The Power On Anthology showcased some “new” talent Wednesday evening with some well-known names making their directorial debut.
The series, created by Straight up Films, and dedicated to inspiring young girls to pursue STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) featured five short films directed by Julie Bowen, Rosario Dawson, Nikki Reed, Ana Brenda Contreras and Lisa Edelstein.
Each film told a story, one that embraced each of the aspects of STEAM, that the directors found near and dear to their hearts, with all but Edelstein getting behind the camera for the first time.
“I got asked to be in Nikki’s short, and I walk in and say, ‘Is this a thing?’” Dawson, 39, whose film was titled Boundless, recalls with a laugh. “So I was like, ‘Why didn’t you ask me [to direct]?’ And they said, ‘You want to do one, go on ahead.’ And I was like, ‘Oh no! Now I gotta do one!’”
Bowen, who has since gone on to direct an episode of Modern Family, was doing what she refers to as an “internship” with Ryan Murphy’s Half Foundation when she was offered the opportunity to helm her own short film, Girl Code.
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“I was one of the later ones to the party,” the actress, 49, tells PEOPLE. “So that I knew that they had some more serious content, but I knew that my wheelhouse was definitely going to be lighter content.”
“I have a 14-year-old niece,” she adds, “And I thought, ‘I want to do something that will appeal to her. What would she watch, start to finish, and not click away from after 22 seconds, that didn’t feel preachy and was fun?’”
Nikki Reed, 30, the self-described “guinea pig” of the series, was the first to sign on to the project, and dove right in, bringing along Gina Rodriguez, and eventual fellow director Dawson.
“I seem to gravitate towards the inspirational, towards material that feels real,” says Reed. “To me, I wanted to tackle a subject that feels aspirational, and inspirational, with something that is very grounding and very real.”
And while Edelstein and Contreras’ pieces dealt with the heavier issues of personal loss and grief (Contreras’ film Wingbeat was dedicated to her father who had recently died), the mood of the evening was consistently buoyed by the passion of its participants and an audience packed with young female students who epitomize what Power On strives to be.
The producer of the series, Ngoc Nguyen summed up the night, which ended with a Q&A that had the directors peppered with poignant questions from the young and rabidly curious audience, by saying: “Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in shifting culture. When young kids see someone who looks like them on screen, presented in a positive manner, it evokes pride and confidence in immeasurable ways. We wanted the films to be truly representative of the world we live in, which is a world rich with diversity.”