For weeks and months we‘ve had the – now fading – corona alarm and corona standstill, or whatever this phase will be called in retrospect. The film and television industry paused for a long time and was held in some kind of waiting mode, even more actors and actresses than usual were without work. Only a few productions continued shooting after a while, e.g. Dresden TATORT (“Rettung so nah”), early evening series like NOTRUF HAFENKANTE and telenovelas like STURM DER LIEBE and ROTE ROSEN. Gradually more productions are starting now, but still with the great uncertainty of how to protect the health of those involved and whether health really is a priority and with the task of having to rewrite scenes, and change of how many scenes have to be rewritten, how the staging and directorial ideas and concepts need to be changed in order to abide the new safety guidelines.
Seize the Time! Opportunities and Chances
It was and is of course completely ok to do nothing at all in this standstill except to go for a walk and eat chocolate. Or taking care of the family or just getting along with everyday life (to observe something as simple and sensible as distance rules seems to overtax or provoke many fellow men, which can lead to considerable stress).
The emergency break was used in different ways within the film industry. Distributors and production companies were waiting for new cinema release dates for their films or moved them to streaming platforms. Others were and still are in the starting blocks, ready to continue projects or finally get the go ahead for them. Casting directors familiarize themselves with lesser-known actors and view their material with more time than usual. Scriptwriters, editors and production companies can spend more time on material and reworking scripts in the extended pre-production period (how often are books rewritten after shooting has already started!) Filmmakers revise their material, actors produce new video clips (e.g. for the actions #wirspielenzusammen and #becreativeathome) or participate in one or more of the countless, mostly newly created online training courses and workshops.
In the film and television industry, for example when putting together production teams, (too) much is (too) done with vitamin B. How about vitamin N instead? Directors, producers and editors can find out how many film people they don’t know, especially how many competent film women there are, and discover them for possible future projects. There aren‘t any female DoP‘s, sound mixers or composers for film music? Oh yes there are.
Let’s Continue, but in a Different Way
We all hope that at some point in time the everyday life of film making will begin and be filmed again, often coupled with the justified wish that things will turn out differently than before. I, for example, wish for models like the 8-hour shooting day that has long been normal in Denmark and probably Norway, and as an actress and part of the audience, I wish for more courage for other faces and other stories. Just to name two wishes. (More on request!)
Interest groups and other organisations are developing ideas and launching online petitions and calls, partly for funding, partly for how it is produced, what, and with whom.
The disadvantage and related under-representation of women in film has been extensively investigated and proven; now changes, improvements, remedies, solutions are needed. In mid-May, Pro Quote Film launched the call “When the film world starts up again, then only with Quote! Maybe because there are currently even more petitions than usual. And even more newsletters, even more digital information. And Christian Drosten, who together with the science journalists Korinna Hennig and Anja Martini was nominated for the Grimme Online Award for the NDR – Der Coronavirus-Update Podcast; you have to check and vote for all the nominees. Perhaps also because appeals, no matter how justified and argumentatively well formulated they may be, usually lack the decisive lever for implementation.
Behind the camera, gender quotas make sense, although it’s one thing to do with concrete implementation. That’s why some time ago I brought into play the proposal #2v6pN Two of Six (plus NEROPA), to which every production could voluntarily commit itself, from now on at once. This would require no great effort, no additional money, no overall view of several productions or broadcast slots. Because it is created individually for each production. Of course, a six out of fifteen or whatever is also possible. And no, I do not think it makes sense at this stage to demand 50% of all Heads of Department for women. We can discuss this in more detail another time. Just this much: For #2v6 I have taken into account that only 25% trained camerawomen and only 11% sound engineers leave film schools (there are no real training figures for film composers), so not three out of six. But don’t worry, #2v6 in German film and television would already be a small revolution. As a reminder: 71 % of the Top 100 German cinema films in 2018 and 73 % of the TATORTE 2019 did not reach this level, there was one or no Head of Department in the trades direction, script, camera, sound, editing and music. TATORTE are financed with public money and the vast majority of cinema films have received money from some source – be it film funding or the participation of public broadcasters. Surely a linkage to basic constitutional values (e.g. to Article 3) could be incorporated into the assemblance of a film team.
Here, too, there is the possibility that an individual production may work with the method or that an editorial department or film funding body may make it obligatory to work with or apply NEROPA.
More Female Variety in Front of the Camera
A 50% quota for women’s roles can of course be a good demand, but the implementation is not as easy as it would be if the team positions were behind the camera.
That’s why I invented the NEROPA Neutral Role Parity method, which in the first step (NEROPA Check) reduces the usual male overweight in scripts in favour of female roles, so that we get more female age diversity and more female characters with a profession. And in the second step (NEROPA fine-tuning) the diversity of the character ensemble is expanded.
Of course directors and scriptwriters can also work wih the method!
