Why you should hire a female unit stills photographer - UK women in film
You should hire a female stills photographer for a number of reasons.
- Different point of view - Stills photography is an art and each artist has a voice. Embrace a different voice and see where it will lead. Females see differently to men. Maybe you have a scene in your film, that a female stills photographer is more appropriate for. Maybe a female stills photographer will approach an action shoot out in a different way. A very male dominated film such as Christopher Nolans 'Dunkirk' hired Melinda Sue Gordon as the stills photographer.
- Support women in film - Put your money where your mouth is and support the movement of women in film. Address the crisis head on and do it because it feels right. Alternatively do it and gain some traction on using this as a marketing angle for your films publicity. Lots of journalists are keen to use this as a lead on a story. Marketing 101, create content that people are already talking about!
- A balanced set makes a happy set - Some of the most fun film sets I have worked on have been because there have been a balance between girls and boys. It's fun. It's not too bitchy as there are too many girls, its not too testosterone filled with too many guys. And a happy set, means a happy productive crew!
Current situation of female stills photographers in the UK film industry
Lets face it. There aren't that many working female stills photographers in the industry today. I work in the UK film industry and have attempted to climb the ladder starting in 2013. So when you take a step back and analyse how should I approach getting more work as a stills photographer in film? Part of you understands, it's going to be hard work. And there's a natural progression with this career path. The more you do, the more you do. I can live with that as I'm not a stranger to working really hard and making opportunities.
But when there's only 1 stills photographer on set for each production and say 200 productions over a course of a year in the UK the competition is fierce in comparison to other departments where there maybe assistant roles. This is before we even look at the gender split. Don't get me wrong, I respect my elders and those who have come before me. There are some true pro stills photographers in the UK market working today on high end television and film productions. I just would have wanted more female role models to look up to. To see how I can compare myself to their journey as they too will share my dilemmas of a young girl wanting to have it all in the film industry. Family and career. So I did this. I started reaching out to my peers, my role models and I have to stress how amazing the stills photographer community really are. I would not be where I am today without their wisdom and encouragement. Everyone I contacted from Alex Bailey, Keith Bernstein, Jonathan Olley to my hero Kimberley French (love her work!) and Nicola Dove to name a few.
I wanted to write this article as a way of acknowledging the current trends we are facing in the film industry and growing pressures to address the gender balance, not just in front of the camera but in behind the camera roles aswell. And to ask yourself, what can we do about this and how can the production benefit from having a balance gender split.
Percentage of women in a film crew from 1994-2013 taken from USA top grossing 2,000 feature films
Do take the time to follow the link above to Stephen Follows report on Gender in Film. The report goes on to document only 5% of women work in the camera and electrical department. These figures really are hard to digest, but a true reality. I like to think things are looking up in the camera department. It's so lovely working with female cinematographers for instance as it really does produce another level of work, in my opinion. They in turn are hiring female members of the camera team. Do check out the UK female collective of cinematographers here.
Female camera crew are a minority and need opportunities from the bottom upwards. There need to be schemes in place that encourage female applicants and rules put in place so productions have to hire equally across men and women.
So yes, I'm enjoying this women in film movement. If you follow me on twitter you'll see this as a reoccurring topic in my newsfeed. Greta Gerwig to win the Oscar for female director for one...which she sadly didn't and indeed Rachel Morrison, the first director of photography to be nominated in the cinematography category. She didn't win either. But the movement has begun and voices are being heard. Maybe one day I don't have to use my gender as a reason to get the job, but for now it seems to be working! Is that bad?!
Links that might be useful:
- Glamour magazine article on why you don't see more women behind the camera