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Gender of camera crews

November 2014 - This is one of the most interesting threads on CML for a long time

You can add your views at http://ls.cinematography.net/read/messages?id=258465

Hi Guys/Chaps/Fellas I've been looking at the statistics for women working in the UK film industry that were released a few months ago and I think they make for pretty depressing reading.

Stats like: Women make up only 23% of crew members on the 2,000 highest grossing films of the past 20 years Only one of the top 100 films in 2013 had a female composer In 2013, under 2% of Directors were female The only departments to have a majority of women are Make-Up, Casting and Costume

Which is all quite shocking, but as a Gaffer here in London, the stats that really jumped out to me were that: Of all the departments, the Camera and Electrical department is the most male, with only 5% women

Over the last 20 years, only 1.8% of the 2,000 highest grossing films had a female Cinematographer And as a member of the Electrical Department, I think that it's only because these stats put us and Camera Dept together that it's as high as 5%. Otherwise I think it'd be virtually 0%, right? I didn't see any stats for how many Grips were women, but I'd expect it to be equally low.

To me, in 2014, this all seems really embarrassing. I was wondering what people thought of this and whether it's something we should be discussing and looking at together? Why are there so few women working in the lighting, camera and grip departments? Do these stats reflect what you see on set? I've been looking mainly at statistics for the UK, but if anything, things seem worse in the US. True? Do crew in other countries see the same situation happening as well? And what, if anything, do we thing should be done about this? How do we make our departments equal and open to all? What can be done to give women the same opportunities to work in the them as men get?

I'd be really interested to hear people's opinions and experience of this. And if anyone wants to read the stats I've been looking at, go to: http://stephenfollows.com/gender-of-film-crews/

Andy Lowe Gaffer London


Hi Andy, Interesting stats from over the pond.

In terms of corporate video production, the ladies have very high representation in producing, writing and graphic design here in the Dallas - Fort Worth area. In the broadcast television field, at least in the D/FW area, most of the staff in the news department are women - including news directors. I don't have any motion picture/feature stats but that project would be a good project for a grad student!

Regards, Chuck Johnson Producer Big Bad Wolf Creative Group Fort Worth, Texas


I know a lot of women working in Production, Producers, LPs, UPMs. They also seem well represented in the AD department. In Camera, some of my favorite ACs are women, and it seems that there are more and more of them starting in the industry every day. In G&E, it’s not surprising to see few or no women. It’s a physically demanding job, and many women are simply not big enough or strong enough to cope with hauling 4/0 cable and heavy lamp heads.

I dislike Affirmative action, because it’s just another form of discrimination. The industry is changing, albeit slowly, and we should do what we can to encourage and support women, while ensuring that opportunities are fair and available to both genders.

Stuart Brereton DP, LA


I am VERY interested in this topic. (Though I wonder if this is the list we should be on with this topic).

It's very puzzling and depressing. My perspective is as a camera and lighting instructor. So I am seeing the new talent just as they are coming in, before bias or discrimination that could happen at the hiring level. I've looked for ways to avoid bias at the first level, here at school. I try to watch my pronouns when talking about the jobs, and dole them out equally. I ask for the men to model much more often then I ask the women students to model in class lighting demonstrations. I try to draw out the one who hang back. (Often as we know, the talent and interest is as high if not higher among the quiet ones, as it is in the handwavers in front.) I always have many more young men who are intensely interested in pursuing a camera and lighting career, then I see women with the same level of interest.

Usually I have no women who are interested in it as a career. Their interest in it is so that it helps them as directors or producers or as editors. And frankly it's difficult to encourage anyone, when it's obvious that the pay and the security is in other paths. I remember in my own class 34 years ago, a fellow student who was very good at lighting -- she went on to become a producer and a network executive. It's odd, because still photography seems to have a much better representation of women.

I will say one thing, among the students I have had, the women don't shrink back from the hard work, they willingly pick up the stands and sandbags and cases. Frankly they do a better job of stepping up then many of the lazy guys, who yes, are technically stronger. And sheer strength is only a factor in some areas but especially the camera dept. It's not an excuse for not using women -- they find a way to make things happen. We're not lugging around BNCRs anymore. And STAMINA is really the physical capacity that counts nowadays. Not brute weight lifting.

I would really love to hear any suggestions for encouraging more women right at the beginning. What has worked for others?

Steven Bradford Cinematographer/ Instructor Seattle Washington http://www.seanet.com/~bradford/


From my experience, I have been fortunate to have worked with talented crews made up of both men and women. Yes, there is a majority of males working in G&E with women representing a higher percentage in the camera department.

Here in Southern California, there is a growing number of talented female cinematographers in the indie world. In time I believe they will earn their way into the ranks of the ASC.

In the end its bloody hard to make it onto a working film set, male or female. I believe that individuals have opportunities that are uniquely available to them. Some have more than others. Its all about how one acts on the opportunity that is presented and if that individual has done the hard work to prepare for their "moment".

In time I believe the gender issue in our industry will balance out. I feel it would be unwise to specifically carve out special treatment for anyone based on gender, race, or if you attended film school or not. For me its working with the most talented folks whom I also can deal with on a daily basis.

We need to encourage, support, and educate those who truly have a passion and aptitude for our craft. If left to this simple premise, in time the gender demographics of our industry will sort itself out.

Cheers. Curt Apduhan Cinematographer Southern California


On Oct 15, 2014, at 4:12 PM, Steven Bradford <bradford@seanet.com> wrote: > sheer strength is only a factor in some areas but especially the camera dept. It's not an excuse for not using women -- they find a way to make things happen. We're not lugging around BNCRs anymore. And STAMINA is really the physical capacity that counts nowadays. Not brute weight lifting.

I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but I disagree with your appraisal of the physicality of the job. In G&E it's far more demanding than just picking up sandbags. Try coiling sticks of 5 wire banded and then carrying them back to the truck, or carrying double armfuls of combo stands down five flights of stairs at 4 in the morning after a 14 hour day. It�s hard. It�s hard for young, strong men, and it is too much for a lot of women (and men).

