Regina Bench Ainsworth crowdfunding her new project 'Recombined'

On the evening of May 1, former Taft resident Regina Bench Ainsworth had the pleasure of introducing guest of honor Guillermo del Toro at The Craft of the Director: Guillermo del Toro “Fables and Parables.” Hosted by the Director's Guild of America's Latino Committee – of whichAinsworth is the co-chair – and the Special Projects Committee, this workshop saw many directors and filmmakers come together to discuss and examine their craft.

Regina was born and raised in Taft. She led an active childhood, raising all kinds of animals (including Grand Champion poultry) with the Midway 4-H Club, played piano, softball, and volleyball, and served through various organizations including school councils, the Key Club (Kiwanis), the Interact Club (Rotary), the Lions Club, and St. Mary's CCD. She was a recipient of many awards: the first delegate from Taft to the California Junior Miss state competition, earned the title of Most Talented as a 1995 Maid of Petroleum during Oildorado Days, as well as numerous speech, science, and academic decathlon competitions. Just before moving down to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking, Regina taught Drama to 9th - 12th graders at her TUHS alma mater, as well as advised the Drama Club and Renaissance Programs. She attributes much of the success to her parents John and Alice Bench, her incredible nuclear and extended family and friends, her active involvement throughout her life, and the many incredible teachers and mentors along the way.

Ainsworth’s success as a creator in Hollywood did not come over night, “I have been working at this for 13 years, “ she noted.

As a woman in the film industry, earning the respect of her mostly-male peers was not an easy feat, but Ainsworth persevered. While employed by Warner Brothers Studios, she discovered that one of the best ways to learn something new is by doing. The problem is that very few studios are willing to take the chance on female writers and directors. She explained how, often times, women in Hollywood are made to jump through an endless cycle of hoops before they are given a chance to prove themselves. Male creators, on the other hand, walk a terrain in Hollywood nearly as smooth as a red carpet by comparison, “I know one (male creator) in particular who is a tv director. He had a whole other career, then decided he wanted to write and direct. He talked to some other bros, they hooked him up with an invester, and his first film was shot at $500,000. He did not have to do short film, he did not have to go pitching himself around to all these people, he didn't have to have proof of content – he didn't have to have anything! He went soley off his charm and somebody just told him 'yes.' That does not happen for women.”

Adding to the frustrating gender bias in Hollywood, Ainsworth also described how difficult it is to earn the support of organizations that claim to help propel female creators forward in the film industry. Although such programs do exist, the selection committees still only draw from the top of the barrel and choose names that can already boast huge success, “There is supposed to be access, but (those programs) are literally for the people who are already there – they are already in the pipeline and are about to get a big six or seven figure deal anyway. Who is that benefitting? If a person is already at the top, why are you bolstering someone who is already there?”

Despite all the roadblocks in her way, Ainsworth says she is not discouraged. Her latest project has a lot of potential, and rather than being defeated by the daunting adversity ahead of her, Ainsworth chooses to focus on pressing forward however she can, "I have not let that dissuade me. Crowdfunding is a definite, viable option for filmmakers that are trying to get their work created. Breaking into that enclave of the top people and pitching your ideas can now be done visually – which is how Reed Morano did it with The Handmaid's Tale. As a cinematogropher, she broke that mold of all the barriers to entry, so now we have a pathway that we know works."

With the help of crowdfunding website HatchFund, Ainsworth is forging ahead with her latest project - a promising social science fiction short film based on the Tank Born trilogy book series by Karen Sandler. The film, entitled Recombined, follows the story of a genetically engineered non-human slave questioning the meaning of freedom as she struggles against the upper class society she serves. Ainsworth shared that part of what drew her to this project is her own passion for individuality, humanity, and equality, “I am really passionate about us examining things about our life that we didn't question before. I think the universal truth that it's not how you're born that defines you really spoke to me. It's who you are as a human being and how you translate that into your life that matters.”

Looking back to her roots, Ainsworth shared why this film is a project she would love to bring back to Taft. Part of the appeal of coming back home is the landscape, “Taft is very visually interesting. I might bring this back to Taft...it really doesn’t make sense to shoot this in LA. That also depends – cost prohibitive – on how many people I have to bring down from LA. It’s really going to come down to what the crowdfunding budget ends at.”

Without the support of generous donors, this enthralling story could not be made into film. As one of Taft’s own, Ainsworth is looking to her home community for supporters. If you would like to learn more about the Recombined project and are interested in helping Ainsworth’s cause, you can visit https://www.hatchfund.org/project/recombined_a_sci_fi_short_film for more information. As a benefit to your generosity, all donations are tax-deductible.