Documentaries can be informative and interesting, but they can also be inspiring. This inspiration is what Dream, Girl hopes to instil in all viewers. Erin Bagwell and Komal Minhas are the visionaries of Dream, Girl the documentary and the founders of Dream, Girl LLC, which aims to celebrate the female economy through innovative storytelling, distribution, and marketing.
Earlier in 2016, Bagwell and Minhas were named on Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 list, which features “extraordinary individuals that live life intentionally, create a great social impact, and bring inspiration to others.” Bagwell and Minhas stand alongside other notable SuperSoul honorees like Arianna Huffington, Gina Rodriguez, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Minhas returned to UW for a screening of Dream, Girl on Friday Nov. 4. The screening drew the attention of over 170 people from across KW and was followed by a Q&A session with Minhas. She also spoke with Imprint to discuss her background and answer questions.
Minhas did her undergrad at Carleton, a double major in journalism and human rights with a minor in political science, where she fell in love with stories and storytelling. She then did her graduate diploma at the University of Waterloo in social innovation in June, 2014. “I was selected as one of 30 young people in Canada to pilot the program and now it is a full masters program,” Minhas said. She is also the founder of KoMedia.
When Minhas was younger her family was very entrepreneurial so, “a hybrid of journalism, filmmaking, and business makes sense because the education I got as a kid was business, in university it was storytelling, and in my grad program it was understanding social change,” she said.
At 22, Minhas got her first real job and felt unhappy there. She said, “The day I got fired was the most liberating day of my life because it gave me the freedom to go through life and do what I was really meant to do.”
Minhas continued, “When I was in my second year of undergrad, I knew that I wasn’t meant to be a traditional journalist. I knew I wanted to be my own boss, manage my own days, and the kind of work I would want to do and how I would want to grow the company. I had a Facebook page, and was doing small contracts on the side with school, and the day I was fired, I launched KoMedia.
“The places I was trying to work weren’t working for me and I wasn’t feeling happy or satisfied and just knew it was time to go. With my background in journalism, I offered photography, film production, social media advising, social strategy and that was when I started my grad program here. So, the first year of KoMedia is when I went through grad school here, at UW, and then Dream, Girl came onto my radar and I started producing with my co-founder Erin two and a half years ago.
Minhas explained, “Over the last two and a half years, we’ve gone through a lot of phases. You can imagine a lot of things can happen, a lot of things can change. When I first came on, I was handling strategic partnerships figuring out our distribution strategy because we are an independent film studio and we did not want to sell to a distributor. We raised $100K on Kickstarter in 30 days, which means we have this amazing audience of 2,000 people supporting. While Erin is working on the creative process, I am working on a distribution strategy and ideas, which includes visiting film festivals such as Sundance and Cannes to get ideas on how we could distribute our film. We launched it in May at The White House, in New York City in June, and now we are on our Canadian tour.”
Of course, the next logical question was about meeting Oprah. Minhas replied, “It was great, I met her for the first time in 2013 in Ottawa. She was coming to speak and I got a ticket to see her, I was thinking there’s no way she’s going to Ottawa and I’m not meeting her. So, I brainstormed ways to get into the meet and greet, I researched the company that was bringing Oprah to Ottawa and I found the name of the founder of the company and his phone number. I cold called him and said ‘You’re going to help me meet Oprah.’ And he was intrigued.
“His response to my pitch was, ‘not just anyone gets to meet Oprah, but I’ll make a ticket available for you for the meet and greet.’ When I was standing in line and I built this script up in my head, I met her and said, ‘Oprah I’m going to meet you many times in my life, and I’m going to work with you one day. And I just wanted to say hello.’ And then this year when we were named on the SuperSoul 100 list, I got to meet her in LA again. I told her that story, she took my hands and said, ‘did you ever imagine you’d make it happen this fast?’”
Dream, Girl centers around a message of dreaming, as the title indicates, and providing women and girls with positive role models in a wide range of industries.
Minhas believes that the film is on its way to accomplishing a few goals she has: “The biggest thing for me is providing more accurate stories of women in entrepreneurship and offering more role models to this and future generations of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Going into this project, I would think of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and when I started to know more about Erin and the network of women entrepreneurs in Brooklyn and New York City, I was floored. There are so many millennial women opening businesses, and working the grind and doing well. I want more young women to see entrepreneurship as a career path. I hope that we can build a stronger female economy and help women know their places in the female economy. Four of the five women we profile in the documentary [listed to the right] are women of colour. And I think we all can attest to the fact that we don’t have a lot of people to look up to so I hope that this is a continuation of this revolution.”
Fuelling Minhas’ quest for success were her role models. In addition to Oprah, however, Minhas cited her mother as a source of inspiration: “Indian people have Bollywood — but there aren’t a lot of Bollywood characters I would aspire to be. I still do very much love my cultural heritage and roots, but in the mainstream media I didn’t see a lot. So, I would 100 per cent say my mother. She was always such a champion in our community back home. She never let her gender get in the way of things. She never let people objectify her because of her gender. I think growing up seeing such a strong female role model allowed me to follow in her footsteps.”
Like everyone else, there are celebrities on Minhas’ list for people she would like to work with. “It’s so fitting because we’re on a HeForShe campus to say Emma Watson. It’s interesting to think about celebrities in this way. There are social advocates on this list who aren’t necessarily celebs and then you have real celebrities like Emma Watson, who is choosing to use her platform in such an important way.”
If students want to get involved, Mihas suggested hosting viewing events. “You can host, living room viewings or public ones, student groups can plan bigger events to spread the reach of the documentary. For content creation, Bagwell runs a blog called ‘Feminist Wednesdays’ for which they are always looking for content creators, it’s such a great avenue to meet the team, write feminist content, and share your story,” said Minhas.
Her advice for students at UW is: “I think that sometimes we are socialized in a way to think that dreaming big or having goals and aspirations is something that is not okay, or is not a good path to take, especially when women are going into the technology industry. And Waterloo is such a wonderful bubble of encouraging women in the tech space, in entrepreneurship, business, and the STEM side of things. So, I would say, to continue to nurture your femininity and know that you can be whoever you choose to be in the world and that is good. All the challenges that come your way are going to make your more resilient and make you the person that you are meant to be in the long run. Be kind to yourself. Let yourself go through some shit and rise from it because that’s what’s going to make you stronger.”
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