: Kylee Peña's Blog
Each year, San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film releases a “Celluloid Ceiling” report
which shows female employment on the top 250 films of the previous year. This year’s numbers (released last week) are more of the same, with female employment hovering around the same percent for the last twenty years or so.
There’s something new in this year’s research we should all be looking at: how employment on shows varies when women are in charge.
Unlike previous years where data came from the top 250 films, this is based on the top 500
films — “top” meaning top grossing.)
On films with at least one female director, women comprised 32% of editors. On films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for 19% of editors.
Overall, women comprised 21% of editors for these 500 films. Having a woman in a leadership role makes the number of women involved with editing jump 68%.
If you were on the internet when Project Greenlight
aired last year, you probably saw the diversity-related spats between producer Effie Brown and actor Matt Damon. The show searches for first time filmmakers and goes through a selection process to give one of them the chance to make a movie. During a discussion of the finalists’ films by the producers, Brown (who is African-American) brings up concerns about racist tropes and suggests the producers think closely about how to choose a director that can treat a black character hovering on the edge between one-dimensional and fully realized with the proper dignity. Matt Damon doesn’t agree this is a concern.
“When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show.”
Meaning Matt Damon doesn’t think the gender and ethnic make-up of the crew has any importance so long as you keep it mixed up on screen.
And one should only crew a show based on merit, leaving “all other factors out if it.”
Not to pick on any one dude (although with his Oscar nomination, I’m guessing Matt is doing just fine whether I blog about him or not) it’s important to realize that this is how most people think about hiring for film and television.
Gender and race is a distraction and should be ignored completely. Hollywood should be a meritocracy. The best people in creative and technical roles will automatically shuffle to the top of the pile.
If that were true, then there would be a more diverse selection of Oscar nominees. But yet again this year, all the actors and most of the “below the line” crew nominated are white. And among those, mostly male. I’ve written before
that equality is important when it comes to nominations — but #OscarsSoWhite doesn’t exist in the bubble of the Academy. It’s an accurate reflection of the current landscape of television and film. Most people in the industry think racial and gender blindness is the way to hiring the best people for the job, but this eliminates anyone who is outside their own circle. In other words, people hire people that look like them unless they’ve made an effort to seek out a more diverse applicant pool.
Maybe one day we’ll be able to fully separate our own bias from hiring and employment practices. Maybe someday people will stop assuming women aren’t interested in technology. Maybe someday companies will stop forcing women out of the pipeline by assuming they want either a family or a career and not both. Maybe someday people will stop thinking that women can only work on womens’ stories. Maybe someday people will stop thinking that womens’ stories are not mainstream, or that female protagonisists can’t engage an audience.
The easy way to solve these problems? Hire women. Make the consideration of women for roles you would normally fill quickly from referrals a priority. Give female hirees the resources and support they need. Listen to them.
Here’s your simple solution: hire women. We’ll sort out the rest.
So, uh, I moved to LA, you guys.
Let’s back up a couple decades. When I was a kid, I read a lot of books that dealt with shy homebodies that took adventures out of their comfort zones for heroic or accidental reasons, or sometimes both. It’s a pretty standard trope a lot of people enjoy. The first such story I read was called “Jenny Goes to Sea”, an old hardback book for new readers my library was throwing away when I was six. I rescued it, enjoyed its old-book-smell, and read it cover to cover many times over the years. It’s about a little cat named Jenny that winds up taking a trip on a boat around the world, stopping at different ports and meeting cats that live in foreign lands who teach her about their foods and customs. I loved the feeling I got from imagining taking a trip like this with Jenny — as a fellow cat, because again, I was like six. In my preteen years, it was another cat-goes-on-adventure book called “The Wild Road.” It was a legit novel similar to "Watership Down" but with felines that involved a hesitant hero of a cat saving creatures from an evil Alchemist. After that, I graduated to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy (not cats!) — another story of an unlikely hero who has never left home that saves the world.
I loved (and continue to love) these stories, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that my favorite stories over the years have always carried this theme. It was the opposite of how I lived. As I’ve written before, I grew up pretty shy. I didn’t leave the midwest at all until I was 23. Venturing out into the world wasn’t something I did much of, but it was something I deeply desired to do. I naturally gravitate toward the IDEA of having an adventure nowadays, but making real decisions about uprooting? Starting over? That’s an entirely new thing. I don’t know about that.
