Women produce and men direct



Last week I worked on a commercial shoot with an agency from New York for a friend that is a producer and a woman. Very quickly I noticed that almost all the producers in the project were women, while all of the more creative positions such as director, creative designer and cinematographer were filled by men. Just by looking at the name popping in my inbox, I could accurately tell if an e-mail was going to be about logistics/admin or creative/technical.

Interestingly enough, when I was translating my mother’s resume, I found shocking information such as her civil status, age, and the fact that she had a son and a daughter who are financially and socially independent. I was pleased to delete information that thankfully in 2017 is unnecessary to be considered for employment, but soon I ran into other information that I couldn’t delete and not only reflected realities in the corporate world in Venezuela, but also applied to the film industry today. Despite her training, honors, and awards, her professional path was destined to involve administrative work from the beginning. My mother’s list of achievements were limited to project management positions and assistant work for vice-presidents of organizations that often had less experience and academic training than she did.



It is nothing new to say that the film industry is dominated by males, but even other industries that are considered more “fair” in terms of gender balance, often focus on the total number of employees instead of considering the kinds of positions that are being filled by different gender groups. Are too many of us modern-day secretaries? Was women’s reputation of being “good managers” born in a conference room full of men who didn’t want to track projects anymore? At least in the film industry, one can go from being an office production assistant, to a coordinator, to a manager and eventually become a producer, much faster that you can climb any other ladder that will eventually allow you to lead a more creative department.
This article about gender ambition by the BCG does a good job at exploring how companies can create a path towards leadership that is equally inclusive of men and women.

When I read a line in my mother’s resume saying that she enjoys “processes and administrative work” I wonder what exactly a woman with an academic record in innovation, research and technology, finds so enjoyable about admin? Maybe the paycheck.

I enjoy the paycheck too, but what is different between her situation working in Venezuela as an engineer in the 1990s, and the situation of a filmmaker in the United States today that is never on set? I look at brilliant, successful producers that, despite their achievements, are still not getting the directing gigs that they bid for. Too often, it is hard to find what differentiates them from the men getting the jobs, aside from their gender.



This discrepancy holds true in different areas of the filmmaking industry. Even in reputable studios like Pixar you will find a predominant presence of talented women with solid credentials filling assistant roles, roles that by industry standards should lead to creative positions, but admittedly become lifelong careers, dominated by booking travel and keeping track of their bosses’ busy schedules. This distinct division of roles is even more obvious when you step into a set and find yourself surrounded by men in the lighting department talking about using a “skirt” (using duvetyne to control light sources) grabbing a “butt plug” (
a 2k to 750 adapter), asking for someone to “run a whip out to me” (meaning, they need an extension cord), or someone yelling out “I need a Broad strung up between the two Blondes!” (referring to a broad lens dispersing yellowish light broadly). The use of this kind of language on a set is the equivalent of having co-workers doing push-up competitions in the office, which by the way, also happens.

I am not bashing on men or on the many women that are incredible producers, rather, I want to hold us all accountable for minding the gap. Women should be involved in all the aspects of filmmaking that interest them with confidence and men could be more aware of the impact of their dominating presence, so that, past the politics, we can continue to work towards a truly balanced work place.



Photo credits: Signature image from Mariana Rondon’s Pelo Malo, still image from Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, still image from 
Alice Guy Blache‘s Fra Diavolo and last image from Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.  

How we voted for Trump and Chavez

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I came to the United States as a fifteen year old girl happy to have the opportunity to go to college and study film and I was able to do that, thanks to parents that could work and make a comfortable life for our family.

With a few exceptions, most people in my family were against Chavez, the most liberal president that Venezuela had seen in a long time. Even though I never hated Chavez, I saw things become increasingly difficult for my parents, so it seemed unfair to support a regime that was negatively affecting the people that I loved.

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I was a sophomore in a liberal arts university in Pittsburgh when I changed my political views on facebook to “it all depends;” I did it after  I saw a leftist documentary about Venezuela called “The Revolution Will Not be Televised.” I was terribly upset about the one-sided representation of the people from the opposition, but I was also curious. I started to understand why some of my very liberal classmates were enthusiastic about a socialist government that they knew very little about.

When Chavez nationalized thousands of undocumented immigrants in 2004, I thought about how comparable actions in the United States would theoretically affect my life. Similarly, there were many situations that affected me directly and allowed me to see that fairness,  more than being an ideal, it’s a necessary scenario for all to have the opportunity to be successful.

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I am now a proud owner of two passports to opposite sides of chaos and I wonder where I’m supposed to stand. It seems like politics tend to be infested with corruption and I get uninspired when I realize that trying to achieve equality in a corrupt state is like trying to grow a plant without oxygen.

