A Gal’s Guide to Making a Movie is a new weekly written series by Erin Bagwell. To view the whole series click here.
Part Ten: The Interviews
The first day on set I woke up ready to rock. This was it, this was the day I would walk on my first feature length film set as a real director.
And gals, was I ready? You already know the answer— Hell ya, I was!
I got up at 5:30am, packed my clapbox, my notes, a box of frosted mini wheats and hit the subway to meet the girls on set.
Since this was our first day in the new location Mary, Komal and I got there a bit early to make sure the space was clean and camera-ready. All the equipment had been loaded in the night before so we would be ready to start building the set once the crew arrived.
There was a fresh excitement that was palpable and the girls were eager to connect with one another- most of them had never worked on an all female-crew before. Komal (I would later learn) had never been on set before at all.
Being on set is akin to playing a show in a band- everyone needs to play individually but be performing at the same time. When the talent gets on set (aka the person you are interviewing) the energy skyrockets. It’s showtime.
That being said, you don’t get a chance to practice altogether beforehand. I had to hire each woman based on an instinct I had that their individual energy and talent would amplify the group as a whole. It’s a tricky place to be in and can be further complicated by the technical problems that always happen when it’s showtime.
Tension is high, but as the director it’s my job to maintain a relaxed and upbeat energy, I set the tone that everyone else will emulate. Something else I was intentional about was wanting my set to feel collaborative. I didn’t just want to dictate, I wanted to let my crew lead- they were the experts in their craft, and I wanted them to step up and take ownership over what they were doing.
But to be honest, the women I hired gelled almost instantly. I remember walking around the first day and having the crew set up in under a half and hour. They were so efficient and excited about working together we spent most of the morning that first day talking and tweaking, waiting for our first guest.
I suspected part of the reason for such immediate synchronicity was the fact that on most production sets, women are a rarity. Usually you are the only one. On my team, everyone was a woman, and as such, was free to totally be themselves. This might not seem like a huge deal, but it was actually life-changing. Everyone on our team had a purpose and a voice, which they felt comfortable with expressing each and every single day. We were all part of the process, everyone mattered.
At the end of interviewing each CEO, I would open the floor up and the crew would ask questions. In between our first and second interviews we would all sit on the floor, eating our lunches together picnic style. Sometimes discussions of favorite founders, inspiring companies, or sexual harassment in the workplace would extend well into the evening after the cameras stopped rolling, snowballing into deep, meaningful dialogues where we’d share and reflect on each other’s experiences. These conversations were just as interesting as the ones we filmed.
And after three weeks of interviews, on the last day I put our team on the other side of the camera, filming them while they shared the advice they learned from their favorite CEOs and what it was like to work on an all female crew.
I think Daisy Zhou, our lighting engineer, summed it up best: “I work in camera and G&E a lot so I’m most often times the only girl on set. And, it’s hard because I’m not only a girl but I’m small and skinny and I’m surrounded by dudes all the time who are doing heavy lifting and they immediately peg me as like, some bambi in the woods…So working on an all-girl crew it just felt natural and I didn’t know what to do with it. Because I didn’t know what it felt like to not be on my toes all the time in terms of power relations. I had all this energy that I’m use to using that I didn’t have to use here, which is a beautiful thing because I shouldn’t have to use it.”
This was how a lot of us felt. All of a sudden we were taken seriously, we didn’t have to prove our expertise. No fear, no second guessing, no doubt. What I was wearing or if I had makeup on – didn’t matter. No one cared how long my hair was or how short my skirt was.
The only thing that mattered was doing amazing work. We were the experts. We made the rules.
We got to be men for a month, and it was fucking awesome.
Next time on a Gal’s Guide to Making a Movie. Part 11: The City, what do we film after the interviews, and how do we build out the story of the film.
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