From FlyGirls Creator/Director/Producer Matia Karrell:
My interest in FlyGirls began when I discovered a photograph of my mother dressed in military uniform. It turns out she was part of the Massachusetts Women's Defense Corps, a group of women who volunteered as plane spotters during World War II. My search to learn about these women became a twenty-five year journey to uncover more about women in the military. That is when I discovered a group of women that I never knew existed--women who weren’t watching for planes, they were flying them. United by their passion for flying, these women emerged from the turbulence of a changing America to answer their country’s call to “Free a Man to Fight.” They were the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP), and they accomplished something that had never been done before – ever.
If you did not know that over 1,000 American female pilots flew every type of plane for the Army Air Corps during WWII, then you’re not alone. I knew about Rosie the Riveter and Amelia Earhart, but I had never heard of the WASP before – not in history books and not in any war movie or television show. Yet, the images alone stand as testament that these women were confident, strong, determined, and yes, sexy in a Tarantino woman-warrior kind of way. How is it possible that the stories of these women’s bravery, courage and sacrifice, are not part of our heritage and culture?
FlyGirls will be one of the first television series to solely focus on America’s first female military pilots. It is, in the strictest sense, a World War II story set in the 1940’s era with which we are all familiar. But FlyGirls is much more than a sepia-toned war drama; it’s the true story of an extraordinary group of women swept up in the complex social and political changes of the 20th century; it’s the story of an unprecedented moment in our nation’s history and the women who wanted to be a part of it. At a time when most women could only imagine becoming a hairdresser, a teacher, or a waitress, these women pilots were driven by the need for a bigger purpose. They dared to become more, and the sky provided boundless space for their dreams to take flight.
The power of storytelling can be seen in some of the most memorable films and miniseries of the last 15 years: Band of Brothers (2001), Flags of our Fathers (2006), Red Tails (2012), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), and American Sniper (2014). What they have in common is memorable characters who are courageous and strong, flawed and scared. Narrative storytelling can humanize a time in history, making that era come alive for audiences. It is by experiencing the characters’ lives through their eyes that makes us cry, laugh, or even scream back at the screen. This is palpable storytelling. This is what I want for FlyGirls.
Matia Anne Karrell - Creator/Director/Producer
Matia Karrell directed and co-wrote the 1989 Academy Award Nominated live action short film, Cadillac Dreams. In 2001, she directed and co-wrote her first feature length film, Behind the Red Door on location in Newfoundland. In 2003, Behind the Red Door premiered on Showtime Network, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Kyra Sedgwick, and Stockard Channing. The film took first prize for Feature Film Screenplay at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and was a finalist in the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Awards.
Karrell is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Paris to research Master Music teacher Nadia Boulanger. She was awarded the prestigious John Wells Directing Fellowship and The Disney/ABC Directing Fellowship. Among her television credits are The West Wing (2006) and Army Wives (2010). As a First Assistant Director, Karrell has worked with filmmakers such as John Sayles, Sam Shepard and Spike Lee and Cinematographers Haskell Wexler, Robert Richardson and Robert Elswit.
Hilary Prentice – Producer
Hilary Prentice produced writer/director Jim MacDonald’s first film, Heavy Lifting in 2010, which garnered multiple awards across the festival circuit, including Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress. Prentice also assisted the producer of Go, and has produced several web series, including Janeslist and Subliminal Minds. In addition to narratives, Prentice has produced documentary videos for non-profit organizations including The Los Angeles Beautification Team and The Institute for Neuro Innovation.
Prentice began acting professionally in New York in 2001, where she co-produced New York City’s first three week film, theatre, and music festival, The Fall Collection. A graduate of Dartmouth College with honors, Prentice received the Dickey Fellowship to study theatre in London as well as the Department of History's prestigious Louis Morton History prize. Prentice also co-founded Dartmouth's first student-run television station and her short film, Sisters, was accepted into the All-Ivy film festival. Link: IMDB
Robert Elswit - Cinematographer
Robert Elswit is an Academy Award-winning Cinematographer. His films include There Will Be Blood (2007), Nightcrawler (2014), and Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015). Elswit previously worked with Karrell on her first Academy Award Nominated short film, Cadillac Dreams and her first feature, Behind the Red Door. FlyGirls will be their third collaboration. Link: IMDB
Karl T. Hirsch - Editor
Karl Hirsch is an award-winning editor of promos, trailers and feature films, post-production supervisor, and is a post-production consultant. From 1999 to 2003, he worked for the Los Angeles-based production and distribution company, The Asylum as an acquisition executive, trailer editor, and post-production consultant on films such as Detour (2003) and Scarecrow (2002).
