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Dear all

I wanted to alert you to a training / careers development session that I contributed to as part of the Underwire Film Festival in November 2012. Underwire is a London-based shorts film festival founded in 2010 by Gemma Mitchell and Gabriella Apicella as a platform to promote, inspire and support women working in the film industry. Alongside the film screenings are debates, discussions plus training and networking opportunities. They are supported by a whole host of industry partners and hold touring and training events across the UK so they are well worth checking out!

The training session I took part in was co-produced with Olivia Bellas, a Cultural Consultant and Director of Creative Consultancy Company The Original Ranch. Olivia and I both share a passion for working in the creative industries and the various opportunities that this sector can provide however a similar frustration with the bureaucratic minefield and working conditions that face many struggling to manage and build a successful career. We wanted to produce a session that would be both informative – providing practical realities of how to manage and keep afloat in this industry, thinking about developing cross-sector skills, managing contacts, building an online presence that represents your experience, dealing with finances, benefits and rights etc etc – all that nitty gritty stuff AND empowering – encouraging particularly women to continue to build, manage and succeed in the creative sector. My personal motivation was to talk about some of the challenges that particularly face women working in the creative sector – issues around pay & promotion, managing a freelance career and the impact of motherhood on the work/life balance – and encourage women to make the working conditions of the industry work for them, ensuring that they can remain and continue to contribute to the sector…..

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Last night I attended a UK screening of Miss Representation Jennifer Siebel Newsom‘s documentary that looks at how the US media portrays women and young girls. This event was hosted by Women in Film and TV and Amnesty International UK.

Just watch the trailer and you’ll get a taste of the heart-lurching-lump-in-your-throat feeling that this film evokes. The opening still displays a quote from Alice Walker “The most common way that people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any”. This is followed by a montage of sexualised, violent and demeaning images of women cut between quotes from contributors about the media’s treatment and representation of women and the impact on society. From the start, you know that this is a campaigning film, designed to provoke its audience into action.

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A very quick update but yesterday (Mon 18th June) I attended the ‘Cine Sisters’ conference at the Women’s Library in East London. The conference was all about highlighting the stories about and contribution that women film and tv practitioners have made to the industries.

It was a fascinating introduction to a section of film and television history that has until now been totally ignored. Melanie Williams (UEA) gave a paper on the impact, both professional, personal and creatively of the Continuity “Girl’s” Maggie Unsworth and Barbara Cole on filmmaker David Lean’s (A Passage to India, Dr. Shivago, Lawrence of Arabia) career. Bryony Dixon and Lisa Kerrigan from the BFI talked about their work in uncovering archive footage of work by women filmmakers and a new project that will focus on women film and tv documentary filmmakers that will be launched in 2014. There were talks on the impact of female professionals in contemporary production design, 1920’s scriptwriters, women musician’s in silent cinema, women working in the UK regional news coverage and screenings of archive interviews with UK film and tv professionals working throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The breadth of these papers shows the diverse contribution that women have made the creative industries which has until recently been written out of history.

The conference was hosted by a number of different institutions: The Cinema and Television History (CATH) Research Centre at De Montfort University, the School of Film and Television Studies at University of East Anglia the BECTU Oral History Project and the Women’s Film History Network UK/Ireland. All these organisation’s are working on project’s to address these hidden stories and all are worth following. In order to make sense of the issues that face women working in these industries today, it is important to have an understanding of the past. A vast amount of archive footage of women’s work, interviews and life stories is out there… it just needs to be accessed and publicised.

Last Thursday (17th March) was the closing night of the Birds Eye View Film Festival. Birds Eye View is the only film festival in the UK that celebrates and supports women filmmakers. The festival was founded by Rachel Millward and Pinny Grylls in 2002 in response to the low figures of female director’s in the UK. Back then it was 6%, in 2009 the number was 17.2%. Although that’s a notable rise, the numbers of female filmmakers are in a constant state of flux. This can be seen from the number of female screenwriters, in 2008 the number of UK films written by women was 17.3% and in 2009 16.5%. There has not yet been a consistent increase in the number of female filmmakers and given recent fallout of women across the creative media industry the predictions are that those figures will once again fall.

The source for all these percentages is the UK Film Council’s statistical yearbook. Now that the UKFC has been cut, it is still not clear which UK organisation will take on gathering vital statistical information about the state of the UK Film Industry.

It feels like we are entering a void of uncertainty when it comes to the state of the UK Film industry. The effects of the government’s decision to cut the UKFC on the British Film Industry has already been written about (click here for the immediate reaction of Andrew Pulver in the Guardian). What hasn’t come through clearly is all the other funding that the UKFC covered – towards diversity, film festivals, new talent; funding that supported organisations like Birds Eye View. What will happen to this vision of equality and diversity if no other organisation is taking it on? And what will be the effects on the output of British films if there is no body set up to ensure that equal opportunites remain on the agenda? If there is no funding available for independent productions, support for young filmmakers, women, people from BME then will UK output be entirely of a branded commercial variety? Will we get more films made by Tescos?

For more information about the Birds Eye View Film Festival please click here.

I went to the UK Broadcast Video Expo on the 17th Feb to see a seminar titled ‘Women in TV: 35 up? Huge numbers of women exit the industry at age 35. What can we do to stop the talent drain? To read a report of the event and my thoughts please click on the link below.

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Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at University of California, Berkeley. She is also, probably, one of the most influential contemporary theorists on gender theory. ‘Gender Trouble’, first published in 1990, introduced (in very simple terms) the notion that gender is a performance, that the notions of femininity and masculinity are created by cultural-social influenced acts that bound individuals within a heterosexual matrix (!). I plan to come back to Judith Butler a lot in my research. Her work is massively dense and painful to read – I once heard a quite esteemed academic refer to reading her work  as ‘like trying to swallow glass’. It takes you on a mental journey whereby you have to re-programme all your thoughts that you perceive to be your own and question how they were formulated by external influences, but that’s the point of theory. She questions all the fixed notions of identity – notions that are paramount to the subjects that I am addressing with regards to gendered employment in the Creative Media Industries.

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