But I knew I needed to do it, and I knew it needed to be LA. I’d wanted to live and work there for a really long time. It makes sense for anyone who hates winter and loves film editing, to make a long story short. So after much meandering, I left Atlanta last Saturday and headed west alone with a few belongings. I took I-20 to I-10, going through states I’d never even visited briefly. I crossed the Mississippi river, and the Rio Grande. I visited a nice man in a record store in Dallas. I got held up in Border Patrol traffic near El Paso and my phone jumped to a tower in Mexico. I slept through a tornado. I visited good friends I’d never met. I saw some of the most amazing countryside (or whatever you call it in the desert) I’d ever seen. After five days, I arrived in California. It was the best week I ever spent with myself. I am fabulous company, if I do say so myself.
Me and Mexico-ish.
For personal reasons, I didn’t openly share a lot of this online. But the people who did know about all reacted very similarly: “I’ve always thought about doing that.” For most people, it’s more like a romantic sort of “always thought about it”, in the same way they’ve always thought about taking a safari trip in Africa or learning French and moving to Paris. But for a good chunk of people, it was different. They seemed caught up like I had been for so long. Financial barriers. Self doubt. A little too comfortable. Self-imposed or life-imposed hurdles and challenges. A lot of seemingly unavoidable reasons to say “no, I can’t do that right now."
Meeting people along the way -- animator/tweeter Lisa Poje in AZ.
I’ve known a lot of people who did what I just did, leaving with a few personal things, some loose ends and a bit of savings. It’s kind of The Dream of going to a big city to start anew, basically a story-teling trope of its own kind because it’s so common. But I know a far greater number of people that should do the Thing but won’t because of Reasons. I don’t just mean following a career path to Los Angeles. I mean, whatever The Thing is that’s sitting in their head. The Thing they know they need to do to take their life in the direction it should go. “I can’t possibly do that. I’m not the kind of person that does a thing like that.”
The *legendary* Tim Wilson himself! :screamingemoji:
I said that to myself a thousand times. But it turns out I am the kind of person that does a thing like that, so I did. And so far, I strongly recommend it. It’s difficult and scary, especially for someone like me, but why spend your finite lifespan wishing you did The Thing when you can spend it living the way you want?
So anyway, I moved to LA this week. It’s fabulous. I love it. Do The Thing you need to do. Don't just read about it in children' books. Or blogs.
And now, a crummy commercial.
I had a pretty cool gig sorta lined up for Monday that fell through today, so taking this opportunity to grovel. I’m a rather good offline editor
. I’m nearly on the roster, paperwork pending, and most of those editor credits are reality/documentary. The last few months I’ve been primarily working in dailies on scripted shows for networks like MTV, Sundance, BET, and CW — mostly dedicated to The Originals. If you let me choose, I’d continue to forge my way through scripted television by whatever means necessary. But I also like working in general, so I’ll take what you have for me. Extracurriculars: I write a lot (obviously), I have red hair, I bake, I collect vinyl. I'm neat.
Today was an uncharacteristically windy day in Vegas. The wind created a dusty, almost foggy late afternoon that sent everyone running to the nearest cab or shuttle as they left the convention center for the day. Which is an oddly appropriate metaphor for the way product development seems to be happening for the end user.
As I walked around the south hall today and talked with different companies, it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the number of choices pelting you in the face like tiny granules of dirt. It's hard to say which product (or combination of products) is going to work, so you just kind of have to put your head down and go for it, hoping you don't accidentally walk off a cliff.
The amount of choice available today in who you want to do business with is unprecedented. And it's got ups and downs. I saw a number of people that seemed paralyzed by the choices available to them. I think the real challenge to come for companies is going to be finding a way to really stand out -- not just with the work itself, but the overall company image. I haven't seen that so much this year, especially between companies that seem to have identical services from the outside.
Tomorrow marks the third day of the show, and hopefully the floor will be less crowded. It is at this point that I begin to get hella sick of dodging people who are snail crawling the main aisles while texting. Get out the way!
Yesterday was the first day of the 2015 NAB Show, and appropriately enough I got too busy to write a blog. In fact, I fell asleep in front of my laptop. That pretty much sums up NAB for most people. Especially if they're me. (To my credit, it was well after midnight, and I'm from the east coast. I'm not THAT lame.)
Part of the reason yesterday was so crazy is because my panel "Working Together to Close the Gender Gap in Post Production" happened. It was a crazy success because we filled the room and had a passionate conversation that was clearly needed. But I'm going to recap that in another blog because ya know what? I need to decompress. I've been thinking of the panel content since last November!
Instead, I want to talk about a woman I met again after the panel. I'll keep her nameless for now (but she can totally comment if she wants), but she's a really cool lady working in a technical post job that clearly identifies with all we were saying. I'd forgotten about this, but she approached me last night to tell me I had made a difference to her last year. At a meet-up of editors the night before the show, she didn't know anybody. She said I grabbed her (I don't like when people are by themselves at meet-ups!) while she was standing solo, we talked, and I introduced her to people. And that made a difference in her experience in the show, and in getting connected to other editors online for the rest of the year.