At times like these, my only peace of mind comes from remembering that we are all atoms and cells and that one day we started seeing each other as individual “persons” instead of knowing that we are all one “people.” We all voted for Chavez and we all voted for Trump because our vote only represents our collective consciousness.

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I’m writing this for myself and for the people that know what it’s like to run away from violence. I am writing this for all of us with others to thank because we don’t have to be hungry. I want us to think about the societies that we are hoping to have in our adopted nations and the kinds of governments that we left at home. We need to understand the values that we are fighting for today and reflect on how our beliefs would and could affect us if we lived on a different side of a border.

Because things can change quickly and it might just happen that one day, we will find ourselves as a minority hoping that the majority will look after us in the same way that we are looking out for them now.

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A Burning Connection

Any experience is what you make it and Burning man is no exception.14311292_10210446335414073_6687524533049714674_o

Visually speaking, Burning Man is like a movie that no studio can afford to make. It’s like a smart guy said at the hand sanitizer station “without the people that come and what they bring to it, Burning Man would be nothing but a desert and porta-potties.”

burning-man-2016-hyperlapse-4But Black Rock City is the result of the creativity and dedication of thousands of people, 70,000 of them this year.

A speaker at one of the workshops in the festival said that ‘There is no truth. Truth is limited by the constructs of a world that we create and that world is limited by our own beliefs’. The speaker reminded me that we have the power to create. Suddenly, everything that was happening felt like a script that I was writing in which thoughts turned into words on a page and every page turned into a moment that I was living.bm16-lights-09112016152915-0001Before I headed to Nevada, I refused to believe that I was going to Burning Man to look for something specific. Expecting for a festival to provide more than an excuse to have fun for days, seemed unnecessary. But shortly after setting up camp, I let myself be open to putting meaning behind my Burn. My interest wasn’t piqued by the tired conversations of tech money, the orgy dome, or EDM. It seemed like figuring out who was paying for the art, how many people one could have sex with, or how to party the longest, were interesting topics that were missing a much bigger conversation. For me, Burning Man was about connection.

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At Burning Man, you can be whoever you want to be and act however you want at any given moment. Total freedom can be an overwhelming luxury even for the strongest person, partnership, or group. An un-ruled world can be chaotic and scary, specially if you face it alone. Fortunately, we have people to share the journey with and together, we can acknowledge that life is exciting, messy and something worth noticing.bm16-forgiveyourself-09112016151952-0001There are countless wild tales to tell too: the man that can provingly give himself fellatio, the fights in the thunderdome cage, the installation that turns into a hug tunnel, the leashed man being walked by his master and all the people, art, drugs, sex, lights, fire, color and music that you can think of.

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It turns out that in addition to the unexpectedly colorful sunsets and the surreal sunrises, I was looking to feel free and loved. For many years, I’ve believed that love and freedom cannot coexist. Now, I am considering the possibility that not only the two can happen simultaneously, but that perhaps they are one of the same.bm16-thetrunkcrew-09112016160122-0001

So, no matter what you are looking for, or if you decide not to look for anything at all, La Playa will provide. And it won’t be because of the man, the temple or other people, it’ll be because of you.

bm16-theman3-09112016155702-0001Photo credits: Stunning medusa head and roller skating rink shots by Tasha Jacobs. Thanks to Gabrielius Glemža for all the Polaroid photos and for being infinitely awesome. The photo of the gorgeous girls spinning fire was taken by photographer Grant Palmer. Thanks to the internet for everything else.

Our violent nature

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I  come from a country that has been ranked by the UN as the most violent in the world.  But! I had a happy childhood. I grew up in a city that had a thriving economy and I spent summers running around in my grandparent’s farm or swimming under waterfalls. I spent Christmas playing robbers and thieves with cousins in a small town by the Andes mountain range. But violence was also a part of that reality and it continues to be so today.

I’ve thought about violence for a long time. As much as I miss my family, my friends and my country, it’s hard to imagine going back to living in constant fear. The longer you go without worrying about whether or not you’ll be shot if you use your smart phone out in public, the more intolerable that scenario seems.

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Photo by Sierra Hartman

Violence comes out in different ways. I never heard about mass shootings until I was living in the US and Columbine happened. I was living in Pennsylvania and I remember Butler Senior High Scool installing metal detectors a month later. My friend Amanda was suddenly concerned about what could happen to her for wearing black eyeliner and decorative chains and belts.

