Women Behind The Camera
by Xiomara Ferrerra
from Women in Film Los Angeles
After so much struggle and sacrifice, women have come such a long way. We have equality in the workplace and at home, a voice in politics and a strong foothold in the future of our own independence. We even have a constitutional amendment that proclaims to the world that we deserve nothing less. If only all the women who came before us could see us now. I wonder what they would say, what they would feel. Would they beam with pride at the success we've enjoyed because of their sacrifices, or smack each and every one of us for our complacency and acceptance of our false equality? Granted we've come a long way, but our fight rages on quietly everyday, camouflaged by small concessions to the resistance and our own unwillingness to rock the boat. There are frontiers where women still face difficulties stemming from the simple fact that they aren't men. It'll come as no surprise to hear that this battle rages within the industry notorious for the casting couch.
In her new documentary film entitled Women Behind the Camera, Alexis Krasilovsky addresses inequalities plaguing women working as cinematographers the world over. From Canada to India, Russia to Mexico, the breadth of topics covered by Krasilovsky spans everything from sexual harassment on the set to coping with motherhood. More specifically, Women Behind the Camera focuses on the personal experiences of a handful of pioneering women forging the way into yet another male dominated profession. She paints a picture of the burden they endure for having the audacity to practice their craft. There is no doubt this film carries a Feminist message. Many would be wary of labeling a film with the "F" word, but Krasilovsky is very proud of her message and is quick to point out that Feminism is only demonized by those who benefit from the status quo. The camerawomen who stepped out from behind the safety of their cameras and into foreign territory to tell of their experiences are confident, strong, and seem anything but desirous of our concern or sympathy. Women Behind the Camera is a call to arms, not a plea for help.
When asked why it's been such a struggle for women to occupy space behind the camera, you hear words such as discrimination, hazing, and hierarchy come from Krasilovsky. But, one might wonder if there may be some valid concerns for keeping women away from camera equipment. Could the work be too physically demanding? Krasilovsky immediately shot this idea down and explained that a camera weighs about the same as a small child, of which have been carted around day in and day out by women since time unknown. She claims that women are as capable as men in this field and may even bring more to the plate, such as better socialization skills, as well as stronger storytelling and creative skills. Not that men don't also posses these skills but that from a young age society encourages women to pursue them where as men are not.
In addition to the run of the mill discriminatory practices we've all had the misfortune to experience at one time or another, there is a cycle that is perpetuated by allowing them to remain in practice. This cycle leads to a lack of opportunity and therefore experience. As we all know, your worth in this industry is gauged by what you've already done. By not allowing women the opportunity to work and develop a reel, getting a job proves much more difficult. So, as is the case in many instances, getting your foot in the door remains key, but being rejected based on anything other than skill is -- well, BS really.
The obvious question, how to change the evil empire? Luckily, it seems that Hollywood is not averse to the idea of women in general, as is evidenced by programs like Paramount's childcare center. Krasilovsky refers to a report commissioned by the Writers Guild of America that found men out number women by nearly three to one among those writing for film and television. One of the most interesting facts to come out of this report was that its findings were remarkably similar to those of the first report that was issued 18 years ago. Dr. Bielby, a co-author of the report, stated "The features of the industry that create white male advantage, hiring based on informal connections and typecasting, have barely changed in two decades. If anything, the large media companies now seem to feel that they no longer face a duty to live up to their obligations to comply with laws mandating equal employment opportunity." Granted, this information is a hard pill to swallow, but at least the WGA is conscientious enough to put the resources into investigating what seems to be an obvious discrepancy throughout the industry.
This, of course, leads one to wonder, if the WGA can put forth an effort to investigate and correct, couldn't the International Cinematographers Guild? When the percentage of women in the senate and congress beats that of female cinematographers, considering upwards of 50% of students in film schools are female, shouldn't some eyebrows be raised? As the Empire slowly tries to fix itself, what should the rest of us do? Well, Krasilovsky recommends we throw the Queen Bee syndrome out the window to help each other kick the door down. She recommends mentorship programs and perseverance. For those of you looking to pursue a career as a cinematographer, visit Women Behind the Camera's website and take a look at "A Career Path for Women" for useful information. http://www.womenbehindthecamera.com/
Women Behind the Camera aims to educate watchers of gender discrimination in Hollywood. It's easy to see how this issue may get swept under the rug in such an exclusive industry, but it is high time Hollywood pulled itself out of its 1950s state of mind and stepped into the new century by opening itself up to the idea that women don't have to be locked up in Wardrobe. It's the continuation of a journey started long ago by women tired of being repressed. Next time something happens to you and you're ready to roll over because it just doesn't seem worth the hassle, remember these women and the life you enjoy because of their strength, and then think of your daughters. It will always be worth the hassle.