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#1 Julia Gers

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 04:31 PM

I don't know if any of the other women on this board have read the women in the film industry thread. I read all three pages of it. It seemed like a pretty interesting discussion to me.
I had wanted to reply. I wanted to put in my two cents on the issue because I noticed that there were NO women who had posted on the topic yet. But when I went to reply I noticed that the topic had been closed. There were a few obvious reasons why I could see why it would be closed.

I'm creating this topic to discuss the issue of women in the film industry. This time, though, I think we should give some of the other women here to give their opinion about it before we close this topic.
I've talked to a few others and they said this seemed like a good idea, but mods, if you're just annoyed at the idea of another thread on this topic, or just don't like the idea of bringing it up again, then go ahead and close it if you must.

I will say this now: Please, if you can, try and refrain from making any racist, homophobic, extremely sexist, or extremely stereotypical comments. Thanks.

If you would like to read the previous discussion of this (which happens to not include any womens opinions) it's here http://www.cinematog...showtopic=27173
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#2 Edgar Dubrovskiy

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 04:55 PM

I am happy the discussion is back again. I wrote to mods with request to re-open the old topic, they seemed not to be interested in that idea. So here we go again.
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 05:21 PM

or extremely stereotypical comments.


Well that kind of wipes out the chance for any constructive discussion, doesn't it? Not that I'm advocating inflammatory postings, but how can you break down ignorant or inaccurate viewpoints if you don't allow them in the discussion? I think that would only lead to a lot of one-sided complaining or speculation at best, rather than productive discussion.

The problem with stereotypes is that there's always an element of truth to them, and often those who hold stereotypical views aren't aware that they're stereotypical...
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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 06:22 PM

I think all she's saying is "Don't say anything stupid enough to get this thread closed down" is all. I think she wants honest opinions put in say a "flame retardant" way. B)
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 06:59 PM

One issue that keeps coming up is this notion that women are less suited to handle the physical strain of carrying and setting up camera equipment. First of all, I want to make it clear that the physical advantage that men in general have over women in general is well-documented and not really debatable.

What's really in debate is how much that becomes a factor in cinematography today, whether it is a significant or minor hurdle for women to overcome. My own experience shooting features and hiring women AC's is that the average healthy, medium-build young woman can handle carrying around and setting up 35mm film equipment. Therefore it's a factor for perhaps some young women that might be a discouragement, the physical aspects of the job. But I don't think it's a major factor and it should be pointed out that it may be a factor for some men who are not particularly fit or strong, or have some sort of physical disability that prevents heavy-lifting. Of course, you could do what I did, which is never AC, just DP... I've never shot 35mm without an AC helping. But then, I don't tend to shoot the sort of material / projects that may be a one-man band operation.

But let's agree that the physical aspect is one factor in discouraging some women. Like I said in my original post, there are many factors: lack of role models causing fewer young women to see themselves persuing cinematography, the physical aspects that may discourage some (whether or not they should be discouraged), dealing with prejudice against women by men in hiring positions. And there is simply the issue of being discouraged from going into a field that doesn't seem to have many women in it, not just the lack of famous role models, but the lack of seeing enough numbers of your sex in that position. I don't think these are particularly radical observations.

Less understandable, and again, it may be tied to the lack of role models, is why women on average in film schools (where there is a healthy number of women students) are less interested in camera technology. I don't know if there is a techno-geek gene or not, but the other night I was seeing a program on period trains in the U.K. and saw a bunch of male trainspotters with their dutiful wives, on vacation watching trains.

Cameras, trains, etc. -- what is the fascination for men? I'm sure there must be some sort of social evolution theory to cover this, perhaps ancient male hunter-gatherer psychology somehow being transposed/transformed into being obsessed with trivia and technology, i.e. technical knowledge is the modern expression of male physical prowess. That's just a theory, but this does tend to give men an advantage in some fields that cater to techno-geeks and gadget-freaks.

Obviously there are examples of women with technological prowess, as anyone who has spoken to Beverly Woods at Deluxe Labs can attest to, or some of the women chemical engineers who have been at the forefront of designing the Vision-2 and Vision-3 films at Kodak (I think the project manager for Vision-2 was a woman.) My wife's two aunts have advanced degrees in chemistry, and computer science, and her mother was a computer language designer in the 1960's. But obviously there are a lot more men in many of these technical fields, though I don't know if that's true of all technical fields or of there are some with closer to a fifty-fifty representation.

So there is a laundry list of reasons for a lack of representation by women in certain industries, and it's true that one factor is that fewer women are interested in persuing certain careers. But we also don't know all the reasons for this lack of interest among some, whether it's nurture or nature or both.

