Women are underrepresented in Hollywood not only in art departments for film and television productions, but across the board in creative positions. Impact24 PR sponsored a panel highlighting prominent women from a range of disciplines, including costumes, composing music, sound design, production design, and directing animation.
The panel began with question asking each women to describe the path that brought them to their career in the industry. For some, the passion began in childhood: Paula Fairfield was inspired by watching awards shows on television and Anna Hollingsworth by seeing Jurassic Park, while Melissa Bruning knew she wanted to design costumes when she was eight years old and Anna Drubich was musically inclined from a young age. For others, the route was more indirect: Mona May was a fashion designer who ended up in entertainment after doing work for film-student friends in New York City, Judy Ree was a geology major before seeing a Fellini film changed her life, and Megan Kasperlik left her life in Michigan behind to start on the ground floor as a production assistant on Sex and the City. Fairfield noted that women have worked so hard to attain success in Hollywood, and she never thought she would see a panel of all women speaking to a full panel room at Comic-Con. Ree also has noticed change in the industry, from very few people of color twenty years ago to more diversity, awareness, and openness today, although it still has a long way to go.
When asked what draws them to the projects they choose to work on, two themes emerged: the story and the people involved. Everything in a project, from costumes to other forms of design, flows from the story; without a compelling story, the rest is less rewarding, too. Similarly, all Hollywood productions are team efforts, and avoiding bad experiences with colleagues is just as important as working with people you respect or admire.
Several of the panelists spoke directly to the challenges faced by working mothers in Hollywood. Hollingsworth emphasized the importance of time management. Bruning insists on a 9-to-5 schedule to ensure time with her young children, and then can put in additional time at home at night after they have gone to bed. She also commented that businesses need to respect the outside-of-work time of people who don’t have kids, too, but reminded the audience that the company will never set limits for you. Mona May has observed things changing for mothers in the industry as more women have become directors in charge of productions and the presence of more women on projects enables them to support each other.
In answering questions posed to individual panelists rather than the group, another consistent theme emerged: creative success is hard work. Kasperlik did extensive research in real-world fire department gear around the world in developing the costumes for Fahrenheit 451. Drubich delved deep into the source material, with which she was not previously familiar, before writing any music for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Ree explained how the production design for Better Call Saul, a prequel to the acclaimed Breaking Bad, involved a complicated process of designing backward to ensure consistency and continuity. In addition, she consulted with an engineer to ensure that the in-progress construction of a building in Saul accurately portrayed how the partially built structure would look. Fairfield’s sound design for Game of Thrones required coming up with sounds for things that don’t exist in the real world without sounding synthetic, while also thinking ahead to keep in mind the needs of future seasons of the series to prevent designing herself into a corner early on to her detriment later.
Although the seven panelists offer quite impressive resumes, having so many panelists on stage resulted in more breadth than depth to the discussion once the allotted time was shared among all of them. While the desire to showcase these talented women is understandable, the overall value of the panel discussion itself likely would have been higher with lengthier contributions from fewer participants.
Hollywood Game Changers: A Conversation with the Creative Women Behind Popular Films and TV Projects
Meet the talented women changing the status quo in film and television projects like Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, The OA Part II, Watchmen, Space Jam 2, Clueless, Santa Clarita Diet, Unikitty!, Enchanted, BoJack Horseman, Black Monday, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Fahrenheit 451, War for the Planet of the Apes, Rampage, and more! Get insight from famed composers, costume, production, and sound designers on how they use their craft to champion for women empowerment, diversity, and inclusion in entertainment. These fearless women are revolutionizing Hollywood and they’re here to stay. Part 1 of 2 from Impact24’s “Behind-the-Camera Superblock” panel series. Panelists include Paula Fairfield (Game of Thrones), Judy Rhee (Better Call Saul), Mona May (Clueless, Enchanted, Santa Clarita Diet), Meghan Kasperlik (The OA Part II, Watchmen), Melissa Bruning (Space Jam 2, War for the Planet of the Apes), Anna Drubich (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark), Anna Hollingsworth (Unikitty!, BoJack Horseman), and more panelists to be announced. Moderated by Chandra Feltus (partner and director at Neer Motion) and Fiorella Occhipinti (cinematographer). Introduction by Impact24 PR’s Andrea Resnick.