It’s a Feeding Frenzy in the Ocean of the Film Industry

If you've ever been anywhere near a film set, it's no secret it's a male-dominated industry. Overwhelmingly directors, producers, and crew skew toward the male gender. There are a few exceptions in stereotypical areas, like wardrobe, hair, make-up, and script supervising. But, for the most part, a film crew is comprised of a bunch of men.

There she stood unaware of the danger surrounding her.

With each flash of her smile and brush of her hair, she risked an attack at any moment.

I wanted to scream, “Get out of there! Watch out!” but my lips locked tight as I darted my eyes between her and the job I was doing.

I felt helpless as I watched them close-in, her simple beauty chumming the water for the hungry sharks circling around her.

Then, as quickly as I looked down to clean a lens, it happened.

An older actor, at least three times her own age, approached her with his hand oustretched followed by a flimsy attempt at flirtation.

It was too late — the first strike had happened and the feeding frenzy began…

If you’ve ever been anywhere near a film set, it’s no secret it’s a male-dominated industry. Overwhelmingly directors, producers, and crew skew toward the male gender. There are a few exceptions in stereotypical areas, like wardrobe, hair, make-up, and script supervising. But, for the most part, a film crew is comprised of a bunch of men.

(I hope to see this change in the future. Gender equality has given rise to great things in many arenas and I would love to see more women pick up jobs in our industry, especially below the line.)

The end result is a cavalcade of dudes together – all the time – for 12 hours. If shooting on location, the dudefest is amplified by shared hotel rooms, crew houses, and other accommodations. Quickly a summer camp mentality develops between all the fart jokes and beer chugging.

However, despite their minority status, I have yet to work on a movie without any women. They may be underrepresented, but they are there. And men enjoy working with them. We respect them professionally, appreciate their contributions to the production, and treat them as our peers in the same way we would treat another man. That’s just common sense.

But not all men are always beholden to common sense.

Sometimes another part of our brain takes over — especially when holed up with a majority of men for several weeks for many hours a day. All of the sudden, the presence of a woman, even one whom you have a professional relationship, can become a fish in a shark tank.

I’ve seen it too often: when there are few women on set, some men can’t help but go after them.

In particular, I’m reminded of several occasions in which I watched kind, professional, and confident women get swarmed by a male crew. These are their stories…

Christy the Script Supervisor

Christy’s transformation all started with what was to become a grueling feature-length production.

I had been flown in for the shoot, along with the director of photography (DP), to live on location and crew as 1st assistant camera (AC) for a month or so. Most of the other crew were local, so while several of them knew each other, the DP and I were our only friends at the start of filming.

As we met the rest of the crew, we both took note of the fact that there weren’t many women. In fact, there were only three (excluding talent): the wardrobe supervisor, the hair & makeup artist, and the script supervisor. Of those three, one was a grandmother, the other was middle-aged, and the third was fresh out of college — her name was Christy.

Both the DP and I were single, but we weren’t naive enough to think we’d have time to date women while on location. Still, when you’re with a guy friend, it’s hard to avoid the topic. And that’s exactly what happened as we sipped on beers the night before Day 1 of production.

“So what’d you think of Christy?” I asked outloud.

(Would you ever hookup with Christy? is what I was really asking.)

“Eh. She’s OK,” the DP replied.

“She’s really nice,” I said.

“Oh yeah. Definitely.” he said

“You just wait — right now you’re lukewarm about her, but after a whole month with only guys, she’s going to become more attractive than you think. She’ll go from being ‘OK’ to ‘really hot’,” I predicted.

I had seen this phenomenon take place already on two previous feature films. The storyline is predictable and, truthfully, a bit sad: a moderately attractive woman shows up on Day 1 and, as the shoot goes on, her stock keeps rising because the men on set are surrounded by nothing but testosterone.

It’s hard to spend that much time around only one gender when you’re biologically programmed to seek out the female of the species.

It’s only reinforced by my belief that the film set is a microcosm of life. Every day in life, we look for partners, relationships, friendships. When in the midst of a film production, that is your life. Where else will you look for these distinctly human desires? It can be difficult to establish any sort of new relationship when the people you see the most are crew during the day and your pillow at night.

I’ve fallen victim to it, too.

Even as I consciously noted it, I experienced the downward spiral of professional relationship to flirtatious friendship. It’s sort-of like the girls you were friends with in high school who you knew would never date you because you were like a brother, but at the same time, if she got drunk and wanted to kiss you, well, you wouldn’t stop it!

For those of us who are kept busy on set, it becomes a bit easier to ignore these temptations and to skate away from any awkwardness flirting might flare — you’re always 10 seconds away from needing a lens, a filter, or a coffee for the DP.

But what happened to Christy is what happens to many attractive young ladies who spend their time on set: they get crowded by those without the luxury of being busy.

I watched as the shoot went on and Christy was woo’ed by a straight actor, a gay actor, and our director. At any one time she wasn’t actually doing her job (which she did well in spite of this), she was wrapped up in a conversation full of laughter, smiles, and playfulness. It’s true she was having a good time with her friends — her peers on the film set — but as a guy myself, I know when other men are flirting.

That isn’t to say they weren’t genuinely friends with her — they were — they just also seemed to be attracted to her in a way that a friendship can’t, ahem, satisfy.

Yours truly even took a few shots at the target. Some of them landed, but I stepped away from that game as the shoot became considerably tougher and I was less and less interested in anything besides getting it done so I could go home.

Christy, throughout the film, was a consumate professional. Never once did she let the cavalcade of men vying for her attention distract her from her responsibilities and duties. She was always available for help, always knowledgeable with answers, and always willing to put in extra effort.

I applaud her for that, especially because her directorial counterpart couldn’t do the same. Where she was unburdened by the presence of a little flirtyness, he was unable to do anything but.

