The leap from avid moviegoer to entertainment industry decision-maker seems very daunting, especially for non-gregarious, non-networking types. In many Hollywood myths and folktales, the start to any great career in the film industry begins as an assistant in any capacity, which entails making sure that everything goes perfectly for everyone on the set.
Because the industry is so competitive, the likelihood that someone would magically slide into one of the more popular film career choices like makeup artist, casting director, screenwriter, cinematographer, and film director is slim, unless the person is well connected. In fact, getting that first job is challenging, and for women, it is even more difficult. Studios and high profile insiders in modern filmmaking have taken it upon themselves, however, to make a way for women to work in the industry alongside their male counterparts.
From a distance, working in the entertainment industry, more specifically Hollywood, appears exciting. Notwithstanding the fame and egos, people work in this industry for many reasons:
– The chance to meet beautiful, interesting, talented people who can share an alternative world view with you
– The ridiculously, ungodly amounts of money that can be made if a film does particularly well
– The opportunity to work in a high-energy, extremely creative environment
– The chance to work with the most flexible schedule one can find anywhere on Earth
– And the opportunity for travel around the world, and for free
This industry draws some to Hollywood for many reasons, and for those lucky enough to get a role or spot working on a film set, it can be a rewarding, satisfying career.
For women, however, a marked disparity between the sexes still exists for the numbers of women who work as actors and those who work behind the scenes, especially in decision-making positions. The issues seem to be four-fold. In front of the camera, female characters only advance the agenda of male characters. Worse yet, the number of lines that women speak on average in a film remains low. More importantly, though, women are still characterized as wives, mothers, and/or sex objects. Furthermore, they rarely are characters with goals and ambitions of their own that show character growth as the plot progresses. The dearth of strong, female characters is the direct result of the lack of women in decision-making positions within the industry. All of these factors make working in the entertainment industry challenging, but hardly impossible.
Nationally and internationally, men and women within the industry have addressed this disparity and have created opportunities for women in this field. In Europe, filmmaking organizations and governing bodies have addressed this inequality. The Swedish government, for example, has advanced this goal by making sure that women receive 50 percent of all public funding before the end of this decade, which would be up from its current 30 percent. Then, the Reframe Movement in the United States aims to improve hiring and promotion practices by targeting biases within the industry, to create a program that mentors established, mid-career female directors to prepare them for high-level positions, and to celebrate those studios, networks and agencies who have advanced goals of equality.
Like any competitive profession, the film industry can do so much in trying to address this disparity, but women have to take the initiative also. Women who are interested in working in the industry should look for employment opportunities in trade magazines (Variety) and media job boards (Disney, NBC-Universal, Warner Brothers). David Kiger, an expert in business strategies, encourages those seeking to advance in their careers to branch out and to not be afraid to begin at the bottom. Kiger insists that confidence is essential in addition to having a thick skin, which is very relevant for those working in Hollywood. He also says that flexibility and risk-taking are very important because it allows for new learning opportunities and experiences.
Filmmaking is arduous work. The days are long and people have to learn to deal with many, varying high-profile personalities. The perks of the job are numerous, which make the possibility of landing a sweet spot with a studio very serendipitous. Whether working with the actors or working in front of the camera, entry into this career requires hustle, persistence and a lot of confidence. For women, becoming a director or any major player in the industry and shaping the voice of a picture used to be nearly impossible, but with the advent of activism within the studio system and internationally, women are telling stories, their own and others.