Oops, we meant, LET’S TALK ABOUT (industry-wide) SEX(ism)
On our recent shoot for Manchester band PINS, at that point in the filming day when you take a step back, smash down a custard cream and breathe for a second, we all simultaneously had a ‘huh’ moment. Casting an eye over the set we realised we had one of the most female-heavy crews we’d ever worked with: around 50% one flavor, 50% the other. We were shooting an all-lady band with a lady director, art director, producer, MUA and stunt driver and it just so happened to be International Women’s Day. Big jubilant whoops ensued. We were all really psyched about this for a second, but then we got sad because we realised that the reason we were all so excited was because this phenomenon was just so incredibly rare. Like catching your dad dressed in your mum’s clothes or finding a fifty on the floor; it was a once in a blue moon episode.
As most people working in film and creative industries will attest, this experience isn’t just anecdotal; it’s a universal truth. We can wheel out all kinds of depressing statistics that tell us as much. Like the fact that the number of women working on film crews has actually decreased between 1993 and 2014 (22%). Or the fact that 95% of Hollywood directors are men and just 3% of creative directors are women. There are all kinds of sites and Tumblrs cropping up which pool the personal experiences of female crewmembers and creatives, in a collective attempt to make some kind of sense of what is going on. One glance at communal blogs such as http://shitpeoplesaytowomendirectors.tumblr.com and it’s fairly clear that there is a widespread problem.
Of course this lack of women behind the camera has a knock on effect on what we see in front of it. The Geena Davis Institute (You know, Thelma from Thelma and Louise) which funds studies into gender depiction in media found that in kids TV shows there is only one girl character for every three boys and in adult drama there are three men with speaking parts for every woman. That’s what happens when only one gender is holding the camera. “Why, in the 21st century, would we be training kids to see women as taking up far less space in the world than men?” Davis asks. What’s strangest of all is that it’s not like female-led movies bomb at the box office, with cinema audiences comprising of over 50% women films such as Bridesmaids, Steel Magnolias and Mean Girls do extraordinarily well financially. So what the eff is going on?
We could go on and on, like some kind of nagging, hormonal fishwife, but instead we thought we’d speak to some of the women at the very top of the film and creative industries and distill their knowledge into a handy how-to-get-ahead-with-ovaries guide. SCIENCE has proved that teams perform much better with a 50/50 gender split, so goddamn it let’s make better stuff in fairer conditions with nicer looking hair NOW.
1. SELF BELIEF
A lack of mentorship has often been cited as amongst the reasons women are underrepresented in creative industries. We spoke to Caroline Cooper Charles, Senior Executive at Creative England who offered this sage advice:
“Don’t be afraid of lack of experience and have the confidence to say yes in the knowledge that you’ll probably be able to work out how to do what’s required of you.” She goes on, “I produced my first programme for C4 without knowing what a call sheet was until the night before we started shooting.” Fake it until you make it would be the main thing we take from this!
DOP Charlotte Bruus Christensen (The Hunt, Far From The Maddening Crowd) echoed this sentiment. “Believe in your talent and actions” she advises, “Do the training. Do the job. Search for the stories you identify with and the tools you love using. And then enjoy that you are a woman. Never think less of yourself – then nobody around you will.”
2.PUSH FOR CHILDCARE
Clare Brigstocke, executive coach for the creative industries cites “One of the biggest barriers to women entering/remaining in film production is work/life balance and the difficulties of returning to work after having children.”
Caroline Cooper Charles’ ideal solution would be ‘childcare forming part of the production budget’ as a clear way of encouraging women into films. However with budgets so tight and competition so stiff this could be a long way off. Clare suggests that, “as more women take on top roles these women at the top may be more sympathetic to rejigging film schedules to allow some flexibility for production staff. But this will always be difficult given financial constraints.”
It can’t hurt to ask though! The more of an audible demand there is for affordable/available childcare on set, the more it has to be acknowledged as the huge barrier to talent that it is.
3.CHALLENGE THE FILM SCHOOL AGENDA
Caroline- “In my view film schools have a lot to answer for in the way that they allow (dare I say, encourage) female students to adopt the more ‘supportive’ production roles. “ Just say no, people.
Clare adds that more needs to be done whereby, ‘Film schools which work with production companies to provide apprenticeship opportunities for women (perhaps supported by Skillset) would give women a foot in the door.”
4. SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE
DOP Charlotte states her intention to always offer herself out for teaching and mentoring in order to encourage and inspire others. “I will always support and hopefully inspire young female talents to go for their goal. To do that, I offer myself to do film school classes, or private arrangements. I love spending time with students and young independent filmmakers, working their way up. Also, I do interviews and other sources that can bring my voice to inspire and support female filmmakers.”
Features producer and director of the Filmonomics training program Mia Bays adds, “I’m passionate about passing on knowledge and experience to others, especially to ensure underrepresented creative voices are heard.”
5.LOOK TO THE FUTURE.
Independant film producer Loran Dunn sees things starting to change; “In recent years I have seen an exciting movement of female HOD’s in departments like camera and electrical as well as the more traditional roles of production, hair and make-up. Women can, and do, succeed and thrive on set.
The industry is changing, and we should be celebrating that, we should be breaking down those barriers and challenging the outdated preconception of female inability, showcasing the powerhouse of female talent paving the way and leading the industry.”
So, there you have it. This is our call to action; we want to see more education, encouragement and mentorship for women coming through the ranks in the creative industries. Give girls and women cameras; empower them to tell their own stories rather than just support others in telling theirs. We’d love to hear others’ experiences and initiatives to get more women behind the camera. We know that wonderful organisations such as Women In Film & TV, WACL and the brilliant 3% Conference exist and we can’t wait to see the results over the coming years as the landscape changes for the better.