In the Camera Dept, we may not be shifting BNCRs around anymore, but an Alexa with a Angie 24-250 still weighs a lot. I�ve had a female AC continually smash a camera into either my head or shoulder when lifting it onto my shoulder for handheld work, because it was too heavy for her. I ended up having to kneel down for her. I know another one who, despite being great with focus, really struggles because she�s only 5 feet tall, and can�t lift the camera onto the sticks unless they�re low. These are not sexist observations, they are purely practical.

Camera and G&E demand a certain level of physicality, and anyone, male or female, who can�t deal with that should look elsewhere.

Stuart Brereton DP, LA


Nancy Schreibner, ASC is a fine example of a very talented Cinematographer as well as a fine and gentile person.

She worked as an electrician and Gaffer in New York City in her early days. Now she is a highly respected member of the ASC. But just imagine the challenges facing a female gaffer on the mean streets of NYC! Certainly she faced tough times, but talking to her today, it is evident that sheer talent and dogged determination carried her through those challenges.

She is a true inspiration to us all, male or female.

David Pringle, a big fan of Nancy, founder/owner of Lightning Strikes/SoftSun/Luminys, North Hollywood, CA


"These are not sexist observations, they are purely practical. Camera and G&E demand a certain level of physicality, and anyone, male or female, who can’t deal with that should look elsewhere."

While I don't think these are sexist, I don't think they are truly accurate. In fact best practices on any set for male or female crew would have most of the heavy lifts be done by a team. We may rely on the brute strength of our male crew members, but in fact we should not, it leads to injury and shortened careers.

Far too many operators and electrics I know have bad back, knees etc. because they were told to "man up" and power through in their early careers. The truth is if a woman can't lift it safely as an individual it is probably stupid or a least ill-advised for a man.

As a young DP I often preferred female crew because they often were forced to work smart instead of relying on brute strength (now i'm generalizing), and as a result rarely had the kind of Loss and Damage that is created by the attitude all to common on set that begins with somebody saying "Don't worry I can lift it myself".

To Mr. Pringles point about Nancy Schreiber she is a wonderful artist and a true innovator, and I doubt you will find any cinematographer who is more deserving of the title Director of Photography and ASC. But I fear she is the exception that proves the rule, as long as producers and directors feel that camera and electric is "physical" aka "men's work" there are extra barriers to the already highly competitive insular world of cinematography.

I distinctly remember my first ASC awards when a woman walked past, one of the gentleman I was with wondered out loud whose wife or date she might be, as so few women were there it seemed impossible she was attending for her camera work.

All of which brings me to the grant Digital Bolex has begun for female cinematographers: http://www.digitalbolex.com/grant/

Hive Lighting is a proud sponsor of this grant and I encourage all CML members who would qualify, or know somebody who would to apply.

I also would encourage other manufactures to lend support, and I encourage working "established", cinematographers, male or female who care about these issues to take a look at the grant winners as they are announced and consider ways in which we can further support these young cinematographers careers. Good topic!

Jon Edward Miller Downtown Los Angeles Director of Photography Chief Product Officer Hive Lighting Inc. www.hivelighting.com www.jonedwardmiller.com


Wow, there are some very old-minded people on this list.

In NYC, for various reasons (some of them admittedly having to do with family connections to various locals), there are a fair number (though not enough) of women in the G/E depts., especially electric. I certainly wouldn't ever think of suggesting that the "physicality" of the job was something women couldn't handle, most especially in their presence.

I suggest, respectfully, that anyone who does hold that view try expressing it vocally as an experiment the next time they are on-set with a female-including grip or electric department. I suspect the results will be instructively uncomfortable in acutely physical ways. As many of the females being insulted are close relatives, friends, and valued colleagues of the men on the crew, I doubt the response would come exclusively from the maligned class.

For the record, I have never, ever, felt let down by the performance of any woman craft worker in camera, grip or electric, on any shoot I've been on in 32 years. I cannot say the same for the men. I have worked with DPs too lazy to get out of their chair, female and male assistants who weighed 95 pounds and schlepped more than anybody else, and everybody in between.

To suggest that physical incapacity is due to the presence of more than one X chromosome is by definition sexism of the most pernicious kind.

Ed Manning VFX Supervisor Brooklyn


On Oct 15, 2014, at 17:04, Stuart Brereton wrote: but an Alexa with a Angie 24-290 still weighs a lot **********************************

So some of the gals work out instead of drinking beer � of course the best do both! :-)

Some are divers, mountain climbers, dancers � these are strong people.

Jessica: http://images40.fotki.com/v993/photos/4/43793/4909192/1130787563_46808858023793657_n-vi.jpg

Sarah Jones: http://images40.fotki.com/v993/photos/4/43793/4909192/_10151884996752821_253970221_n-vi.jpg

Tammy: http://images41.fotki.com/v1580/photos/4/43793/4909192/Tammy-vi.jpg

Then some women are just smart, Rebecca: http://images60.fotki.com/v361/photos/4/43793/4909192/IMG_6259-vi.jpg

Or work with old guys � Most AC�s probably retire with bad backs � from over doing it and being macho about asking for help. Or stupidly trying to get in good with the grips by helping to carry the dolly. :-(

Mako/Makofoto, S. Pasadena, CA


> 've been looking at the statistics for women working in the UK film industry that were released a few months ago and I think they make for pretty depressing reading. >

I'd be really interested to hear people's opinions and experience of this. It would also be interesting to see how many males are in wardrobe, make up and art departments collectively.

One of our best DPs here in New Zealand is a woman called Ginny Loane. She is also an incredible gaffer. We also have some very talented 1st Acs who are woman, and i work with them on a regular basis. They are very competent at all levels and extremely hard working.