And what did that effort earn him?

Nothing more than a solid working relationship with Christy — exactly what she had hoped for from this shoot at the beginning of her career.

Amber from Wardrobe and Joe the Actor

This 2nd story was the inspiration for the introduction of this article.

Several years ago when I met her, Amber was young, sweet, and innocent. Like me, she was new to the film industry and excited to be a part of it. Unlike me, she had a lot of downtime on set as an intern of the wardrobe department.

One thing people may not realize about the wardrobe department is how often you interact with actors. You may think the talent simply goes into their trailer and their clothes are waiting there, but that’s not always how it works — and that’s definitely not how it works on independent films.

Most of the time, the talent has to physically go to wardrobe, confirm what scene they’re shooting, and get dressed into their costumes. Once the clothes are on, they get adjusted, trimmed, dirtied, bloodied, or whatever other tweaks need to be made:

“Is this the scene before or after you got in the fight?”

“After.”

Better rip that tie for continuity sake then!

“This is the scene where I’m running out of her parents house after being caught having sex.”

Leave the pants at the door, sir.

So, by extension, Amber spent a lot of time talking with the talent between the professional questions and the probing about the source material. She would joke, they would laugh, and she’d start prepping for the next actor who needed to be fitted.

It is within this context, then, that Amber was continuously flirting with the older actor mentioned above. I’ll be honest: it was a bit of hyperbole in the intro that he was three times her age, but I’m back to being truthful when I tell you he was at least double it.

This actor, Joe, wasn’t nasty or anything. He, too, was kind and caring and considerate. He was funny and, on several occasions, I enjoyed his company during meals, breaks, or brief encounters near the camera. To this day, I consider Joe a friend.

But watching Joe and Amber together was cringe-worthy.

I could tell they were texting each other between long setups or delays. I knew he fancied her by the way he watched her when she was doing her job. It was also apparent in his body-language — how he would sit open to her or seek her out amongst a large group of the cast and crew, many of whom he was also friends with.

The sad part is, I’m not sure she reciprocated the feelings, even if she egged Joe along.

None of this resulted in anything particularly wild — there was no making out on set, there was no emotional explosion of romantic passions, there was no indication that anything happened between them save for some flirting.

Not every instance of women being treated unfairly is a great injustice. There isn’t always a big scandal followed by a soothing denouement.

We may work in the movies, but our lives rarely play out like one.

I tell this story because it illustrates how, if you’re a woman, from the very beginning of your career you’ll encounter men who will ignore the professional aspect of a film production in lieu of teasing and flirting and friendship (or more).

It’s about distraction. Each time Amber needed to help Joe get on his wardrobe, she also had to smile and blink her eyelashes while he made some stupid joke. Each time Amber wanted some time to herself away from the chaos of set, Joe would find her and intrude on her silence.

Amber’s story doesn’t have a dramatic ending. No, this ending is more like an ellipsis — incomplete, but suggestive — that implies women will have to learn how to toe the line between a professional relationship and a personal one on a much higher level than men are expected to.

That Time a Camera Ended Up Where It Didn’t Belong

Fortunately, I can’t take credit for this next anecdote. It was told to me by a 2nd AC who had gotten a job on a movie I had applied for, but never heard back from. The gig was for a feature length film shooting locally, but accommodating a handful of crew who were from out of town.

For whatever reason, the Art Director (a man) was sharing a hotel room with a Set Dresser (a woman). Why had production set up these accommodations? From what I was told, it was to save money. There were no other gender pairings available and so it was cheaper to place these two in one room than to each have their own room.

(Plus, the production didn’t predict that what ended up happening would’ve happened.)

As the shoot went on, the woman staying with the Art Director began to grow increasingly uncomfortable around him. There wasn’t anything specific — just a general vibe she felt when he was around that gave way to her feelings of uneasiness.

Her hunch was spot on.

One day, after taking a shower, she found a camera in the bathroom. He had been video taping her. As you can imagine, this upset the producers, director, and everyone involved in the film when they found out — but it upset her the most.

As for the Art Director? By the time the powers that be found out what he was doing and went to act on it, he had boarded a plane to Los Angeles and was flying across the country.

I’m not sure what happened to him — the 2nd AC who told me the story never heard the conclusion of it either since it had recently taken place when he told me — but the fact that it happened at all is profoundly disgusting. It illustrates the complicated web that women have to live within when working in a male-dominated industry that takes them away from their wives and their girlfriends. Something happens to some men — not all, of course — that makes them act in inappropriate ways.

To Escape the Feeding Frenzy, Shatter the Glass

In all of these stories, the lesson to be learned is two-fold.

As men, we need to have a greater appreciation for the film set as a workplace (as I’m sure many of you already do). If you’re going to chase a woman, do so in your off time away from set. And if you bring it to set, it shouldn’t hinder your or her ability to perform professionally — whether that’s because things are going well or because they went sour.

For women, the lesson above goes for you too, but is also coupled with a warning: working in a male-dominated industry is going to have obstacles. One of those obstacles will be relationship advances by your professional colleagues.

Is it appropriate? No.

Is it fair? No.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

You could say some women enjoy it and incite it and I wouldn’t argue against that. But there is no equality: there are many more men who prey on the women than there are women who are provoking the men. The false equivalency that they’re both to blame is a little too absolute — the blame largely belongs with us males.

If you see sexism taking place, speak out against it. You can address it as it happens or privately raise your concerns with a member of the production team. It may not be obvious to you as it’s taking place, but if you notice it, you can help change the tide of sexism by taking action.

While I’m not going to tell you to avoid looking for romance with those who work alongside you, be wary of the effect it can have on your career.

