You Don’t Have to Work in Production: New Women Entrants in TV and Film

Recently, I responded to a call-out on a professional film & television Facebook group for women in production who would be willing to speak to some 3rd year BA students at LIPA. It was the second time I’d seen the request, and I remembered (finally) to offer my services. And I am so glad I did.

It’s not just because I got to spend an afternoon away from my laptop and desk (isn’t it funny how a one-hour drive can actually be a blessing when your to-do list is ten times longer than your shopping list?); it made me think more about the status of women in the industry from the viewpoint of a new entrant.

I had my first running job at eighteen, for a photographic catalogue shoot. Since then, I’ve bounced about feature films to live television, to television drama and back to feature films. All the way through, I would subconsciously make notes of little everyday sexism events, but I never really sat down to think about how it affected my career and the careers of my female colleagues.

So when I sat down to write up my presentation for these students, I wanted to focus on the beginnings. The first title header I could come up with was, ‘You don’t have to work in Production.’ Because when you scan down a crew list on a new job, there are invariably three places where women’s names appear the most:

Hair & Makeup.

Costume.

Production.

Armed with this thought, I went to check the statistics and, yes, sure enough, this is what Creative Skillset’s data said:

Skillset 2012 Employment Census

That’s a small selection of the departments surveyed by Creative Skillset in their 2012 Employment Census for the Creative Media industries, in total percentage of the Creative  Media industries workforce.

So, when I see these male-name-heavy crew lists, what I would like to see is this:

I would like to see new entrants and female graduates being educated on all the departments that are open to them. That means camera, lighting, grips, stunts, VFX, SFX, editing, casting, talent agency, sound recording. Everything. Being a woman does not discount you from working in any department in film and media.

As a graduate, I somehow left film school thinking that there were four aspirational careers paths, and that they were Producer, Director, Writer and DOP.

What I didn’t realise before I entered the industry was that there are so many roles I didn’t even know existed. I’m still encountering roles I never knew existed (the amount of times I’ve been asked to source someone and asked, ‘That’s a thing?’). I want to see women understanding the vast smorgasboard of roles available, and never once thinking, ‘that’s for dudes’.

I watched a great presentation by Katie Bird from the University of Pittsburgh at the Doing Women’s Film and Television History conference in 2016 which was about female Steadicam operators. I had never even thought about the fact that Steadicam rigs weren’t built for women’s physiques. Katie’s presentation looked in part at Jessica Lopez, Steadicam operator on Transparent, (among many, many other projects), who has become a veritable rockstar on Instagram, and I’m pretty sure it’s because a) she’s talented b) she kicks gendered assumptions in the bits. And I want to see more of that.

What struck me as interesting in the masterclass was that, although the students are studying management for multiple creative industries (theatre, film, music), they all seemed to be acutely aware of gender disparity and gendered stereotypes. That didn’t stop them, however, from intending to pursue precisely whichever path it was that they were interested in.

So perhaps when we are faced with new entrants who come to us for advice, mentorship or even a job, we need to ask them, ‘Why Production?’. Yes, some of us are Production die-hards, in love with the happy/sad feelings we experience when we’re in the office at 7am and still there at 10pm. Some people are made for it. I won’t say I don’t see women in these other departments, because I do, on occasion. More often lately in cameras, but sometimes in sparks, and increasingly in construction. But I never again want to see a woman in the production office because she didn’t know that there were other options.

A quick shout out to one of my favourite sites on this subject:  Shit People Say To Women Directors (& Other Women In Film). So much of this rings true and makes my blood boil, but it’s so nice to see that it’s not just you.

While you’re at it, please visit F-Rated, who were recently acknowledged by IMDb. In order to be classified F-rated, films must meet the following criteria:

1. be directed by a woman
2. be written by a woman
3. feature significant women on screen in their own right.

I have so much more to write on this topic, and on the inclusion of minority workers in this industry at a broader level, but I’ll save that for another day.

I want to hear your stories of women in male-dominated departments in film and television, so please leave a comment, tweet me or get in touch.

Happy Friday!

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Research Update: Assessment

Hello, all three of you who read my blog (hi, Dad). I’ve been really quiet of late, and that’s because I am working my butt off. I know, I know – PhDs are hard to get. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year. I’ve had to learn how to speak Academicese, learn (the hard way) how important note-taking is at this level, and how to manage the work/work balance that is the life of a postgraduate researcher.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though – I’m more excited than ever about my research. My last update was a little bit about the history of women screenwriters, and I’ve been keeping watchful eye on the credits of all the many television shows to which I am fatally addicted to see how many women writers are listed.

In fact, the more I talk about my research (a lot – a friend and I were recently discussing how PGRs are with their PhDs as new parents are with their babies – i.e., everyone else is bored of hearing about it), the more I realise that, actually, quite a lot of other people are interested in it, too. Women in and out of the industry are ready for a change, and that is so uplifting to hear when you feel like you might lose your head if you read one more book that’s not about a lady on the moors.

I’ve lined up my first locked in participant, who is a writer on an action/YA show you may have heard of (hint: it’s on Netflix). She’s a young writer who writes YA fiction on top of being a really successful TV screenwriter. I am so honoured that she’s agreed to be interviewed for my research.

So I’m coming up to the culmination of my first year as a PGR, and it’s been tough. I’m in the last month-long stretch before I hand in my measly little 4,000 word paper (in all honesty, it was 9,500 words last week, and it’s been a nightmare to cut it down…again, hi, Dad), and then I have to stand up and defend my research to a panel of actual academics to prove that I have the moxy to continue down this treacherous but rewarding road.

I’m not going to go into detail about academic works I’ve been reading because, quite frankly, I’m academic-ed out. Instead, I’m going to share with you a little list of the podcasts I’ve been listening to, because times when you’re driving a car is time when you can’t (definitely shouldn’t) be reading journal articles.

So this month’s post (I promise I’ll try to do better) is dedicated to:

Sophia Amoruso – #Girlboss Radio

I love to listen to successful women, especially women who admit that it’s not easy to be successful. Something I really like about this podcast is the personal level to which guests dig to impart knowledge not only about work, but also about family, love, and adulting.

Emma Gannon – Ctrl, Alt, Delete

Same goes here, but British-er. What’s what with the web, for women, with women. As with #Girlboss, this podcast also focuses on successful women who do good things for the world, which is something we all need to hear more about from time to time.

James Morton, Alice Levine, James Cooper – My Dad Wrote a Porno

Because not everything can be feminist studies. And because even PhD students need to laugh until they cry tears of despair and disbelief. #DriverWarning, though – the M60 and I nearly had a problem around about Season 2, Chapter 2.

 

*You can find me on the Twitter here: @KirstenStoddart

**You can find my Dad, who is much more experienced at Academicing, on the Twitter here: @BrianStoddart