28 min read
Women in Video: 3 Journeys in the Film Industry
By: Julia Osterhouse on Aug 29, 2022 1:14:56 PM
It's no secret that men are represented behind the camera in far greater numbers than women.
According to Women and Hollywood, only 8.9% of directors nominated for the Golden Globe Awards, Academy Awards, Director's Guild of America Awards, and Critic's Choice Awards between 2008 and 2022 were female.
Of those directors, only three of them were women of color.
Even in the year 2022, the celluloid ceiling is a massive obstacle to overcome. However, that doesn't mean we aren't chipping away at it every day.
Today, three women from our amazing video production team at 730 Eddy Studios tell their stories. Aubrey (video pre-production), Liberty (video production), and Julia (video post-production) have share their journeys, challenges, lessons, and triumphs from the film industry.
Without further ado, enjoy!
My career in the industry kind of started on accident.
I landed at Central Michigan University, unsure of what I wanted to study. I took some general classes, just to find what I was interested in. Most of them were housed in Moore Hall – the home of the journalism and film departments.
Before I knew it, I was immersed in film studies classes and dove into broadcast journalism. I did some on-air reporting for the student-run news station on campus before trying my hand behind the camera, producing the daily newscasts. The rest is history.
Producing became my passion. I always had an appreciation for the news, but had never before pieced together that it could be a career for me.
I grew up watching local West Michigan stations and NBC Nightly News. I had dreams of working for NBC in Rockefeller Center or being the next best sideline reporter on ESPN. I lost track of how many people told me it “made sense” that I went into news.
During my junior year of college, I started interning at a local station here in West Michigan. Soon, I was hired part-time to produce on the weekends while I was still in school. That internship led me to a full-time position after I graduated.
I then went onto a newsroom in Columbus, Ohio, before coming right back home to West Michigan. I ended up crossing a “dream job” off my list working for the local station I grew up watching. I found myself rubbing elbows with the same people whose voices echoed through my family home growing up.
I learned so much. I saw so much.
To say it’s a tough industry would be to put it too lightly. Journalists are a different breed of human; ask any of us, and we will agree.
After 9 years, I left the news biz in early 2022. Shortly after, I found 730 Eddy Studios through a friend and fellow former newsie, and I’m glad I did! It’s been a great transition, and a position I found my news skills can really come in handy for.
I feel lucky to say there is a lot I love about my work. I love that I have been able to carry over my love of storytelling from my news career. One of my current projects allows me to fly all over the country and interview all kinds of people.
I love being able to tell their stories and connect with them. I love when unexpected stories jump out at me during shoots, or even just in a casual conversation with someone on set.
It’s like a lightbulb goes off in my brain – “Alert, alert! There’s a story here!” I can piece together the soundbites and video clips in my head before I even review the footage. It’s like that scene in A Beautiful Mind where all the numbers and equations are floating around Russell Crowe’s head; but in my case, it’s scripts instead of numbers.
One part of my job that I love the most is seeing my talented coworkers in action. To be able to hand-off my producer brain to their creative/visual brains is outstanding. To talk through different shots and objectives for shoots and then see the project come alive through their eyes is so cool.
I am surrounded by talent in this office. I am continually amazed, impressed, and inspired by watching these wonderful, talented people do what they do!
When it comes to my feelings about working in a male-dominated industry... Oh boy, how much time to do you have??
It can be intimidating. It can be defeating. It can be frustrating. But it can also be empowering.
I’ve been harassed, talked over, doubted, insulted, ignored, shoved aside; you name it. But through all that, I’ve also succeeded.
I’ve learned to shift my way of thinking behind how I can sometimes be treated by men in this industry. I learned that if they want to doubt me, that’s their problem, not mine.
I learned to let my work speak for itself. I learned to prove them wrong.
I also learned when to stop keeping my mouth shut about unfair treatment.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still days where it gets to me, mostly because it seems so pointless to be doubted or looked at as less competent simply because I’m a woman. Like…. What?? I have a degree, an impressive resume, great references, and years of experience, but because I’m a woman I am somehow less capable? Get outta here!
My own advice comes with influence from other strong women I know.
When I left the news business, I was unsure of where to go next in my career. I applied for all kinds of jobs and found myself thinking maybe I wasn’t qualified for some of the more high caliber positions– even though I totally was!
I talked through those feelings with my therapist and she hit me with - “Why NOT you?”. Why not me? Why not YOU? Why NOT go for it? What’s the worst that could happen?
I now wear a ring every day that has WHY NOT ME engraved on it as a daily reminder of my worth and capability.