It’s an unfair burden to ask you women to put up with us men, but it’s an unfortunate effect of the glass ceiling that’s yet to be completely shattered. And boy do I hope you manage to shatter it — after all, it’s the only real way to escape the shark tank you’re in.

Update: Since writing this post, I have received a lot of feedback — some good, some bad — from various avenues. I am grateful to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts. I have modified some minor elements in the article based on this feedback so that it better reflects my intentions.

How do you feel about female crew? Have you seen any similar stories like these take place on set? What do you think needs to change? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

  • Christine

    I’ve been an interested reader in your blog for a while, but I was unpleasantly surprised to read your latest entry. How very condescending and overbearing.Your intentions may have been innocent, but women do not need your encouragement to work on a film set (or any other workplace).Respectfully, please stick to cleaning lenses.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Hi Christine — I’m sorry you didn’t like the article. May I ask what you found condescending and overbearing about it?

  • http://twitter.com/hdubbleyou Heather Weigel

    I didn’t quite find this as offensive as Christine did, but I can understand where she’s coming from. It can be hard to get the same respect for our capability to handle the job. I’ve had things taken out of my hands during load ins or load outs. whether it’s some notion of chivalry or doubt that I can handle things on my own, it gets frustrating. We can and will ask for help when we need it just like any guy would, and having someone constantly assume that we need help can leave a bitter taste.
    I imagine that her reaction is due to the same feeling – we can understand and deflect the advances just fine most of the time. That doesn’t mean that this post isn’t helpful to someone who hasn’t experienced this on set. Personally it’s interesting to get a little male insight on the situation.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Hey Heather — thanks for explaining that. That makes a lot of sense. I didn’t mean for any encouragement I offered to come across as assuming females need help. And, in those stories I told above, I let the women handle their own situations.

      I didn’t mean for the post to display a lack of respect or give the appearance that all females are in need of dire help from us men — far from it. I just wanted to offer my perspective of what I observed while standing next to the camera and, for some who may not have encountered it yet, on both sides of the gender line, give them insight into what can/does happen.

      With that said, I’d be happy to change the post around to make it more appropriate for what I was trying to convey if you have any ideas. Thanks again for the comment!

      • http://twitter.com/hdubbleyou Heather Weigel

        I don’t think that the post needs a change – it’s an entirely fair evaluation of something that happens every day. I think what needs to change is that there needs to be discussion and communication about the subject, which is exactly what you’re creating.

        It can be hard not to get flirty with people that you spend long days with. Personally, I try to keep my dating life outside of the industry. I don’t see a big problem though if it’s mutual, doesn’t go too far, and doesn’t interfere with the work.

        • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

          Thanks Heather I appreciate the insight. I agree that it doesn’t have to be a problem if it doesn’t interfere with what’s happening on set — that’s just how any workplace operates, whether it’s in retail, in an office, or behind a camera.

    • Colleen

      “I’ve had things taken out of my hands during load ins or load outs. whether it’s some notion of chivalry or doubt that I can handle things on my own, it gets frustrating”. This is one of my biggest pet peeves on set. There is a time and a place for chivalry, and it is not on set. There is no force stronger than a determined woman! ;-)
      Men need to stop trying to “hook up” with girls and just make friends out of them. Women are quick to pick up on men who are hitting on us, and I don’t know about other women, but it really bothers and upsets me. I want to work – not flirt.

      • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

        That’s exactly the sentiment I was trying to get across in the article, Colleen. Nice job putting it so succinctly.

  • http://twitter.com/phil_jackson Phillip Jackson

    With these sorts of posts you either get blamed for being a white knight or stating the obvious. Both are pretty childish ways of looking at this situation. If you were a woman in the industry saying the same thing it would be perceived much different. So it’s not fair in my opinion to get upset over bringing up any moral injustice in any workplace. It happens with race as well. A black man can talk about race in ways a white man can’t without looking like he’s being insincere.

    So anyway glad you posted this. People shouldn’t be afraid to bring up issues with our society.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Thanks Phil, I appreciate the comment. Looks like I am being blamed neither for being a white knight nor stating the obvious — just being blamed for being sexist. I tried to tip-toe the line here and simply share some observations; as you said, bringing up a sensitive subject in the workplace.

      Quite frankly, I am disappointed in the conversation thus far. I think, like you, the discussion needs to be more nuanced than going to one extreme or the other.

      To other commenters who may be reading this, I don’t mind if you hate the post, but please explain why so we/I can understand — simply calling me sexist and getting upset that men are “misguided” doesn’t help resolve whatever issues exist between genders on a film set.

      • Hilary Brown

        I agree with Phil that these issues need to be brought up and that inevitably if this were a woman writing the article it would be percieved differently. I personally read the article with reactions ping-ponging from “so true” to “did he have to say it like that?” some of the statements you made tend to contradict your point. I’d love to directly discuss them with you as they can be a bit nit-picky but ultimately worth-while for this article.
        Also, Hi Phil! Phil and I worked together on a handful of sets and he pulled me onto one of his shoots as a part of an all-girl camera crew, one of the first in our school. Thanks Phil :D

  • i don’t even work in film

    I have to agree with Christine. While the gender gap in the film industry is a valid point and worthy of discussion, Evan, you are reinforcing an unbearable sexism that is actually the bigger problem. Sure, its inequitable to have so many more men than women on set, and that women are primarily hired in only certain positions (the pink ghetto of the fim industry). But this is made all the worse by people like you, who think that “watch her go from ‘ok’ to ‘hot’” is a valid workplace comment (it’s not), and who write masturbatory posts about your coworkers “tempting transformation.” Your analogy about women as meat/prey and men as sharks makes me want to bang my head against a wall. You are so depressingly misguided.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      I never validated that comment as OK for the workplace. It was a conversation that took place between my friend and I as we were having a drink away from other crew, away from the set, and in private. I would never make that comment in the professional atmosphere of the set nor convey that attitude to any other crew.

