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There’s a Secret Project to Help Women Get More Jobs in Hollywood

Let’s be real: Most industries have a problem when it comes to gender equality. And the women who suffer most are those whose jobs aren’t visible to the public eye, like the people who work behind-the-scenes in film and TV. While the public has been pushing for more diversity on-screen for years, it’s only recently that we’ve started to consider the male-dominated workplace offscreen. We found out how Hollywood is working to get more women behind-the-scenes jobs in film and TV, and — no surprise here — the movement is being led by some incredible, powerful women in the industry.

The behind-the-scenes dynamics are changing (finally) in Hollywood. According to The Hollywood Reporter, there is a “secret project” in the works helping create more jobs for women. The Women’s Production Group, an organization for below-the-line women, meaning crew members who aren’t directors, actors, or producers.

According to film industry analyst Stephen Follows, for movies in the US grossing $1 million+ in 2018, only 13.7% of sound crews were women, only 7.9% of camera and electrical departments were women, and only 12.3% of transport departments were women. Imagine if, across all the movies you saw, only 7-14% of characters were women. Pretty shocking, right?

Because behind-the-scenes work is so, well, behind the scenes, actor-filmmaker Zoe Lister-Jones believes that the work starts with raising awareness. “There’s still not enough awareness around below-the-line women in non-traditional roles,” she told THR. While the numbers are slightly better on indie projects, she says that with bigger-budget endeavors, “scope and scale starts to intimidate those making the hiring decisions.”

Union sound mixer Lori Dovi adds that, even when women are hired, it’s often a production trying to keep a “headcount” of women that looks good — without offering meaningful new opportunities or potential for growth. “The headcount of women on set is often kept up by hiring women in traditional roles: script supervisor, hair and makeup, costume, production secretaries,” Dovi explained.

And Lulu Elliott, who founded an agency specifically to represent female crews in camera, sound, and lighting, thinks these male-dominated crews are no accident: “I still hear attitudes about women not being good at tech or that they don’t have enough strength. But this is work about stamina and technique.”

So, how do they plan to combat the engrained bias, not to mention years of crews continuing to hire the same men they’re worked with before? Mapplethorpe Director of Photography Nancy Schreiber says the change needs to come from the top, by hiring female department heads.

Describing a recent project, Schreiber says, “I made it my business to diversify the crew — because I could. My camera department had more women than men…Then I kind of bugged the gaffer about having some women because he didn’t have any at the beginning. So he called around, and one woman, Ellie Evans, has now become a right-hand electrician to him.”

Schreiber is one of the women in Hollywood working on the secret project for the Women’s Production Group. The project had a mostly-female crew and was created through a collaboration between Time’s Up Entertainment, Sara Fischer from Shondaland, Debra Bergman from Paramount TV, and Dana Belcastro from Fox.

Ngoc Nguyen, an executive from Time’s Up, says this project will “shine a light on the existing pool of talented women in production” and help with “promoting career pathways for women new to the industry.” From looking at the statistics, and hearing what these women have to say, this project can’t come quickly enough.

Let’s hope 2020 is a year of better gender equality: onscreen, offscreen, and everywhere in between.

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