We also have some very talented female directors, producers, 1st Ads, production managers/co-ordinators, colourists, editors and /vfx artists. In this talent pool, i rely on many of them for advice, and employment!

My view is that it is a historical thing, and i was surprised to read your facts that in the last 20years, there has been no changes in the overall percentage of woman employed in the industry. Since i work in the camera department, its always nice to have woman on set. For whatever reason, the maturity level usually goes up a few notches�.

Simon Temple Cameraman NZ


At least here in Toronto, I�d like to see that breakdown based on age. I�ve noticed there are a a growing many women grips and electrics, but all younger.

Also among younger Camera people I�ve noticed there is a definite shift increase in the amount of women, I think the real problem is keeping women in the business now. With a lot of the old guard retiring now it seems like boys club are slowly coming to and end.

I�ve also noticed that a lot of the younger people don�t consider themselves as blue collar as in the past. Many of the camera people I work with consider the field to be in digital technology more than trades.

I think the way forward here is to keep the course and let the older sexist assholes retire and disappear, I mean there are so many reasons not to hire them anyway. It�s unfortunate it can�t happen overnight. To be fair, I�m young myself so in all likelihood I don�t have the slightest idea what I�m talking about.

Tom C. Hall TORONTO ON


> These are not sexist observations, they are purely practical. Camera and G&E demand a certain level of physicality, and anyone, male or female, who can�t deal with that should look elsewhere.

See, that�s an easy stereotype to break, I know a 5�6� camera assistant that could carry an Alexa with alura 45-250 on her shoulder for a uphill in a forest for a 5 minutes without putting it down, now of course she is very fit, but I�m 6 foot 180 and I couldn�t do it. And being enough tall to reach the focus knob is unrealistic on any serious production. 90% of all shows here keep a preston in the kit as standard, typically so the focus puller can sit down on a lawn chair and drink fruit juice and check facebook all day. One of the best focus pullers I know is a 5�1� focus puller and he still finds a way grab the knob and do long lens B camera angles all day, in fact he�s an asset because the operator can easily squeeze close to A cam.

Women who are mentally and physically capable to do the job exist, they just are typically squeezed out of the job by either bad attitudes or better opportunities.

Also I�d like to see this mythical strong tall camera assistant throw marks down onto a blocking 3 page multi-rom scene without tripping one of the actors.

Tom C. Hall TORONTO ON


Yes but the issue is the perception of what it means to be �fit� for these jobs.

Especially since the days of breaking our backs everyday are largely over. There are a growing many older people in the departments who snap at anyone who tries to do something stupid that can hurt themselves, and fight back and production for not having enough people to do the jobs.

No doubt this is a very physical job, but it seems to be the most difficult thing having good stamina to stand all day, push carts of shit around never getting enough sleep. Not to being able to pull a peewee up a flight of stairs by yourself. In the past yes there the job was extremely physical, but the people who�ve live through that regret it, many of them I�d image who have daughters in the business are careful to warn them away from abusing their bodies to impress no one.

The average healthy male and the average healthy female are well within range of doing the things that are required on a modern and safely run filmset, so the perception that women are typically �less fit� doesn�t make sense anymore. For every credibly small and fragile women you could exchange an skinny hipster who�s never worked a day in his life.

The current fact of the matter is G and E are still considered very much blue collar jobs, and there is a stigma attached to women getting into that business. It�s not about physicality and it�s not about the film business, look at any other trade and you see the same thing; jobs that women could physically do just as well as men but are are perceived and perceive themselves not to be fit for. I imagine what the women in the 40�s riveting together battleships would feel about that.

Tom C. Hall TORONTO ON


First time poster, long time reader. I work in the grip and electric dept in NYC, mainly electric, and mainly as a best boy, (that title seems more precarious to use now, but for the sake of common lingo...), and I'm a woman.

The statistics are alarming, for sure, and I would be interested in determining how they apply to the union we have here on the east coast. I know a few women who have joined, but have also recently heard about a lawsuit they suffered for under-representing minorities.

Generally speaking, when I was initially starting out I saw very few women on set, both on the production end and the technician end. I suppose in some scenarios this particular facet of the film industry could be intimidating, but in the last few years I have met more and more. I personally have experienced significantly less reluctance of male coworkers to rely on me as the jobs became bigger budgeted, larger crew, etc. I suppose that has something to do with the professionalism expected on higher scaled jobs.

Whatever discrimination would be happening would rarely be explicit - that is, once you're on the job, it's more a feeling, a " vibe" than anything else. It's the getting yourself into the industry that many struggling with, and the stories have been mixed as I have heard them. Some women I have spoken to didn't seem to have any concerns, others found a consistent resistance until they were essentially vet-ed by a male coworker.

No matter the scenario, I think it is too dangerous to be too delicate in considering the gender, not because it is not a direct part of your identity, but because it creates a gap by essentially victimizing. Statistics are healthy because they're validated by numbers, plights of, "I've a feminist friend! I support the ladies!" just creates a stir, a sensitivity around the very person it's intending to protect. I believe in the that no one person should have to "man up" to the point of suffering long term physical damage, especially when he or she has co-workers who are there to distribute the labor. That's already been mentioned, but it's an important distinction. Many, many people, feeling pressured by the nature of the work, force themselves through uncomfortable situations to show themselves up. Unnecessary. Maybe we can start calling more things a, "party" beyond the "dolly party." Cable party, 18k party, to soften the blow... haha. It takes all kinds!

Some gents I have worked with are small in physique, calm in demeanor, and absolutely unassuming, and others are ladies who run their crew with absolutely no attention to what gender who is.

Darina "Dasha" Sikmashvili NYC G&E


I'd like to know if the statistics vary between Hollywood and smaller markets. In my city I've been fortunate to work with a lot of great people who couldn't care less that I'm a woman, and I don't think that I'm at a particular disadvantage. But in LA things are more regimented and I imagine it could be a lot more difficult.

