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10 Nov

The Problem With: Being a Camera Girl

problem with being a camera girl 2

I want to begin by saying I have the privilege to work with many wonderful people on the red carpets of London, and I love it so much. I love the buzz before an event, I love the honour of chatting directly to people involved in the movies they are in and have the ability to grab their personal opinions, and I love that I am damn good at what I do.

With minimal equipment I get high quality, beautiful shots with, usually, crisp audio that airs on TV. I am proud of my work and what I can do with a 60D, pretty lens, a trusty rig, small LED lamp and a H4. Sometimes people see my footage after I capture it and are surprised at what I used to create it. Most DSLR’s shoot is a very high quality akin to some broadcast cameras, making them perfect for short interviews. There are people out there in the press pens who have MASSIVE broadcast cameras and, in my opinion, it just isn’t necessary these days. Technology has come a long way in a short time a they just take up a lot of space in a tiny press pit – but I have gone on a tangent now. Anyway, the most important thing about operating a camera and getting the good shots, is having the eye for it. You need to know how to shoot it. That is why specialised camera people are great and needed in the industry. Anyone can hold a camera and point it… not everyone can do it well, in fact a lot of people can’t.

This is why I am proud of my job. It took me four years to get where I am in general. It is true, I really want to be a full-time presenter, but I do love the fact I also have skills in production behind the camera as well as in front of it and also that I enjoy it. If all goes well, I should stay in work. But the amount of times people see me, look and make a judgement on my work based on my GENDER and AGE is horrific. And I will not apologise for it, let it diminish my skills to make others more comfortable or change who I am because my role is ‘unexpected’ of my gender…and age.

I am often talked down to, overlooked for roles, or belittled by peers. Not even maliciously either. I would 90% of the people who act this way don’t even realise they are doing it or mean to cause offence, but I often experience behaviours that seem to scream “Aw, look at the girl holding the camera”. Again, I do also meet some lovely people too – shout out to HELLO! red carpet team, who are always a pleasure to be around, also HEY, U GUYS!

A lot of media roles, especially production, are male dominated. Let me fill you in with some knowledge on the area:

  • Women take up only 23% of crews.
  • 2% of directors are woman.
  • The LARGEST department is Visual Effects with women making up 17.5% of the roles. Yes, the largest.
  • THE CAMERA DEPARTMENT HAS 5% WOMAN ACROSS THE INDUSTRY, AND FEMALE CINEMATOGRAPHERS MAKE UP 1.8%!
  • Oh and the percentage of female crew members has generally decreased between 1994 (22.7%) and 2013 (21.8%). Woo.

For more facts I strongly recommend reading Stephen Follows full report on the current gender climate within the industry. (Spoiler: it’s not good for us gals). To quote my friend, Rosianna, in her video ‘The Women Offscreen: Sexism in Film‘ “…Women are being shut out at every level of film production: from positions deemed entry level in the industry, right up to the top directors…”. For more depressing facts about the representation of women in media over various roles, TIME have written this article and The Guardian released some worrying facts about representation of woman and disabled people on television. And more information in general on the vast subject (U.S.A. focused)is provided by Women’s Media Center who have some interesting reading.

Taking all of that into account, this is what a press pit looks like to me:

1) It is mostly men. Fact. You will rarely see many women in the photographer pen either. Most of the roles of camera operator or presenter are filled by men, but there are women there too! They are usually in the role of presenter/interviewer and rarely anything else, unless they are on the carpet fulfilling various roles within the PR (that’s another discussion entirely). There are very few female camera operators. I can count on one to two hands how many women are present operating camera equipment and the number drops to one hand when I count those women who are also my age.

2) Male film stars will often be surprised I am there in my role also. When filming interviews with a few male actors, I have captured them peering round the camera, look really surprised and continuing their interview. One even complimented my rig and asked me about what I was using – interrupting the interview, but was nice to see interest shown. I have also caught one actor checking me out on camera, literally the quick ‘up and down’… frankly I found that hilarious, but the amount of surprise written on his face wasn’t unnoticed. Oddly enough, female actors/producers/directors are not fussed by my presence – possibly because I am seen as a peer?

3) Most male production crews will talk to my colleague first, a male presenter, about my camera equipment and dismiss me when I talk/answer about it.

Most recently a “cameraman” in a press pit questioned me about the lens on my camera…I say he asked me, he asked my male colleague who was just holding part of the rig as I set up a different part of the equipment for filming. I proceeded to answer and was quickly interrupted with “Sorry love, I am asking him about his equipment”. I replied: “It is my equipment, I am the camera person here. The lens is …” etc. He was taken aback and surprised, said “Really?!” and proceeded to not ask anymore questions. It became apparent he looked down upon my view of our job and shot weird looks my way for the rest of the evening.

You will also notice the gender bias towards my colleague, and friend, who is a presenter, but is sometimes looked over in his role (when he shouldn’t be as he is amazing at it), but this is possible a discussion for another time.

The above experience happens more frequently than it should. And I don’t like it. I want to clarify I don’t mind people mistaking me for a presenter – rock on, it’s what I want to do too – I don’t like being looked down on for a role I am doing, and doing well, because it doesn’t meet others ‘standards’ of the industry. It should NOT be a surprise when I tell others I am a camera operator/videographer. (I do not use the word cameraman if I can help it as it assigns gender and expectations to the role) and I NEVER say “I am sorry, I am the videographer” because I do not feel I should apologise for who I am or what I do. I them them straight as I have said previously, I worked very hard to get where I am.

I also have another female friend who is a writer and has had equally awful experiences with her male peers. They will be on the same panels for their books, but she will be dismissed by them for being a woman. This actually happens in todays world. And she is very talented also!

What I am trying to say, not so eloquently, is: I love my job. I love working in the media industry and plan to do so for a very long time. Can we all please decrease this VERY LARGE gender bias within our industry and let more woman work in these roles. I don’t want to promote tokenism either, there are many extremely qualified woman who should be working more in this industry, but find it harder to get the work.

Mostly, what I want the ability to progress in my career (hell, maybe even direct something one day) and for it not to be a up-hill struggle to get there just because I am a woman.

I am woman. Hear me roar.

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