As trailer editor, promo editor, and post-production supervisor, Hirsch has contributed to numerous independent films including, Officer Down (2005) (TV Movie), King of the Ants (2003), and For the Love of Money (2012). The long-form historical documentary series Hitler and the Nazis (2011), which he produced and edited for Vantage Media, was released by Gaiam/Viendi and Newsmax. Feature films which Hirsch has edited have been released by Lionsgate, Millennium Entertainment, Echo Bridge, Phase4 Films, Freestyle Media, and Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.
Hirsch has also produced and edited corporate video content for clients such as The Recording Academy / The Grammys, Octagon Music & Entertainment, United Talent Agency, Universal Music Entertainment, Yahoo!, DirecTV, MasterCard, Siegel + Gale, Xfinity On Demand, Fangoria, and Helio/Virgin Mobile. He won a Telly Award in 2008 and two Telly Awards in 2010, all for Non-Broadcast Corporate Imaging. He has also produced, directed and edited audio content which broadcast on Sirius-XM national satellite radio. FlyGirls is Hirsch’s second collaboration with Matia Karrell, the first having been her short film The Tub in 2008. Link:
Pamela Monroe - Line Producer, DGA
Pamela Monroe has worked in production for sixteen years. She began as a production accountant on films, The Haunting, Bedazzled, Planet of the Apes, and Men in Black II. As Assistant Director, she worked on various films including Coach Carter, Obsessed, and Drive. Among her numerous television credits are Alias, Scrubs, The Mentalist, and Flashforward. Since 2002, Monroe has worked her way up from Assistant Director to Production Manager/Producer. She has managed/produced six short films, including Despair, written and directed by the artist Alex Prager, starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Oscar nominated cinematographer Matthew Libatique. She has managed additional photography for The Wedding Ringer , the Los Angeles unit for Deliver Us From Evil, for Screen Gems, and The Loner, directed by Daniel Grove and starring Reza Sixo Safai.
Monroe, who earned a degree in Business Management with honors, from Pepperdine University, began her career in the Air Force managing finances for sixteen sites overseas. She has a very extensive history as a manager in financial management and business systems. She has designed financial systems for DreamWorks, Disney and Fox. Link: IMDB
Jessica Clackum - Director of Social Media & Veterans Liaison
Jess Clackum's writing, networking and communication savvy are a driving force behind FlyGirls. She is also a contributing writer for Splice Today and Heat Street. Her blog, Release the Clackum, runs the gamut of insightful and entertaining topics. She is the author of Letters from Arthur, which features historical perspectives alongside the transcribed war letters of her great uncle who served in the Pacific in WWII. Projects in development include a play based on Arthur's letters and two books. In addition to writing, she promotes independent film & television projects. A veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, Clackum studied History and Mass Communication at the University of Florida. She is a member of Veterans in Film & Television (VFTLA) and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Ellie Shapiro – Associate Producer
Ellie Shapiro is CEO & Founder of Fund Dreamer, a crowdfunding platform for women and diversity group focused projects. On FlyGirls, she says: "Before I met Matia, I did not know female pilots flew for the Armed Services during WWII. Having come from Russia, where women flew in the Soviet Air Force during WWII, flying precision bombing missions against the German military, I was not aware their American female counterparts were not recognized for their service. It awoke in me an intense desire to help Matia bring awareness to the story of these pioneering American women. FlyGirls speaks to the core of my personal interest and that of my company, which is to empower women and diversity groups through helping them raise funds for their projects. FlyGirls is a truthful, vivid representation of courageous female pilots of the 1940's and the obstacles they overcame to fulfill their dream of serving their country--in the air."
Joanne (Therriault) Gaishin - Research Assistant & Webmaster
Joanne Gaishin served on both active duty and reserve in the United States Air Force as an Aerospace Ground Equipment Mechanic. She also served in the Reserve as Historian and Computer Support Technician for the HQ Air Force Space Command. Gaishin has an Associate’s Degree in Aerospace Flight Support Equipment and is an FAA rated private pilot. She retired from the Reserve in 2014 as a Senior Master Sergeant with over 32 years of service. She is a member of Veterans in Film and Television (VFTLA).
Christina Leigh Burns - Research Assistant
Christina Leigh Burns earned her MFA in Screenwriting and Film Studies from Hollins University. She has a B.A. in English from Reinhardt University with a minor in History, graduating Phi Alpha Theta. While at Reinhardt, Burns was active in theatre production and wrote The Assignment, a one act play focusing on the misconceptions of the AIDS epidemic. In 2010, she directed and produced The Ticking Game, a short documentary about a little boy living with Tourette's Syndrome. In 2011, after reading Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, Burns began researching the WASP.