It's true that a lot of women have to fight against a natural lack of muscle mass, but we just work harder to overcome that. All of us continue to learn and improve throughout our careers, and physical strength is just another thing to continue to develop.

As long as you're able to admit when you need help, both men and women should be allowed to pursue careers in any department. I'm a firm believer in the idea that the more women we have behind camera, the more kinds of stories will ultimately get told on screen. And that has a real impact. If you want to do something to support women in the industry, respect them like any other member of the crew, speak well of them when they deserve it, and hire them when you're able.

And thank you to everyone I've worked with who has done exactly this.

Rinny Wilson 2nd AC, Richmond VA


"The truth is if a woman can't lift it safely as an individual it is probably stupid or a least ill-advised for a man. "

This sentence alone sums everything up nicely and I completely agree. It doesn't surprise me that so far in this discussion, there are still a few people thinking woman = small/proportionately weaker, although I'm an example of a woman I can lift more weight than the majority of the guys I work with despite my gender, and I'm certainly not the exception. However having worked in G&E for about a year when I couldn't find work in camera, I now avoid it like the plague even when I do get calls for a G/E job and have no other camera work, because I'm quite tired of dealing with a number of individuals (though small) who try to wave me away from doing my own job because they're "worried" some equipment is too heavy.

So when some people say that women are too small, it kind of blows my mind because sometimes the guys who are trying to lift things for me are shorter and/or smaller than me. Then when they struggle, I still end up having to do the task myself to a) get it done, and b) show that I am in fact capable of lifting a simple doorway dolly onto a truck for example, or carrying an oconnor tripod and head up a flight of stairs.

This whole power play just wastes time and I've personally talked to plenty of other women who work in both G&E and camera who've had similar experiences. It goes without saying that the guys who have this kind of attitude are a minority and most are completely normal about having women on the G&E team, but to be clear - it's not the individual acts themselves, it's how toxic the bad attitude from just one guy in this regard can be for the whole team if/once it starts, whether it's by singling out a particular female grip on set, or by the rest of the team having a bad impression about a person making foolish and generalized statement regarding women's capabilities on set.

So it's not altogether as uncommon as some would like to believe, at least not from my experience. And the whole "being smaller and weaker" mentality doesn't even hold up for more reasons than just the fact that it's a fallacy itself.

Women only make up to 3% of cinematographers in the US in the top 250 films of 2013 <http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/files/2013_Celluloid_Ceiling_Report.pdf>, where they're not likely to be carrying the heaviest of equipment just in terms of the traditions of the role. Or sometimes you might even want a smaller, more agile electric to climb up on rigs quickly to hook up lights on a grid.

Does everyone need to be the Hulk? Wouldn't a team benefit from having more than just the single skill of "lifting heavy things"? So if I had to hazard a guess, the reason there are so few women in camera and G&E is more because of some guys' mentalities than the work itself. Every job is a gamble on how people are going to react, and the work and hours are often hard enough without the extra hassle of potential alienation/hostility/awkward drama on set for 12+ hours a day.

Veronica DP Toronto, Canada


Ive had the pleasure of working with two great female Best Persons in Syd Aust, JH and ZP. The equal of any of the men, I doubt they experience much sexist on set because they are just so good.

4/0 is 4/0 the world over, and whilst we don't have the same cabling demands as the US because our voltage is higher, we do do all the flagging and netting etc, so there are plenty of jobs that don't just require brute strength.

The bad old days are gone, when it was all Brutes (heavy side loaders, etc) the lighting dept was physically bigger, they recruited on size, and the attitude was quite macho, but now we have Kino, led, etc, things are different (don't get me wrong, an arrimax is still a lump, and 24k dinos are still my favourite lamp) theres plenty of space for smaller crew.

Example, when I started the grips stuff was all big and stupid, a crane was a big lump of steel with two guys at one end and a bunch of lead at the other, now just look at the techno, or the Russian arm, the guys who operate these don't have a physicality issue. Women are smart, they don't want to do shitty jobs, they don't want to do jobs that turn you into a physical wreck before your time. Its our job as senior technicians to ensure that the jobs are within reach of everybody, regardless of sex or stature. Sure they will be physical challenging, but shouldn't be backbreaking. If that means breaking equipment down, or employing more mechanical aides, more crew etc, then bring it on.

The Uk is quite advanced in this regard, general industry has fully adopted it, but the film industry is yet to catch up, it will, and when it does we will see much more women in the GE. If you make it more civil, they will come, and that will be a good thing.

Mat (skinny) Buchan Weightlifter/Bestboy Morocco currently.


Ooooh looky, 24 emails in less than 12 hours and the PC brigade out in force. I think your all missing the point which is....

Crew should be picked on their abilities not if they wear a skirt or a pair of trousers. Metaphorically speaking of course. (For bigots, metaphorically can be looked up here http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/metaphorically )

I don't doubt the figures from Andrew, but who cares? I hear the same about women engineers, women CEO's, Train Drivers, I could go on. I really hate all forms of positive discrimination. As far as I know this is a world of equal opportunities and if women want a career in the Film or TV they can have it, as many have proved already. If anything this email should be directed at the people that prevent any gender/race/creed or colour getting a job in this industry and do you know, after 52 yrs. in this business I have never once met one.

John Rossetti - London


Veronica wrote: "So if I had to hazard a guess, the reason there are so few women in camera and G&E is more because of some guys' mentalities than the work itself.

� Can�t agree with you more Veronica. I shot an indie feature a few years back in LA and, though it was not intentional, we ended up with an ENTIRELY female G&E crew. I never for a moment felt that they moved slower or lacked for um �manpower.�

It was a great experience. I honestly see no reason for gender-based hiring decisions in these departments. Given the state of my lower back after too many years with heavy cameras on the shoulder, it�s not like I am heading-up 4k pars by myself either.

