Our 'Women In Production' series features 3 outstanding women in the field of production.
Kristina Arjona (She/Her) has worked in the Atlanta film industry for almost 10 years both in front and behind the lens as an actor, director, 1st AD, and now primarily an intimacy coordinator. Proudly queer and Latina, Kristina is particularly passionate about working with material involving queer stories, BIPOC characters, and/or trauma-informed care in sexual violence-related scenes.
GPP: From your viewpoint, how has the entertainment industry changed in the last 5 years?
Kristina: There has definitely been a big push to be more inclusive both in the storytelling and who is behind the camera. Whether productions are doing that out of the goodness of their own hearts or to keep up with the pressures of the times, the result is still positive.
I've been thrilled to see so many more women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ individuals in positions of power on major productions in the last few years. The fact that I have the opportunity to work as an intimacy coordinator on these productions shows an increase in care for performers' emotional safety since the #MeToo movement brought those concerns to the forefront. I'm really proud of how the industry is shifting.
GPP: Have you faced any barriers in your career? If so, can you share your experiences?
Kristina: Oh absolutely. As an actor, I often faced the limitations of what 20-something women are often written as. Being what's considered an "in-between size", the industry didn't seem to know what to do with me and I was often called in for specifically plus-sized roles even though I didn't accurately represent that demographic. Part of why I shifted into directing and establishing my own production company was the fact that I was disappointed by the quality of parts available for women. But even shifting into directing I faced many gendered barriers starting out. In one of my first years being in Atlanta, I directed and produced a short film that won 1st place at the 48 Hour Film Festival against 98 other teams, and went on to compete at the international finals in LA. After our Atlanta win (along with winning Best Actor, Best Sound Design, Best Editing, and Audience Pick), one of the judges came up to me and asked if I had actually directed the film or if my male DP had really directed it. It was such a frustrating moment in what was a really wonderful experience. I would like to say the industry has shifted a bit since that time, but also now I strive to let my work speak for itself and don't let others' preconceived notions get in the way of how I feel about the finished product.
GPP: What advice would you give to women who would love to work in production?
Kristina: One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to just start creating and putting things out there. Don't wait to share it until it's perfect when you are starting out. Let yourself mess up and even make crappy films. You will learn so much from that experience. What I often see in women starting out in the film industry is a self-pressure to be perfect. That pressure can prevent potential filmmakers from ever making their first film. So I would say in whatever avenue of production you are interested in, absolutely continue to get training and learn from people in those positions, but also don't be afraid of sharing where you are now. If you have a script, but don't want to share it with a more experienced writer until it's "really ready" you could be missing out on insight that could help your story blossom. Share with your community and you can grow together.
Also from an intimacy coordinator standpoint, don't ever feel pressured into doing something you don't feel comfortable with. You might feel like it's an opportunity you need to take or you might miss your only chance, but I would say if your gut tells you something is off, listen to it. There will be other parts and projects. Learning to say no is a powerful tool. Being traumatized by an inappropriate production experience can affect the trajectory of your career and life. Prioritizing your personal safety will help you sustain your career and your mental health. So at the core of all your creative endeavors, be kind to yourself!
Kristina Arjona's latest intimacy coordinator credits include George & Tammy (starring Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon) and One True Loves (starring Simu Liu and Phillipa Soo). As an actor, she's appeared on shows like Atlanta, AMC's Preacher, and The Resident. As a director, her latest film Mi Casa will be streaming on HBO starting April 2022. Kristina developed the Color Code Protocol, a communication technique and safety standards for working with sensitive material in film, adapted with the help of the sex-positive community, and has spoken about set safety strategies involving intimacy work at several panels including the Atlanta Film Festival, Women in Film, and the Women in Production Summit. Kristina is certified through Intimacy Professionals Association and received her degrees in Acting and Theatrical Design and Production from Elon University.