Women worldwide have stepped up and taken their part to make impactful changes in the filmmaking process. They are making strives to further the advancement of cinema and television in a meaningful way.
Hollywood is generally seen as the entertainment capital of the world that has a rippling effect across the globe. However, the moviemaking experience extends further across the seas and reaches other cultures that want to share their stories on television and film. Like women in filmmaking and executives who work hard to influence show business in Hollywood, other countries can say the same.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re giving shoutouts to those here and other parts of the world that have become leaders in the entertainment industry and are working hard to make film and television more inclusive and reflect today’s viewers.
Zeinab Abu Alsamh – Saudi Arabia
MBC Studios is considered one of the largest media companies in the Middle East and North Africa. The production company is currently spearheading a huge Saudi media industry boom, thanks to Zeinab Abu Alsamh. The newly promoted general manager holds sixteen years of diverse experience in media content and is hoping to utilize her gift as a strategic and creative induvial in an effective way. During an interview with Variety in 2021, Alsamh stated, “The talent is there, and so is the drive for change. You have to have the support system to foster it and make it flourish.”
Once the chief commercial officer at the state-owned Saudi Broadcasting Authority, the media executive already has twenty television dramas and features. These projects—in various production stages—will be overseen by Alsamh as part of the studio’s expansion in hopes of showcasing Saudi Arabia’s varied and rich culture.
Miky Lee – South Korea
Miky Lee has been a heavy player in the South Korean film market. The heiress to the Samsung fortune has been a long-time lover of movies and television. Cinephiles already recognized Lee’s work with CJ Entertainment, but it wasn’t until the Oscar-winning film, Parasite that propelled the executive into Hollywood notoriety. The head of the production company has been making industry-shaping decisions by placing her company’s 10-year-old streaming service, TVing, as the go-to service for Korean content on a global scale.
Lee said that her basic philosophy is “all about supporting the next generation” and encouraging and supporting filmmakers. The executive has taken her philosophy worldwide and has worked hard to connect with investors and dealmakers to advance interest in her culture’s homeland and share the untapped creative market.
Mo Abudu – Nigeria
Some call Mo Abudu the “Oprah of Africa,” and Forbes labeled her the most successful woman in the same country. Born in London from Nigerian parents, the media mogul dreamt of being a dancer at a young age due to the inspiration of the 1980s TV series Fame—she also had a brief modeling career at thirty. Still, she decided to use her education from MidKent College and West Kent College to pursue a career in show business when she created, and executive produced her talk show, Moments with Mo.
Abudu’s successful program opened the door of opportunities to create an EbonyLife TV network that airs in five countries. The executive understood the power of storytelling and used her production company, EbonyMedia, to produce some of the biggest TV and box-office successes in Nigeria’s history. Seeing an absence in Nigerian narrative in the world market, she weighed the accomplishment of her productions to garner a very lucrative deal with Sony Pictures, AMC, and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Studios. In addition, audiences across the globe can expect her EbonyLife Films’ collaboration with Netflix to produce Death and the King’s Horseman and Blood Sister sometime this year.
Bela Bajaria – America
The Indian London, England-born Bela Bajaria was brought to America by her parents at the age of four and was encouraged to enter beauty pageants later on. Bajaria won Miss India in 1991 after graduating from a local Los Angeles high school but knew that she was destined for more extraordinary things. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts Communications degree at California State University in 1995, she shortly found herself as an assistant at the CBS movies and miniseries department in 1996. Bajaria used what she learned from CBS and took that business mindset to strategically climb the ranks of Warner Bros. Television, becoming—director in 1997—and landing a spot at Universal Television as executive vice president in 2011.
Not tied down to one studio, Bajaria made her most significant and most impactful leap and became an executive at Netflix to oversee their English and original vernacular content in 2019 and was quickly promoted to Vice President of Global Television in 2020. There, she’ll be helping expand the streaming services’ rapidly growing international markets and oversee content creation in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world.
Christina Sulebakk – Denmark
The former freelance film journalist has had an exciting career trajectory. Christina Sulebakk made her way into the marketing business at the studio Canal+ and became a well-experienced executive over the past 15 years. Her reputation for building businesses and teams allowed her to join a Stockholm-based company for Swedish investors entering the digital market. Sulebakk’s talent as a TV executive and her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in streaming grabbed the attention of Warner Media.
The studio had her join HBO Nordic, where she moved up through levels of the HBO business over eight years. By the time 2020 had come around, Sulebakk held various positions at HBO’s Madrid, Budapest, and the New York office. She used her well-traversed experience to become the general manager for HBO Europe and then General Manager of HBO EMEA in 2021. Her mission for the streaming services is to expand HBO Max across an additional twenty-one European countries and prepare for more in 2023.
These are just some women working in the entertainment industry across the planet making a difference. Many more are creating, strategizing, and are dedicated to influencing future generations of filmmakers and business leaders. The entertainment world is constantly evolving for more inclusivity and mirroring the audience that looks towards these programs for entertainment and inspiration.