Spatial isolation does not mean social isolation. There are sufficient serious media, professional associations, trade journals and blogs, individuals and many others who report sensibly and comprehensively on Corona / Covid-19, necessary precautions and help for those directly and indirectly affected. The Berlin Charité has developed the CovApp (in German and English), where you can “answer a catalogue of questions within minutes and receive specific recommendations for action“. Other than that: stay as healthy and calm as possible! Wash your hands (and the displays of your mobiles) and keep the 2 m. distance. Protect yourself and others, help where you can, reward yourself with the Coronavirus Reward Stickers from Gemma Correll and use this retreat stayathome time to read, for example my blog. Best regards, BRS
If I had the German “Order of Merit”….
… this would be the moment to return it.
On Friday, 6 March 2020, fourteen women and five men were awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the highest distinction of this country, by Monika Grütters, Minister of State for Culture and Media. The press release 77 of the Federal Government states:
“Shortly before International Women’s Day, many women will be honoured for their outstanding artistic intermediary work and women and men for their commitment to greater gender equality. Minister of State for Culture Grütters praised the 14 women and five men as “courageous fighters for fair opportunities and successful role models in helping women in culture and the media to achieve equality. With their commitment, they are all helping to ensure that great women in culture and media receive the appreciation they deserve.”
Grütters continues: Women are still underrepresented at the top of cultural institutions and media companies, in committees and on juries. Since the beginning of my term of office, I have therefore been committed to improving gender parity at all levels in culture and the media”
This news reached me even in far away in Hessen (I was a jury member at the German TV crime dramas festival, more about that next week), several colleagues, friends and acquaintances from the film industry texted and e-mailed me. The most frequently used words were, however:
Joke, Farce, Outrageousness, Fiddling, Punch in the Face
Basically it is true of course that awarding women and men for “exemplary commitment to fair opportunities” is a good thing. However, a glance at the list of awardees is doubly sobering. For one, important personalities were passed over, and on the other hand, because some men received the order who had not really stood up for gender equality and women‘s rights in their area.
So why these 19? That‘s not all that understandable as there is little information available. Stefan Mertsch, BKM employee, explained:
Beyond the press release, there are no individual texts on the order recipients available unfortunately. At the ceremony last Friday, Ms. Grütters paid tribute to all individually with very personal words, which she phrased as she spoke. Please understand that there are no transcripts available. The reasons for the distinctions, on the basis of which the Federal President decided to award the Order of Merit, are subject to confidentiality.
I find this secrecy and confidentiality business a bit strange, even problematic. If there are good reasons to honour these 19 people, then Frau Grütters should share them with us, to make the decision transparent and as additional informative for all (who may not know all the people on the list). It also prevents any possible suspicion that the awarding of awards is something like the awarding of supervisory board positions, with possibly a bit of fiddling taking place behind closed doors.
The award ceremony was for invited guests only. It was open to the press however, i.e. members of the press with a press card. Unfortunately there are no longer video recordings. You can find a short video summary on our Twitter account.
(Stefan Mertsch via mail)
I don’t know whether any of the media present asked or even questioned the list, I found nothing about this in the reports on 6.3. In fact in most cases they only quoted above mentioned press release, without any comment.
Who are the 19?
Here‘s the alphabetical list. I did a bit of research to supplement the sparse information from the press release:
Dr. Ingrid Bodsch, Austrian historian, director of the Stadtmuseum Bonn
Michael Brandner, actor, BFFS acting union‘s founding member
Prof. emerita Dr. Ewa Sabine Chojecka, Polish art historian, co-founder of the working group of German and Polish art historians and monument conservators
Dr. Maria Gazzetti, publicist and translator, director of the Casa die Goethe in Rome (Germany’s only museum abroad)
Sylke Gottlebe, Film Curator / Cultural Manager, Director Filmfest Dresden / Short Films
Prof. Ulrich Khuon, Dramaturg, Director of the German Theatre Berlin, President of the German Stage Association
Dr. Ursula Krechel, writer, lyricist, playwright
Prof. Jeanine Meerapfel, film director and scriptwriter, President of the German Academy of Arts
Prof. emerita Dr. Irmgard Merkt, music educator, initiator of Network Culture and Inclusion
Regine Möbius, Writer, Vice President German Cultural Council
Heinrich Schafmeister, actor, BFFS acting union‘s founding member
Dr. Ralf Schenk, film critic, journalist, film historian. 2004-19 Member of the selection committee for the Berlinale Competition, board of directors of the DEFA Foundation
Gabriele Schulz, Deputy Managing Director of the German Cultural Council, author of the study “Women in German Culture and Media“
Dr. Irmgard Sedler, museum scientist and ethnologist, 2003-18 Director of the Museum in the Kleihues Building, Kornwestheim
Dr. Charlotte Seither, composer, GEMA Supervisory Board, Member of the Executive Committee German Cultural Council
Franziska Sperr, writer, journalist, translator, vice president German PEN Centre
Laurie A. Stein (Chicago, Berlin), art historian / freelance provenance researcher
Christel Strobel, film journalist, co-founder of Kinderkino München, co-initiator of the children’s film section at Filmfest München, co-founder/editor of children’s and youth film correspondence
Olaf Zimmermann, Managing Director of the German Cultural Council
Who is missing?
