Meet Stephanie Castillo: Emmy-Winning FilmmakerMay 10, 2012
Since the launch of the AAUW Fellowships and Grants LinkedIn group, I’ve connected with and received some great stories from our alumnae, including independent filmmaker Stephanie Castillo, a 1998–99 Career Development Grantee and a 1999–00 Selected Professions Fellow. Castillo’s magnetic LinkedIn posts caught my eye, and I got a better sense of her spirited personality when I spoke with her. When talking about the regional Emmy Award she won for her documentary Simple Courage, Castillo said, “Well, in my book, an Emmy is an Emmy.” It made me laugh, and I have to agree completely!
Interacting with Castillo will leave you inspired. She is proof that it’s never too late to go back to school. At 30 years old, she started her freshman year of college. And at age 50, she began her first year as a master’s student in executive business administration. Castillo stressed following your passion and path in life, a lesson that led her to work in Hollywood as a young woman. There, she was introduced to film as an art form, not just entertainment.
Castillo is in the process of making her 10th documentary but says that Simple Courage, her first, is still her most cherished. That film examines the history behind the late 19th century leprosy epidemic in Hawaii and the intervention of Belgian missionary Father Damien. Since its debut in 1992, the documentary has aired on more than 100 public broadcast stations and earned her a regional Emmy in San Francisco and Hawaii.
Castillo’s commitment to her craft is unwavering. For the five years she spent making her first film, she did not watch documentaries from other artists. She wanted to develop a documentary that was “poetic as well as original.” She pushed the limits of her imagination and creativity and challenged herself along the way. Castillo spent two and a half years fundraising for her $500,000 budget, a process that led to her interest in getting an executive MBA.
When she enrolled in school, Castillo was already a veteran filmmaker, but she knew that being business savvy would help her parlay her skills as an artist. She was right! Business is central to the filmmaking process. She integrates her knowledge about how to approach effective fundraising from a business perspective rather than the more common artistic viewpoint. Castillo pointed out that “most artists assume that people should just fund their work because they like the idea or enjoy art.” Given her success, the integration of these two worlds clearly works out well for her.
As Castillo said, “Do you believe an AAUW sister could do this? Do I hear some amens, hoorays, or right-ons out there?”
We send many cheers to Castillo for her success!
This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.