The Production Industry Leading Ladies Offer Their Opinion on What It’s Like to Be a Woman in the Business

Being an actor is only one aspect of working on the production. While actors and actresses get the most credit for bringing characters to life on screen, countless other talented people—including directors, cinematographers, editors, costume designers, and many others—are important in making a film a success. We surveyed prominent women in business for their advice on how to enter and thrive in the field. Caution: Their replies are not to be missed.

Expert Women in the Field Share Their Knowledge

Production Supervisor, Jennelle Jordan

Show up 15 minutes early, keep in a good mood, and treat the custodian as if they were the CEO.  There is no such thing as an “inferior” member of the team; it takes a vast group of people to perform, and your production backbone of PA help is just as crucial as the director.

Sandra Seeling Lipski: Actress, Filmmaker, Festival Founder

Take good, rapid action and stick with it. Build a strong connection. Spend all of your time thinking about and working on your creations.

Elaine Montalvo, Costume Designer

Be fair and enthusiastic about seizing opportunities. It might not seem like it at first, but every project you complete will lead to yet another one. Over time, the credits will add up. Focus on what you have achieved rather than what you have not.

Cortney Palm, an actress

Reduce your expectations and focus on having fun instead of waiting for anything to go wrong. Be generous with your time and energy; people will remember you for it.

Director of Virtual Production Christi Nowak

How else will you connect with people in production while discovering the ropes if you don’t start in any job you can? You need as much work experience as possible to figure out who you are and what you’d like to accomplish as a working professional because every production and house has its unique way of doing things and culture. And get involved with as many growth-promoting groups as you can; there are groups like BAFTA Connect out there for a reason. But above all, be genuine and honest at all times; this shows true character. Work should be a means to an end, not an end in itself or a detriment to enjoyment.

The pursuit of stability, wealth, and reputation might lead us to put up with worse-than-ideal working conditions even if we know it will cost us a significant portion of our lives. You and the people around you will gain strength from this piece of advice. Far too many women I know have kept quiet about pay discrimination kept their pregnancies a secret at work or altered their appearance to fit in. Finally, speak up if you feel uneasy or unsafe; resources like Cinegirl, on-set well-being facilitators, and helplines are available if you need them. What we learn to tolerate from our contemporaries early on can have lasting effects on our professional lives.

The Director, Claudia Raschke

In 1988, I started working as a DP. I’ve worked here for over 30 years, so I have plenty of experience. Looking back, I can see that my first few years as a cinematographer were spent just learning the ropes, developing a visual vocabulary, learning the importance of camera movement, and mastering the art of mood lighting. I appreciate the chances I’ve had to experiment and grow gradually. When you have a full-frame sensor camera, drones, dollies, Steadicam, top-of-the-line optics, and every conceivable light at your disposal, you still need to know how to pick the right tools to realise your film’s visual vision. Using the technology resources at your disposal, I suggest conducting as many experiments as possible and making a “playground” to force yourself to think creatively.

Consult an experienced professional working in narrative or nonfiction filmmaking. Participate in student film crews to develop your eye for cinematic composition. And build up a portfolio like a painter.

Ikoli Natacha, Colorist

Working in a post can be taxing, and it’s important to give yourself time off to recharge; coworkers may act as if your excessive workload is normal at first (it’s not), so be kind to yourself. Even if you’re just starting, it’s important to think about whether or not the studio’s work ethic aligns with your own and to pick and choose the opportunities you take.

Kaity Williams, Cinematographer

Because filming a movie is a group effort, you can’t make shots that will only help your team. A good shot places the player safely in an advantageous position. To fully appreciate the work of your art department’s elaborate and beautiful set design, you may want to stop the lens down. Learn how to use the grip and electric gear so you can predict how much time and effort will be needed to achieve the desired setup. When we need help, other departments will come through for us if we make some minor sacrifices in terms of our public image. The final product and the overall mood of the workplace benefit greatly from everyone in the team pulling together.

When you’re just starting, it’s only human to evaluate your progress against that of others. Your career path will be completely different from everyone else’s, thus it’s important to not compare yourself to others. In the world of social media, it is vital to know that most people only share the high points of their lives, giving the idea that they are busier and have better jobs than they do. It’s easy to forget that even the most acclaimed directors of photography have experienced joblessness in the past. If you’re serious about getting into the film industry, you need to find your way in and stay with it through the tough times.