There are more women who represent “outstanding artistic mediation work” and more women and men who are committed to greater gender justice. Where, for example, are the representatives of Blickpilotinnen and the Verband der Filmarbeiterinnen? Where are women theatre professionals? The women from Pro Quote Bühne (pro quota stage)? Where are the film historians who campaign for preserving female film heritage? Where journalists like Ellen Wietstock (black box Filmpolitischer Informationsdienst) and Sophie Charlotte Rieger (Filmlöwin – the feminist film magazine), who tirelessly provide facts and open eyes? Where are the representatives of WIFT Germany, Pro Quote Regie (Directing), Pro Quote Film? Where actresses who advocate more visibility and more opportunities for women in front of the camera, fight for equal pay, for more participation and more power of female colleagues in the acting profession? Since people from film associations, are on the list, where are the others? Why not include directors Esther Gronenborn and Verena S. Freytag, who during their time on the board of directors of the film directors’ association initiated the First Diversity Report on Directing (annually updated, the 6th was published in 2018), and who were also involved in the founding of Pro Quote Regie? Why are there so few film departments, are there really no female producers, screenwriters, DoP‘s, commissioners, etc. who can be role models or who campaign for gender equality? Nobody from a film funding body? And what about Silke J. Räbiger, who was director of the International Women’s Film Festival Dortmund|Cologne from 2007 to 2018 (the 37th edition at the end of Mach has unfortunately just been cancelled)?
Of course it cannot be everyone’s turn at once, awarding 100 medals would be a bit unusual. But the fact that, of all people, two actors and co-founders of the Bundesverband Schauspiel BFFS, Michael Brandner and Heinrich Schafmeister, are being honoured on this very occasion and with gender politics reasoning, and at the same time no actress is on the list, is a slap in the face of all the women in the BFFS who wanted to get involved and were thwarted under the rule of Brandner / Schafmeister. A slap in the face of all women who have actually and for years and decades worked for gender justice, behind and in front of the camera.
What kind of signal is Frau Grütters sending out here? Doesn’t she know about the dedicated, politically active film women? Yes, I think she does. Then why is she ignoring so many of them? And if she wants to honour particular men (she may well do so), why on this particular occasion? Couldn’t this be done without claiming an alleged extraordinary commitment to women?
A woman needs to be Twice as Good
There is currently a trend where men are taking up women’s issues in order to distinguish themselves, while women artists continue to be excluded and continue to breathe through their invisible lives, even without veils. Theses orders of merit certainly partly fall into this category. Anyway, it’s quite something when a prize for gender justice goes to men five times! It seems to be enough to be accessible to the Pro Quote stage movement without at the same time hiring more female directors. This is always astonishing and shows how wonderful public life can be without women. Amina Gusner, director, author, co-founder Pro Quote Bühne / Stage
In the context of job and board positions, it is sometimes said that a woman needs to be be twice as good as a man in order to be recognised as equal. So is the opposite true that a man only has to be half as good? That is polemical, of course. But I was a little surprised at the men selected and the great commitment to women in the industry attested to them in the ceremony. (as I said, unfortunately I do not know the official reasons). A quick online search showed:
Ralf Schenk has published the book “Sie – Regisseurinnen der DEFA und ihre Filme” (She – female directors of the DEFA and their films) together with film scientist Cornelia Klaußin 2019. OK. His many years of involvement in the selection committee for the Berlinale Competition did not really lead to a large involvement of women directors, but perhaps he was a pioneer in the minority (I mean that seriously).
I found two quotes from Ulrich Khuon on the subject. One at a Bühnenverein meeting: “There must be a gender-equitable cast for the committees in the foreseeable future. Not today or tomorrow, but during the next two terms of office“. (N.N., BR Classic 10.6.18). This is not particularly bold, is it. Neither is his statement that “women should dare to follow their desire for children in the theatres too”. (quoted after Christiane Peitz, Tagesspiegel 18.7.17). But again, perhaps he has done much more for gender equality, I just couldn’t find it.
In the above mentioned short video of the BKM from the ceremony, you can find this statement:
Olaf Zimmermann: The fact that the gender paygap, i.e. that women, freelance women in the cultural sector earn so significantly less than men, namely 25% less, was really very frightening for me. I could not imagine that this was the case, and so I said that we must do something about it together.
Once again, I do not know the official reasons for the order, nor do I know what Mr Zimmermann has actually done or achieved in terms of equality for women in the cultural and media sector. The quote from the video, i.e. a new insight for him and a declaration of intent, would be too little.
Not to be misunderstood: I do not presume to be able to judge the cultural and political work of the recipients of the Order of Merit. I just wonder if it is possible that maybe one or two were to have been honoured for something else and for whatever reason ended up in this group and in this context. That would be bad for both (the honoured and the context).