One interesting side note. The gal who was our �best boy� electric was very proud of the job title. I asked her about it and she felt that �best girl� or �best person� sounded silly. She was credited as �best boy electric� on the end titles.

Cheers, John Tarver, csc DP, Toronto



4/0 is 4/0 the world over

No, no, it's not. In some places it is 120mm2. --scott

Scott Dorsey Kludge Audio Williamsburg, VA.


Hi all I'm a DP from India and I'm a woman. Dogged follower of Cml:)

The ratio is equally alarming in India as well. I've been in the industry for ten plus years now and initially tried to dress like a man and desperately prove to everyone on set I could do everything a man can do. But over the years I have learnt to just be myself. I found my strengths and weaknesses, have directors who trust my work and continue to call me back.

Also I have never faced any overt discrimination but I do face the opposite sometimes which is extra praise for some hand held work which I feel is a unwarranted. I get asked in interviews more about how I cope as a woman than my lighting style. These to me are the downers.

Love this discussion and eagerly taking in all the opinions:) The bottom line is that I hope here in India and all over the world the aim is to be an un gendered industry. Talent and ability should be the deciding factor not gender.

Preetha Jayaraman DP Bangalore India


Thank you Scott for the translations. Yes, outside of the USA no one has any idea what "4/0" is. > > 4/0 is 4/0 the world over > >No, no, it's not.

In some places it is 120mm2. Now 120 sq mm, that's some serious cable!

Clive Woodward thankful for 240 volt mains, Perth, Western Australia.


Hi All Really interesting and brilliant comments.

It's heartening to know I'm not the only one who's noticed this and is thinking about it. What to do about it next seems to be the bigger question. I guess I should lay my opinions out on this too, some of which I'm still figuring out. So it's clear, I am a white male approaching middle age and I think even I can see that there seems to be a hugely embarrassing imbalance happening here. I've no agenda though other than wondering what people think about it and if there's anything we can start to do to help correct this.

To me, it seems that the gender issue isn't going to sort itself out over time without some kind of discussion and then collective action or awareness. If nothing has changed in 30 years, I'm beginning to think that positive discrimination/affirmative action might be the only useful way forward.

As a side note, I kinda think these are pretty unhelpful terms (is the problem not that white men have actually had positive discrimination in their favour all along?) and these terms seem to get people annoyed really quickly. Isn’t actually what we're talking about equal opportunity and access to equal opportunities? That's where things seem to be falling apart for me.

I was really interested in Steven Bradford’s observations that as a lighting/camera tutor he sees female students working just as hard as the boys on cinematography, but that that doesn’t carry through into the ‘real’ world. Maybe that’s something us guys on set need to look at.

How can we facilitate students getting on to working sets more? If this is a deep-rooted problem, maybe that’s somewhere to start. I have to say as well that I completely disagree with the reasoning that there aren’t more women working in lighting, grip and camera departments because the gear is ‘heavy’. Seems quite a simplistic argument. I agree that as soon as we get rid of the old dinosaurs that believe that the better. Sorry if that offends anyone.

Every job we take we have to defend the rates we get paid to producers, and if the main thing we’re saying we do is hump-and-dump heavy cables, dollies and lenses, then we’re doing ourselves as skilled creative technicians a massive disservice. Surely we’re more valuable than that?

It was really good to read what the female DoPs, Gaffers, Grips and ACs wrote too. I think I’d like to hear more about their experiences and feelings on equal opportunities in the film/tv industry. I think that kind of information can only be helpful to men in the industry as well if things are going to change. Really hope this thread keeps going a while longer. Everyone’s opinions are really interesting.

Although, and I was questioning whether to write this, but John Rossetti, I don’t know if you meant to come across as sarcastically as you did, but I found your “ … but who cares?” comment quite depressing. I think the responses above show that people care.

These are pretty shocking figures. I agree that we try to live in a world of equal opportunities and I don’t think you’ll ever find anyone who describes themselves as ‘sexist’ or a ‘bigot’ or a ‘racist’, but this problem seems to exist. I think the access to the equal opportunity seems to be the problem, and I think that’s something we can all do something about.

Andy (never Andrew) Lowe Gaffer London


> I completely disagree with the reasoning that there aren’t more women working in lighting, grip and camera departments because the gear is ‘heavy’. I agree that as soon as we get rid of the old dinosaurs that believe that the better.

By way of answer to this, I conducted a quick, and admittedly not very scientific straw poll of all the women on set on my current project. I just asked them what they thought about working in G&E. Not one of them showed any interest, and all of them gave the same reason - it looked “too hard” and the equipment was “heavy”.

I only asked 9 women, which is hardly a fair sampling of the entire female workforce, but I think their unanimous opinion on G&E helps to explain why there are so few women working in it, and shows that it’s not just “old dinosaurs” who think that way.

Stuart Brereton DP, LA


To me, it seems that the gender issue isn't going to sort itself out over time without some kind of discussion and then collective action or awareness. If nothing has changed in 30 years<

It has, just very slowly. 30 years or so ago, maybe a little longer, in my experience grips & sparks were fundamentally neanderthal sexist guys who did't care about film making, just about protecting their little fiefdoms and being "blokes"

Women on set were definitely seen as objects and treated as such. That has changed a lot, G&E are much better educated and open minded they care about their jobs, they care about images and moving images. Ive never given a damn if crew are M or F just that they can do their job, ive worked with women as 2AC's, AC's, operators and grips, I can only remember one spark who wasnt a guy.

It is changing, quota's are something that I'm very against as it leads to " they only got the job because they're..." --

Cheers Geoff Boyle Cinematographer EU Based


Maybe little on set surveys would throw up some interesting ideas. Maybe the next 9 you asked would throw up 1 person who was interested in being a grip or electrician but didn't know how to get in, so joined another department instead (which would mean you had a hit rate of 5% - like the stats show!!). Who knows. I think it's interesting though.