I think though that history has taught us to not get too caught up in the notion of "proper" jobs for women, considering people in the past thought that being a lawyer or doctor or scientist or politician were not "proper" careers for women to persue, so anyone who thinks that cinematographer is not a "proper" job for a women is living in the past. We've already had talented female cinematographers to prove that notion is incorrect.

As for whether a lack of representation is a problem to be solved, or merely a reflection of a certain reality about women's career interests, well, that's where I think most of the heated debate occurs.
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#6 Julia Gers

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 07:54 PM

I think all she's saying is "Don't say anything stupid enough to get this thread closed down" is all. I think she wants honest opinions put in say a "flame retardant" way. B)

Yea that's what I meant.

I don't know if it's necessarily a lack of role models. It's definitely a lack of specifically women in the industry as role models, though. There are plenty of women who are role models for success (i.e. Oprah, Hilary Clinton(depending on one's political views of course), ect. ect.), and there are plenty of role models in the film or more specifically cinematography industry. I have some cinematographer role models. And it's true that none of them are women. But whether they were women or not wouldn't change how I look up to them.
Also, I know two women directors. I know women who love sports more than most of the guys I know. One of my friends wants to be a microbiologist and she's not letting being a woman stop her.
I think maybe it could be both nature and nurture. My friend who wants to be a microbiologist, both her parents are scientists. I'm a total computer nerd and want to go into the film industry. My mom has trouble even working Word, while my dad is a total computer genius and is an editor and television engineer. So while I'm learning what I can from my dad and my friends learning what she can from her parents (there's the nurture for you) it's still hard to wonder if any of it is still just nature. I personally think that part of it is, but that most of it is still nurture.
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#7 Julia Gers

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 08:02 PM

Sorry for posting twice. I tried to edit my last post, but it wouldn't let me and kept giving me an error message.
Here's what I wrote for the end of my last post.

My parents tell me I can be whatever you want. My mom is thrilled that I want to go to art school (she's an artist) and my dad is thrilled that I wanted to go into pretty much the same business as him. It seems kind of like nurture. But a friend of mine wants to be an artist (I think she wants to be a painter), but her parents don't want her to do art or go to art school. They want her to do something where she can make a lot of money, like being a lawyer or doctor. She lives with her brother here (she's not from the US) and he hates that she likes art. I'm not sure why. Yet despite all this she still wants to be an artist, wants to go to art school, and does art. That there seems like nature.
I think it really depends on the person whether they let their interests and career choices fall to nature or nurture.
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 08:21 PM

I think it really depends on the person whether they let their interests and career choices fall to nature or nurture.


Yes, of course that's true for individuals, but the bigger question is why statistically there are fewer women cinematographers. Of course, some of this is age-related as someone else said -- the field was much more male-dominated in the past so only now are we seeing a lot more women enter the field and have yet to climb any ladders to being cinematographers.

There also seems (and again, I apologize for the generalizations) a not-always-pleasant tendency in men towards self-promotion, which is an advantage in many careers, at least towards advancement, not necessarily towards being any good at the job. My wife is a librarian, and she's often noticed that while there are a lot more women in library schools and working as librarians, more men tend to advance to become head librarians in academic libraries. Even the head of the Library of Congress (not always someome with an MLS) tends to be a man. Even when I was at CalArts working in the library there, we had six or so librarians, all female except the head librarian, who was a man. There is a tendency among men in jobs to work at getting the promotion, to moving up, even at the expense of their own work.

Now whether these qualities make men "better" cinematographers, I actually think not. There is only so much room on a movie set for aggressive Type-A male personalities afterall. Cinematographers have to be supportive of the director's vision, be more of the behind-the-scenes type of person, more "nuturing"... traits that classically have been called "feminine" qualities. Now I'm sure a lot of male cinematographers would object to me calling their manliness into question ;) ... but even among the ASC members, there is only a small percentage of dominant Type-A personas.

But that male tendency towards self-promotion sure is an advantage in moving up into the position of cinematographer, even though it has little to do with being a good cinematographer.
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#9 Julia Gers

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 08:48 PM

I've noticed that before too. I've no idea why it is that way. It's kind of just general gender archetypes(don't know if this is the right word but it sounds kinda right anyways) I guess.
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#10 Michael Nash

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 08:48 PM

Yes, of course that's true for individuals, but the bigger question is why statistically there are fewer women cinematographers. Of course, some of this is age-related as someone else said -- the field was much more male-dominated in the past so only now are we seeing a lot more women enter the field and have yet to climb any ladders to being cinematographers.


If a young woman wants to become a cinematographer, she has to choose to become and cinematographer AND chose to go against the established norm.

If a young man wants to become a cinematographer, he only has to chose to become a cinematographer. He's already part of the established process without any choice or effort...