      The analogy’s I used in the post aren’t masturbatory, they are statements on how those men in the article perceived the stories in which they are in. The actors in the first story were tempted and the director was too. I think the post is a lot more nuanced than you’re giving it credit.

      I guess I don’t see where I am becoming this sexist monster within this post — I’m just trying to tell stories of observations I made from beside the camera. Yes that involves sexism, because that’s what I witnessed, but telling the story of sexism and actively championing that sexism are wildly different.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Just wanted to follow up that I changed the subheading about the transformation as well as shifting some of the analogies around in that first story because I can see why those were taken the wrong way. I also wanted to thank you for your comment/feedback.

  • Anna

    I think it is refreshing to hear about the topic of unequal gender balance on set from a male perspective. As a female AC I hardly ever get to share my thoughts about this with anyone because either people try to avoid this conversation because of its potential for dispute or simply not know what it is like. I really dont see how your post reinforces sexism by describing very average set experiences. Im not saying that it is the way it should be but actually making this a topic is pretty much the only chance we have to change it. As a woman on set i have to know very clearly where to draw the boundaries. It tires me out some times but other times (like right now) i get to work with a crew of highly professional people where an equality exists regardless of gender.

    And at least when it comes to the technical professions id absolutely say that some encouragement for more women to join the ranks wont hurt. I work in a town where there are 32 registered 1st camera assistants working (counted on the list that the major rental houses use for recommendations) 4 of them female but only two of them working at the moment. That speaks for itself.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Thanks for the comment, Anna! I’m glad you found the post refreshing and took the opportunity to speak your mind on the topic. We’ve been having a good discussion.

      I think encouragement, or at least being welcoming, is important for the technical professions like you say. In any kind of underrepresented group, acknowledging the gap and showing others there is an opportunity there may open doors for someone who never considered it an option or found it intimidating. Not everyone needs the encouragement, but those who don’t are free to ignore :)

  • T

    I was working on a show and there was this female 2nd AC who was a complete bitch. She acted as if she was the top dog and treated me like shit because she could, even got the rest of the crew in on it just to make my life worse because she felt oppressed in a male dominated industry and felt as if she was the only female on set. Somehow I became her lightning rod for lashing out and making someone else as miserable as she felt just because she thought of all the male assholes who treated her poorly were rolled into me, which also didn’t help she was having dating troubles and openly vocal about it to get attention. Also not sure if she was racist, her 1st was of a visible minority and I am the same ethnic as him, (we were the only two pretty much of that particular ethnicity and it seems all the ones prior to me were that of white) she may have been taking out her frustration or hate of him on me however that’s hard to prove unless the slurs come out but seeing as I was the equal to below her in the chain of command one could only guess.

    She’s actually kind of the reason why I quit, just because of the constant abusive nature and massive restraint I had to force not to let my lash my tongue back at her. I had a few choice words about her and her miserably empty life and how she should stop taking out her poor choices in men and how she’s treated like a princess on set on me because at the end of the day I’m still young enough to see if for some strange reason she gets a kid and make her kid’s future a living hell or worse I could be the a-hole dbag dating her daughter and there’s a possibility she could cross a line one day where I jump to DP and suddenly she finds herself out of work. Course scenario 2 is not likely since I cannot see myself in this industry anymore. But she’s just one case there seems to be a flow of CRAAAZY women such as one who flipped out at this other 2nd AC because he lost 2 of her tent pins for her cart. Either film has become a large magnet for crazy and attention whoring women or my next career consideration should be in therapy.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Thanks for the comment, T. It sounds like you had a pretty bad experience. I’m sorry to hear it was so hard. The film industry, just like any profession, can bring out the worst in people who don’t know how to properly lead or use their power.

      With that said, I take issue with your last sentiment that film has become “a large magnet for crazy and attention whoring women.” The same idea could just as well be said for the men because God knows, especially at the top, there are a lot of egomaniacs.

      I would also point out that you seem upset that “she thought of all the male assholes who treated her poorly were rolled into me,” but then you have no problem blanketing all women in film (or a majority of them) as “CRAAAZY” or attention whores. If you don’t like someone stereotyping you based on gender, it’s hypocritical to do the same to others.

      I’m not saying you were wrong to have taken issue with the female 2nd AC who mistreated you, but I’d be careful blanketing one group of people with the qualities of one person — good or bad.

    • hannah

      A common problem for women in the work place is that when an assertive man takes charge, lays down the law, or even snaps at a coworker/underling, he is respected as a boss who means business. When a woman does it she’s just a “crazy bitch on a power trip.” It might do you some good to recognize the double standard and question whether or not you would’ve had the same response to a man treating you this way. If not, you are probably part of the problem.

      There are bad apples in every bunch. A couple mean, ego tripping women do not justify stereotyping the whole group. I know a lot more mean, ego tripping men in the industry simply because there are more men in the industry period. Of course when a woman does it she stands out more because there simply aren’t enough women to compare her to.

  • caitlin

    I don’t see sexism in this article. Honestly, it’s the facts. I’m a female in the film industry & I’ve said it before: “There’s always one.” There’s at least one flirty guy on every set. (& sometimes I hit the jackpot). But this is very accurate. I have learned to take them lightly, because sooner or later, the guys will catch on that all it will be is flirting, nothing else. If I fell seriously for every guy I was attracted to on set, I would have my hands full.

    In a perfect world, the work place would stay strictly professional. I don’t know if some of you have noticed, but the world is not perfect. We are human beings and just because we are in a professional environment does not mean we are immune to attraction and temptation. I’m guilty of flirting with some of the guys on set. Just because I’m at work, doesn’t mean I’m automatically un-attracted to everybody–it’s quite the opposite. If anything, being surrounded by so many guys makes it hard to not be attracted to any of them.