My second piece of advice for women in this industry is to always speak your truth. A former coworker of mine always encouraged me to speak my truth, even writing it on my “goodbye” card when I left the station.
In the news industry, women were often punished for speaking up; often in petty ways. We were made to feel like if we spoke up, we’d be on some kind of “list”, and some punishment would follow.
I remember going to that coworker with concerns, wondering if I was just crazy, or if I actually had a valid point (bless her for always letting me vent on my toughest days). She would reassure me, and say, “Oh no, you gotta bring that up, girl!”
I got to a point where I didn’t fear whatever insignificant “punishment” would come, because I wanted better for myself and for my colleagues. And it was worth it.
Never let anyone back you into a corner and make you feel like you don’t have a voice. You do, and it matters!
Even if nothing comes out of it, you still spoke up, and it will only become easier to do so in the future. Plus, you might be surprised who jumps on the bandwagon with you when you do. Surround yourself with other strong women, and you will be unstoppable.
You have a voice. Use it sister!
Being completely transparent, I had a very different idea of where I would be in 2022.
Maybe starring in a movie next to Brad Pitt, or walking the red carpet joking around with my best friend Jennifer Lawrence. Looking back, I can safely say that things didn’t exactly go to plan.
Starting off as a fresh-faced college student at the University of California, San Diego in pursuit of a degree in acting, I had a carefree view on life. I felt very lucky that I knew what I wanted to do in the future, so I figured that was all I had to focus on really. Easy, right?
End of Sophomore year, I realized a lot of things that I tended to glaze over when I thought of my future and the reality of the world. The biggest one being that I wasn’t entirely convinced that acting was for me.
A stable job, money, family were serious things I had to consider continuing in life, and those were things I was risking by pursuing that career.
Here I was halfway through my college education, considering that the career I had dreamed of for my entire life maybe wasn’t my true passion in life. Every day I’d ask myself, What am I going to do? What do I even like to do? Can I find another passion in life?
By my junior year, I decided to add a communications degree to my plate with a specification in multi-media, hoping that I could still stay surrounded by acting but maybe I could be on a different side of the camera.
I started taking classes in video production and editing, and slowly started to figure out what made me happy…again.
Editing really took off for me. Between classes, I was asked by a friend to start editing wedding videos. I started building my editing portfolio by editing school projects as well as acting reels for my fellow peers. I began to really enjoy editing and started to look for opportunities that would allow me to continue to pursue that passion.
With a covid graduation behind me and two bachelor’s degrees, I decided to move back to Michigan where I found myself knocking on the door of 730 Eddy Studios.
That summer I was fortunate enough to gain a position as an editing contractor editing videos for the company.
I let it be known early on that I would love to try my hand at video production, and secured a day on set with two of 730 Eddy’s best. With the countless hours of teaching and mentoring from my amazing co-workers, I was able to begin to grasp the craft of video production and eventually secured a job as a video production specialist!
Now, I come into to work with the opportunity to be on set along with editing. The best of both worlds doesn’t begin to explain it, but overall, I love it.
I love that I get to continuously learn something new every day. Specifically, things that I can put in my back pocket and use on future sets and projects. I love having the opportunity to meet new people and tell their stories and mostly I love that every day offers a new challenge that I can use my own skills and knowledge to solve.
My time at 730 Eddy has shown me that practice truly does make perfect in this field. When I first started out, I would drive to work with a pit in my stomach knowing that I was going to be on set and being so nervous to make a mistake. I quickly learned that every mistake I made created an opportunity to learn and grow.
That’s not to discount the very real feeling of this being a very intimidating industry, because it is. Judgement and doubt are hurdles that you will constantly have to overcome. That part is uncontrollable, but what you can control Is how you choose to react to that judgement and doubt. My advice to that? PROVE THEM WRONG.
Use the skills that you have, highlight your strengths and focus on your weaknesses. We as humans are never perfect and achieving perfection shouldn’t be a goal as much as becoming a well-rounded, experienced person. You’re going to make mistakes; you’re going to not know the answers to things, you’re going to be nervous, but that is exactly what it takes to learn something new.
Ask questions, let those mistakes turn into lessons, show your interest in the field and give ‘em hell. As my mom would often have to remind me, there is nothing that hard work cannot achieve.
So yes, things didn’t go to plan how I had laid them out in my mind. However, to be truthful, things rarely do.
I can now say that every decision and experience led me right to where I am now, and I can honestly say that it is a place I am proud to be.
Looking back, I can pinpoint January 2019 as the beginning of my Post-Production journey. Halfway through my sophomore year, and newly accepted into my university's Film and Video program, I had a plan. My sights were set on becoming a screenwriter, director, and/or producer - basically, whatever I got good at first.
