SciArt Spotlight: Katie McEntire Wiatt
This interview with filmmaker Katie McEntire Wiatt will give you wings—and might just make you want to earn your own—pilot wings, that is! Katie is the director of forthcoming documentary Fly Like a Girl. Produced by Indie Atlantic Films, Fly Like a Girl is feature-length film that explores the history of women in aviation and highlights modern day female aviators.
Fly Like a Girl also challenges stereotypes facing girls and women in STEM fields, and here at Style Engineers Worldwide, we think everyone should get aboard that plane. Katie, a former teacher turned full time filmmaker, brings educational content to life with Fly Like a Girl.
We love that Katie is making a film that elevates female empowerment and STEM within the documentary storytelling space. In fact, Fly Like the Girl is evidence that SciArt and the silver screen go together like lift and thrust.
Katie's work with Fly Like a Girl has been featured by outlets like HelloGiggles, Mashable, Romper, and many more. The documentary is already resonating with folks, and it hasn't even had its first showing yet, so we can't wait to see just how high Fly Like a Girl soars when it hits festivals in the spring!
Checkout our Q&A with Katie McEntire Wiatt to learn about her moviemaking process, what she wants girls to take away from Fly Like a Girl, where a taco truck might come into play, and what advice she has to aspiring filmmakers. SEWing Circle, prepare for liftoff.
What inspired you to change careers and become a filmmaker?
I am not sure it was a career change as much as committing to filmmaking full-time. I first explored film production as a student at an arts high school in West Palm Beach, FL. After college, I pursued a love for education and teaching. My brother started a film company around the same time and I worked with him on and off over the years as an editor and producer. It was an incredibly difficult decision to leave teaching but I decided the time was right to pursue full-time production and documentary filmmaking. I also had the idea for Fly Like a Girl while I was teaching and I knew if I was going to make a feature-length film I needed to give it my full attention.
What draws you to the documentary space?
The stories and the people. I love hearing a person’s story and learning from their experiences. It gives you a different perspective and breaks down a lot of misconceptions.
We love how in each work of SciArt, science and art are both elevated by each other to create a unique, often powerful, final product that conveys information along with emotion. What do you think it is about documentary film that fits the topic of female aviators so well?
I think the biggest thing is that many of these women’s stories have not been told or people may not have heard them. If you ask someone to name as many female aviators as they can think of, most would only be able to say Amelia Earhart. There are so many women beyond Amelia both modern and historical that have played an important role in the aviation and STEM world. Documentary film allows their real stories and accomplishments to come to light.
Do you have any desire to become a pilot yourself?
I get asked this question a lot. I love aviation but I don’t think I see myself as a pilot at this time. The great thing about aviation is that there are many ways to get involved that don’t include being a pilot.
What was your process like in finding and interviewing all of the amazing aviators you include in Fly Like a Girl?
I spent time researching, reading books/articles, and using social media to find subjects for the documentary. My goal was to have a diverse group of women who represented several different aspects of aviation. Some were involved with aviation from a young age and others did not find their love of aviation until there were adults. The youngest person we interviewed was 10 and the oldest was 95. The interviews were my favorite part of this whole process. I had a list of questions for reference but it felt more like a conversation than a formal interview. They were all very kind and humble. It was truly an honor to meet them and hear their stories.
How long have you been working on your film from concept to present day?
I originally had the idea for Fly Like a Girl about five years ago. We have been in full production for almost three years.
What do you want girls to take away from seeing your film?
That they can be themselves and pursue what they love. If they don’t see others around them doing the same things they enjoy that is okay. In Fly Like a Girl they will see a lot of women who were the first or the only in their fields. They also don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to pursue their dreams. When you love something you will work hard regardless if it comes naturally.
What has been the most unexpected thing you’ve encountered or experienced during your journey to produce Fly Like a Girl?
The incredible support and kindness from both women and men in the aviation community. I also have absolutely fallen in love with aviation. I think that has surprised a lot of people who know me well. I love nothing more than to sit and talk to people from all aspects of the aviation world and hear their stories, learn about the history, and hear about the new technology on the horizon.
Can you discuss a little bit about your team and what kind of collaboration goes on during a production of this magnitude?
I love our team. Andy McEntire and Matt Wiatt, our Executive Producers, believed in the idea of Fly Like a Girl from the beginning and told me to run with it. I am really proud that our crew was pretty equally split male and female. We had one interview where our entire crew was female except one person. Everyone on our team was willing to do whatever it took to make this documentary a reality. We all did a little of everything, from setting up lights, cameras, to researching and getting coffee (lots of coffee) for the crew. It required a lot of patience, long hours, and trust.
Do you and your team have plans to celebrate Fly Like a Girl’s premiere?
I am sure we will celebrate. I am not sure when or where but it better involve a taco truck.
Do you have plans for more documentaries after Fly Like a Girl takes the world by storm?
We would love it if Fly Like a Girl had that much of an impact! Yes, we do have plans for more documentaries. We have already begun research on some new projects and are very excited to see what happens next.
When will we be able to watch Fly Like a Girl?
We are almost done with post production and will be submitting to film festivals for the 2019 season. A lot depends on film festival timelines. We will keep everyone posted through our website and social media on where and when they can see the film.
What advice do you have for girls (middle and high school) who want to become documentary filmmakers?
Start now! Get out your iPhone or camera and tell the stories of the people and places around you. You don’t have to have a lot of expensive equipment or a big budget to make that happen. When I was in middle school, my brother and I made a short documentary about my grandfather using our family video camera. We drove him crazy but it was fun and inspired us to do more films. It is also important to watch a variety of films, listen to podcasts and music, and read blogs and books. This will all help you become a better storyteller.
What is your favorite documentary of all time?
That is a hard question because I have a lot of favorite documentaries. Finding Sugar Man, Twenty Feet from Stardom, and Spellbound are some of my top feature lengths. One of my more recent favorites is a short documentary directed by Jason Tippet. My Gal, Rosemarie is 15 minutes long but it leaves such an impact on the viewer. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It is powerful story and very well done.
Do you have any favorite female aviator characters in books/tv/movies etc?
Rey or Rose from Star Wars. Rose is awesome because she is a mechanic and I love seeing that aspect of women in aviation represented in movies.
If you were a superhero, what would your go-to wearable tech device be?
A jet pack for sure. The Gadget Copter from Inspector Gadget would be a close second.
Learn more about director Katie McEntire Wiatt and Fly Like a Girl on the film's website. Be sure to get updates on the documentary by following Fly Like a Girl's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts!