I attended my first film festival this weekend to celebrate my good friends’ film, Stashbox. After the screening finished the host invited the filmmakers to assemble under the screen. The Q&A that followed focused on typical questions about the style and story of the film until finally one middle-aged woman shouted: “Where are the women filmmakers?!” The host eventually went on to explain that there was a fair amount of female filmmakers scattered throughout the festival and, indeed, a specific screening of women’s work. But before he got to those statements he first looked at the line-up of men to his right and said, “Oh, I didn’t even notice that was the case!”
That is the biggest problem. I noticed during the third film that, once again, the story featured two male leads and was made by a male director. I noticed the few “Marys” and “Lauras” scattered throughout the credits. I noticed the amount of female characters (lead or otherwise), and found I could count them on one hand. I noticed.
I am a female filmmaker. I prefer Above-the-Line, “organizational” roles in filmmaking, like Producer, Production Manager, or Assistant Director. My three regular teams lovingly joke that I am “Woman on Set.” Regardless of the affection the term is endeared with, it’s also one of the most demoralizing aspects of filmmaking to me. Because I shouldn’t be the only woman on set. Résumés should be pouring out of directors’ notebooks. Production companies should be training and hiring talented female sound mixers, female grips, female D.P.s, and more to productions. My last two productions were evenly split in gender: for one, the director, lead actress, sound operator/mixer, and technical supervisor were female; the assistant director, lead actor, cinematographer, and grip were male. I noticed. It mattered to me.
But it doesn’t matter to everyone; usually, because they don’t even notice that I am missing. Perhaps there had been a female-specific part of the competition. Perhaps few women submitted work to the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. Perhaps few women submitted good works. All of these are possible and fine. But what is not fine is that a man stood at the front of a room and said that he did not even notice my gender was missing – in essence, he did not even think to see me.
I love being a part of the boys’ team. I love working productions where I feel like I’m with my brothers; I’ve gotten used to being surrounded by guys and genuinely enjoy the atmosphere. But as I start to move into the professional world in both producing and filmmaking I know I will encounter more unintentional (and perhaps equal amounts of intentional) sexism and erasure. I wish that weren’t the case and I hope it will change. I firmly believe that if those around me adjusted their vision so that they did see, that the industry I love would slowly start to change: there would be more deserving women shuffled into that particular screening; productions would hire equal amounts of men and women on set; writers would craft female characters that are more than just a caricature.
Slowly, but surely, everyone would start to see that there were only men standing at the front of the room. They would notice.
If they did that, they would see me. And step by step, we—the industry, its artists, and I—could move forward. Because I am tired of not being seen.