Last Monday The San Francisco International Film Festival invited Camp Reel Stories for a screening of Amy Adrion new documentary, Half the Picture. This documentary speaks about a variety of issues such as the huge disparity of men and women’s roles, and lack thereof, in front of or behind the screen.
As someone who has not been in the film industry in the way that these female directors have been, it was really eye opening to hear all these professionals talk about their experiences. Common themes that they all described were of that they were not given chances to work even though they were more than qualified for the position they were applying for. If that wasn’t bad enough, the jobs were then given to men who were grossly less qualified than the female applicants.
Another point touched upon in the documentary is that of sexual harassment. Last fall we saw the fall of many giants in the film industry starting with Harvey Weinstein. It’s a common experience that many women have, we’ve all to some degree have faced general harassment may it be from harassment that you face on the streets or like many other women face abuse. General harassment is something that the women of Hollywood are forced to become even more acquainted with than most. There’s an awful power dynamic that exists in this industry in that if you want to find work you have to do certain things to survive. In the documentary we heard one woman’s experience of how she had been shooting a music video and one of the members of the band exposed himself to her and asked her to do the same for him. This woman was able to run away from him but it’s hard to ignore that experiences like these are common in the film and television industry. There needs to be a huge transformation made with regards to not only the inequality of jobs for men and woman but also how prevalent and normalised harassment is seen. These types of statements should induce disgust but instead when I hear about it all I can think of is how normal it is to hear these types of stories.
After the screening of the film the San Francisco International Film Festival hosted a panel that included the director, Amy Adrion, and Executive Director of Camp Reel Stories Esther Pearl, to answer questions about the film industry and comments regarding the film. Adrion described how when she first started filming for the documentary she was unsure of who would want to participate, because she felt that she didn’t know enough women that would be comfortable telling their stories. Through one of her connections though she began to hear that a lot of women in the industry wanted to tell their stories. We had women like Ava Duvernay, Brenda Chapman and so many more discussing times when they were treated unfairly by the industry. So many women came flooding in with support that it’s clear that there needs to be change. Another aspect that was discussed is what it means to be a woman in the film industry. In our society we have designated that certain roles be played for men and women and the burden typically falls the hardest on women. For example one element discussed in the film was the issue of how to be a woman in hollywood and have a family. With the amount of hours in a work week expected from members of the industry is it possible to have both a family and your dreams. Of course it is, but the reason that this is questioned for women is because your burdened with having to do everything. Like anybody, including those outside the film industry, parents all have some sort of support system. If a single mom wants to break into the film industry she can do it because she’ll have people who want to help her succeed in every aspect of her life. Men too can take care of their children and the duty shouldn’t have to fall onto mom. Mom’s deserves to be able to fight to fulfill her dreams.
Half the Picture showcases vile aspects of the film industry but it also showcases role models. As I was sitting in the audience watching this amazing documentary I was in awe seeing some titles of my favorite movies and learning that they were made by female directors. Myself as a women of color and seeing another Mexican female director inspired me so much. It’s such an indescribable feeling to see yourself not only represented on screen but also as someone who is in charge behind the scenes. When you grow up not seeing yourself in front of the screen you don’t really think that being a director is something you can accomplish. Its something only white men do, not someone like me. Of course I learned that I was very wrong about that, but this documentary really reinforced how wrong I was. Never have I been so happy to be wrong though because this documentary is inspirational to not only continue the fight for equality in this industry, but to also support female creators, especially when they are women of color and are able to create something when there have been so many obstacles in their way stopping them from doing so.
Thank you again to the The San Francisco International Film Festival for having Camp Reel Stories!
Review Written by:
Intern at Camp Reel Stories