By Ani Bundel

Thursday morning at SDCC (Strike Decimated Comic-Con) had a crowd for the Fourth annual Hollywood Game Changers panel, which was part one of Impact24’s superblock of panels. The panel featured makeup department head Alisha L. Baijounas (Abbott Elementary), hair department head Jaala Leis Wanless (Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies), production designer Sara K. White (Swarm), voiceover artist and actor Queen Noveen, costume designer Rafaella Rabinovich (The Imperfects), and editor Maura Corey (Kevin Can F*** Himself).

Impact24 introduced the powerhouse panel of women behind fan favorite films and television projects with a supercut of greatest hits, from Emergence to Manifest to Ms. Marvel, before bringing on moderator Sabina Graves of io9/Gizmodo. However, as many panels will, first there as a shoutout to the strikers and a statement of solidarity for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA.

The panel kicked off with Graves asking how these ladies knew they were in the right business. The answers were as diverse as the panelists, from creating Oscar B-rolls to making force perspective miniatures to getting in utterly over their heads. But all agreed that it was discovering themselves surrounded by artists and creatives working in a collaborative atmosphere was the uniting factor.

Collaboration was a big theme about the panelists when discussing their processes. Baijounas talked about how she worked to sneak in her growth story into the outfits of the leads of Abbott Elementary within the agreed upon styles. Wanless also talked about how collaborating with a team in creating hairstyles and looks for the Grease prequel. Rabinovich’s costume designs, which are more science fiction realm, discussed world building and working within a created reality. Talking about the collaborative process also led Graves to also shout out to the writers and actors not in attendance.

The panel also discussed how important it is to fight for more diversity in the artistic space; as Wanless noted, when there are only one or two token artists from whatever background, there’s a tendency to overact to fill the empty space, and having a truly diverse team behind the camera as well as in front of it makes it easier on everyone. Baijounas also talked about how you build a team via skillset and those who collaborate well, and that every crew is unique to the job. White also spoke up about how those who were the only one in the room tend to step up and mentor those who come in behind them, and how important that is to help build the leaders of tomorrow. Corey chimed in that mentorships were key to do that.

Corey herself is a mentor, using her potion as an production editor to send the latter back down, as it were, and bring in new voices and perspectives to the business. White noted that mentors don’t necessarily need to be in your field, in fact, being mentored by someone with a different skillset can open the eyes of the mentee to see how others work, and helps make them better collaborators.

The panel closed with the panel telling those who want to follow in their footsteps how important it is to be your own advocate, to not give up in the face of being ignored, and in the words of Corey, “Get fired for the right reasons.” Rabinovich agreed, saying the two times she was fired were the reasons she moved forward and got an agent and the show that changed her career, and finally, an Emmy. Baijounas said she works to surround herself with those who have better skills than her to learn from them. Wanless and White said not to let those who do try and push you down to stand in your way. Wanless said to let your work speak for itself, but that not everything is about you, and to always be open to change. “Just go with it.”

Even so, Baijounas said “No,” is her favorite word, and learning to stand up for yourself, and refuse to be pushed around and used, is a critical skill. That’s not to say no to collaborating and trying new ideas, but never to let yourself be taken advantage of.

Miss any of our earlier SDCC ’23 coverage? Find it all here!