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Women in the film industry

03/07/2014
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Written by Ashton Kennedy, NFFTY Alumni

“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.” – Kathryn Bigelow

Everywhere we looked this Oscar season there seemed to be some article on the great gender disparity in the top of Hollywood that has plagued it for the last 86 years. Back in 2010, we thought we had seen a harbinger of change with Kathryn Bigelow’s win, but we are no further 4 years later, and in fact, you could say we have regressed as you watch another batch of male candidates for Best Director and the percentage of working female directors dropping.

Anyone who’s a woman director or producer wants to see that change, and wants to beat the odds, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. The film industry is hard to break into period, for anyone, whatever your race or gender.  You start at the bottom and you work and network to the top. That can take years or decades no matter what your background is. Starting out you have to put your head down and work harder, better, and with more perfection than anyone else around you.  Coming out of film school, I spent a solid 6 months looking for a job and felt quite fortunate when finally offered a position. The stars happened to align!  Many of my classmates are still looking, whether they are female or not.

That first job out of college is often our greatest learning experience, as the majority of us have never had to navigate the complex waters of the work place, nor had to start doing adult things like pay all the bills.  The two years at my first job have been incredibly rewarding, both from a filmmaking and a personal perspective. There’s a lot you learn about the intricacies of communication and interaction among your bosses and colleagues, where you must constantly anticipate deficiencies. Everything has a price tag attached to it; the more thorough a task is completed, the less likely it is to come back and cost more. To save yourself time and money, you must give impeccable attention to the details, particularly during post-production. These details you may never have encountered in any other situation as a filmmaker, but now you must learn them with great precision as quickly as possible. It’s in those details you set yourself apart. While the initial years of your career are fairly similar with everyone else across the board, it’s important in these defining moments to learn all that you can, so that when you take that next step forward you’re headed in a direction consistent with your personal goals.

In addition to learning from that first job, whether you are male or female, you are at heart a creative person. You must continue to flex those muscles in little ways or big ways as you navigate your job. You must continue to build your creative team, a team that will eventually pull you up or vice versa. It is those personal side-projects that fuel the dream and the drive to change the odds set before you. Even when things get tough at work, or an oversight has been made, it is your personal goals that keep pushing you to learn, do better or make right, in order to advance.

Over the last 6 months, I was able to co-produce my first feature film with an amazing creative collaborator and wonderful female writer/director Kate Rhamey. She and I have set a standard of continually making content, whether it’s commercials, music videos, shorts, or now this feature. Through this feature film, it is our goal to keep pushing ourselves to the next level, and to raise people’s confidence in our team’s ability to deliver. In the end, people hire and work with those they are most confident; as young women, our role in changing the disparity in Hollywood’s gender diversity is to give the industry as much reason as possible to be confident that we can deliver.

To watch Ashton and Kate’s collaborative piece for NFFTY 2013, visit our Film of the Week page. Their film, Eternal Springs, is the featured film of the week.

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