I remember being in Tel Aviv over a year ago when the climate between Israel and Palestine was particularly tense. I was shocked to find out that they had a panic room in my friend’s apartment building. Kenya, France, even Iceland, I can think of acts of violence in every country I have ever visited.

But my intention is not to talk about depressing realities for the fun of it, I just want to acknowledge the fact that all humans have the capacity and a tendency to be violent. It’s possible that if we accept that to be part of our nature, we can be more proactive about understanding why wars, for example, are a fundamental part of our history and still a reality today. I understand that it’s easier not to think about things that make us feel uncomfortable, but that level of detachment might not be beneficial if we are trying to generate change.

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If we remember that we are animals, self-proclaimed “advanced” mammals with a wide spectrum of emotions not limited to sadness and happiness, we’ll remember that just like others in nature, we can also be harmful when we experience rage and hatred. I want to acknowledge this so that we can let go of it, make a point not to feed each other’s dark side and stop pointing fingers that only trigger more violent acts.

I hope I’m not being self-righteous, I’m not doing anything about anything, really. What I’m doing is using this platform as an outlet so that I can understand my own feelings about this mess. And if every action starts with a thought, and if it’s true that ignorance leads to fear, fear to hate and hate to violence, then perhaps we can work backwards and think that if we acknowledge things, we will be more empathetic and start creating a more peaceful society. It’s just a hopeful start.

PS: Signature photos by Sierra Hartman. Black and white shot by Jonathan Remple. Thank you.

Water in Mexico

Baja is not Mexico and Ensenada is not Baja, but that was the part of Mexico that I got to explore with my mother to celebrate a new year. Some people told me being in Ensenada for a week was a long time, but I thought it would be easy to find exciting activities in a coastal town with good food and a common language.  So, I booked us a place on airbnb for 6 days.

We showed up to accommodations that were full of heart and modest. On our first night we walked down the street to a food court (Zona Gastronómica) recommended by our wonderful Mexican host. We loved it. Mom and I shared a cerveza artesanal and enjoyed our first tacos of the trip. As far as things going according to plan and staying dry goes, that was pretty much it for us.

IMG_4269For the rest of our time in Mexico, it rained every single day for most of the day. I guess before this, Ensenada had not seen rain in about ten years. Locals were shocked, farmers were thrilled and the few tourists around did not know what to do. Us included. I was forced to rethink all my adventurous ideas: instead of ocean kayaking, we went whale watching on a boat; instead of riding horses down the beach, we walked on it and instead of staying indoors only for sleeping, we played a lot of scrabble by the heater inside the room.

IMG_4712The rain allowed mom and I to experience a very different Ensenada than the one we would have seen, had we been there when it was dry.  Once my loose plans were overridden by nature, the only option was to go along with the water and follow its flow. We practiced twelve minutes of meditation every day and tried to let go of thoughts by focusing on the beautiful ocean in front of us, whether rain was pouring down or not. Everything about water is impressive and humbling. From our dependency on it to survive (running water in Ensenada is very salty and should NOT be used to make coffee, by the way), to its diverse presence in nature, where it can crash like a powerful wave or float on air like a delicate snowflake. It is incredible that we don’t all write poems about water and thank life for it, every single day.

IMG_4619I am back in California now and I will try and keep these thoughts in mind when I take a hot shower for a little longer than I need to. I will keep these thoughts close to my heart next time I miss my mother, because just like water, our connection is resilient and vast. And even though its physical appearance changes from time to time, our love is always present.

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The life of the self-employed

I have been freelancing since I came back from my big trip . When you are self-employed, staying busy doesn’t always mean that you are working on a gig. The line between work and life outside of it becomes blurry when you are doing it all by yourself. From figuring out Obama care and lining up your health insurance to casually browsing the web and reading about a new company looking to expand their brand, it’s all work.

Being self-employed is not a matter of working less hours. “Work smart and work less” doesn’t necessarily apply to me at this point. I am still growing my name (and my business) and since I am one of those lucky (and delusional) people that believe that work is play, I’m not even sure that my goal is to scale down on working hours. When I’m not working on a big all-consuming project, I spend around 20 hours per week looking for and bidding on projects. My goal is to have 10 hours of billable work every week and then the remaining 10 hours, are usually dedicated to working on content that I’m not yet being paid for. As long as I can pay my bills, this is not a bad breakdown of a regular 40 hour work week.

I have figured out a formula that keeps me interested and flexible. I go around the lake anytime I feel like it and I am rarely not able to make time for a trip.  I see music shows or movies at the theater on a weekly basis because I believe that they contribute positively towards my creative stamina.