I think there are two things to learn from this story. One: what a huge difference you can make to someone just by being nice to them once. Think about that if you're at the show, or if you're following along at home. And two: imagine if all of post production were so inclusive. If we took the time to seek out people on the fringes who don't have the connections because of gender or race or a number of other factors and give them opportunities to join in. Not handing it to them -- this woman still had to take the initiative to keep talking and follow up -- but open the door so things might be different.
Not the kind of daily NAB recap you might hope for, but the theme I've heard this year even more is that the people are what matter when you come to NAB. You see the tech, but the connections you make with peers and company representatives (that you talk the tech with, or not) are what serve you year round.
I spent half of my day at the convention center and the other half aggressively socializing with the entirety of the online post production community. Because of this, I have some observations to make on this NAB Eve.
1. Blackmagic Design has some interesting stuff to announce, and we know this because there are like 9 different signs and banners all over the convention center exterior. It's pretty awesome that Blackmagic is taking the opportunity to paint up Vegas with visions of Ursa Mini and Blackmagic Cinema Camera Mini. And no, I'm not giving specifics until I hear them from Grant Petty himself tomorrow. Instead, accept this photo as a tease.
2. Cameras are top priority for everyone. Even those of us that don't shoot. Cameras and codecs drive the media we get, so everyone is anxious to see what new thing could be coming.
3. The theme of this year for me has definitely been collaboration, but mostly in the sense of vendor to vendor. Third party development is something I've heard from every company so far in one way or another. I bet there's a lot more to come, although it may not be as high profile. I don't remember hearing so much about making propriety systems accessible or agnostic before.
4. People are very much looking forward to our panel on closing the gender gap in post tomorrow at the convention center. If a recording is available after the panel, I'll be sharing it soon after the show ends.
Those are my expert observations. I have to go put out milk and cookies so the NAB Fairy will leave an Ursa under my pillow. (Ow.)
Fresh off a week of some of the craziest night shift hours I've ever worked, I'm desperately trying to gather myself together (with Bloody Marys applied liberally and responsibly) for an even crazier week ahead in Vegas where I'll again be covering the NAB Show with lots of blogs and articles. (Woo.) I'll be talking to all the top companies and individuals working in video today, gaining insight into where the industry stands and where it's going.
I'm scrolling through my social media feeds while I wait in ATL airport, and so far I'm getting a distinctly cynical feel about the show. Another codec? A fixed lens? Only those Premiere updates? I hope this is just an annual pre-show lowering of expectations because this level of meh-ness doesn't reflect some of the cool new infrastructure and camera technology I've seen lately. But we'll get to that eventually.
I'm looking forward to starting my Monday with back to back press conferences from AJA and Blackmagic Design -- the latter of which has to be accessed from a secret entry since the show floor opens later this year, which makes me strangely happy. I'll end the day with our panel Working Together to Close the Gender Gap in Post, happening at 5PM in N252, open to all. I between I'll share lots of stuff here and on Twitter (@kyl33t).
And if you see me around, say hi! We're all a bunch of weirdos anyway. May as well be weird in larger groups.
(Or any trade show, for that matter.)
Trade shows in all industries are notorious for being a spectacle with every vendor competing with the other to be the loudest, shiniest and sexiest. I'm writing to you -- any of you involved in the design, staffing or operation of a booth at the upcoming NAB Show in Las Vegas -- to ask you to consider how your conduct can help make the exhibit hall a more inviting and inclusive experience for everyone.
Casual sexism is a huge problem in our industry. Trade shows are merely a symptom of a larger issue (and I invite you to a panel on gender equality on April 13th
to learn more about how to begin to change these patterns at the source) but they're a highly visible symptom. Trade shows are maybe the most face to face interactions your company will have with customers and potential customers all year, and your booth and its workers are a symbol for your company.
We all know that sex sells. You didn't invent this concept, and at first glance it's hard to blame a company for using what is proven, especially in a city known for debauchery and sleaze. It's just a bit of fun, right? Except it isn't so much fun to feel like the only way I'm being represented in my industry at a trade show is for decoration. To clarify, I have no problem with so-called "booth babes" themselves. I have a problem with a company feeling that the best way to represent their products is with a bikini show. I urge you to think beyond easy, lowest-common-denominator kinds of marketing and strive for something better. Lots of vendors have figured out how to make their booths engaging without sacrificing inclusiveness.
