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Challenging unconscious bias when bringing together an all female film crew

In the space of about a month two briefs from two different brands appeared in my inbox with the same unique request. They were keen to create a film ‘for women, by women’ (both brands are female centric), and wanted an all female crew to work on the projects. My first thought was; ‘can we even do that in this turnaround?’

 

Which roles could we answer without hesitation? There was a woman spearheading the project; Aleisha, one of Cherryduck’s talented Producers - tick, Make-up artist, no problem, Soundie, it’s not one we usually fill with a woman (definitely a role more often filled by a man) but we were recommended someone and she was perfect, Director of Photography, less straightforward, Gaffer… tricky!!!

 

 

As with most projects, a strong visual can make or break it, so Director of Photography choice is a key one. The reality is our freelance pool of DoPs is 95% male - scrap that, 99% male. I put that down to a combination of reasons; one, we have strong relationships with freelancers that we’ve used over a long period of time, who we trust and use again and again; two, when it comes to camera operators and DOP’s the applicants for those roles are almost always male.

 

 
Being forced to shake it up on account of this client ask, showed and taught me a few things;

  • We need to think outside the box when it comes to recruitment, we get lazy, we go to the same places and we’re surprised when we don’t get a diverse group of applicants.

  • I need to challenge my own unconscious (now conscious??) bias and push for more female DoPs, Directors, Editors, Gaffers.

  • The power of a network. I created an Instagram account sharing the stories of women working in Post Production - Edit Girls - it’s been a really empowering place for women in the industry to connect and it’s allowed me to find women in various different crew roles by posting on the Instagram stories with jobs.

  • Seeing a woman behind the camera is far too unusual, and frankly it’s a bit depressing to think I don’t see it much considering I’ve been in this industry for over 10 years.

  • This can’t just be a one off. I refuse to have an all female crew as a gimmick, we’ve got to be able to do this again on projects that aren’t female centric. Speaking with one of our Female Directors, it really hit home when she said; ‘I really don’t want to be pigeonholed into being a ‘female director’ doing ‘female centric projects’.’ It struck a chord, it’s a trap that’s so easy to fall into.

  • This isn’t about shutting men out or men vs. women. It’s about championing more women in roles we don’t typically see them in so they are brought into our vision and create a level playing field so we can start focusing on the skill not the sex.

My biggest take away from this whole experience, is that we; production company owners, producers, creatives, agency producers, have the power to make real actionable change in shaping the film crews in our industry. We should be asking ourselves where we look to recruit, and question the bias and barriers that prevent female filmmakers from breaking through. I can have influence over how we recruit, how we build our freelancer pools and how we can make Cherryduck an environment for female filmmakers to thrive.

 

Kim French is Company Director at Cherryduck Productions , founder of the Edit Girls (@editgirlslondon) Instagram project and part of the Marketing team here at Bloom.

 

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