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Broncho @ The Independent

There is always room for growth. If I were to cut my bidding hours in half (from 20 to 10), and turn half of that time into billable hours, I would have an ideal situation. My work week would look like this:

10 hours of bidding + 15 hours of billable work + 10 hours of “seed work” + 5 hours of experimental work

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To me, the breakdown above is the epitome of a balanced independent work life. My secret is to be proactive and open to new opportunities. With that said, I’m off to take a call for a part-time gig as a transcriber. Wish me luck!

PS: Signature photo by Connor Radnovich / The Chronicle and photo above by Danny Ortega.

Camping alone

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I edited the title of this post a few times realizing that when paired with the word “alone” solo camping sounded a bit gloomy.

I love camping. I used to do it as a kid on the beach with my family. Sandy-humid camping was frustrating at times but also stress free when there was no rain. Winter camping is a different story. I have camped in the middle of winter before but not alone and not in the northwest where the month of November is so very wet. The kind of wet that sips through your sleeping bag and keeps your toes confused with cold sweat.

I arrived in a campground outside of Klamath Falls National Park in Oregon around 5:30pm. Two RVs already there but only one tent. My tent. The temperature was mild while the sun was out but by 7:30pm dampness took over the space with a daring and freezing cold attitude, measured at 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

My only plan was to read Miranda July’s latest: The First Bad Man, so I climbed into “bed” holding on to her words and a bottle of whiskey. Soon, I decided that my fingers were too cold to hold onto the book and/or the flashlight replacing my broken headlamp. I thought to be sleepy enough to call it a night, so I did. I woke up feeling that it was probably still too early to watch the sunrise. I glanced at my phone and shivered at the “9:00” glowing on the screen, like a lonely ghost telling me we had a full night ahead of us.

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Since the whiskey didn’t work, I decided to eat the chocolate that I packed.  All of it. I read articles on my phone so I would not have to worry about lighting Miranda’s wacky words. I learned that “Adidam” even though considered cultish by many, has not been officially established as such on the internet. I learned that the ego is an exciting topic of discussion and a never ending conversation for philosophers around the world and for decades. As the night progressed, I played with the idea of Mister Ego not existing but being only a mystery designed to keep us entertained. I eventually fell asleep. The kind of sleep that is not really sleeping but more like sleepy waiting.

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In the morning I had a stiff neck and my tent was covered by a thin layer of ice and snow. I felt as fresh and you would expect I looked. I ran the car so that the 15 year old engine would defrost its shell and eventually I drove away with a new respect for myself and nature.

Every sight I saw that day was more magnificent than the sights I’d seen the day before. I thought about the gear I borrowed and kept me from freezing; I remembered the salad that kept me from hunger on a fireless night. “Little dolphin” which is what I call the ford focus, could not have come back into my life at a better time, thanks to Jonas. And for all the other people that kept my mind busy during a long drive, I could not help but feel incredibly thankful.

Solo camping is the same as camping alone but camping alone is not at all lonely when you are surrounded by love.

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The on-demand economy, online dating and long distance relationships

Dating apps like tinder and happn are successful at least partly due to the on-demand economy. I have not used happn but I will refrain from making jokes about the uselessness of yet, another dating app. I admit that I have used tinder more than once and I am past the point of thinking that I am better than it. Algorithm and coding make my options plentiful and swiping left or right to find a match gets rid of the burden (and the excitement) of trying to figure out if a feeling is mutual.

We mentally swipe left or right in real life all the time and even though some of us prefer the old-school way of meeting possible lovers, the truth is that dating friends or coworkers can have uncomfortable repercussions. Theoretically speaking, the odds of finding a desirable prospect while standing in line at Barnes & Nobles  are less than finding them through computer programming.

I think about the on-demand economy and how our society is ruled by the “ask and you shall receive” mindset. A tinder match is as convenient as the uber ride showing up with the push of a button. Online dating, much like the on-demand economy is based on efficiency.

 

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I sit at a bar by myself and nothing happens but I open an app on my phone and I find a sea of people wanting to make a connection. It’s clear that something is getting lost between my finger tips, the screen and the empty chair in front of me. Asking someone out in person today is as dated as hailing a yellow cab in San Francisco.

Technology allows us to open doors of opportunity to strangers from behind the safely locked doors of our homes and our routine. We start and maintain relationships across the country or from opposite sides of the world while we subconsciously question the need for face to face interactions.

Love that is curated by computers give us the freedom to remain independent and the insurance that there are plenty of virtual fish waiting, wanting and wishing for the same things we do.  For some of us, the convenience of the set-up translates into not knowing how to pursue and sustain flesh and blood exchanges in which a left swipe comes with a snarky look telling us to get lost and long-term relationships don’t camouflage mundane conversations with xxx’s and ooo’s.

