IN AN INDUSTRY DOMINATED BY MALE DIRECTORS AND TECHNICIANS, IS WANTING A LADY PRODUCER INNATELY SEXIST?
I was at an industry Christmas party the other night, and a senior producer, for whom I have a lot of respect, said something I thought both gobsmacking and incredibly interesting. She had been helping me with finessing some copy for an ad just gone out in Portfolio and Reel, searching for a producer for my short film The Embrace.
In the original copy for the ad I had suggested that a female producer would be welcome, since the film deals with a sensitive issue, with a strong female character. With two male writers and a male DP lined up for production, I was certain the project could benefit from having a female decision maker in its creative core.
A few days before the party, the copy had come back from the producer, with that gender stipulation gone. At the time I thought it was to ensure I cast my net as wide as possible. Made sense. So I flung net. Wide as.
And then at the party, while chatting with this very senior, very female producer about the film, I brought up the desire to find a woman, and she fixed me with a softened certainty (it was several drinks into the soiree) and said with a casual, indirect disdain "don't wanna be sexist". Like I had chosen the wrong tie for the wrong shirt.
I laughed it off and challenged her lightly about it, but I admit it that was a curve ball.
I guess I was taken aback that wanting to balance out crew with a person of a particular chromosome mash up could be considered sexist. To me it felt like a very deliberate, very sensible desire to achieve balance — and, even more importantly, credibility. I don't want to be another male in a male dominated industry, telling a story featuring a strong female character, only to have a complete absence of any strong female characters as key decision makers in the production.
More so, it struck me as bewildering that this comment was coming from a woman. A senior woman. Who then moments later, when I challenged her admitted that women make better producers, concluding that I what I really want is the right person for the job, regardless. And yet ...
It may come as no surprise to some that this is on my radar at all. My mother Fabian Dattner does a lot of work encouraging women to become decision makers in our world at large, and I've helped her call to action get out in as many ways as I can.
What do you think? Are we still at a point where even the smallest aspiration at quotas can be considered sexist? Are we so anxious not to be sexist we become sexist in our desire to be sexlesst? Of course I want to find the right person for the role, but what if one of those key factors is gender? Could this, after all, be one of those moments to celebrate our differences? Where do you draw the balance between finding the right person for the job and ensuring you gals aren't left to dangle in various production roles while the decision makers all stroke their stubble and talk their talk?
I'll see how we go. Our net is cast. We are looking for a producer, after all. One who fits the mould. In every sense.