"This documentary
brings women
cinematographers
around the world
clearly  into view;
its scope is
breathtaking
and the women's
voices riveting.”

Kathleen McHugh,

Professor and Director,
UCLA Center for the
Study of Women

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Our film, "Women Behind the Camera" (2007) explores camerawomen's achievements around the world as well as the challenges that some of them have experienced (including facing dangers on sets, filming in war zones, and sexual harassment and discrimination). It also includes the joys of being a camerawoman.

My heart goes out to the family, friends and crew of Director of Photography, Halyna Hutchins, age 42, who was killed on October 21, 2021, when a prop gun was discharged by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of "Rust", which she was filming.

Stories of camerawomen whose lives were threatened by civil uprisings, unfriendly police, hostile politicians, deadly snipers, unsafe sets, and more, and who filmed wars in Vietnam, the Middle East, the Balkans, China, the former USSR and Afghanistan, are included in the 2015 book, "Shooting Women: Behind the Camera, Around the World" (Intellect/U.Chicago Press), which I wrote with Harriet Margolis and Julia Stein after writing and directing the global documentary, "Women Behind the Camera." Our book (which includes many of the transcripts from the film) features a section entitled "Worst Moments, Dangers, and Risking One's Life."

New Zealand camerawoman Margaret Moth, for example, was shot at many times along with other CNN crew in Sarajevo; in 1992, "a sniper shot three rounds into the car and she was shot in the face." (253) After twelve operations to reconstruct her face, "she returned to film again in Sarajevo in 1994... Her concession was to wear a bulletproof vest." By then, CNN was reluctant to have her continue as a war correspondent, saying "We don't want you taking risks. Are you sure it's safe?"

I felt at the time that the film and book came out that by documenting the dangers and threats that cinematographers have often faced, these problems would be addressed and that their work - and our world - would become much safer.

According to my colleague Prof. Karen C. Carpenter, who teaches film production at California State University, Northridge, "In the 1980s... the Los Angeles film and TV industry created the 'Safety Pass Program' to satisfy California's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) rules that 'employees be trained in the safe use of equipment and work practices on the job.' After this program began, Hollywood reported fewer work injuries and deaths, but only the State of California legislated safety training for film or TV workers." (247) What about the State of New Mexico, and the rest of the United States? When will activists' calls for fewer guns and filmmakers' calls for safety on the set be taken seriously enough that this horrible kind of event won't happen again? More fundamentally, why must guns— real, prop or animated - be depicted so frequently in American media? Are there so few storylines that don’t revolve around gun violence to interest producers and audiences world-wide?

By "Shooting Women," we have always meant to honor the women who shoot films, television productions, commercials, documentaries, art films, often against the odds. We have never meant shooting AT women.

This terrible tragedy could have been prevented with stronger safety set measures.

Halyna Hutchins, RIP.

Alexis Krasilovsky
Writer/Director, "Women Behind the Camera"
Co-Author, "Shooting Women: Behind the Camera, Around the World"
November 11, 2021

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