the difficulties of adjusting to being ‘different’ in a new country that is not your own. I decided to pitch it to an entertainment executive. He told me that my script was not ‘his cup of tea’ and asked if I had any other scripts that were more entertaining. Even though I was very disappointed, I immediately reminded myself that the story needed to be told. I thought to myself that it might be near-impossible to convince a male executive who is used to very mainstream genres, to see the value of this story and that I was probably not the only one out there with a story worth telling to the world, yet cannot find a home for it. That’s when I decided to create VOXFILMS with my now partner Chiara Miniconi and make it a production company open to all genres all stories, and to writers from all walks of life, especially women and minorities.
Chiara Mia Miniconi: We realized with the types of stories we wanted to tell that we were going to often meet people that were going to feel this way and we figured, “How long are we going to have to wait to make our own stories? Are we just going to wait until we meet someone that hopefully shares the same views that we do?” That’s when Randa told me, “No — let’s not wait. Let’s not have ten more people tell us ‘No’ because of the stories we want to tell. Let’s just take matters into our own hands and create a production company where we’ll tell our own stories and anyone who is in the same situation as us will be able to have a platform where they can tell their story as well.”
The Knockturnal: What do you believe sets Vox films apart from other production companies?
Randa Garrana: VOXFILMS is helmed by two women, both immigrants, one being an Eye Surgeon/ Screenwriter and the other a Filmmaker. Our mission statement really spells it out clearly:
‘We are focused on amplifying stories that ignite conversation, influence culture, and propel society forward. We aim to give voice to storytellers outside of the mainstream and capture rich, intriguing experiences that both move and entertain audiences.
Chiara Mia Miniconi: Furthermore, at VOXFILMS, we believe that having a story worth being told is not something you learn in school. You can learn how to write, direct or produce. Learn about the industry, how it used to be, how it is now, and how you could make some changes to it. VOXFILMS began its journey working with actors with their own stories who natively knew how to discover new meaning through a character. We believed we could elevate their stories by guiding them and giving them the tools to develop and produce their stories. By bringing together multidisciplinary storytellers, we can create three-dimensional, character-driven content, deepen the cinematic-emotional experience, and bring back the idea that filmmaking is a collective art form, thus changing the meaning of auteurship.
The Knockturnal: Women are usually overlooked in this industry- why do you think that is?
Randa Garrana: As a woman, in a field unrelated to entertainment, I felt the overwhelming dominance of male leadership. It’s not for the lack of brilliant and accomplished women in medicine, it’s just that most of the seats are already taken, by men. Unless leadership at the very top decides to breakdown the entire house and rebuild it on equal, and I mean ‘true equal’ grounds, I feel that that will be a painstakingly slow change. Now as to the entertainment industry, the problem is not just that leadership has to be reconstructed from the ground up, you are also up against a century of the film-making business that was built on exploiting women and using them as accessories to powerful male roles. It is a century-old culture, that only recently has been shaken up by the #METOO movement.
Chiara Mia Miniconi: I would also like to add that the entertainment industry, in a way, has its own vicious circle. People often under-estimate the power that Film and TV holds. It affects society, politics, our environment, and most importantly, our perspective of others and ourselves. Women were depicted by the industry as weak 2Dimensional characters, often unable to think by themselves without the presence of a male. This misrepresentation had dramatic consequences on the perspective society and the industry had about women.
Being from France, I would have to add that, despite the changes we have slowly witnessed in the past couple of years in the United States, I believe that the European and French Film Market is behind and longing for more female perspectives and representation. With a variety of French projects in development, VOXFILMS aims to build its legacy producing and representing French and American projects and women and evolve in both the European and American film market.
The Knockturnal: You have two projects set to launch soon, tell us a bit about what they’re about.
Randa Garrana: We have several projects in various stages of development, both in the US and in Europe. Two of the projects, ‘Away from Home’ and ‘Skin’ and ready to be launched. Both are written and directed by rising young talent from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
“Away From Home” is an important project because it allows everyone to take a peek inside a young Black female student’s state of mind during the BLM movement, in the middle of a pandemic and while also away from home, family, and loved ones. The BLM movement galvanized the masses and awakened the consciousness of every one of us in a formidable way that had never really happened before. But all the power of the movement does not ease off nor erase the deep-rooted trauma that Black people carry in the deep crevices of their minds. I am going to try to, and perhaps fail miserably, yet try never-the-less, to liken it to drowning. If you have experienced near-death by drowning, even once your life, you are changed forever. Every time you see the water or come close to it, it triggers an anxiety attack. The events of the summer of 2020, as global and powerful as they were, triggered some of the PTSD symptoms in some in the Black community who had suffered inequality and discrimination. Add to that the pandemic, being a young student in New York City away from family and you have ‘Away From Home’.
“Skin” is a post-apocalyptic story that takes place in a dystopian world where an unprecedented Sun-storm destroys a large part of our atmosphere, our global power grid, and causes a dramatic rise in temperature to 140 degrees F. Humans now how to figure out a way to exist in this harsh new world. The story highlights the human spirit and imagination when looking for a way to exist, survive and thrive in this new world.
The Knockturnal: Who do you hope to inspire and reach with your work?
Randa Garrana: VOXFILMS was founded out of a realization that there are important stories happening all around us in the world, that need a home where they can be developed and told in the most artistic, effective, and powerful way. Film is a global medium, and it’s a medium that we can use to gently educate one another, learn about each other, and discover that we are all more similar than dissimilar. VOXFILMS wants to inspire the rising generation to speak their mind and to come from a place of empathy with a real desire to understand one another. We hope to inspire young filmmakers to take risks, to create beautiful and entertaining stories that stand the test of time. VOX is a constant call for all talent in the business: if you have something to say, you can always bring it to us and we will always be open to listening. Nothing is off-limits and our door is always open.
The Knockturnal: What would you like to accomplish as a company this year?
Randa Garrana: This year, 2021, is an important year for VOXFILMS. We are working very hard to launch our newly minted projects and to develop the multiple projects we have on our slate. We’re also actively looking for collaborators who want to be part of the VOXFILMS movement.
The Knockturnal: How can people stay updated on your projects?