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Let’s see more women in local film

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Article by Emma Gregg Brego

Recently, I was reminded of some frustrating realities about our industry. While out to dinner with a cinematographer friend, I lamented the lack of women in technical positions on Maine sets, especially in camera and G&E.

He nodded sympathetically, “yeah, women don’t seem to go after those roles as much.”

I stood a little straighter in my chair.

“We’re here for them,” he explained. “I mean, everyone I talk to wants to be working with more women. They just need to reach out.”

It took a second for his meaning to hit me. Intentionally or not, he blamed the lack of women in our local industry on the women themselves. They aren’t doing enough to make their interest known.

Yet as the director of production at p3 and the president of the Maine Film Association I receive almost weekly emails from men and women, mostly those graduating high school and college, asking me for advice on how to break into the industry. Nearly all of them are interested in the technical aspect of the work and hope to one day be a cinematographer, gaffer, or director.

Why isn’t that interest reflected in today’s local commercial sets? When does the fall off happen and why?

These are complicated questions that can’t be answered in just 500 words. But I can send out this little reminder for myself, my friend, and my film community:

It’s not enough to just be available

From my limited white, cis-gendered perspective, I know how important it is to see yourself represented in a position of power. And in our small (but growing) film community it’s rare to see women in technical positions, which causes some women to doubt themselves. It can create a voice that tells a professional photographer that even after 15 years in the business she’s not qualified to be a Camera PA on a commercial set.

My friend would probably say it’s wise to be humble, but this isn’t always humility. Sometimes it’s a belief she must be perfect before she even tries. Or a fear no one will take her seriously since men still question if she can lift the camera case. (True story.)

These realities are in direct opposition with the simple truth that diversity and inclusion are good for business. We are storytellers after all and, in a male dominated field, women’s expertise and experience provide a set with fresh ideas and energy.

So if you’re a producer, director, DP, camera assistant, gaffer, grip or in any position of power on set and, like me, you want to see more women in your industry then please listen carefully when you hear a young PA tell you she’s interested in your department. Encourage her, share your knowledge, and remember that your attention is valuable.

If she reaches out, take the time to respond and meet up for that coffee she offered. Then, when the right role presents itself, take a chance and hire her. I’m not advocating for filling a quota to make your set look progressive but setting these women up for success with the right opportunity.

Show her that even though it’s a boy’s club, at least it’s a welcoming boy’s club.

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