He will also be expected to get the tea and coffee, as par for the course, and to pick up his female boss’s dry cleaning from time to time.
Is this a career a man would see as worth pursuing? Because this is the reality for women.
This issue of LUMINA explores the gender gap in the film and television industry, and looks at the role of women both behind and in front of the camera, by women and about women in the screen industry at the exact moment in time when more and more women are considering the status quo. This collection of essays, article, analysis and personal reflections contributes to a conversation about it, and challenges anyone who reads them to not acknowledge that our industry has an important role to play in all facets of gender equality. Hope you enjoy the read.
When Sandra asked me to co-edit this edition of LUMINA, my first thought was the opportunity this would present to honour and celebrate the many extraordinary woman who surround me in this industry. After 25 years working in publicity and marketing, I’ve met a lot both in front of and behind the cameras.
I thought our research and our mining of the lives and professional experiences of women in our industry would reveal early years of battling genre stereotypes and male dominated work places, tales of male bad behaviour and the tenacity required to demand and receive equal pay, respect, opportunity and recognition, but that—surely—we would discover just far how far we’d come.
As the next generation of women in my family, my daughter, is taking her first steps into the film and television industry, it was frankly shocking to discover that so little has changed.
As I began to speak to women about contributing to this issue—to film journalists, festival directors, producers, directors, writers, actresses, academics —I was flung back to my 17 year-old self and my first job out of school in the blokesy and—dare I say it, alcoholic—world of a metropolitan TV newsroom. It was terrifying. There was a lot of yelling and intimidation. On day one, the news director, several beers under his belt, looked me in the eye and told me that if I couldn’t stand the heat, I’d better get out of the kitchen. I gritted my teeth and got on with it. That’s what women did, and still do!
There were amazing female role models in that newsroom getting the news out every night and, when I went next to work as runner on a nightly TV variety show, I quickly realised that it was the all-women team of researchers and segment producers who pulled a rabbit out of the hat every day to get that show to air. They were hard working, inspiring and fun!
But they were not the decision makers. It was the male presenter and the male executive producer who ultimately called the shots and took the glory.
In contemporary Australia, the reality remains that the decision makers in our industry are most often men. The key creative roles are overwhelmingly taken by men. However you look at it, the figures are terrible.
It’s been fascinating to hear the stories of women and their insights into what happens in writing rooms, what discussions are had around boardroom tables, how film festivals make decisions, what films are reviewed, and to understand
how hard women have worked to become successful despite the pervasiveness of sexism and lack of opportunity.
I’ve been struck again and again that women’s natural inclination is to shrug it off. ‘I’ve been lucky’ they say. ‘I’ve just had to work harder’ or ‘I’ve laughed if off when asked to make the coffee.’
In editing this edition, we’ve had to prod and poke a bit to get women to open up about the struggles, the challenges, the blows to self-esteem. There are definitely encouraging signs. There have now been many recent television programs in Australia with complex female protagonists produced by, written by and directed by women, and collectives of smart and creative young women are coming together to create films and television programs that represent their worldview.
I’ve been encouraged by the optimism of younger women in our industry who, mostly, think the industry has become more gender blind. Let’s hope they can move change forward from its current glacial pace. I’ve been heartened by the commitment of senior women to mentoring young women in the workplace.
So, while this issue of LUMINA does shine, I hope, a powerful spotlight on the continuing gender inequalities faced by women in Australia, it is also I hope a celebration of women who, against the odds, have made our industry richer, deeper, more thoughtful and fulfilling for audiences because of their passion, creativity and sheer hard work. It’s been a privilege to talk and debate and write with them.
Hard copy paperback issues of LUMINA are available to purchase for $10 AU from the AFTRS online store:
A free e-book version of LUMINA can be downloaded from the iTunes store
Every LUMINA article published to date is available via the AFTRS website as an individual viewable 'flip book'. Issue 14 chapters are online soon in the LUMINA section
Tracey Mair, TM Publicity
Ph: 02 8333 9066 or 0419 221 493