    As for the chivalry topic… Like it or not, a gentleman will offer help. I don’t take offense when someone tries to take something from my hands. I understand that men like to feel like men–and sometimes helping a female is how they do that. I remember a time I said ‘no’ to a guy who offered to carry things for me, he was a bit disappointed and I could tell on his face that he didn’t feel ‘manly’. I immediately knew that my refusal of his help was more of an insult to him than it was a proving of my work ethic. If there is no offer of help, I do my best to not ask for help–it’s my job, I’m supposed to be able to handle it. But if someone offers to help me, I’m not going to say no. There are even men helping men, & I’ve heard from long time film industry vets, “If someone offers to help you, you take it.” That falls in line with “Work smarter, not harder.” Obviously, two people doing a task is easier than one person. That part has nothing to do with gender inequality. Yes, some women are tougher than most women, but that doesn’t mean we have to be offended if a man offers his services. Men will be men, women will be women. Men like to be helpful & needed, so I do my best to let them.

    I think your post was spot-on–this stuff happens every day.

    • Richelle

      This is a really good take on the chivalry topic, I must admit that I never thought of it that way. I’ve always turned down the help because it’s my job to be able to take care of these tasks. But you’re right, helping each other out isn’t a bad thing, and someone offering to give me a hand isn’t necessarily a comment about me being unable to handle it because I’m a woman. I’ll start looking at it a different way from now on, thanks!

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Thanks Caitlin for offering your point of view. You raise a lot of good points. Human nature doesn’t allow us to be 100% professional, even if we are trying our hardest. Your perspective on chivalry, I think, is also refreshing to hear. As someone said in another comment, sometimes the help men offer is gender-neutral and it’s just the nice thing to do.

    • hannah

      Allowing someone to help share in the work load and letting them do your work for you are two entirely different things and should be treated as such. Sure, if you’re not busy and you offer to carry out a third item so that I don’t have to make another trip, well that’s common courtesy and I’d be obliged, just as much as I’d offer the same courtesy in return. But to rush to carry the heavy stuff so that the poor, weak woman doesn’t have to exert herself, well that just reinforces stereotypes that kept us out of the work place to begin with. “Chivalry” is not a good thing. It’s the assumption that women need protection from men, by men, as well as protection from the big, scary world. It’s patronizing. It assumes we aren’t capable of taking care of ourselves. Letting men trick you into feeling bad for “hurting their feelings” when you didn’t accept their offer to do your job for you is just as easily turned around to be the reason to not hire you. You can’t play into that stuff without it blowing up in every other woman’s face. It becomes a situation where women can’t get hired for manly jobs because they’re seen as too weak to lug the equipment. Why would they pay a woman to do a man’s job?

      Courtesy should be based upon being a good, helpful person, not over trying to keep a woman in her place. As much as you’d like to believe this stuff is an expression of generosity and that you should be flattered, it’s actually just one of the most insidious forms of sexism. It’s a microaggression.

  • Richelle

    I also found it refreshing to see this issue taken on from a male perspective. I think it’s just good to know that there’s guys out there that are aware of the issue. I think that at first read there was some parts that I felt were slightly offensive, but after reflecting on it a bit I’ve realized it’s not offensive – just honest.

    Being a female in the film industry can definitely have it’s challenges. Trying to be friendly without encouraging anyone is a difficult line to walk, and it certainly complicates matters when you realize that someone has the wrong idea. Making it clear that you’re not interested without offending isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

    I think this is something that’s present in any industry, just more so in those industries where the gender ratio is so far skewed to one side. In an office environment, everyone knows that this sort of behavior is unacceptable. It will be interesting to see how we can make that clear for the film industry, without losing the other differences that make a set’s environment so fun to work in.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Thanks Richelle for your comment and also for taking the time to reflect on the post. Honesty is exactly what I was going for, even if that meant exposing faults in my thinking or approach to the gender issues on set.

      You raise a good point about the issue manifesting itself more obviously in industry’s where the gender ratio is heavily weighted towards one side. I would also argue the issues are more prevalent in positions on set that are skewed towards men like grips and electricians.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.longworth Daniel Allen Longworth

    I think Phil Jackson hit the nail on the head in his post, but I also think there’s a specific reason for that. Human beings, regardless of gender, view the world in a variety of different ways. Stating your case in such black and white terms, therefore, amounts to a generalization.

    What might have been more appropriate would have been to express your own personal displeasure with the horny schoolboy behavior you’ve witnessed. I happen to share your opinion on the subject; it is tiresome, repulsive & utterly unprofessional behavior in the workplace. Regardless, the truth is that SOME women encourage this sort of behavior, either in hopes of exploiting their attractiveness or because they themselves enjoy cultivating varied sexual relationships. Of course, for some it’s merely a case of ‘going along to get along’ and still others may be unfazed by it at all.

    But okay… you made a generalization based on your own on-set experiences. Big deal! Barring anything legitimately oblique I certainly wouldn’t have offered to alter my post just to satisfy some reader’s displeasure. Screw them! I understand that this topic is outside the strict boundaries of basic film production experience, but it’s certainly in keeping with similar “behind the scenes” aspects of your previous posts. And, personally, it’s these insights into the production process that I truly relish as a reader. Therefore, I find it offensive that someone would suggest you curtail your scope or seek to pigeonhole you as merely a “gearhead”. Bitch, go subscribe to Shutterbug if Evan’s FREE musings on other topics don’t suit you!