When you're deciding who will staff your booth, I strongly urge you to place women and minorities in these positions too. The maleness and whiteness of NAB (and trade shows in general) is so common, it's almost its own joke. I've spoken to people about how they staff their booths, and they've told me they didn't think women would want to work in these positions because
trade shows are so male-dominated and Vegas is so icky. This is generally an incorrect assumption. You should find women in your organization and ask or encourage
them to represent your company at NAB. Just like the way you market your products stands as a symbol for your company, the diversity of your booth can represent what you want your company to be. By putting women and minorities in your booth -- on stage running demos, on the floor talking about products -- you send a strong message about equality to your customers, other companies, and NAB's attendees in general. When seeing women on the show floor is more common, casual sexism takes a hit.
And if you're working inside a booth at NAB this year, I urge you to work extra hard to put your internalized sexism aside. Since women are somewhat rare in the sea of guys (both on the show floor and in the industry), there is a tendency for booth workers to make assumptions when they interaction with a woman: that she's a journalist, an assistant, someone's significant other. There are plenty of journalists, assistants, and dragged-along-spouses of all genders on the show floor and it's great to have so many perspectives, but when your first assumption is that every woman inside your booth is anything BUT a working professional in some area of post production who is currently seeking to learn more about your products to potentially implement them within her organization, we have a problem.
Nearly every woman I've spoken to about attending NAB has experienced a booth worker -- a both worker of any gender-- making assumptions about them and treating them differently than if they were a man. Some have been malicious, and most have been oblivious internalized sexism taking over in that person's mind. So I urge you to try very hard to look at your interactions with people objectively. Is there a gender bias that is making your approach different? It should
go without saying that jokes at the expense of a person's gender or appearance have no place in a booth or on a stage, but in a male-dominated Las Vegas environment, good judgement sometimes goes out the window.
Solving sexism at trade shows like NAB is not the solution to sexism in the industry, as I've documented before
. But with the show coming up and on everyone's mind, it's worth this reminder: you're representing your company on an international stage. Do you want people leaving your booth feeling like they don't belong in this industry? Or do you want to lead by example by making gender parity a priority for your company?
I just realized I haven't formally invited the entire internet to a panel I'm helping to put together at this year's NAB Show. After reading my Sexism in Post article, Adobe reached out to see how they could help the visibility of women in the industry. Long story short, I've been working on this for the last two months, thanks to Adobe and their cooperation with Post Production World (who are a bunch of super cool people, by the way.)
So hear this: if you'll be coming to Vegas this April, please spend an hour and a half of your time at this discussion
. It will be open to anyone holding any NAB badge
even though its home is within the Post Production World conference, and I'm thankful to PPW for making arrangements to allow a wider audience into the room. Seating will be limited (as it is at every conference), but please put this on your schedule and make it a priority.
We're working on some other things, but in the mean time put this on your schedule right now. In pen. It'll be educational and entertaining and enlightening.
"Working Together to Close the Gender Gap in Post Production"
Monday, April 13th | 5PM - 7PM | Room N252
The first hour(ish) will be a panel discussion. The next hour(ish) will be a mixer and meet-up with drinks and such (thanks to Adobe!) where attendees can meet panelists and other attendees and continue the conversation.
Moderated by Amy DeLouise, the panel features me, Ellen Wixted (Adobe Senior Product Manager), Megan McGough Christian (Production Manager, PBS Frontline), and Siân Fever (UK-based freelance editor).
Just 18% of editors in Hollywood and beyond are women, yet media programs are approximately 50-50 male-female. The visibility of women in producing and coordinating roles is often cited, but there is an undeniable gender gap in technical roles -- editing, visual effects, or sound design -- and that gap has only widened since the 1970s. By working together to understand the root of these issues and committing to make changes, women and men can make a significant impact that will move our industry forward. This panel will discuss the impact of gender equality in the post workplace, strategies for recognizing and un-learning our own internalized sexism, and how we can all work together to adjust hiring practices and erase gender biases in order to ensure the future of women in all post production roles.
• The gender gap in video post-production - why did it happen and how can we work together to fix it?
• Casual sexism affects everyone in ways they don't realize and it's difficult to detect. How can we recognize the patterns and work to eliminate it?
• Committing to hiring and mentorship practices: what can both men and women do to ensure the future of women in post?
• The visibility of women within the industry, and how it affects the next generation
• Discovering your own gender bias - how women can avoid selling themselves short in the workplace, and how men can support them
"I hadn't even heard of that movie until the nominations."
"Oh, it's Oscar nominated? I'll have to see it."
"I need to see all the best picture nominees before the Oscars are on!"