What would have happened if originally they'd been told that the equipment wasn't as heavy as it looked and that you learn how to lift it and get stronger the more you lift it? Would they then have been more likely to get into our departments? Imagine all the good people we might be missing out on because they're scared off by how heavy things look.

I don't know, that's my initial reaction to your mini survey. I think its great. All of this is triggering all kind of ideas. I'm wondering now, as a gaffer, if I should be considering the weight of things when putting lighting lists together. After all, if it's putting 51% of the population off being in that department, and giving those that do that work terrible bad backs in the decades to come, isn't that partly my responsibility?

Perhaps I shouldn't be ordering as much heavy cable, or order it in shorter lengths. Does anyone do that?

Andy Lowe Gaffer London


Hi Geoff I completely agree that attitudes have changed - I've been in the industry 15 years, and I feel that I've learnt my trade as that shift has been taking place. I liked the comment that as we feel we work more and more in the arena of digital technology, the work and attitude to it is changing.

And I agree that electricians are more caring, polite, educated, keen, trustworthy, reliable than ever. I think there's also more and more guys who have the technical knowledge and use it to support their work 'lighting'.

I'm meeting more and more sparks who've come the 'film school' route all the time. I have a wonderful team that I work with in London, but I found these figures really shocking and wondered if part of the change that's been happening shouldn't mean we're seeing a more diverse range of people working with us. It's confusing that these figures show that it hasn't been happening.

Andy Lowe Gaffer London


> if I should be considering the weight of things when putting lighting lists together.

It�s not just weight of things. It�s an image problem. Everyone has seen G&E dragging heavy cable through muddy fields in pouring rain. Everyone knows that G&E are there for an hour after wrap, packing the truck, long after everyone else has gone home. Most of the guys I know who work G&E don�t actually want to.

Here in LA, in the low budget sector, G&E is a way in. There is a never ending demand for grips and electric. It doesn�t take long to learn enough to be able to work as a Swing, and there�s plenty of work around.

I�d say that most of non union guys I know actually want to, or already do, work in camera. It�s very common to work both departments. Women who want to get into the Camera dept generally take another route and start out as PAs, then make friends with the ACs and try to jump across that way.

Stuart Brereton DP, LA


I was not going to weigh in on this one but I can't help myself Observations:

I started in theater (non-union first) where there were a fair number of women working in technical stagecraft. In union theater and trade-show crafts there were fewer but certainly some as electricians and carpenters (not just wardrobe, make-up,front-of house, stage management)

I transitioned to motion picture and television lighting in NY where there were very few women in grip/electric in NABET - the more liberal and less traditional film union and even fewer in the older "main-line" union. Same in camera In 1990 in NABET 15 in New York 1 of 42 gaffers was a woman (GO Andrea Sachs!!) or 2.3% 2 of 43% of best boys was a woman (3 3/4%) 6 of 116 of electricians was a woman (or 5%) total for electric was 4.2% women (9) There were only two female grips on the books in '90 There were 14 women in camera department counting 3 still photographers out of about 270 camera dept members about five percent.

My first call best boy for my last half dozen years I gaffed on the east coast NY is a woman- still working electric in NY and we frequently had another woman on our electric crew. My experience was that it took just as many guys as women to put a 12k or a big-eye tenner on a stand, and the women I worked with were fit and strong and hard-working - as were the men I worked with. I only had to be strong enough to carry a light meter (and occasionally the DP - amazing how many people have made a career as DPs without being able to light anything more complicated than a cigarette)

There were people then who didn't want women on their crews in various departments and no surprise that the attitude still exists - and for some really stupid reasons. Some of those reasons stem from a belief that "men are stronger" than women or "men are more technical" than women - and some think that women can be disruptive on a crew because of "hormones" (yes - I have heard that in all seriousness from an older male AC.)

I saw virtually no women in union grip/electric in Los Angeles when I came out here to work, though with small representation it is easy to miss them in such a big town... a few board ops and one best boy in my early years out here Of course the jobs I came out to work on had much much more 4/0 and multi-cable- a higher proportion of "heavy labor" to "lamp operator" than the jobs I did in NY since I was not working on big features in NY and I am in Los Angeles.

Still, the mind-set, the on-set chatter and, as far as I could tell the exclusionist mentality was more pronounced in LA when I arrived than it had been in NABET in NY.

Nowadays the executive Board of 728 Set Lighting technicians in Hollywood has two women of the eleven positions (nearly twenty per cent) but the actual percentage of female membership is lower.

The membership of the Cinematographers Guild nationally (on whose Executive Board I serve) is currently about thirteen and a half percent female... nearly three times the percentage of women in NABET's camera department in NY twenty-five years ago - the numbers are shifting in camera. Statistically that means 1 1/3 women per 2 camera narrative show. Roughly twenty percent of our Officers and Executive Board are women - higher than percentage of membership.

My observation has been that women who have risen in the profession have had to prove themselves to a greater degree than men in the same positions. I would say that the numbers of male "drama queens" on my crews over the past [several] decades has been proportional to their gender representation on the crew but since there are fewer women working in the crafts, certain types of behaviour are attributed to their gender rather than to them as individuals.

While I have not used gender as a primary factor in hiring, I have always been more comfortable with gender-mixed crews - I think boys behave better when they are working side-by-side with girls. My first-call key grip has a woman on his regular crew and I'll take her (or anyone on his regular crew) without reservation before a cold-hire - not because she is a woman but because his crews are always so skilled and well-rounded... so her having a place on that crew assures me that she delivers.

So where do I stand on this stuff? My personal work experience over the years with female lighting designers, stagehands, sound recordists, DPs, camera assistants, grips, electricians, engineers, motorcyclists, welders,and doctors is that individual skills, characteristics, and predilections far outweigh the stereotypical "norms" for gender. That said, in a freelance world such as ours, opportunities are influenced by not only the particular performance of workers in their jobs but by the more abstract beliefs of those who might hire them. Is there some bias against women in certain crafts - undoubtedly.