    And why has common courtesy become so deeply offensive to some women? I am a male and I would offer to lighten the burden of another male OR female were my hands empty. Get over yourselves! I think such a defensive stance says more about the skewed perspectives of the “victims” than it does about the intent of the “perpetrators”. But, then, that’s just a generalization…

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Hey Daniel — thanks for the comment and the support! Maybe I did make a generalization, sure, but I tried to back it up with some anecdotes about my experience. In no way would I ever proclaim “this is how it always is and how it always will be.” In fact, the last paragraph says “it’s an unfortunate effect of the glass ceiling that’s yet to be completely shattered.”

      Yes this topic steps outside the bounds of strict film production, but I have always told stories about life as seen from below the line and within the context of filmmaking. I believe the content in the post is consistent with the topics I’ve covered in the past. In these topics, I don’t try to relay more than what I’ve seen or what I’ve heard.

      I agree that it is tiresome and unprofessional. I think certain people are not reading the article and failing to realize that the subjects in the stories who are being sexist are not me — I’m a third party talking about what I witnessed and trying to make sense of it.

      To your last point, it is a tricky line to walk. Sometimes you’re offering help and there’s no other way to offer it without coming across as going out of your way to not be sexist.

      What a complicated web we weave…

    • hannah

      As I said to someone else, there is a difference between offering to lighten the load and straight up offering to do something for someone else just because they’re a “weak woman.” I can normally tell the difference and will of course accept the offer of someone who isn’t busy to make loading in and out quicker, and with less trips. But if you go taking something out of my hands to do my job for me, you’re just making me appear weak and unqualified for the type of manual labor required, thus justifying the lack of women in those positions in the first place.

  • Lauren

    I’m a female AC and I usually experience some flirting within the camera department. Usually doesn’t bother me, but on the last set I was on I got persistently hit on by a camera op my dad’s age. It’s just annoying because you know they don’t see you as a professional.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Hey Lauren — thanks for the comment. Your last line says a lot. Though I would say it’s not that they don’t see you as a professional, but they don’t see you as a professional first and foremost, which is important. The initial relationship you should have with anybody on set should be a professional one.

  • Eric

    I think the title of the article itself could be construed as sexist, and a little sensationalized and even threatening. Its a new day, man. Yes there will always be those in our industry who refuse to change with the times, especially in an industry that was dominated by men for so long. But I see more and more women successfully working on filmsets every year, in all departments. Even in my department, the grip dept, where you might expect to see women the least, I’ve worked with numerous women who were good at their job and were never afraid of a “feeding frenzy.” And just because you see a flirt here and there doesn’t mean women are necessarily being victimized. Film crews spend a lot of time together and flirting happens, I’ve been flirted with and seen flirts onset many times and “feeding frenzy” never once came to mind. I’ve been a union grip for years and to be honest this article sounds like it was written from the point of view of someone with limited experience. And not to be rude, but once I read your bio on your site and looked you up on imdb I realized why. I can tell you really love the industry, and the tech info on your site and forum discussion are awesome. And I don’t mean you any disrespect personally, but how does someone who has worked for 3 or 4 years on 7 low budget films and who proclaims on his IMDb page to still be in film school give how-to advice, much less write a book (albeit an ebook) to pass on his experience? Honestly how relatively few real life situations are you using as examples in writing about your experiences? Anyway that’s my two cents, I’m done rambling.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Hey Eric – No disrespect at all, those are legitimate questions so let me address them. I wrote my IMDB bio when I was still in school and beginning to market myself as a filmmaker/freelancer. Since then, I have graduated and I cringe when I read that bio. Unfortunately IMDB is notoriously tough to deal with in having items removed. I have sent them multiple requests about removing the bio informing them the information is no longer accurate, but they have never responded. So, it’s the bed I made for myself and I lay in it.

      As for the other side of the Imdb coin, I work mostly on smaller short films and industrial/commercial projects now. These don’t get credited on IMDB for multiple reasons, but I am comfortable enough in my career that it doesn’t bother me. IMDB can be a good gauge for some freelancers, but it often rarely tells the whole story.

      I see your point about the sensationalism of the headline and perhaps you’re right that I’m generalizing too much on a few experiences. That said, not all the instances I’ve witnessed are logged here to keep the post an appropriate length. I didn’t mean to endorse the behavior or proclaim that’s how it always is. I just wanted to share my experience and observation.

  • http://142productions.com/ Jessica Moore

    Great article and THANK YOU for having the balls to tread such dangerous waters. :)
    This can be a very touchy subject (as proved in the comments) and I understand how hard it is to even begin to write about it. I’ve started several articles on our blog and just couldn’t press “submit” because I was worried I’d come off as a feminist!
    I’ve been in the video production industry for 8 years and before that I was a theatre tech. I’m not wardrobe, makeup, hair or a script supervisor, I’m a camera operator and editor goddamnit. I LIVE for the technical aspects of this field!
    I have several problems with working in this industry – FIRST, I’m a woman so every one wants to treat me like their little sister. SECOND, I look VERY young for my age. I’m 30 but I constantly get comments about how they thought I was 18. THIRD, I work with my husband. Although I’m extremely happily married, I keep it a secret that we’re married because everyone wrongly assumes that it’s just “bring your wife to work day”. People assume he brought me in on his business but in fact I met him through college! :( Triple whammy!
    The chivalry aspect drives me apeshit but I really do understand that they were probably programmed from a very early age to help women whenever possible. I can’t help but laugh my ass off when I start to unload a truck and every other piece of gear I carry never gets to the location by my hands. They really can’t help themselves and talking to them during the load-in/out is not really the time to tell them to fuck off. I always to wait till lunch to explain that while I really appreciate the help it makes me look like a useless tool to the rest of the crew when I’m just standing their watching everyone else load gear.
    But I can’t help it, I love this industry and will fight my way though all the awkwardness to do what I love. I tell the guys I work with to treat me like everyone else on the crew – the ONLY difference is I have boobs and a vagina. They always laugh, but the truth is that those body parts won’t change my ability to carry gear, pull focus, get the shot or light the set.

