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In the world of documentary filmmaking, the storytellers both in front and behind the camera have primarily been white and male. According to a recent study, between 2014 and 2020, only 26% of documentary films distributed across cable, network, and streaming platforms were led by women. The study also found that 63% of documentaries’ primary subjects were white and 69% identified as men.

But not all documentary filmmakers and subjects are white males, and we have the woman to prove it.

We spoke to Katie McEntire Wiatt, Director and co-editor of the documentary film Fly Like a Girl, to discuss her experience as a woman in film and her approach to storytelling in documentary filmmaking.

Authentic Storytelling

Documentary filmmaking is kind of like news reporting. Much like a good news report, you have to go straight to the source if you want the most authentic and provoking stories, and Katie McEntire Wiatt is no stranger to this process. As a female documentary film Director, Wiatt naturally felt an affinity with her subjects in Fly Like a Girl. The documentary takes an in-depth view of a movement of girls and women as they relentlessly pursue their passions for aviation––a field that is also dominated by men. These women (plus an exceptionally adventurous young girl) were audacious in the pursuit of their passions despite being told by society that aviation is a boys’ club.

young girl training at a youth aviation academy

Q&A With Katie McEntire Wiatt

Q: Tell us about how you got started in film.

A: I first explored production as a student at an arts high school in West Palm Beach, FL where I studied film and television production. After college, I pursued a love for education and teaching. My brother started a film company around the same time, and I worked with him on and off over the years as an editor and producer. It was an incredibly difficult decision to leave teaching, but I decided the time was right to pursue full-time production and documentary filmmaking. I also had the idea for Fly Like a Girl while I was teaching and I knew if I was going to make a feature-length film I needed to give it my full attention.

Q: What was the inspiration behind Fly Like A Girl?

A: More than 10 years ago, I saw Patty Wagstaff fly in an airshow. It was my first time ever hearing the name Patty Wagstaff, and I was blown away by her skill and fearlessness. Patty is an incredibly accomplished pilot and is the first woman to win the U.S. National Aerobatic championship. I immediately went home and began to research more about Patty and other female aviators. I was dismayed that I did not know more about these remarkable women. I became fascinated by the subject and couldn’t stop learning about it.

Additionally, several years ago, just before her passing, I learned that my maternal grandmother worked in a factory building planes during World War II. She specifically remembers helping make the wings for the planes. I was in awe to learn that my grandmother had done something so remarkable and yet stayed so quiet about it all these years. So often the stories of women go untold. As a filmmaker and storyteller, I have always wanted to make documentaries. All of these moments sparked an idea to make a film that would bring to light the extraordinary real-life stories of women in aviation and aerospace.

Q: Why was this story important for you to share with the world?

A: In modern society, we so often think that girls feel they can do anything, yet recent studies have found that young girls are less likely to think their own gender is smart. This is especially true in relation to STEM subjects. In order to change this narrative, it is crucial that girls see women, achieving great things in their fields. We all, including boys and men, must learn about the extraordinary accomplishments of women so that we can all be part of helping to change the stigmas that surround women in STEM and beyond.

Q: Was it important for a woman to produce and direct Fly Like a Girl?

A: I was actually the director and co-editor of the film, but we did have a female producer on our team as well as several other women on our crew. It is incredibly important to have women in all aspects of filmmaking. I believe now more than ever, we need films that inspire, challenge, educate, and engage us on important issues. There is an urgency to bring important and diverse stories to the screen. I think documentaries especially give us a chance to break down misconceptions and help us better understand others and the world around us. We need more diverse voices at the table in all fields, film and television included.

Q: Which stories stood out to you the most and why?

A: I could never pick one story. All the women in the film had remarkable stories and diverse backgrounds. It was the honor of a lifetime to interview and get to know these incredible women.

We spoke with a 97-year-old who had been a WWII pilot, a NASA astronaut, a United States Senator, the first Black female combat pilot, a war refugee who became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, and many more.

Q: How was Fly Like A Girl received by the public?

A: It was very well received. We were honored to be selected for film festivals across the country. In 2020, Gravitas Ventures acquired the rights to the film, and it is now streaming on HULU and Video on Demand platforms both in the U.S. and internationally. I love hearing from children, teens, and adults. We get emails and messages from across the world on how the film has inspired and encouraged them.

Katie McEntire Wiatt at a film screening for Fly Like a Girl

Q: Did making this documentary have any effect on you personally?

A: It proved to me that I could do hard things. It also confirmed that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do. It also showed me that there are a lot of wonderful people in my life who support and push me both professionally and personally.

Q: Talk to us about the value of getting straight to the source and speaking to women in aviation for Fly Like A Girl.

A: There was no other way to do the film. I spent time researching, reading books/articles, and using social media to find subjects for the documentary. My goal was to have a diverse group of women who represented several different aspects of aviation. Some were involved with aviation from a young age, and others did not find their love of aviation until they were adults. The youngest person we interviewed was 10, and the oldest was 95. The interviews were my favorite part of this whole process. I had a list of questions for reference, but it felt more like a conversation than a formal interview. They were all very kind and humble. It was truly an honor to meet them and hear their stories. We actually did not interview any men for the film.

Q: As a documentary filmmaker, what advice would you give to someone that is trying to dive deeper into a specific topic?

A: I think there is a misconception that Documentary filmmaking is easy. It is not. It takes a lot of determination, dedication, and time. It must be a topic you are passionate about or a story that is important to our world. If not, you will give up easily.

Katie McEntire Wiatt behind the scenes of Fly Like a Girl

Powerful storytelling is evergreen.

Feeling inspired yet? Thanks to Wiatt and her crew, these women and their achievements are immortalized on film. Their stories will go on to inspire generations of women to dare to venture to places where they were told they don’t belong—and then prove to society otherwise. Wiatt’s strategy for documentary storytelling—having the women share their experiences in their own words—is what makes Fly Like a Girl so authentic, effective, and powerful.

Fly Like a Girl is available to stream online. To learn more, visit for more information.