PS: Signature images borrowed from dating firsts

Straight Outta Compton – Movie Review

I knew Straight Outta Compton would be entertaining and compromised by having people be featured in and connected to the funding of the film, like Executive Producer Dr. Dre.

Despite the fact that O’Shea Jackson (a.k.a Ice Cube’s son) was unsurprisingly a very close match to the role he portrayed, it took me about ten minutes to accept that the faces on screen were the icons that most of us are so familiar with.  I eventually gave in and embraced the facts as they were being presented: a chronological and somewhat disorienting series of events involving multiple interconnecting storylines.

The film was engaging except for perhaps a scene or two that were painfully cheesy due to heavy music cues and overly convenient blocking to set up the perfect brotherhood shot. That being said, there were subtleties to the performances in many of the emotional scenes and there was great power in the accurate recreation of huge moments of rap history. High production value made all the party scenes bootylicious and masterful editing allowed audiences to feel connected to millions of fans taken by the beat. 3026953-inline-i-2-how-spirit-award-nominee-keith-stanfield-dug-deep-for-his-big-short-term-12-breakdown-scene

When Lakeith Stanfield came onscreen it was clear that Snoop was in da house. The guy sitting in front of me raised his hands in the air saying: “Ain’t nothin’ but a G thang, baaaaabay!” and everyone laughed because we were all silently singing along too.

Sex, drugs and music will always sell and Straight Outta Compton is no exception. If looked at it as just another biopic, I would not be particularly inspired to write about it. What made this movie special are a couple of choices that I respect: The intentional inclusion of police brutality actions against African American communities, and the mention of how the gagster lifestyle is sensationalized not only by media but by the people. Even if the screen time dedicated to social commentary contributed towards a 2.5 hour long film that should have been 2 hours, I still support the effort to expose these issues. 960x410_0b2a51d27eb306730620fcea4ab26438 I hope that thousands of multicolored fans will walk out of the theater thinking that at the core of it, this could be a story about persistence, talent and hard work. I personally walked out believing that also I had something unique to say. I got inside my friend’s prius, speeding through the streets of Oakland on our way to the nearest Whole Foods, salads for dinner perhaps being the single least gangster thing anyone could ever do, but screw it. The whole time I was thinking: dare a police officer pull us over for no reason! If they did, I  would raise my middle finger and stand up for the minorities that I represent because “Fuck Tha Police” is about more than catchy lyrics, it’s about the voices of a generation that got tired of not being heard.

For that, I must give Straight Outta Compton 4 out of 5 starts.

PS: Thank you watchcloud, RollingStone and the odeon for the images that I hope you don’t mind me using.

When do we give up?

We’ve all had nights of putting headphones on and listening to “Late Night Tales: MGMT”, or, maybe for you it’s Sad Bear by Tony Sly.

Whatever it might be, I’m talking about Sunday evenings that come after a long week of meeting every day expectations and self-imposed deadlines to make ourselves better at something. Better at everything. We wake up, fill out another online survey and hope that we qualify to be part of a study that will pay 20 times more than our last gig. A gig that we hope was a scam because it was either that or we are completely incompetent. The truth probably sipping cocktails somewhere in between.

We think about the price we pay to make ourselves understood and be valued for our efforts. Recognition takes time and before the time comes, we must rely on ourselves to maintain momentum. A Stanford graduate said that results are commensurate with effort but Leonard Cohen says everybody knows the fight was fixed. At the end of the day, we find ourselves cleaning the cat’s litter-box and feeling thoroughly confused.

We text a friend. They say kindness is valuable but we don’t buy it.

We call a friend. They ask about us but we have nothing to say.

At the end of it, we find our existential debate to be as pointless as inviting a lesbian to a circle jerk. Why do we waste time philosophizing? People love Gatsby because he was doomed from the beginning but he still gave it a shot. We realize that the answer to our question doesn’t require another sexually offensive analogy because there is nothing to give up except for who we are. Giving up on ourselves is unfeasible, unsustainable and Sunday blues are nothing that a good night’s sleep won’t fix.

On Monday, we wake up feeling like we fought a war and we are not sure whether we won or lost. We go on and the day offers us the gift of a great lunch with friends who are celebrating a fruitful plantation. Their success, which is our success, reminds us that achieving great things requires hard collaborative efforts. So we go back to enjoying the view despite the spot in the lens. And the answer to the question above becomes simple: we don’t.


PS: Thank you for the signature image Fırat Erkuş!