There is also a certain amount of self-selection - if taking a certain type of job is strongly thought of as "woman in a man's world" there are some women who are less likely to try and make a career in those jobs. As punishing as grip/electric work is on the body, the kinds of lifting and twisting we do with camera equipment leads to a lot of occupational injuries also - among men and women. Technology has gradually changed some of parameters - scissor lifts instead of parallels, lighter cameras (with heavier batteries) but grip/electric/camera are and always will be more physical crafts than, say script supervision, hair and make-up, or Production office staff and that will reduce the number of slighter women (and smaller-than-average men) who go into or stick with the physically gruelling crafts. I believe we have an obligation to encourage women not to be dissuaded by traditional gender imbalances in our industry but to pursue their callings in whatever crafts they choose... the disparities are lessening slowly. There was a time there were no women working on assembly lines in heavy manufacturing - World War II started changing some of the attitudes about that in this country - in 1945 28% of the UAW's members were women.

In Camera/grip/electric we are behind that curve. That said, while out-reach and recruitment make sense, I don't think we want to encourage a "double standard" of performance along gender lines... it's not about who you are but about whether you can do the work. Of course every big crew has a diversity of strengths and skills... you need old smart experienced people to figure things out but you also need young tireless strong (generally younger) people to carry heavy stuff around...

In the work I do in training for our union I see a lot of women coming to training events -I would guess that if we were to graph our membership by age, the younger demographic would have less gender disparity than the older demographic.

There is a long way to go but I don't think we should necessarily be looking for gender parity any more in our crafts than in the crafts traditionally dominated by women - equal opportunity more than equal statistical representation though we have a long way to go on both fronts.

Mark Weingartner (male) Los Angeles based DP/vfx/3D guy


A great thread.... Like Mark W, I think the attitudes and tone of those on set are for the better with woman around. Right now, and I'm proud to say by no accident of positive discrimination,

I actually have a 50 / 50 camera department. It just worked out that was and it wasn't till my (female) 1st AC pointed it out that I realised it.

When I first started out 20 years ago, it was unusual to see any women in the camera department. It now seems normal at least for loaders and 1st AC's to be woman. It seems to me that woman need to be given a chance in the first place. First you need to employ them. And they then need to be encouraged. Like my own time as an assistant where I had some great mentors, I try to take an interest in the development of those working directly for me in my own department. I love to encourage my crew by giving them a go on set. Pull out a third camera if you can. Let them step up if you can accommodate it. If some of them are woman, they're also getting the chance to be encouraged. It also shows other members of the crew that they can do it as well, especially the G&E.

I had a great moment recently where I had a long steadicam shot I wanted to watch during the take so I bumped my B camera first and loader up to operate and pull focus on a somewhat difficult shot during the rehearsal to operate a pre-beat to the steadicam shot. They did fine on the rehearsal so I left them to it during the take. It was pretty cool to see two woman operating and pulling focus on a 250+mm plus long lens on wheels. The best encouragement of all from them was from the director who congratulated them on getting a great shot at the end of the take... Figuring they'd earned it, I had them shoot out the rest of the scene as the B camera team. They didn't let me down. I see the next hurdle being female operators and DP's....they are still so few and far between.

I have less sway as an employer in G&E and I'm not sure if it's a locality thing, but I've NEVER seen a female electric, and only one female grip in my twenty years. Let's face it, G&E tend to have a building site mentality and it would be difficult for any woman wanting to step into that attitude, let alone the historical lack of interest for the job itself. I see the same thing with camera. A lot of woman, even those that have a lot of experience in camera tend to think they don't have the "technical" knowledge, even though they in fact do.....

Getting woman into G&E I fear may be a lot harder, because, as other's have pointed out, even a lot of men see it as a stepping stone to other departments, not as a first love. What I have noticed too, is that having more than one woman in the department makes a HUGE difference, especially in their treatment by other departments. They develop their own camaraderie and confidence. Confident enough to photo-bomb the DP's camera... https://flic.kr/p/pc1GzE

JB John Brawley Cinematographer Sydney Australia


I wasn�t going to weigh in on the industry gender gap either, but perhaps some personal observations may be of some interest.

My first encounter with a female in production (other than script/make-up, etc.) was in 1976 on an NBC Special Event of the TV version of Black Beauty. I was the camera operator. We were shooting on location in Lexington, Kentucky and there was a local female electric. Key positions were staffed from LA. I saw this woman tackle 9 lights with the basic relish of anybody else on the crew. Never recall anybody giving her grief. Nobody really laid back, though I suspect she wasn�t expected to manhandle the arcs either. Perhaps bit of slack cut but not enough to notice.

Now 10 years later in the world of network news, female shooters were not so fortunate. I know of a female who was treated overly equal, to the point of not a man lifting a finger to help help move stuff around, even when she was pregnant. A whole different mentality. Along that same time I was doing 2nd unit operating on the TV version of Breaking Away, the cycling story. That was my first encounter with a female DP. To be honest, I was wondering who I would react. Once I met Brianne Murphy and saw how she worked�it was over for me. She was the DP. Didn�t really notice whether she was a woman or not. Class act who was a damn good DP and has the awards to prove it.

That encounter allowed me to recognize woman as professionals in my world without prejudice. Now here we are in 2014 and we are still having the conversation. My local in Atlanta has a fair amount of ladies in the camera department as AC�s. Not many if any are 1st�s and to my immediate memory, not one operator. I�d like to be called out on that and I�d love to be wrong but not so sure I am.

So what�s the deal? Why so few woman in camera, grip, electric�even sound? Lots of female writer and producers, not a lot of female directors but I�m betting more female directors than DP�s. It�s demeaning and physical but not beyond the capabilities of women so it can only be gender bias and that�s said in this day and age. And from my observation, kind of the same thing when it comes to race. Kind of under represented IMHO!

