Social Impact Heroes: How filmmaker Chiara Tilesi is helping to create gender parity in entertainment and media
When you find people that believe in you, believe in them too. There’s nothing better than building a community of individuals that support and lift up one another.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chiara Tilesi. She is an Italian Social Impact Producer and Founder of We Do It Together (WDIT), a nonprofit film production company based in Los Angeles, whose purpose is to produce media dedicated to the empowerment of women and minorities.
With the purpose of creating gender parity in entertainment and media, she was elected as a Cultural Leader and official speaker at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. Chiara has also spoken at TED X WOMEN, and at the UN and Cannes, to spread the message of gender equality.
Chiara’s first feature film, All the Invisible Children, was produced for UNICEF and the World Food Program, with a release in 120 countries and the co-direction of eight internationally acclaimed directors, including Ridley Scott, John Woo, and Spike Lee among others.
Her work has always been focused on creating positive social change in the world through film, media, and art. She was appointed Director of Social Impact Department as well as Director and Creator of ISFF (Impact Short Film Festival) of TaTaTu. This new division dedicated to social causes is a part of TaTaTu’s larger push into community activism and global stewardship. Most recently, within this division, she directed and produced the Social Impact Vodcast “Giving Back Generation,” which tells very personal and inspirational stories of young talents and entrepreneurs and how they give back to society. Guests include Selena Gomez, Nina Dobrev, Sofia Carson, and Paulina Char, Charm LaDonna and Justin Tranter amongst others.
Chiara also founded Globunity — a global cultural event and digital media platform for the cultural advancement of the global community. Throughout the years, she’s been involved with various causes such as Rock the Kasbah, UNICEF Chinese Children’s Initiative and Children Mending Hearts.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was interested early on in understanding what culture is made of and how culture can influence the choices we make. What brings us to say whether or not we like something, and what is beautiful and what is not?
I immediately learned that a culture is made of a belief system and this system is created by the repetition of a concept or an image. The brain of the human being works through repetitions — the more you see something, the more it becomes a belief.
I started seeing the potential of creating positive social impact through changing the images and fighting the stigmas, so I was inspired to take action.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I have so many stories, but I’d like to focus on one that is recent. While this story didn’t happen to me directly, it influenced me and reminded me why it is so important to give back to society.
Caitlin Crosby is the Founder and CEO of “The Giving Keys,” an organization that employs homeless people, giving them a second chance. One day, Caitlin had an awakening and decided to open this company, selling repurposed keys as jewelry with engraved words of encouragement to pass forward. Finally, the time came when she needed to figure out who was going to engrave these keys. One day, she ran into a homeless couple that told her they were engraving jewelry and she decided to hire them. From there on, she and her company started hiring homeless individuals, giving them a second chance for a fresh start. One of those individuals was Betty King, a wonderful woman I met while filming “Giving Back Generation” with Caitlin. Betty used to be a drug addict and live on the streets. She had little or no contact with her family, including her two daughters. Her life was spiraling downwards until she reached the lowest point, which was when she decided to turn it around. The Giving Keys gave her a second chance in life and she is now a manager at the company and in regular contact with her family. She told me that one day she chose to make a change. It struck me again how powerful change can be. You can give people opportunities to change, but at the end of the day, we need to decide for ourselves — we need to take the first step to make that change.
Caitlin’s and Betty’s stories were so powerful and impactful to me, that I felt I had to share their stories on “Giving Back Generation” so that others would be inspired to pay it forward and make a change.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I could talk for hours about the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t know if any are that funny, although I wish they were! ☺
I used to suffer a lot for my mistakes and was always incredibly hard on myself. However, I changed my view on mistakes when I was inspired by a story about Sara Blakely, the founder, and owner of Spanx. The story shared how her father used to sit down with her and her siblings at the dining table and ask them about the mistakes they made that week. When they admitted to their mistakes, he “high fived” them to instill how they were learning valuable life lessons, despite making a mistake. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn.
Now, instead of beating myself up, I see mistakes as one of the most precious tools to learn. Working in the social impact sector is very complex, because much of what we do is connected to other issues and depends on the inclusion of multiple factors, so it’s easy to make mistakes. I encourage others to make mistakes and take them gracefully, as they push us to evolve as human beings.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
I believe that by changing the image and the narrative, we change the culture, and by changing the culture, we can change our actions. With this in mind, we aim to produce content meant to inspire and shed light on different topics that affect everyone. From human rights, gender equality, and social justice to health and environment, we will be able to make a change together if we are all informed.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?
This story relates to a young girl who contacted me after seeing a speech I made on gender parity. After growing up on fairytales, she realized for the first time that she didn’t want to be the princess that needed rescuing. Instead of wanting to be a princess, she aspired to be a scientist, utilizing all her best skills and knowledge.
While I’m not sure if she continued on with the scientist’s path, the simple idea is that by empowering others to change the narrative, people realize they can change their choice and path, and that’s extremely powerful.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
1. Choose the movies, books, and TV shows that you share with your children in a very conscious way — it will impact their vision of the world and how they perceive things, ultimately affecting their choices.
2. Piggybacking off the above, the media should be more conscious about what they choose to broadcast.
3. We need to put the well-being of humanity at the center of our focus. We live in a world where many don’t understand the importance of the environment — by polluting the planet, we as humans are vastly affected too. Additionally, it’s important to give the same opportunities to everyone, we often choose based upon gender, race, and age instead of on the value of the individual.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is probably one of the most difficult things to define and practice. Often, a leader is a visionary — someone who sees something they can accomplish or change before others see it. That’s why it can be difficult to lead at times because others can’t quite see the path as clearly.
It is a difficult task to convince a group to follow an unpaved path. It’s a leader’s job to help people understand the journey and get them there together. It is not about imposing a vision but sharing it by walking the path to the unknown together.
A good leader is not afraid to admit their mistakes or apologize when they’re in the wrong. We are generally ashamed of our mistakes, but the more we are ashamed, the less we can grow. It’s so important to embrace our mistakes and learn from them, so we can accomplish our end goal and grow as human beings in the process.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Mistakes are your biggest opportunity to learn and grow.
2. Every time you see a closed-door — celebrate! It means you’re one step closer to a door that will open.
3. Enjoy the process. Too often, people are focused on achieving the desired result, but it’s important to soak in the beauty of the journey and what you’ve accomplished along the way.
4. Never forget the reason why you started something — it is the soul of your journey and will guide you whenever you feel lost or discouraged.
5. If something doesn’t work at first, don’t be afraid to change the plan.
6. (Last one I promise!). When you find people that believe in you, believe in them too. There’s nothing better than building a community of individuals that support and lift up one another.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Nowadays, it’s so hard to focus on just one movement since so many changes are needed, but I think it is crucial to start movements where the value of a human being is at the center.
Lately, I’ve been so impressed with Greta Thunberg. It’s heartbreaking to see and read about the harm being done to our planet, so it’s amazing to see young individuals like Greta taking action to improve the future and make the world a better place for generations to come.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” from Gandhi. It beautifully describes our journey as human beings — the world we dream of may not be our reality, but we can get one step closer by being the best version of ourselves.
It’s simple, but it’s always influenced me.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to meet and sit down with Michelle Obama — the work she is doing for women’s empowerment and inclusion is unbelievable and so inspiring to me. If I were ever given the opportunity, I’d love to have lunch with her and cook her some delicious, healthy Italian food!
You never know, dreams do come true — she might read this and want to sit down with me too! ☺
How can our readers follow you on social media?
FB: Chiara Tilesi
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!