Award-winning Director of Photography Joan Hutton says that when she was starting out in the film industry she received absolutely no help from anyone. Even after she’d built up a substantial résumé of work experience and won prestigious awards she continued to experience discrimination. A directing position that she’d interviewed for was once given to a lesser-experienced young male who’d only been out of film school for three years. But her theory on why she’d been passed over is not tinged with one ounce of bitterness: “You know, sometimes guys are happier working with guys.”
In-your-face hostility and physical harassment are other pitfalls that an earlier generation of female directors had to endure while carving out a path for future generations of women. American cinematographer Stanley Cortez once blocked the entrance of the prestigious American Society of Cinematographers building when a female cinematographer tried to enter. Angrily, he warned: “You don’t belong here!”
Kirsten Glover, who started out as a camera assistant on the Arnold Schwarzenegger documentary Pumping Iron recalls all of the “not funny” sexual harassment she tolerated on the set. She says that sexual harassment was not a major issue at that time even though the continual harassment greatly upset her and interfered with her work.
For women of color in the film industry there was always the dual gender/racial bias to deal with. Yet Black women filmmaking veterans such as Jessie Maple Patton never allowed gender or racial bias to stop them. They simply worked harder. Patton said that both the television stations and the union offered up plenty of excuses to avoid hiring her and when she was hired she knew: “They were gonna test me.”
For many of the women featured in the documentary Shooting Women, opportunities for career advancement was offered by enlightened male producers or pioneering organizations, such as Behind the Lens. The film business is a personal one, and securing important contacts through networking and organizational affiliation can open doors that had previously been closed. It’s interesting to note that many of the women film directors featured in this documentary are married to very emotionally supportive men. It leaves one wondering what may have happened to the women who had not received spousal support while pursuing film careers.
If I were raising a daughter, I’d want her to be as fearless and passionate about her career choice as are the women in this documentary.