It‘s interesting, by the way, to look at the official response from the acting union BFFS, who usually aren‘t exactly famous for restraint and modesty when it comes to mentioning actual and supposed merits. Several weeks or months ago they mentioned in a newsletter that Michael Brandner would be honored, omitting both Heinrich Schafmeister and ‘the gender context’. Both are also absent from the article “It is an honour for us” on the BFFS website dated 10.3., where the order of merit – only for Brandner – is explained with the founding of the BFFS. Why?
Anyway, here‘s Michael Brandner‘s comment in the BKM video clip:
Michael Brandner: Women must also compete and participate in politics, art and culture, even among the broad masses. And commitment is very important. To do this, you might have to push and pull them a bit, or convince them, or persuade them. As long as we don’t have parity, I don’t think the world will change significantly.
I don’t feel like writing any more about the BFFS, about the problems of the male-dominated and male-determining board from the very beginning, the negative experiences of the first three women, who were each alone among men on the board. I have no desire to write about the impossibility of becoming involved in the association as an actress and putting gender issues on the agenda, about the undemocratic structure of the association. Ask other ex-members, and/or read my old articles:
By the way, Mrs. Grütters personal words at the tribute to Michael Brandner began like this:
Michael Brandner is not only here today as a gifted and celebrated actor in film and television, but also as co-founder and long-standing first chairman of the Bundesverband Schauspiel Acting Union. I believe that you have all earned great merits, Herr Schafmeister is also here. Under your leadership, the association has initiated considerable social improvements for actors and actresses, but also for actresses (source: a video recorded with a mobile phone that was sent to me)
what she actually means with „the social improvements for actresses“ in particular remains open, or is it enough to do something for everyone, with women being included, as action for gender equality? I don’t think it does. Frau Grütters continues:
and also as I have just mentioned the foundation of Themis, the Advise Centre against Sexual Harassment and Violence, the acting union really did play a central and, for us, very important role, and that is why I am pleased to be able to thank you here today for this, not least with the Order of Merit.
“Themis” is one of those things. I found, for example, that the installation of it went far too fast and was a bit over the top (there were rumours that funds (from the BKM? I don’t know) were available and had to be acted upon quickly. But this is a different topic and too much for this article. Just this much: there are women’s emergency calls and advice centres throughout Germany, some of which originated in the autonomous women’s movement. Why start something completely new from stratch when there are already very good and highly qualified, decentralised structures? And why did the BFFS from the beginning send only men to the meetings, why were no female colleagues taken along, asked, included? Apparently Heinrich Schafmeister and Bernhard Störkmann (legal consultant of BFFS(went to these meetings from the beginning with an alreadz more or less finished concept, but I that is just from hearsay. Just a reminder: my blog text Weinstein and the Silence of the German Film Industry was published on 16.10.17, which was, as far as I know, even before the first articles in the media about the German situation, so I was already ‘in’ the topic. Other colleagues, at that time also in the BFFS, as well.
In any case: I find men who talk to women, or even better, who let women talk and listen to them, more constructive than men who – unasked – talk for women and leave them behind. That is not something I would file under ,commitment for gender equality‘.
But back to the Order of Merit, because I want to describe the basics on this award and also something particular about the events on 6.3:
So how is this “Order of Merit” Thing usually done?
It’s a side effect of the background research for my blog texts that I’m learning a lot of new things. And I’m happy to share that with you. Did you know that the initiative for such an order can come from all of us? Quoting from the website of the Bundespraesident / Federal President:
Everyone can suggest another person for the Order of Merit. The proposal should be sent to the administration (Staatskanzlei / Senatskanzlei) of the federal region which the person to be decorated lives. Proposals are examined by in the federal state or at the Federal Foreign Office. Formal proposals may only be submitted to the Federal President by the heads of the regional government of the 16 Länder / federal states for their citizens and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs for foreigners or for German residents abroad. The President in principle bases his decision on their examination results and only awards medals in consensus with them.
Many volunteers in our country have been working for others for many years and for a considerable amount of time. You know such a particularly active volunteer and want to encourage him or her to be awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany? You are welcome to fill out the following form online and then print it out or print it out directly and fill it out by hand. We would like to point out the following:
– Merely fulfilling professional duties or the flawless fulfilment of official duties of members of the civil service or the undertaking of honorary activities alone is not sufficient for an award. The honorary activity must have been carried out with great personal commitment for a longer period of time, putting aside personal interests. (…)
– Only individuals can be proposed, honouring groups are not possible.
By the way, n the case of the 19 Orders of March 6th, things went differently, as Stefan Mertsch informed me:
Frau Gruetters presented her proposals to the heads of the federal states and the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, respectively, and asked them to cede their rights of proposal. The proposals were sent via Frau Grütters to the Federal President, who made the final decision.