Even if a young woman doesn't care about the norm, eventually the norm "presents itself" and the woman is then faced with the choice of how to deal with it. Men never have to make that choice.

It does take time for the established norm to change. But as long as we're still having discussions like this, it shows that the change is still in progress.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 09:23 PM

In certain fields like in child care or football, the traditional issues that favor women or men are more obvious, whether or not it is always fair. Society is "comfortable" with this sort of division of labor, and biological advantage is an aspect of certain jobs.

I just don't think in this day and age, with the type of equipment and methods we use for making movies, there is any particular reason why cinematography needs to be a male-dominated field.

Come on, the gear is not THAT heavy and personally lifting it is not always an aspect of the job anyway (I get slapped on the wrist by my crew everytime I try to lift anything anyway!) There is nothing about the artistic aspect that would favor men. The real impediment is really just the attitude of men on film productions and how open-minded they are about dealing with women in roles that they normally see men occupying -- i.e. can this particular man take orders from a woman, can this particular male director or producer work with a woman. Ending these sorts of prejudices take time, and some will never completely go away. Sometimes it's partly that unfair issue where if a woman takes charge of a situation, she's perceived as a "bitch" but men are forgiven (or respected) for similar aggressive take-charge attitudes.
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#12 Julia Gers

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 09:41 PM

I've always been faced with worrying that I won't be taken seriously in the business. Even though next year I'll be in college, I still feel like I'm a kid compared to other people who are already in the industry (namely: you all :P ). That's the main reason why I feel I won't be taken seriously when trying to get a real job, even though when that time comes I'll probably be taken seriously as an adult. I'm realizing now, however, that it's not just that that I have to think about. It's also 'will I be taken seriously because I'm a woman?' or the fact that I'm short and not all that strong (I'm no wuss tho), but am still willing to carry stuff heavy or not. I've done some tech for plays at my school and done some free grip work and people are always just handing me small things to carry or hold. I find that if I really want to feel like I'm helping I have to tell people I'm willing to actually help (even though I'm there with everyone else to help out in the first place). It's rather annoying, but perhaps if I want to make it I'll have to get used to all that. (Since I'm a senior, when I do tech next semester I'll get to boss around all the freshmen who don't know what they're doing mwahaha lol...though I'm really not a bossy person at all, but still it might be fun right? :unsure: :huh: )
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 November 2007 - 10:45 PM

Well, trying to be taken seriously is always the challenge for someone just starting out. You have to develop a thick skin and have some self-confidence, though not so much that it keeps you from striving to improve your craft all the time. Self-criticism is a necessary skill.

It's not an easy road to take, even if you were a guy, so good luck!
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#14 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 12:34 AM

You know back in the day, the early days of film right up through the 30s and 40s most of the cutters where women. It was considered a woman's job because the it was generally accepted that women had a better eye for the aesthetics of film editing. Now it's become a more male dominated area though there are still many female editors out there. Another area where women generally dominate is as script supervisors again women having a better eye for detail in general than men. That's the reason women's cloths cost more to clean, dry cleaners say women notice stains and imperfections most men would over look. With such an eye for detail and aesthetics in general, ti would seem to me that cinematography would be a more female dominated area than it is especially if the DP isn't also the operator IF as David speculates women in general are somewhat less technically oriented than men. I mean doesn't that seem to make logical sense after all what are the most important qualities an PD can possess other that aesthetic vision and attention to detail? :blink:

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 19 November 2007 - 12:36 AM.

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#15 Michael Nash

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 12:58 AM

I just don't think in this day and age, with the type of equipment and methods we use for making movies, there is any particular reason why cinematography needs to be a male-dominated field.
...
Sometimes it's partly that unfair issue where if a woman takes charge of a situation, she's perceived as a "bitch" but men are forgiven (or respected) for similar aggressive take-charge attitudes.


Becoming a Director of Photography requires not only demonstrating technical, artistic and physical ability or mastery, it also requires leadership qualities: being able to manage time, equipment and crew, while commanding a certain amount of respect from those working for you.

Us men often have a hard enough time proving that we can be adept scientists, artists, athletes and leaders simultaneously. When you figure that society only has partial acceptance of women in some of these areas, it becomes a little easier to understand why there aren't already more women DP's who've proven themselves in ALL those areas.

My brother and sister-in-law are both physicists at JPL, and through them I've been able to see firsthand how many women scientists there are. My sister-in-law also applied to the astronaut training program, which is a pretty tough nut to crack for anyone! She's certainly well-qualified, but during one of her early physicals she was told she was a little overweight -- because she'd just given birth to her first child. That put the training on hold for awhile.

