Friday, March 31, 2023

Women Behind the Lens!

Women behind the lens

Gender disparity exists in all the sectors of employment. It is so deep rooted in the social fabric of our society that is not only impossible to eliminate it but also challenging to acknowledge. This is profoundly because the male dominant society has worked so hard to maintain the status quo. However, quite recently, there has been a noticeable shift in the dynamics and we have witnessed more and more women coming to the surface and leaving their mark. Despite this refreshing change, one field where women lack, both in number and influence, is in the behind-the-lens workforce in the film industry.

Where the representation of women in the off-screen work is meager, they have had an adequate space to claim on the screen. However, their representation on the screen has been quintessential – timid, innocent and tongue-tied characters. There have been a handful of films which have given the female character her own independent identity. Nevertheless, the on-screen work of the film industry has still catered the women. Behind the lens jobs which include direction, production, and camera work etc. has made little efforts to incorporate women. Many people will claim that the gender gap is reducing; but the rate of reduction is so minimal that it can be neglected.

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The math of disparity

Dr. Martha Lauzen, founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, conducted a thorough research on the underrepresentation of women in Hollywood and the results she achieved were shockingly disturbing. She titled her report “Celluloid Ceiling” that became the landmark for addressing the gender gap in the film industry. The report discovered that women only made up 18% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2017. Similarly, a recent study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego University revealed that women consumed only 20% of the behind the lens jobs on the top 100 domestic grossing films of 2019.

As for Pakistan, the trend of women underrepresentation in respective roles of direction, production and cinematography is persisting. A study showed that from the year of 2013-2018, a total number of fifty-seven movies were released out of which only twelve were women directed films.

Why does the gap exist?

            We live in a male dominating society that not only benefits them, but also self-protects the status quo.  The males have ruled the film industry as directors, producers or cameramen for so long that the inclusion of the women in this field disturbs their dominance. 

The precedent has persisted and strengthened over the period of time that Lauzen sketches it in a way that “When we think about what a director or cinematographer looks like, when we see those pictures inside our heads, typically they are of a white male.” It has set the grounds for men to continue claiming the field. People always tend to hire people who look like them. This has made male directors, producers and cameraman to hire men to do the job.

There is another misconception that behind-the-lens jobs require physical hard work, and women are weak figures who can’t get the job done. This limited their work to only fancy characters on the screen and the gap has still not narrowed down.

            The underrepresentation of women has created trust issues for those few women working in this field. This has greatly impacted the funding going towards the films directed or produced by women. According to a UNESCO report, out of all the funding, only 16% is devoted to films which were directed by women. The lack of funding resources discourages the women to realize their films.

We need to mind the gap:

            This is high time that we work on the under representation of the women behind the lens. Not only will this promote a gender balanced industry, but also redefine the dynamics of the film stories.

The male dominated film industry has projected women through their own lens which is just another crooked representation of the women.  A research discovered that films with female directors tend to show more female protagonists’ role.  When women define themselves, they show the true potential of themselves. Therefore, Women working behind the scenes translates into more powerful female characters on the screen.

            The long persisting status quo in the film industry needs revision and only women can be the revisionists power. Behind the lens workforce needs a massive inclusion of women and this can only be done by hiring more and more women; not because they need to prove that they can work but simply because they can work. having more women behind the lens will be a source of encouragement for other women to take up these roles.

“Gender Parity is not just good for women – it is good for societies.”

Angelica Fuentes

Women behind the lens

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