Actually it would be good to publish the reasons for the proposals and choices, so as not to give the impression of possible preferential treatment and to make the decisions comprehensible. Why does this not happen automatically anyway with this ‘highest award of the Federal Government or the whole state’?
A Short Conclusion
It makes sense to give great women in culture and media the formal appreciation they deserve. And also to honour men who work for equal rights. However, a number of names are missing from the list compiled by Frau Grütters, and a few do not quite fit.
If I held the Order of Merit, this would be the moment to return it.
On Feb. 1 I was listening to a literature show (LESART) on a German public radio station (Deutschlandfunk Kultur) when I noticed that the report on political books was only about men. I checked the website and for sure it was monogender: 0 women7 men, 4 male authors, 3 male reviewers. I tweeted my dissatisfaction:
A few weeks later Tarik Ahmia of the Deutschlandfunk editorial office „background culture and politics) contacted me and asked me to write a commentary for the programme slot Politisches Feuilleton / Political feature pages. He told me that I had been recommended by colleagues of the LESART because of my tweet (which they had answered to before: “We strive to offer a varied and balanced programme, also in regard to the gender of authors and reviewers. To our regret, however, this cannot always be implemented in day-to-day business. But we are doing our best!”Continue Reading →
TV Cop Dramas – Actresses can do more than play victims
German television is known to be quite crime-oriented. More and more formats, series and individual films of this genre are being produced, and it‘s increasingly rare that they get by without staging brutal murders and corpses in close-ups. However, it is possible to tell a thrilling and entertaining crime drama in a different way, and this is why I want to give the example of a Swedish mini-series, as counterbalance to the films that begin with a brutal rape or the discovery of a young, pretty, abused, dead woman. Actresses can do more than play victims.
Two Female Criminals and Two Corpses Off-Screen
By coincidence – because the films and series on arte tv are unfortunately not advertised enough – I discovered JUST A BANKROBBERY / ENKELSTÖTEN shortly before its term in the media library expired. The 6-part Swedish series (44 min. each) by Felix Herngren is based on the novel ENKELSTÖTEN: PSYKOLOGISK THRILLER by Swedish author Tomas Arvidsson (*1941), which does not seem to have been published in German nor in English. I rang the Swedish embassy in Berlin and a friendly employee – whose name I unfortunately didn’t catch – told me that Engelstöten means ‘single thrust’. Arvidsson also wrote the crime novels DUBBELSTÖTEN and TRIPPELSTÖTEN (and others).Continue Reading →
Before the year 2019 ends, – but not yet the decade! – here is a short update on the ARD series TATORT (German top TV cop drama) and the female writers’ initiative Tatort: Drehbuch.
I already analysed TATORT several times under different aspects, such as the percentage of women in 6 departments and in the main cast, from 2011 onwards, and also looked at the situation in the different TATORT regions. For example:
The reason for this is not that I’m a TATORT fan or love crime fiction, and not even because it’s considered the most prestigious fictional TV production (with the highest wages on public TV?) – but one of the reasons is that the data output is so convenient which makes analysis easier. There are the TATORT subpages on ard.de, where all films (90 min individual episodes) of the last TATORT years are listed. That’s great, because if I wanted to analyze the ZDF TV movies of the week, for example, research the titles alone would take a lot of time as they are not systematically listed online. For the TATORTs they give the main cast as well as the film titles and usually three to four team positions: director, writer, DoP and composer. TATORT fans can also find photos and synopses and interviews and information from the shootings and the music titles used. Good service, thanks for that!
TATORTs 2019: The 6-Departments-Check
Today I’ll first present the 6-departments-check for the 37 TATORTs that were first broadcast in 2019, set in 20 different cities. The most frequent ones were Cologne and Vienna (three times each). The percentages of share of women and men are shown for the departments: Continue Reading →
Years ago I had worked on a documentary film, an exciting project that led to a special film, an (almost) very good one. Only almost, because of the sound! Unfortunately they did not record the sound separately in many scenes but used the camera sound. So the sound quality was quite bad, which was a strong reason why the film was rejected by several regional TV programmes. That, and the length of the film. 52 minutes, that didn’t fit on any airtime, but that’s a topic for another day.
The sound of a film production is made by a lot of people, not only the actresses and actors with their voices, words, sighs, laughter and their footsteps, and the musicians, but also the sounds, the atmosphere and more, and that brings us to the filmmakers in the sound department. There are various sound jobs in a sound department, and they are usually taken up by men.
Sound Mixers in Film and TV
The first diagram shows she share of women for the sound mixing position in German TV‘s top cop drama TATORT (crime scene), and for the Top 10 to Top 100 German films of the last eight years. The share of men amongst graduates from film school for this qualification is 89 %.
We see sound mixing women in every investigated film group. However, all values – for the TATORT, Top 10, 20, 50 and Top 100 German feature films – are below the 11% female graduates share. In some years there were no female sound mixers at all, for example in the TATORTs 2012 and 2018 and the Top 10 films 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018. Is sound for women what costume design is for men? Are female sound mixers not trusted with the work, so that only their male colleagues are regularly engaged for productions?
