A moving image and its impact on viewers has always fascinated me. I love to create, I love to work in an intense environment, I love being surrounded by passionate people, and I love film. All these factors combined lead me towards an education in cinematography.
As an aspiring cinematographer, I study light, framing, and lens choices in hopes of one day being the head of the camera and lighting department on a film set. As a cinematographer, I would be responsible for making all the artistic and technical decisions in relation to the film image.
Currently, I am studying in the SFU film program in order to reach this goal, and though I am currently in a supportive and inclusive environment, I know that as a woman I will face discrimination that my male classmates will never have to deal with as aspiring filmmakers.
In 2013, women accounted for less than three per cent of cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. No female cinematographer has ever been nominated for an Academy Award, and those females who have succeed in the field — such as Ellen Kuras, Mandy Walker, and Maryse Alberti — are not very well known or celebrated.
While the film industry has its own unique problems regarding sexism in both the content it produces and the treatment of its own working members, I believe it originates from something deeper in our society. Starting from a young age, women are not encouraged to pursue technical careers in general, and instead are pushed towards more traditionally female-occupied fields. This phenomenon is commonly spoken about with regards to jobs in the sciences and maths, but also applies to other technically-based careers such as cinematography.
No female cinematographer has ever been nominated for an Academy Award.
I’ve heard several different excuses for why there is an underrepresentation of female cinematographers: it’s too technical, the equipment is too heavy, women can’t handle the brutal hours.
But I feel cinematographer Claudia Raschke put it best by stating, “When you go to an interview or onto a set, as a woman you are incompetent until you prove you know your stuff. As a man, you are considered competent until you are proven totally incompetent.” Too often, women aren’t trusted to execute this kind of work.
When I first developed an interest in cinematography, I was quite intimidated by the technical knowledge that seemed to be required. This type of ‘shop talk’ can make it hard for already isolated aspiring female cinematographers to break into the field. I know that without the mentors I had teaching me along the way, I would still feel very lost, and might not have pursued cinematography at all.
Unfortunately, many women haven’t been lucky enough to find the support and encouragement I have. The boys’ club mentality is still going strong, and many continue to use the physical, technical, and leadership aspects of the job to justify the lack of females in the field. Existing female cinematographers have proven that these are falsehoods, and that women are just as capable cinematographers as men.
My talent, style, creative choices and skills as a cinematographer are not dictated by my gender, and it is extremely important that women continue to develop an interest in cinematography. We need female cinematographers for the same reason we need female writers, directors and editors: cinematographers are storytellers. Through all the equipment and technology, they are telling a story. They bring their own style, story and perspective to their work. To shut women out of this field would be a profound loss for the film community and its audiences.