Women in Film panel provides insightful look into representation

Written by Fourth Estate Lifestyle Reporter Meghann Patterson

As part of a week dedicated to women in film, Film and Video Studies hosted a panel that was available for all Mason students to attend.

A historical comparison of women’s employment on the top 250 films in 2012 and 1998 reveals that the percentages of women directors and editors have not changed. The percentages of women writers and producers have increased slightly. The percentages of women executive producers and cinematographers have declined.

This continuing issue was one of the main topics of discussion at the Women in Film panel held on March 27. The five women on the panel were all Mason Film and Video Studies alumni who all worked in different fields in the film industry. Each talked about how they came to be producers, editors and directors while also mentioning how Mason assisted them in their endeavors.

After learning about the success of the women on the panel, many students were curious about what it takes to work in the film industry and what activities at Mason helped them succeed.

“I was an executive producer at Mason Cable Network and had a small group of people to work with and not a lot of money, so when you have three days to shoot a video and the talent is only available for three hours you have to continue to work and figure out how you’re going to do things,” Antonia Naglieri, Assistant Producer at CACI, said. “You teach yourself how to do a lot of jobs and that’s really important; I cast talent, I do voice over, I’m a producer, I’m an editor, I do all those things.”

Naglieri’s primary advice for students was to keep working and gaining experience for their resumes while they are still in school.

“The more work that you can do, the better you look on your resume and in jobs,” Naglieri said. “They’ll look to someone else if you can’t do that job. Being good at a lot of different things is beneficial, and I learn that by working at MCN.”

While offering students professional advice about getting into the industry, the panel did not shy away from giving out personal advice as well.

“I recommend you be friendly to everyone you meet while here at Mason,” Becky Varni, Assistant Producer at Cortina Productions, said. “I’m very close with the people I’ve met in the Communication and FAVS department, and we still help each other out all the time.”

Although parts of the discussion were about the panel members’ individual career experiences, it was not long before the conversation shifted back to the issue at hand: women in the film industry.

“When I was very young and working, I got a lot of older men who thought that I didn’t know anything about what I was doing. I had one boss who was shocked that I could plug things into the back of a computer, which was pretty surprising to me. I have a boss now who never treats me like that, so don’t be discouraged by the way some people treat you, especially if you’re a woman,” Naglieri said. “If anything, it should motivate you to work even harder. Be confident in your skills so people will respect you because of your work and not just because you’re a woman.”

Many students were not just concerned with the gender discrimination in the industry but with how women are portrayed in the movies.

“With films like ‘The Hunger Games’ and the recent film, ‘Divergent’, I’ve noticed that everybody in the story is waiting for the female character to save the day. In addition, there aren’t a lot of men here who have seen the film ‘August Osage County.’ We have got to get men to go see more chick flicks. It’s actually kind of unfortunate that it is considered a chick flick when it’s a film about family and humanity,” said Peggy Pridemore, Location Manager for such films as “Captain America,” “Forrest Gump” and “Wedding Crashers.”

In the end, the panel wanted to get across that in order to get more women in films, everyone needs to be open to other ideas and different perspectives.

“I think we just need to remove gender from the equation. It’s not a chick flick. It’s a romantic comedy, or it’s an action film. There just shouldn’t be gender associated with certain things regardless. If we remove those things whole heartedly from ourselves then I think we can maybe get society to remove it too,” Varni said.

Most students agreed that the most important lesson from the panel revolved around three goals: getting involved, being fearless, and being versatile.

(Photo by Amy Rose)