Sources for these figures are the databases of Filmportal, Crew United, IMDB and production websites. Researching sound engineers is often the most time-consuming part of my 6-job checks. Side note: the short infos at the beginning of the Filmportal entries contains five team positions: director, screenplay, DoP, Editing and Music, in the Crew United database it is director, screenplay, production (and for cinema films distribution). Additional team positions (including sound mixers) are also listed. At IMDB, the short version only includes the director, writer and stars, while the other team positions, mostly very incomplete, follow as additional information. On the ARD TATORT website we find music, camera, script and direction. And on Wikipedia there is usually direction, script, production, music, camera and editing. I think that the sound department a vital part of a film prodcution, which is why I included the department in my proposal #2v6pN.
Six Sound Positions
The sound department consists of a number of work areas. For six of them, sound mixer, sound assistant, foley artist, recording mixer, sound editor, sound designer, Vincent Lutz provided me with the corresponding statistics from the Crew United database, which tends to give a very good cross-section of the professional activity. The job profiles of these and other film sound professions can be found on the website of the bvft Berufsvereinigung Filmton / Professional Association for Film Sound.
The share of women doesn‘t reach 13% in any of the six sound positions. This gender imbalance is much higher than for example in the camera department (2017: DoP 9.9 % women, first camera assistant 15.9 %, second camera assistant 31.4 %. Source: Crew United).
The low percentage of women isn‘t that understandable. In radio play productions and also in dubbing, I encountered women frequently at the recording desks. In the current digital age, there are a lot of female youtubers and podcasters who are familiar with the admittedly less demanding sound technology. Nevertheless, I don’t understand the fear of or the lack of interest in sound technology. When we were children we produced our own radio plays with two cassette recorders, one for the voices, one for the atmosphere, e.g. a forest or street noise. But that’s a story for another day.
And before I ponder about women with no affinity for sound technology for much longer, I‘ll put these questions to the film sound women.
Women in Sound Network
This February a small group of film sound women got together to form a network and set up a professional association. Why? This is what they write on their website Filmtonfrauen.de:
Filmtonfrauen e.V. aims to collectively promote the presence and achievements of women in the film industry. Currently, only 4% of film sound professionals are women – we want that to change! Our website pushes to highlight and challenge industry acceptance of stereotyped gender roles in film sound, and promotes role models for women seeking a career in film sound. We want to encourage young women to pursue careers in sound, and we campaign through positive dialogue and networking, to improving the career opportunities of women in film.
Our website profiles the diversity of Filmtonfrauen e.V. members and their work, and simplifies the process of finding the right sound woman for any given film project. We’re actively seeking to expand our network and invite all women and non-binary gender-identified working in the film industry to join us.
The Sound of Sound
At the moment there are about 20 sound women presented on the website, hopefully there will be more. I spoke briefly with two of them, film sound mixer Claudia Mattai del Moro (klangfarberei.com) and sound editor / sound designer Felicitas Heck (twoleftears.de):
SchspIN: How do people end up professionally in sound?
CLAUDIA: There are different ways of training. Either by studying at a film university that also offers film sound, by dual training as a media designer picture and sound or by taking the “old” path of an internship, sound assistant / boom operator. The studies and training offer a good foundation and theoretical training with practical elements and initial short film experience. The entire sound processing is taught and learnt. Depending on the training company or interest, you decide in which direction you want to go. Postproduction or original sound (set).
FELICITAS: there is no regular way to do it. Many come via the HFF Potsdam (film university), or have studied sound engineering at the UDK (University of Arts Berlin). But there are also people who specialize in the field of film sound after a sound engineering education. And many also have a musical career and somehow end up in film. My CV is stringent, but not necessarily representative.
SchspIN: Why are there so few women in film sound professions? Camerawomen are often mistakenly denied “the ability to carry the heavy equipment”, this would be even less the case with you.
FELICITAS: There are so few women, because sound engineering is one of the STEM disciplines and many are afraid of technology, mathematics, physics. Or it‘s bcause there is simply less confidence in women, it starts with them getting lower marks in school than boys for the same performance, etcetera. And of course there are no female role models.
SchspIN: In analogue times, women always sat on the tape in the recording studios of broadcasters. Was sound on film sets always a male domain or has it changed due to digitalisation, for example like with film editors?
FELICITAS: Yes, there used to be a lot more women in the field of sound technology as well, especially in post-production. And here, too, the socialisation and schooling of women* and girls* plays a major role.
SchspIN: Does it make a difference whether a sound team on the set consists only of men or whether there are also women?
CLAUDIA: I’m told that as an actor or actress it makes a difference whether a woman or a man puts on the lapel microphone. We want to attach the clip-on microphones “invisibly” and therefore have to get very close to the performers. That calls for respect, sensitivity and a sense of proportion. Men can do that too. Personally, I usually work with a male assistant, so the actors have a choice and can decide for themselves whether they prefer to be “wired” by a woman or a man.