Allen S. Facemire-DP/operator IATSE Local 600 Atlanta, GA


Errrr, And I hate to say this, but.....

Could it not be relevant that in order to have children women pretty much 'have' to take a career break, but men do not necessarily have to do the same. Not only that - but in many cases a woman would have to or choose to take that career break just at the time/age that they would also be wanting to move up to be doing DoP jobs.

Its just a really unfortunate timing thing, to add to all the other 'issues'.

Kindest regards, Simon Bishop, Sound Recordist and led lighting entrepreneur, London UK


Hi Andy. I had a look back over the records of the Michael Samuelson Apprentice Electricians Scheme he ran from 1989. In those day's his company took on six or so 18yr olds every year, I still have the records for most of those years I was with him and out of 38 apprentice sparks 5 were female, I've Googled and IMDB all the names and none come up, one I know does still work for a UK Lighting company in their warehouse.

Simon & Stuart may have hit upon the answer I can't say for sure, In Grip, I've no idea I would have to ask Dennis Fraser who, in the UK has a lot to do with Grips and their training & qualifications, however in the camera department, I know many women and of course a recent president of the BSC was Sue Gibson. I must admit I have never asked any female crew why they are what they are, I feel that question almost verges on patronisation to me they are just another person doing a job, I make no judgement regarding their gender or race for that matter all I'm interested in is can they do their job and are the safe to themselves and others around them period.

Me sarcastic ? I sincerely hope not but maybe at 69 I'm one of the "old" brigade that speaks his mind and holds doors open for everyone, not just women and is certainly, rarely, pc about anything which younger people often have a problem with. However I don't see myself as a dinosaur, I hope I'm progressive in my attitude to life, the industry and to others and when I say I don't care, I don't care for positive discrimination, what I do care about is equality, equality in getting a job, keeping a job, and our equality towards each other.

Cheers - John Rossetti - London


> Could it not be relevant that in order to have children women pretty much 'have' to take a career break, but men do not necessarily have to do the same.

How is that relevant in what is essentially a freelance industry. Need to take a break, you take a break. And in many areas of the world discrimination based on maternity leave is illegal.

On a separate note I will point out that I always tried to hire on as many qualified female crew members as possible if only because having a mix meant far more interesting conversations during the inevitable down times on set. I guess my experience cutting my teeth in the NY 90s independent scene was a bit different in that we had plenty of female crew, including in G&E and camera departments. Many of them have gone on to different areas, but they were not treated any different on set save for the common courtesies all humans deserve.

I shot the first feature in NY to get rolling again after 9/11 and it was pointed out to me after a few days that we had perfect parity of the genders in almost every department. No one consciously planned it, but even G&E were evenly split (although I would note that those dept. heads were male).

The independent market, or at least certainly the NY indie market at that time, was a place of youth. I was almost always the oldest person on set, even when I was just in my mid-twenties. Perhaps that had something to do with the gender mix. There is another vast section of the industry, which is the small doc/industrial crew. These are the jobs with one or two people in the production dept., a camera person, a sound person and a swing. If you're lucky some of those departments get an extra person. On such jobs it was and remains almost invariably males on the technical crew and females on the administrative crew.

I will note that for the most part the women represent the client and hire the men, so perhaps that's just the way they want it.

Mitch Gross Director of Communications Convergent Design


> I will note that for the most part the women represent the client and hire the men, so perhaps that's just the way they want it.

And in the '80's the predominately male producers in commercials hired female Production Assistants, who became Production Supers > Managers and then took over as The Producers.

I notice that where as PA's use to frequently move on to other positions, both tech crew and production, many PA's these days, and especially male ones, make PA'ing a long term career. Some happy, others not so much. But I would say that I don't see The DRIVE, in general, that I use to.

In both PA's and 2nd AC's. I've gotten flack from this in the past, but I also find that women on the crew provides more interesting conversation, beyond sports and carousing topics. Men however have more interest in food and cooking topics! Sound and DIT's the best tech talk ...

Mako, who still finds he needs to concentrate at work, S. Pasadena, Ca


I would argue that it is relevant because, depending on how long that career break may be, it may well cause a great slow down in the momentum of someone's career.

If you have a bunch of commercials on your cv(resume, whatever it translates as) and then a gap which could be anything from 3 months (pity the abandoned children left with carers) to a number of years - chances are people are going to wonder and speculate as to why.

They might not even bother to ask, but just assume that you 'lost the magic spark', or are no longer in vogue.

If a 1st AC or DoP had taken a career break for the last, say, 5 years (think 2 or 3 kids and giving them a year or so each), then they would be coming back to a business where the stuff is no longer even shot on the same media as when you started your career break. Your entire showreel might have been shot on a different media!

Yes - it is a freelance industry, but it is also an extremely fickle industry. If you are not seen to be working regularly then people stop phoning.

I am not suggesting that I agree with any of the above being fair or reasonable, just that I have observed it happening to a number of women (many of them dear friends of mine) over a number of decades (yes, I am that old). I agree that having a mix in my (sound) department makes for a calmer general vibe, and far more interesting conversations.

Kindest, Simon Bishop, lurking sound recordist, London, UK


> How is that relevant in what is essentially a freelance industry. Need to take a break, you take a break. And in many areas of the world discrimination based on maternity leave is illegal.

C'mon Mitch, that's not fair. It's not taking a break for fun!

A clear example of this is an ex AC/Operator of mine who was progressing nicely to DP, competing with me on occasion for commercials.

She wanted children and took five years out to have two. It destroyed her career path, all the effort she'd put in to building towards the top of her profession was lost because we work in a business that is only interested in what you did yesterday.

She had to make a decision, children or career, the father didn't. I think this is a contributory factor into why we see so many female colourists, as more of an "office" job the career break doesn't have to be so long, if at all.

Cheers Geoff Boyle FBKS EU based cinematographer www.gboyle.co.uk


 

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