Connie Saltzman: Founder of Project: Girl
I discovered Project: Girl the way I usually find talent, through the depths of Instagram. With a goal of making girls feel less alone, Project: Girl is a film series and community fostered through the sharing of personal and real stories from everyone and anyone who identifies as experiencing girlhood. I was immediately into their devotion to storytelling and redefining girlhood, and their plan to manifest these goals into a film series for everyone to enjoy and learn from. I talked with Connie Saltzman, the founder of Project: Girl, about the making of these films, what girlhood means to her, and how we can all reflect on our own adolescence.
Sarah Sickles for Pink Things: So tell me about yourself! Who are you? What’s your background?
Connie Saltzman, Founder of Project: Girl: Hi! I’m Connie and I’m the director of Project:Girl. I’m an actor, songwriter, painter, person with a lot of feelings, and a filmmaker!
Pink Things: What is Project: Girl?
Connie: Project: Girl is a film series based on true events that explore the enigma of girlhood. It is also a movement for female empowerment and self-expression.
Pink Things: How did Project: Girl come to be? What inspired it? What is Project: Girl’s purpose?
Connie: Project: Girl’s purpose is to create a deeper and more meaningful conversation around what it means to be a girl and to create a space where girls and women can feel empowered to share their stories.
A group of gal friends and I got together back in December and started sharing stories from our adolescence. Two things became super clear – the little things stuck with us and there was a lot of shame surrounding girlhood that carried into womanhood. We decided to create this series to capture the moments we experienced, without judgment, in an effort to explore and showcase what it means to us to be girls.
Pink Things: What else can you tell me about it?
Connie: We shot the first two films in February and they will be premiering at our Storytelling & Screening Event on June 1st! We have 8 other scripts written, so we plan to have 10 in this series, we just need funding. Each film is 2-5 minutes long and they will likely live online. We’ve collected stories from all kinds of women and are trying to be as inclusive as possible to have a variety of experiences and moments explored. Finally, Project: Girl is always accepting stories and people who want to be a part of the project! We accept stories from any person that identifies as having experienced girlhood. We are constantly working to make our stories, our films, and our community more diverse, so if you want to be a part of Project: Girl, please reach out!
Pink Things: How do you perceive these films as helping young people?
Connie: We hope, in watching these films, that young people see some of themselves and know that whatever they experience, they shouldn’t feel shame about it. We hope it inspires self-expression, community, and acceptance.
Pink Things: Lets talk about your Instagram! You share stories from women and girls, source inspiration, and are growing constantly! What inspires this?
Connie: Mitzi Akaha is our Instagram wizard. We repost fun or insightful posts and also love to feature talented female artists. We are also rolling out a Humans of New York-style series where we photograph girls and women in New York and interview them. Our tagline, Our Strength Is In Our Stories, is what inspires everything we do.
Pink Things: What does being a woman mean to you?
Connie: So many things. So many things. I have no idea how to answer this question, which is probably why I’m making this series.
Pink Things: What about girlhood?
Connie: Girlhood is the experience of growing up as a girl. It's that simple and that complicated.
Pink Things: Can you talk to me about your personal experience with adolescence and how that influenced you as an adult now?
Connie: Can I just say that, in answering this question, my brain immediately went to, Ok, I need to think of a good moment to share. That immediate reaction, the idea that some moments and stories are better or more worthy of being told than others, is the whole point of this series – it's what we want to dispel with Project: Girl. Every moment, if it mattered to you, matters. Period. It’s funny, I still have this idea that some of my experiences aren't big enough to share and it's a conscious effort to move past that.
So, with that being said, here are a couple of my experiences that come to mind:
Growing up I did gymnastics and “bloomed” super late. I didn’t grow up with any religion, but I guess random aspects of religious culture seeped into my consciousness because I would pray to this moon necklace every night to, “Please grow my boobs.” I stuffed my bra and hoped nobody would notice how flat-chested I was. Then, in math class, this boy turned around and told me I’d be pretty if I had boobs. I was mortified that he had noticed and figured out what was wrong with me.
I had my first boyfriend at 15 and we were having sex at 16. I didn’t know my body at all or what pleasure was supposed to be like for me. I was concerned about looking good, being desirable, and him being pleased. Once, we were having sex in a car and I was so dry that it was painful. I kept trying to stroke his hair so he’d think I liked it and I was relieved when he finally finished. After, he collapsed on me and after a few moments of stillness, he looked at me and said, “Want to go again?” My body clenched in reaction. I said, “yeah.”
I am half Chinese. When I was younger, I went through a period where I hated that part of me and wished I were white and blonde. This kid at lunch once shouted about me, “That ugly chink has a boyfriend?!” I was mortified that he called me out for what made me different. My mixed background is a treasured part of myself and I am so thankful for it now, but then, for me, standing out was terrifying unless it was under my own terms.
I think the biggest habit I had as a girl was burying my insecurities and pretending that they weren’t there. If they were called out in any way I was horrified. Over time, I learned to approach my insecurities head on. For me, acknowledging them makes them completely lose their weight.
Pink Things: Can you talk to me about the role of pink in your project and films? What about the role of pink in your adolescence and identity?
Connie: Pink is, of course, quintessentially “girly”. Pink brings to mind girliness, youth, sensitivity, and playfulness, but somewhere in all of that also emerges this idea of weakness and fragility, someone who has to be taken care of. I do not agree with that, and want to reclaim pink for this reason – to show that girliness, sensitivity, playfulness, vulnerability – these are all signs of strength. There is nothing weak about girlhood and adolescence.
Pink Things: Do you identify with pink?
Connie: Yes, especially because I used to hate pink when I was younger. I associated pink with girly tendencies and softness and flightiness. I preferred “serious” colors so I would be taken seriously. Ha! Now, I love pink – the lighter and softer the better.
Pink Things: What has been the greatest reward from Project: Girl so far? The biggest challenge?
Connie: The greatest reward thus far has been the community we’ve started to create and the conversations that have come from it. The biggest challenges have been with money and figuring out how to 1. Fund the series and 2. Strategize how to reach the largest audience possible.
Pink Things: You've already begun filming for Project: Girl! What has this process been like?
Connie: Our Indiegogo campaign to fund the first two films was successful! We are so grateful to everyone who donated to get this project off the ground. We shot for a whole weekend with a nearly all woman crew and it was magical. The commitment, kindness, and work ethic on set were magic. The processes of making these first two films have been creatively fulfilling and bonding experiences for those of us involved in the project.
Pink Things: What’s next for Project: Girl?
Connie: Our screening and fundraiser June 1st! Building our platform! Producing the next 3 films! Submitting our first two films to competitions and festivals! Meeting with media platforms and other powerful people to get the whole series produced!
Pink Things: What can Pink Things readers do to help out with the project?
Connie: There are several ways you can help Project: Girl:
3. Share it!
4. If you are in New York, RSVP and come to our event!
5. If you would like to be a part and help out on the project, e-mail us!!! > email@example.com
*Please note that by submitting a story you agree to have it possibly featured on our social media and/or in a future film. In our films, all names are changed and anonymity is respected.
This interview was conducted via email and has been condensed and edited.