SchspIN: It says on your website: “We want to encourage young women to take up sound professions”. Where is the greatest demand at the moment, whether for women or men?
CLAUDIA: Currently there is a great need for sound assistants / boom operators. There is far too little young talent in this area.
SchspIN: There are many Youtube women who produce their own videos and audios. Perhaps this shows that the technical threshold is no longer so high. What could attract girls and women to film sound professions and what are the most important required qualities?
CLAUDIA: The film sound professions are more creative than their reputation. Technical knowledge and skills are a means to an end. Just like, for example, graphics software for graphic designers. In my opinion, the most important characteristics are: Curiosity, pleasure in sounds, tenacity and perseverance. Regulated working hours are probably the exception, interesting people, funny, exhausting, exciting, boring, extraordinary situations, moments and encounters the rule.
FELICITAS: The qualities required for film sound professions result from a combination of technical know-how and creativity combined with empathy. Only if the mood and atmosphere are positive, whether on a set or in the studio, and the performers feel comfortable, do I get good sound recordings.
SchspIN: And why did you become a film sound woman?
CLAUDIA: I’ve always been interested in sound and technology. But I only figured out in my mid-thirties how to make it my profession. I found a concert sound engineer in Switzerland who took me with him and trained me. After three years on tour with him I wanted to work in a studio. That’s how I came to Hamburg. There I set animated films to music and then trained as a media designer for picture and sound at Studio Hamburg. I‘ve always loved new challenges.
FELICITAS: I came to sound through music. I played the piano for a long time and after my training in sound engineering, I ended up in a film sound postproduction company by chance. A few years later I completed a Sound-Studies-Master at the UdK. Using my well-trained ear in a creative way to make films emotionally experienceable and to create new sounds is a challenging and beautiful task with every film.
SchspIN: What has been the response among colleagues and generally in the industry to the “women in sound” project so far?
FELICITAS: I‘ve received very positive feedback from many of them. But I also often hear that women* are afraid of being placed in the “feminist corner” when they are visible on our website. They are afraid of getting fewer jobs. I find that very problematic. Actually, it should be the other way around, right? Those who don’t clearly commit themselves to feminism shouldn’t get any more jobs and certainly shouldn’t be in decision-maker positions.
SchspIN: Thank you! And all the best for your network.
In den letzten Wochen haben manche hierzulande oder in der Onlinewelt das Brexit-Spektakel in London mit einer Fernsehserie verglichen, die schon seit mehreren Staffeln das Publikum in Atem hält. Es wurden Plottwists bewertet und über neue Figuren und Handlungsstränge spekuliert. Das ist nicht die einzige Parallele zum BFFS, der umso mehr unterhält, je weniger man fürchten muss von den Auswirkungen der tatsächlichen oder fehlenden Verbandspolitik betroffen zu sein.
BFFS: Fact and Fiction
Hat der BFFS das Zeug zu einer Fernsehserie? Oder zu einer Reihe von 60- oder 90-Minütern? Davon handelt der heutige Text, der in einzelne Episoden unterteilt ist, Zeitsprünge und Rückblenden inklusive. Unvollständig. Ein erster Entwurf.
BFFS – DIE SERIE handelt von Macht und Manipulation, und ist in der Glamourwelt des Films und ihren Schattenseiten angesiedelt – aber nicht nur da.
Also ein ähnliches Thema wie zum Beispiel DER DENVER-CLAN (Ölbranche. USA, 9 Staffeln mit insg. 218 45-min. Folgen, 1981-89) und BAD BANKS (Finanzwelt. D / LUX, bislang 1 Staffel mit 6 ca. 50-min. Folgen, 2018).
Ich werde am Rande auch einen kurzen Blick auf das Potenzial von BFFS – DIE SERIE als Comedyformat werfen, wo es sich anbietet.
Dass die Hauptfiguren / die autokratischen Vorstandsmänner eher unsympathisch rüber kommen muss nicht unbedingt schaden und ist auch kein Seriennovum. Gehen wir zurück zum erwähnten DENVER-CLAN. Dort steht der alte, megareiche Partriarch Blake Carrington im Zentrum, ein skrupelloser Businessmann mit aggressiven Zügen und Kontrollzwang. Er lässt seine junge zweite Frau Krystle (die ehemalige Sekretärin) überwachen, stellt sie regelmäßig auf die Probe, macht Psychospielchen mit ihr, vergewaltigt sie als sie einmal keinen Sex mit ihm will. Den Lover seiner Tochter Fallon lässt er zusammenschlagen, den Exlover seines schwulen Sohns Steven tötet er fahrlässig und gegen den Sohn, der zwischenzeitlich ein Kind gezeugt hatte (das waren die 80er, da schwankte der Schwule im Film zwischen schwul und hetero hin und her) strebte er einen Sorgerechtsstreit um seinen Enkel an. Beruflich trat er aggressiv auf, lehnte Kooperationen mit anderen ab und war eigentlich darauf aus, alle Gegner platt zu machen oder aufzukaufen. Seine zweite Frau liebte ihn natürlich trotzdem, fast die ganze Zeit. Mehr erinnere ich gerade nicht, wir hatten vor ein paar Monaten mal die ersten beiden Staffeln gebingt.