Logan Walker – Research Assistant
Logan Walker is a freelance writer who has worked in conjunction with the American Cinematheque, The Antaeus Theatre Company and Theatre West. A graduate of Goddard College with a B.A. in Arts Journalism, she has written and produced several short theatre pieces on the role of women in historical cinema, specifically of the 1920's and 1960's. She has been active in volunteering with charter schools in her native Los Angeles, helping to promote theatre, movement, and communication skills with students, and is currently pursuing a degree in youth education.
FLYGIRLS VET CORPS
Liz Duca, USAF Veteran
Liz Duca is the proprietor of PreFlight Aviation Camp LLC, created for girls ages 11-14, whose mission is to transform beliefs about gender roles through aviation and inspire young girls to takeoff into their future. She holds an FAA Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, Airplane Multi-Engine Land; Commercial Airplane Single-Engine Land/Single-Engine Sea; and Certified Flight Instructor Certificate, Airplane Multi-Engine/Instrument Airplane. Duca has 2,100 hours flying the KC-10, C-21, T-1 and T-6 aircraft. She served four tours overseas flying combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. She earned a Masters degree in Military Operational Art and Science from Air University and graduated Cum Laude from Texas State University with a Bachelors degree in Geographic Information Science. Duca is actively involved in her community as a member of the San Antonio Chapter of The Ninety-Nines and also serves as the secretary for the Alamo City Chapter of Women in Aviation.
Karen Fine Brasch, Commander, United States Navy (Ret.)
Karen Fine Brasch holds an FAA Unrestricted Commercial Fixed and Rotary Wing License with Instrument Rating. She retired from the Navy with more than 1900 hours flying the UH1-N Huey, SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk, TH-57 and T-34 rotary and fixed wing aircraft. With ten years active duty and ten years in the reserves, she completed two tours/deployments to the Persian Gulf War region aboard the USS Nimitz as a helicopter aircraft commander, instructed alongside the U.S. Marines for students training in the UH-1N Huey flight program, and led her reserve unit as Office-In-Charge and Executive Officer. She holds an MBA, with emphasis in Computer Resource Management, from Webster University and from Texas State with a Bachelors degree in Journalism.
Brasch has been involved in volunteer work and research centered around health issues that closely affect her family. Her oldest son has celiac disease and as an entrepreneur, she co-founded a 501(c)(3) non-profit to support gluten-free education and has designed and authored an educational gluten-free cooking website. Over the years, she has been actively involved in her community through volunteer for numerous organizations and served as a committee member and co-chair for Scripps Health Foundation cancer research and fund-raising gala events. She currently works full-time in Program Management for a Fortune 500 company. Brasch is excited to be part of the FlyGirls Team to give back to the women who paved the way for her flight career.
Shannon Huffman Polson, U.S. Army Veteran
Shannon Huffman Polson, resident guest blogger for FlyGirls was one of the first women to fly the AH-64A attack helicopter in the United States Army after the lifting of the combat exclusion. She was the first woman Apache pilot assigned to a line unit in the XVIII Airborne Corps, and led two Apache line platoons at Fort Bragg, NC, taking one to Bosnia in support of the Stabilization Force enforcing the Dayton Peace Accords. After training in military intelligence, Polson was stationed in the 2d Infantry Division in Korea, where she was the first woman to command a line company flying in support of OPLAN 5027. At her final duty station, her responsibilities included development of the doctrine of time sensitive targeting for theater missile defense, deploying to Kuwait, Korea and domestically for international joint exercises.
Polson earned her B.A. at Duke University, MBA at the Tuck School at Dartmouth and her MFA at Seattle Pacific University. She is a motivational speaker to corporate and organizational audiences across the country, and founder of The GRIT Project. Her first book is titled, North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey, and her writing appears in High Country News, Huffington Post, River Teeth Journal, Alaska and Seattle Magazines, Ruminate Journal and Cirque Journal among others. In 2009, Polson was recognized by Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell as a Woman of Valor.
Maggie Dewan-Smith, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.)
Lt. Col. Dewan-Smith retired from the USAF Reserve in 2010 with 26+ years of service. She was a Flight Nurse for sixteen years, including service during Operation Desert Storm. She was later assigned to “flying a desk” at Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Headquarters and in the Air Force Surgeon General’s office in Washington, DC. She is currently a Nurse Practitioner and Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA. Dewan-Smith is also an actor and is studying Improv at The Second City and scene study with Jeanie Hackett. Link: IMDB