  • Eva

    Hi Evan,
    I’m not incredibly offended by this article, but I would say that it’s pretty condescending. Each story you told seemed like a scare tactic–especially since you personally incited the behavior in the 1st story–and the title alone sounds like women shouldn’t bother trying to get a job in the industry. However, I know that’s not what your intent is. I think the issue of inappropriate gender-based behavior is a legitimate topic of discussion; I just wish you had gone about it differently. What was your goal in writing the article? To aid women? If so, I would’ve liked more advice than to “break through the glass ceiling” which is entirely misguided because a) Uh, yeah we’ve been trying for decades, man. The glass ceiling is not a female-designed construct. We don’t want it there. And b) It’s also a metaphor for discrepancies in pay wages and women’s inability to obtain management positions despite equal ability. It does NOT refer to unwanted sexual advances, and to advise men that i’s ok to behave that way as long as it doesn’t “hinder your or her ability to perform professionally” is SERIOUSLY detrimental to women’s desire for respect and equality in the workplace. So, I would just rethink what you’re actually trying to say, because right now, while it brings up an important topic, I think the article does more harm than good. Cheers on the thought, though.

  • Lynn

    Interesting article. As a female, I have to agree that the ‘feeding frenzy’ gets old fast. I find the hardest parts are the first few weeks/month of the shoot and the last few. The first week, you have a lot of guys testing the waters, seeing if you’ll be receptive. Once you shoot them down a few times (gently), they generally get the message and give up. The last few weeks, once everyone starts feeling like family, the shier ones usually take their shot. They can be harder to deal with, as I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

    It’s sad that it’s still like that, but I’ve become a master flirter. Not because I like the attention(I loathe it), but because it’s an issue of diplomacy. I have to dance around it, and continuously steer the conversation to more professional matters, since, as you pointed out, I want to be seen as a professional first. There’s such pressure to prove yourself professionally the first few weeks, or else you know some guys will begin to wonder how you got the job. You know they’d never think another guy got hired because he had a great ass.

    I know for a fact that I have been recommended for jobs by guys I’ve worked with who have told the PC or AD or whomever that I was good at my job and “nice to look at” and other demeaning comments. I’m not going to turn the job down, since a girl’s gotta eat, but I also don’t want to look back at my career and wonder if that’s part of why I’ve been successful. I work my ass off and I’m damn good at my job, and that should be enough.

    I see so many guys in the comments who point out the few women who seem to love the attention, and other “bitches” they’ve worked with. Or Daniel, who thinks we should be less “defensive.” Sometimes we have to always be on the defense because there always seems to be one of those guys on set who seems to think we’re there for their own personal amusement. Nothing is more irritating that constantly being called “honey,” “sweetheart,” or the like, and getting comments on our hair/clothes/looks. We may not hear what you are saying about us, but we hear the snickers. It gets tiring always being on the defense. It wears you down over the course of the shoot.

    I think most of us learn to deal with it with experience, and some sets are worst than others. At this point in my career, I barely notice it any more, unless I have to be more forceful in rejecting a guy’s advances. Some “bitches” on the other hand, egg it on or become nasty. I think these women piss me off more than anything.

    I once worked on a indie where the lead male actor and a supporting actor sexually harassed the shit out of me on a daily basis. Some of the males on the crew made comments as well, but not nearly as aggressively. I knew most of the higher-ups wouldn’t give a crap, let alone do something about it, so I went to one of the female producers i trusted and told her. Her reaction? She got jealous over all the “attention” I was getting and basically told me I should be damn happy that so many of the guys thought I was “so pretty.” This film business had so warped her mind that she though no one thought she was pretty because they weren’t sexually harassing her.

    I understand it now, but I find it sad that some women get so beat down by the beautiful actresses and the emphasis on looks that their self-esteem drops to the point where they NEED negative male attention to feel pretty and worthy. Or lash out at men around them because they’re taking so much crap from above that they feel the need to fling it on others. I’m not excusing either, I’m just saying I understand.

    My boyfriend (a sound guy) and I like to repeat a joke I’ve heard on set several times: “What do you call a woman who works twice as hard as a man? A lazy bitch.” It’s sad that things aren’t better for women by now, and it sucks that this stuff still goes on, but I feel that it’s going to get better as we get more women in the business in all departments. I shouldn’t be getting fewer tech jobs than my equally-qualified male colleagues just because I have boobs. I’m tired of teaching young male cam ops how to operate a camera knowing they’re making more than me.

    • hannah

      I don’t know whether to like or dislike your comment because it makes me sad that you get angry at the women for authentically reacting to the losing battle we’ve been forced to fight in male dominated industries. It’s not easy to react the “right way” to this kind of pressure and lack of professionalism/human decency. But the rest of your insight was really great, especially that joke. It’s so true.

  • Grip with a Grudge

    This article reminds me of my first experience on a film set. When in college, I was interning on a million dollar feature. I had another job, which I needed to pay rent, so I was only able to work on the film every other day. My girlfriend at the time was also interning, and she was there every day. Apparently, I missed more than just an educational experience on the days I wasn’t there. It came out later that three men tried extra hard to be more than friends, including, one person in the camera department, the art director, and the DIRECTOR, who was married. It went way beyond “flirting”. She said at one point they had all actually thought it was OK to kiss her. I admit, she was quite a flirt herself and I think probably sent out some mixed signals, but I don’t think the end result was her goal. She said she just tried to gently talk them down and cool the situation off, but didn’t know what else to do, or who to tell.

