At NewFronts, Digitas Debuts Trailer for Documentary About Sexism in the Culinary Industry

Film is a tie-up with KitchenAid

'A Woman's Place' documentary
'A Woman's Place' is an upcoming documentary about the barriers women face in the culinary industry. Digitas
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At this year’s virtual NewFronts, KitchenAid and digital agency Digitas revealed a project that’s been in the works for more than a year: “A Woman’s Place,” an upcoming documentary that follows three female chefs trying to make it in a male-dominated industry.

They did not share details regarding the film’s release, but screened a two-minute trailer for it during a 15-minute presentation. “A Woman’s Place” was directed by Rayka Zehtabchi, who won an Oscar for her 2018 documentary about Indian women breaking taboos surrounding menstruation titled “Period. End of Sentence.” 

The film features Marielle Fabie, Etana Diaz and Karyn Tomlinson, each of whom face different challenges as they begin their culinary careers. In addition to Digitas and Zehtabchi, Vox Creative and Ventureland worked on the film.

Rob Sundy, head of brand marketing and creative studios at KitchenAid’s parent company, Whirlpool, said inspiration for the documentary came from last year’s Brand Storytelling conference at the Sundance Film Festival. 

Seeing films like Johnson & Johnson’s 5B, which tells the story of nurses who were on the frontline of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, made him think about what kinds of stories KitchenAid could tell. 

“It inspired us to almost take a look in the mirror,” he said. “How can we tell compelling, thoughtful, authentic stories, but more importantly, how can we do it in a way that’s right for our brand?”

According to Sundy, KitchenAid spent some time thinking about why the brand exists and what its purpose is, landing on “create possibilities in the kitchen,” whether at home or in a restaurant. 

The brand wanted to create something that would illustrate its commitment to this, which led it to a disheartening statistic: Despite women accounting for 50% of culinary school graduates, only 7% of executive chef roles are held by women in the U.S., according to a study conducted by Bloomberg in 2014. 

That’s how the idea for “A Woman’s Place” came about. Sundy said women have “always been at the DNA” of KitchenAid, as it was named by a woman and “had one of the first all-female sales teams.”

Sundy said KitchenAid purposefully avoided putting its brand or products in the film, instead “taking a much more limited role” in the project and leaving it to Zehtabchi to tell the stories of these women. 

“We were really intentional at the onset of this work that this story was not about KitchenAid. This story was about the inequities that these chefs were facing,” he explained. “We had to tell this story in an authentic way and the brand needed to take a backseat.”

In an interview with Adweek prior to the presentation, Mark Book, head of content at Digitas North America, said the agency chose to spotlight “A Woman’s Place” at this year’s NewFronts because it “encompasses the innovative, connected way in which we pull together creative, media and technology.”

Digitas, which created the first NewFront in 2008, typically hosts a more in-depth presentation: For instance, last year’s focused on privacy and brand safety and included a number of speakers. 

Because of Covid-19 and the impact it’s had on brands, Book said Digitas opted for a smaller NewFront this year to avoid pulling resources away from clients and their needs. 

 “However, we wanted to be a part of the week in some way,” he said.

@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.