Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Young & Beautiful vs. Old & Talented


   Every morning driving to work, I would pass this billboard in Hollywood. Without the type across the images and reading Left to Right are: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, And Diane Keaton.
The names are listed in that order across the top.
My training in advertising taught me to design using color, images, and composition to attract the viewer. And to attract the audience you are going for. Most people don't notice the specific color choices and images used when advertising a show or a candy bar.
But, this billboard is very clear:

  The first image you see is Harrison Ford front and center. Handsome, familiar, box office superstar, safe, attracts the male viewer, and creates curiosity about the content of the film. To the left is the young, beautiful female, wearing a short skirt and showing some thigh, with a naive expression with big, beautiful eyes and eyelashes, that will beckon the young male viewer (maybe a good date film). She leans in towards Harrison Ford, his expression showing there is a connection between the two (older man, younger woman). Over on the right, slightly turned away from the other two, is the older, intelligent and stubborn (as displayed with her arms crossed) female. She has a big smile to remind us that she can be fun too.
  As always in entertainment, females and age cannot compete with a man of any age. Harrison Ford needs two females surrounding him in order for the movie executives to feel comfortable knowing their demographic is being reached. Even though women will most probably be the main audience for this film, they are second and third fiddle to the male.

  I try to stay positive as I age gracefully in the entertainment industry. Sometimes fooling myself by thinking, "Well, I'm not an actress, so I don't have to be young and beautiful." I dress like the people around me at work to make sure I fit in. In animation, that means wearing jeans every day. I try not to look too feminine by wearing dresses or skirts (the guys I work with would not recognize me). When we banter at the water cooler, I joke around with the guys and get used to their sense of humor (it is different at every studio, and usually pretty vulgar). There are very few women in an animation studio, and the women who work there have to follow the men's cues.

  Usually, the females are in production with a smattering of female artists sprinkled in the cubicles. Most directors, assistant directors, and story artists are male. I have worked with many female producers, some of whom I respect, and some I do not. The female co workers I do not respect are the women who put other women down, gossip about each other, and are harder on women than the men in the work place. Sometimes these women, usually in a position of power, use other women in the work place as scapegoats for mistakes they have made. So they look good to their male superiors.

  I have recently experienced some of this displaced sexism. Not by male colleagues, but by females trying desperately to act male. It reminds me of the billboard above. My place is the 3rd position, on the right. I am the older female on the crew. Experienced and I refuse to be treated badly. I am underpaid and I keep up with the younger females and single males, and do beautiful work.

But,

I am a Mom.
With 5 kids.
And that is where I become a statistic. Underpaid, not respected, and the first to go on a crew with mostly men who work weekends. The younger women, even cranky ones, do not get layed off very often.
I refuse to work overtime for free like the others. But, that is my downfall. Although I am talented, fast, and extremely reliable, I will not work for free. I have learned in this business that there is no loyalty and everyone is layed off at some point. All TV shows must come to an end.

  Don't get me wrong, I love my male co workers. They are sweet and fun and always complimentary of my work. Unfortunately, I am, as they are, a statistic.

I hate statistics!
They mess with my denial and happiness.
I want to believe that none of this exists. I tire of whiners and negative people complaining about animation.  Too many critics out there.

Although, I have no idea what comes next, I will try desperately to stay positive about my career in this industry. I love what I do. And I love the people I work with.

But, let's make this business family and human friendly!

5 comments:

  1. We should have made all industries family friendly long ago! The new generations coming in are always too star-struck from the flattery they get to think about what will happen 20 years into their own futures. Industries always flatter the replacements. I had a friend from India who used to infuriate me by saying that her people were out-competing Americans because, "In our culture, you have to be the best to survive, and Americans are used to just coasting and getting by OK anyway." Yes, we Americans just slide by without effort. Months later, as she watched the company, she got it that she was not "better," just cheaper...but that does not make much of a pep talk when you hire a new crew, does it? So they all think they are better because they win (for now), and we lose. Something wrong with this picture.

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  2. Carol, It's been a while since we have worked together. But what I do remember about seeing you everyday while at work was your elegance. You always had style, class and way about you that stood out from the other girls that where just trying to look like the guys. Yes sexism does exists, yes our industry has many flaws . Believe me being the only black director at Klasky, Nick, and most every studio I have ever worked, also only the second person of color to ever direct a feature film, the first to do a 3D film, I understand how you can feel this way. But what I have learned is do not let the industry validate or define you are to become. Although there are compromises, I do try and continue to march to my own drummer. Even when I hear execs say that younger directors are more in touch with the audience now. Experience allows me to prove them wrong. even through are industry isn't as strong as our live action counter parts I encourage you to let the sexism be acknowledged but not a stumbling block that will hinder you from moving forward and worse start planting seeds of doubt about your place in this art form we love so much. You deserve to be hear and there are very few people that can do what you do as well as you do it. I'm not just blowing sunshine at you, that's a fact based on the longevity you have had in this industry. I met you in 1990. I still have the photo of you , Nancy, Mohawk Mike, Carlos and I playing Twister. there was a glow about you then and there is a glow about you now that echo in the words that you use to describe the passion and concern you have for you art. I do know what is going to happen for you next. Because of your talent (not your age or the way you dress) you will land another job doing what you love. Just get out there, Carol. Some studio is looking for just that talent.

    Best,
    Anthony B

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  3. Thank you Tony. What a wonderful message to receive today. You are too sweet!
    I love the animators, actors, and writers in the business. Everyone is so supportive, like you.

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  4. How sad to hear that the industry I've always dreamed of working in is just as messed up as any other job. You deserve better.

    Anthony sounds like a real class act. What a great friend!

    Best of luck to you,
    Carolyn Pile

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