How many times do you hear these things during awards season? All the time? And then also through the rest of the year? Yeah, me too. Because it turns out that no matter how apathetic you can be toward awards, this is the one award that most people use to judge the worthiness of a film. It makes them seek it out.
That's the first reason why the Oscars matter. Here is the second reason.
After the Oscars were announced this morning and I aired my grievances -- not shock by any means, but annoyance -- on Twitter, I got some push back. Who cares about awards? Well, a lot of people: see above. But mostly, my displeasure comes from the fact this is another greater representation of how skewed Hollywood is.
In the entire history of the Oscars, since 1927, there have been four women nominated for best director. That's four out of 423. Less than one percent. There have been 637 people nominated for cinematography -- zero of them women. That is also less than one percent.
There are some women nominated this year, like Sandra Adair for her editing work on Boyhood
. Becky Sullivan for sound editing on Unbroken
. Laura Poitras' documentary CitizenFour
. Documentary shorts Crisis Hotline: Press 1
directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Joanna
directed by Aneta Kopacz. Some nominations for songwriting, make-up and hair, production design and costuming. And yes, actress categories, haw haw. But my point is that beyond the editing nominees, this is pretty much how Oscar nominations for women tend to go in a good year.
Things don't change unless people in places of power and decision-making seek to change them. Studios don't take chances on women because they're still "different". People hire from within, and they tend to hire people that look like them. All of these things that come back around to internalized sexism -- sexism that is mostly just casual and societal rather than outright malicious -- and it feeds into Hollywood and gets spit out on Oscar nomination morning in the form of eight best picture nominees about men.
That's why awards matter: they bring attention to stories that might not get attention, and they represent what Hollywood has to offer us which often serves as a reminder of what Hollywood lacks. The visibility and success of these films from Oscar season tells Hollywood what "we" want to see, which circles back around into creating next's year crop of things. And the lack of diversity in what "we" desire does nothing to help eliminate the gender gap in Hollywood.
(Okay, maybe the headline is a LITTLE strong, but I HELPED.)
In the world of corporate video, the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world didn’t come around often for me. I know that’s not true for many people in the “corporate video” world, which is a general term I could use to mean anything from industrial how-toe or non-profit event highlight reels. But in my little piece of that land, my videos were generally not going to make a change that would last for future generations. At least, not a positive one.
When I started working on the PBS series This American Land, I finally got the opportunity to see what it was like to work on content with consequences in the real world, specifically the natural
world and everything in it. The two seasons I’ve spent on it have been focused on the angle of people working toward a greater good to solve an issue — an endangered species, shrinking wild land, or polluted river.
In 2013, I edited a segment about the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California. The San Gabriel Mountains Forever
campaign was trying to get the area designated as a national monument so it would be protected from development in the same way other natural lands are in the United States, and with its proximity to Los Angeles, the conservation of the area for providing drinking water and green space is important. It was kind of a tough edit because, to put it delicately, the field producing wasn’t tops. The executive producer (who did not produce the segment) was worried we wouldn’t have what we needed because it was pretty rough, but he gave it to over to me with the hopes I could find the story. We emailed back and forth a couple of times about the mission of the piece and what they hoped to accomplish, and I dug in without a script or guide or notes and came back with a six minute piece called Backyard Wilderness. The EP was so glad I did what I did with it, he gave me the producer credit for the story.
Late last year (in 2014), I got a news alert on my phone that President Obama was going to designate the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument. I was like hey, whoa dude, I edited a thing about that and now it happened. Not to say my editorial work had any impact (or maybe it did, for the right people — it’s on the campaign’s main page and was broadcast nationally and all) but I’ve never felt that kind of connection between cutting a video and then seeing the direct outcome of that. I felt a smidgen of ownership in that because I had dived so deep in the material to draw out pieces of the story that would make the best case for the campaign.
People have been working on this for over a decade, and I’m sure it’s been hugely rewarding to finally see it come to fruition. My part of it coming in the final year before the designation was given is pretty cool too. I hope everyone in post-production gets the opportunity to edit something that has meaning beyond the half hour its broadcast to the world. It certainly gives you a new perspective when you’re still working on it.
Another edit I really enjoyed was about an area of West Virginia that contains the beginning of six watersheds that feed into bigger rivers downstream. Birthplace of Rivers
is a campaign to designate this area a national monument, so the quality of drinking water can’t be affected by oil and gas development or other industries. This edit was another where I was given a bunch of stuff and a loose guide — not out of necessity but rather to see what I’d make with it — so it was another I’ve grown attached to. I hope Birthplace of Rivers will see the same kind of success as the San Gabriel Mountains.