But that brings me to another point, the biological imperative for motherhood. Obviously it's not a factor for every woman out there, but unlike men who can continue to work through a pregnancy, for women it's an issue, usually during the crucial career-building years. It's hard enough for men to survive the instability of a freelance career; for women who need to take time off AND provide for a child it can quickly become an either-or situation. Just one more weeding-out factor for women entering cinematography.

So I don't think it's any one factor, but multiple obstacles that female prospective cinematographers have to overcome. I think it's more likely that many of the obstacles aren't an issue for most women, but it only takes one to trip you up on your way to a successful career.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 01:10 AM

Of course, I've also known some men to step out of cinematography once their wife got pregnant, to get a "real job" to pay the bills, so raising a family can be a financial/career burden for both partners. Some of the female ASC members had their children early in their careers, or even before their careers.

There are quite a number of successful women still photographers, by the way, but there is also some history of that from early on.
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#17 Chris Keth

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 01:52 AM

Oddly enough, there are a couple of genetic predispositions that should slightly favor women. Women, statistically, have significantly better color vision than men. That includes ability to tell one color from another very similar color. Also better color memory (the ability to choose the color chip that best represents X) Also, tetrachromatism only occurs in women.
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#18 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 02:59 AM

Oddly enough, there are a couple of genetic predispositions that should slightly favor women. Women, statistically, have significantly better color vision than men. That includes ability to tell one color from another very similar color. Also better color memory (the ability to choose the color chip that best represents X) Also, tetrachromatism only occurs in women.

That explains why when my girlfriend asks me to pick her up a mauve nail polish while I'm at the store, I have NO FREAKIN' IDEA what in thee Hell she's talking about. :huh:
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#19 Michael Nash

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 04:02 AM

Women, statistically, have significantly better color vision than men. That includes ability to tell one color from another very similar color. Also better color memory (the ability to choose the color chip that best represents X)


And I'd say that also exists in us men who are artistically inclined and capable, which helps us succeed as cinematographers. My father (obviously male) is a retired art professor and painter who can spot subtleties in hue and saturation well beyond what I can even see.

Mauve: ;)
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#20 John Brawley

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 06:31 AM

I don't know if any of the other women on this board have read the women in the film industry thread. I read all three pages of it. It seemed like a pretty interesting discussion to me.
I had wanted to reply. I wanted to put in my two cents on the issue because I noticed that there were NO women who had posted on the topic yet. But when I went to reply I noticed that the topic had been closed. There were a few obvious reasons why I could see why it would be closed.


Just by coincidence, i got the following press release. It's not just DP's that are short of women.....

WIFT is Women In Film And Television BTW.





Calling all women screenwriters, directors and producers

All round the world, women struggle to get their feature projects up and running and Sydney women are invited to meet up and talk about this topic with Marian Evans from the Victoria University of Wellington. Marian is a member of WIFT Wellington.

At the Cannes Film Festival this year, Jane Campion - the only woman who has won the Palme D?Or - showed a fantasy short film about a ladybug, a woman dressed up in an insect costume, who gets stomped on in a movie theatre. She described the film as a metaphor for women in the film world. ?I just think this is the way the world is, that men control the money, and they decide who they?re going to give it to?, she said, explaining why so few women get films made.

But is it difficult only because men control the money? Over the last eighteen months Marian Evans has studied this issue for a PhD about women?s feature scripts. She has heard and read many reasons why so few women's features are made in New Zealand and internationally, found considerable disagreement about these reasons? relative importance and almost no information about the situation for Australian women. Sydney women are invited to meet up and talk about this topic, and maybe also about their own experiences, with Marian.

Marian is especially interested in a comparison of the various pathways to theatrical features, via short films, competitions, television, special programmes, group support, self-funded digital features. What works well for women? What doesn?t? In New Zealand, about an equal number of women and men are feature producers. But only a tiny number of women work as
feature writer/directors, writers, and directors. Why is producing more successful and/or popular for women?

Marian?s PhD is autoethnographic; she will follow the progress of her own feature scripts for eighteen months and then present her thesis as a script that tells a story about the gender issues that may affect the progress of women?s feature scripts. Because of this, her conversations are always informal and mostly unrecorded. Any notes she makes at meetings are circulated to those people after a meeting, to give an opportunity for them to clarify or remove anything they said, and any comments she includes in the thesis will be unattributed, often used just as a piece of dialogue.

WIFT NSW is organising an informal meeting with Marian in the early evening of either Monday 26th or Thursday 29th November in Paddington. To register your interest please email mailto:info@nsw.wift.org by Wednesday 21st November and indicate which date you prefer.

Marian can be contacted on mailto:marian.evans@vuw.ac.nz.
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