Video editing was the last thing on my mind.
So, when I entered my Intro to Post-Production class that first day, I wasn't expecting much. This was just another requirement I had to fulfill for my degree; how was I going to become the next Steven Spielberg if I didn't get the gist of editing software?
However, over the course of the documentary my professor played that first day, my interest gradually grew. The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie-Making (2004) not only covered the history of film editing, but also the artistry that goes into the craft of post-production. From Life of an American Fireman (1903) with Edwin S. Porter's revolutionary cross-cutting, to George Lucas's revolutionary special effects in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), the documentary dived into the necessity of post-production.
I know what you're thinking. This must have been my eureka moment, right? From this day foreword, I was going to dedicate myself to becoming a post-production savant? Well...
While it felt like that first day had lit a fire of inspiration in me, the flame had promptly died out by the end of my first unit. I wasn't particularly tech-savvy, so every time I forgot to save a project, neglected to organize my files properly, or came across any problem I deemed unsolvable, all I wanted to do was give up.
So, I stuck to my original plan. I spent most of school trying to make myself fit into other roles, to little avail. While there were certainly aspects of screenwriting, production design, and producing I loved, there was always something about each filmmaking hat I tried on that didn't fit right.
I see now, oddly enough, that the roles I mostly gravitated toward in film school were ones I had seen most of my female peers occupy. I was far easier to see myself in these positions than as a video editor (a term which conjured an image in my mind of an IT guy).
Now, if you'll indulge me in a quick history lesson, I'd like to share with you how the representation of women in post-production used to look like.
In the span of cinematic history, the one area of filmmaking that women once dominated was post production.
From the 1900's to the 1920s, editorial departments would primarily hire female workers to handle film negatives. This was because cutting film was considered delicate, "women's" work at the time, such as knitting or sewing (The Cutting Edge).
Gradually, as the technology surrounding post-production improved, less and less women were hired as film editors. The introduction of sound made the practice seem more electrical and mechanical, and less suited for women (The Cutting Edge).
"The industry seemed to grow more male-centric again in the 1990s," writes Nisa McNamera from Frame.io Insider, "as editing on digital NLEs took the place of cutting on film."
In summary, the presence of women in post has always been determined by how the profession is perceived by studio executives. Cutting delicate strips of fabric and placing them together? A woman's role. Operating complex computer programs to place intricate files together? A man's role.
We assume history is something far removed from our lives, but I can safely say that this the core of my struggle to get into post-production.
The truth is, I didn't think I was smart enough to edit videos professionally. Not by a long shot! It was too technical, too scientific, too masculine. I loved flowy skirts, sparkly makeup, and romance novels; even if I could break into the industry, who would take me seriously?
However, something I learned was the technology involving post-production has very little to do with what video editing actually is.
Video editing, at its core, is about storytelling, rhythm, psychology, intuition, and...magic. It's absolute magic.
And in 2021, as I raced headfirst to the end of my degree, I came to the startling conclusion that there was no where else in the industry I would rather be.
Over the course of my film program, I had been improving my post-production skills without even noticing.
While I didn't take more than two post-production classes in college, I edited almost every student project I produced. And I did it happily, enthusiastically; it wasn't a chore to me like it was for many of my other peers.
In truth, when I found myself at the end of the production phase of the student films I produced, I was overwhelmed with relief. Alexander Payne (director) phrased this feeling perfectly in The Cutting Edge:
:"By the time I've thought of the idea, written it, found the financing, cast the film, directed it... I get to the cutting room, and it's like I've washed up on shore. Because I'm so happy to be there. Because then I think, 'Now we can start making the film.'"
I loved editing, I realized. I didn't just tolerate it, I didn't just like it, I wasn't just good at it; I loved it.
I loved getting lost in a project, finding the rhythm between footage and music, turning an empty timeline into a cohesive story. Even the simple act of creating order out of raw files was incredibly satisfying.
Flash forward to a year after graduating college, and I am a full-time editor at 730 Eddy Studios. Needless to say, I'm loving every minute of it.
The advice I would like to share with other young women entering film industry is this: Never doubt what you are capable of.
There will be moments where want to. The energy it takes to prove yourself in a male-dominated industry will take a toll on you. Every mistake you make will feel like the end of the world, like you don't belong here, like everyone who has ever doubted you was right all along.
However, when you put in the work, trust your instincts, and learn from your colleagues, you will be surprised by the things you can achieve.
Here's the best part: You will share these accomplishments with your loved ones. And, while they will be enthusiastic, supportive, and proud, the last thing they will be is surprised.
Because they believed in you all along.
So, why not believe in yourself, too? Because the rest of us do.
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