Jess Loren, Exec. Producer

In light of a recent experience I had while working with a particular celebrity, here is some honest advice: don’t take the egos of the celebrities involved in your productions or projects too lightly. Since misogyny is still widely practised, standing firm in your convictions is essential. In a perfect world, your networks will advise you as a leader.

Independent and Internet-Famous Filmmaker Morgan Koetting

Consider several potential answers to the issue before you provide them. Your value will skyrocket as a result of this.

Director of the Blackmagic Collective and independent filmmaker Jenn Page

I try to instill several things in my trainee directors that will make it easier for them to make a living as filmmakers much sooner in their careers. I can think of three right off the bat. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. You can’t expect them to hire you if you’re constantly complaining about them online. Use them effectively, too. Show us that you’re a terrific, busy person by telling us about your activities. Sure. Discuss what you’ve learned or what you’ve experienced from the set, though. Be more than a mere billboard and let us into your world. Second, connect with new people.

Knowing the right people is crucial to success in this field. As someone who has experienced life on both ends of the spectrum, I can attest to the fact that I know many people who benefited from serendipitous encounters with the right people. The people we attract will be those we already know or think we’d get along with. We’ll be spending at least 12 hours a day near you on set, so we better get along. Don’t just aimlessly collect cards from networking events all across town. No, that won’t do the trick.

You need to make genuine connections with people. And if your shared passions have nothing to do with this industry, all the better! In conclusion, one’s attitude is crucial. It’s human nature to experience feelings of apathy now and then. It’s simple to convince yourself that you’ll never achieve the goal you’ve been striving for all this time, but doing so will only bring you down. Staying in the present now, discovering joy, and continuing to create all take the same amount of energy, so I remind myself of this often. But isn’t it great to be happy all the time?

On top of that, I have a sisterhood that I can (and do) turn to whenever I feel like saying, “Ugh!” What gives with this business? We vent our frustrations and then cheer each other up. Help you track down those people. While there are certain difficulties in this field, there is also the possibility of experiencing the most enchanted setting of your life. Find out what it is you desire and hop on the train that will take you there.

Marcy Robinson, Colorist

Do what makes you happy and follow your gut when it comes to knowing what’s right. Although it’s always beneficial to put in extra effort at work, you shouldn’t put your health or time with your family at risk.

Director Indeana Underhill

Build a supportive group by doing one of two things:

  • It’s important to choose role models to look up to. Which individuals do you admire and why? Attend networking events, fairs, and festivals, and make some cold calls. Take all the knowledge you can from the people you look up to.
  • Think of people who are around the same age as you. To those who are growing as well! Individuals that are curious, open, and willing to step outside their creative comfort zones to learn and grow. This is where you’ll find a fulfilling job. Expand your horizons among your favourite coworkers. Try your luck.

Stephanie Burger, The CEO of YLO Productions in Cape Town, South Africa

“I like to emphasise the importance of breaking down gender barriers and fostering a supportive environment for women in the field. I believe in the power of mentorship and encourage aspiring female producers to seek guidance from experienced professionals. The need for equal opportunities and fair representation across all aspects of the production industry is crucial, especially in a country like South Africa. I acknowledge the challenges that women may face, such as pay discrimination and gender biases, but the strength and resilience of women in overcoming these obstacles are becoming more and more prevalent. As a successful CEO and producer, I strive to inspire women to have confidence in their abilities, embrace their unique voices, and contribute their perspectives to the ever-evolving landscape of the production industry.” Stephanie’s insights offer valuable guidance and encouragement for women navigating the world of production in Cape Town and beyond.

Take This Advice With You On Your Producing Journey As A Woman

As a novice filmmaker, there is a piece of conventional wisdom that I find to be almost irrefutable. If you want to succeed in this field, your network is crucial. Having connections can open up various doors, such as performing on someone else’s stage or getting a recommendation for your speech. Developing your professional network is essential if you want to break into the production industry.

But ‘who you know’ isn’t everything here. That ‘who you are’ aspect is also crucial. You need to pique their interest so that they want to learn more about you. In what ways does your unique and genuine artistic voice enrich the world? You should be able to hold people’s attention and interest with your own story.

There is Some Groundwork Involved in Building Your Brand and Story

To discover your voice and build a foundation before trying to commercialise yourself, I think it’s crucial to get started on your own. And with tools and resources from mobile phones to motion picture cameras at your disposal, the world is your oyster. To get started, I submitted my films to several festivals. It gives me the chance to get my name and work out there in the field, in addition to honing my skills. “Rome was not built in a day,” as the adage goes.