Leslie Combemale


Channeling one’s passions as a way to advocate for inclusion, is an art form in and of itself. One that Leslie Combemale, owner of the ArtInsights Callery of Film and Contemporary Art in Reston, VA, has mastered. Leslie is working to connect her professional passion for film journalism with her desire to amplify women’s voices in her industry. To that end, she founded and developed the Women Rocking Hollywood panel which she has curated and moderated for the past four years at the well-known San Diego Comic-Con. Featuring female writers, producers, and directors, the Women Rocking Hollywood panel highlights the gender disparity in the film industry in the hopes of bringing about change for the better.

Tell us a little about your background and how you got here.
I am an art consultant, artist representative, and an international expert in the fields of animation art and traditionally illustrated film art. For over 28 years, I have been co-owner of ArtInsights Gallery of Film and Contemporary Art in Reston. Virginia, where I represent film art by the filmmakers, including the film campaign artist, John Alvin, who created posters for E.T., Blade Runner, Young Frankenstein, The Lion King, and Aladdin, among hundreds of others. I also write about women in film and artists behind the scenes and below the line at cinemasiren.com, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, awfj.org and the MPAA’s TheCredits.org, where I focus on intersectionality and inclusion.

Take us through a typical day.
It depends on what day it is. Some days I am working all day at the gallery, matching collectors in all parts of the world with art used in the making of the movies they love. For example, John Alvin created the posters for Blade Runner and E.T., among many others, and as we represent his estate, we find collectors who are looking to build collections of film art. I’m also blogging about the history of animation art, about which I am an expert. If someone comes into the gallery, even if they aren’t interested in buying anything, I will explain the story behind some of the rarer pieces on our walls. Film, animation, and illustration arts are populist art forms, and it brings me joy to educate fans who find us on Trip Advisor or other places on the web. I also enjoy picking out framing because each project is so different from the last.

On my days off from the gallery, I’m generally driving into D.C. to see a film screening, interviewing a filmmaker about their film, or writing up an interview or finishing a review for a film that might otherwise go under the radar. I also spend a lot of time researching female filmmakers and interacting on Twitter with the Twitter handle specific to Women Rocking Hollywood, @womenrockfilm. There honestly is little I find more joy in doing than amplifying the work of a female filmmaker. I also walk 5-6 miles a day, so I get up early to beat the heat.

There are lots of days that I will drive into D.C. early in the day and write in a coffee house or cafe because I believe very strongly in supporting local small business. Politics and Prose is a particular favorite.

What apps, gadgets, or tools do you rely on every day?
I use Twitter for the gallery (@artinsights), and as Cinema Siren (my moniker for writing film reviews) on @cinemasirennews, and of course Women Rocking Hollywood on @womenrockfilm. I would consider my hybrid car a tool for sure, and it makes me feel good that if I often have to drive over 100 miles in a day, I’m using less gas. In my car, I listen to books on Audible.

What was your dream job as a kid, and why?
Writer, was a dream job, as was being an activist for women. I don’t ever remember not feeling strongly about equality for all people. I also had a fantasy about owning a store, which I created. I also had ideas about performing as a singer and actress. I still love singing, but I realized I hated acting pretty early on. I like to figure out how to be the best at being me, not being someone else.

Has your industry changed over the years? Good/bad?

The art world, especially as it relates to film and animation art, has changed a great deal, and not all to the good. Auctions make it easier for collectors old and new to find art, but auctions often misrepresent the art. When it comes to animation art now, I cater to a very specific collector base of people looking for art that is in original, unrestored condition, and with impeccable provenance. When I started, no one even knew what animation art was, and film art was more affordable. As to film journalism, the web has made it so anyone can write, which is excellent for women and underserved communities, but the pay can be negligible. Women in film, however, are making great forward movements in parity, even though it is still very unbalanced in Hollywood. There is a lot of work yet to be done in society to give more diverse voices a platform, whether it’s in the film journalism space or the film industry. Women make up 51% of ticket buyers going to movies, so we have to demand better representation.

What woman inspires you, and why?
I am inspired by the women who are on my Women Rocking Hollywood panel every year. I hear stories that set my teeth on edge about how they are treated on set or in meetings, and yet they persevere. They are my heroines. Of course, so are people like Jane Goodall, Agnes Varda, and the women who work with Women in Film: LA and ReFrame. They are changing the future for aspiring female filmmakers.

Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
My husband is my partner at the gallery. He does all the framing, and he’s good at it. He isn’t directly involved in the film journalism aspect of my life, but he is incredibly supportive and believes I can do anything. He also tries to get me to slow down sometimes and sits with me out on our back porch watching the fireflies to help recalibrate me at night.

What’s your least favorite thing to do, and how do you deal?
Well, first and foremost, I hate getting the rejection required as the head of gallery sales, to “get to yes.” I’ve developed a bit of a thicker skin, but more than anything, I leverage my eternal optimism.

Do you take Posh timeouts? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
Absolutely! I depend on my friends for that, whether it’s cooking together, walking out in nature, or going to a meditation group.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
If what you want a job that doesn’t exist, create it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
I’m just grateful this is a place where women get inspired by other women.