    Needless to say, it really soured my whole outlook on the film making experience.

    I would love to hear a discussion as to what people do or should do if the flirting goes too far – or is it just mutually agreed upon that there are no lines in the film biz other than above and below?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ScifiAliens Phyllis Kathleen Twombly

    As a woman I found nothing offensive in this post. I’ve had some similar experiences in retail. One extra ugly/creepy fellow still wanted personal contact after I’d found a different job. I had to make it clear that he didn’t exist in my world before he’d leave me alone. Nothing else worked.

    Women are pretty good at spotting ‘creepy’ or having a ‘vibe’ as you say. While most men are decent, reasonable fellows any woman ignores her instincts at her own peril. And we really appreciate men who stand behind us once we’ve made our lack of interest clear. It’s not always necessary but it’s nice to know the respect is out there. It makes our jobs easier.

    I’m a screenwriter but I want to learn as much about the film industry as possible. Thank you for the download.

  • http://needlegirlhaystackworld.com Laryssa

    I do agree with this post in a lot of ways.

    In the beginning, I was straightforward and demanded things like a guy would. As you can imagine, I never got anywhere with certain departments…grips, for example. Over time, I’ve learned how much faster and efficiently I can get my job done if I do play the female card. A well-placed sweet smile can win the hearts of the grittiest of transpo drivers. It has nothing to do with being weak or unequal – it’s being smart and using your femininity to your advantage.

    While the feeding frenzy analogy is accurate, it isn’t ALWAYS the case. We are shrewd; we know that a friendly flirt gets things done so much faster that just telling it like it is. We know we hold the power. ;)

    That being said, a disclaimer: leading someone on is an entirely different story, and I do not endorse that by any means.

  • Kristie Russo

    This is far from sexist! Nice job; if all film pros looked at it this way it would be well-recieved. The professional sets I have been on actually gave me advantage. My questions were answered, men were respectful, and treated me as a coworker; part of me thinks it was because I was a “hot girl” on set. Just like any job, report sexual harassment. This business is tough as nails and I welcome exercising the “gumshen” in myself! To know I can remain professional and do my job thoroughly while under attention. This empowers me to keep going.

  • disqus_hBqMvDhkIt

    It’s very important to discuss this issue. Thanks Evan for writing this post. Interested in what a veteran Local 600 member has to say on the topic?

    http://viewfinderredux.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/the-glass-is-cracked/

  • Guest

    Guilty. As. Charged.

  • hannah

    Well, for starters, you could try to avoid using an adjective as a noun when referring to women as “females” while giving men the respect of calling them men. That alone is a signifier of someone who might want to leave discussing gender inequality to the professionals. It becomes an issue when your intentions are good but the knowledge to do it correctly (and without sounding patronizing) can cause more harm than good.

    The best you can do as a man in the industry is forget gender when you hire and assign jobs. As a woman, I found that every time I worked as a general set PA when I was starting out with my peers from film school, I was assigned to art department, crafty, scripty, and stuck doing paperwork. My male peers who were out of my class, or even classes after me, got assigned to the technical departments and were never asked to grab lunch for the crew or do any of the “girly” jobs. This hindered my ability to follow through as the person in my class who had been told I had the best eye for composition in the class. It beat me down and I wound up losing passion for the camera and settling for jobs I wasn’t very interested in. While this is partially my fault for not fighting harder for myself, as a minority in a larger group, you often have to work twice as hard as the majority to get half the recognition. There comes a point where those in power have to step up and force change.

    Besides the generally sexist hiring practices, I’ve been promised jobs as a way of flirtation, and denied them when it became clear I wasn’t trying to sleep with them. That’s wrong on so many levels. If you want to flirt, flirt, but don’t go getting people’s hopes up like that only to make them have to choose between sleeping with someone for a job or not working at all. The one time I did “hook up” with a crew member, not for a job but because I was genuinely attracted to him, the rest of the male crew treated me like a leper from there on out and none of them would drop my name for future jobs. That was just as ridiculous. We’re human being, attraction happens. As long as it’s not conflicting with your performance on set, it shouldn’t be seen as unprofessional to express it off set. It shouldn’t blacklist someone. I find as a woman in the industry, you’re damned it you do, damned if you don’t. The only people who have had my back are other women who are actually paying attention to my work ethic and not my body/what I want to do with it.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Hannah,

      Your comment(s) have brought me back to this post after having spent some time away from it. I wanted to address a few things that you pointed out that I think are important:

      1.) Female is both an adjective and a noun, though I do see your point about the difference between using female and men. I have changed several references in the post from female to women to reflect this, though there are certainly also references to males just as there were to females. I meant no disrespect with the semantics of this at all. Sometimes I change words I find synonymous (i.e. females, women) in order to break up my writing. It was never meant to be patronizing.

      2.) I do not mean to undermine your point, but you say in the same paragraph that “the best you can do as a man in the industry is forget gender when you hire and assign jobs” while also stating “there comes a point where those in power have to step up and force change.” I don’t see how these can be reconciled.

      If the person who is in power is male and they are working to positively force change for women on set, how can they do so without acknowledging the gender of those who they are hiring and dictating duties to? I don’t ask this because I disagree with what you said, but I think it illustrates the tricky line this issue draws – we want to be equal and fair without being patronizing or condescending.

      Overall, I really appreciate the perspective you’ve leant to these comments. I am sorry that you (and several other commenters) have had bad experiences working with a male crew as a woman. And I don’t mean that as a “oh I’m so sorry for our piggish gender” thing – I just mean it sucks to hear when anyone has to put up with the kind of manipulation you describe. I totally agree with you that it’s natural to express attraction and is OK to as long as it’s done outside the confines of the professional environment.

      Thanks again for the comments!