Aber wie gesagt, das waren die 1980er. Ein reiner Männerhauptcast (BFFS-Vorstandsmänner) mit Frauen als Staffage (Vorstandsfrauen) passt dramaturgisch eigentlich schlecht in die Kreativbranche des 21. Jahrhunderts. Und in einer Branche, in der Teamarbeit fundamental ist – wir reden hier ja nicht von der Ölindustrie – einen Alleingang nach dem anderen zu betreiben und die gewöhnlichen Mitglieder vorrangig als Masse, Beitragszahlende sowie als fleißige Helfer*innen zu sehen…. Hm. Selbst in einer Serie wie BAD BANKS waren zwar alle irgendwie unsympathisch, aber niemand so einseitig. Auch den Hauptanwalt der Serie – den Justiziar des Vorstands – würde man heute eigentlich mit einer Frau besetzen, das ist gut, endlich einmal eine böse Frauenfigur. Aber neben den alten weißen Männern einen weiteren alten weißen Mann, der knallhart agiert und gleichzeitig gewissermaßen vom System profitiert (div. Geschäftsführungs- und andere Posten, eine ausgelastete Kanzlei und eine gut finanzierte Bürogemeinschaft), das ist alles zu glatt.
Gut, man könnte in den Vorstand einen Guten als Sympathieträger und einen Nerd als Comic Relief einbauen, Hahnenkämpfe erfinden, Mobbing, gar einen Aufstand der Vorstandsfrauen (häufig überlieferter Satz: „da muss ich die Männer fragen“), Schicksalsschläge und Affairen, – da könnte noch einiges die Monotonie aufbrechen. Oder es wird eine Comedy, da bleiben Figuren ja auch meistens ein bisschen stereotyp und entwickeln sich nicht weiter. Aber selbst da wären vermutlich „die da oben“ die Bösen, und die Sympathie läge bei den Kleinen. Wobei die ,Bösen‘ durch Humor punkten könnten. Aber das kommt in der Realität bislang nicht vor. Continue Reading →
TATORTs and their Locations, 2011 to the Summer of 2019
In my analysis with 15 illustrations today, I take a look at the 22 new TATORTs in the first half of 2019, especially at the distribution of women and men in the six departments directing, screenplay, photography, sound, editing and music. Additionally I will look at the first mentioned roles in the scripts and the main casts, which are the roles listed on the ARD TATORTE pages, on average 12 roles per film.
Secondly I added the 2019 values to those of the TATORTs 2011 to 2018, again with regard to the six team divisions, and confront it with my suggestion 2 of 6 (#2v6pN).
Finally, the third part deals with the TATORT locations and copper teams. I checked the gender shares for the six departments there. Are there differences between the cities? Yes, there are. In some cities there has never been a script that was only written by female authors. Actually, 15 out of 28 cities haven’t had them. That’s not good. There was no female director in 9 of the 28 TATORT cities during the investigated years. More on this below.
The source for my investigations is broadcaster ARD’s TATORT subpage with all the cases and first TV dates, main casts and some information about the crew. The rest I researched mainly on Filmportal and Crew United. For the age analyses of the actors I used the databases Filmportal, Filmmakers, Crew United / Schauspielervideos as well as actors’ and agency websites.
What happened so far in 2019 up to the Summer Break?
Behind the Camera
Usually there are 35 to 36 new TATORTs every year. There is a break in the summer, I investigated the 22 TATORTs up to that point.
Good news is that the proportion of female directors for the 22 TATORTEN is 22.7 %, which is a new high since the start of my evaluations in 2011. Of course, it is still a long way from there to the share of female graduates in directing at film schools – because that is 44 % – but at least it is coming close to the 25.3 % share of female directors in the Crew United database, and it meets the 20 % target that the production company Degeto has set. But here, as already described in Crimes from a Male Perspective, the simultaneous disadvantage of a single-focus target becomes clear: the tunnel view on the directors ignores the other departments. Only one female DoP was responsible for a 2019 TATORT (Jutta Pohlmann at the Lucerne-Swiss Tatort AUSGEZÄHLT / Counted Out). Female sound mixers? Just like in the previous year, there have been none so far. A Frankfurt TATORT had a femalecomposer: Iva Zabkar (DAS MONSTER VON KASSEL / The Monster from Cassel). 12.1 % of the TATORT scripts were written by female authors (summer 2018: 7.1 %), however none independently but in three teams with male authors. No TATORT was written only by a woman or a women’s team. As usual, the stories are told primarily from a male perspective. Once again, the editors are predominately female (22.7 % male editors).Continue Reading →
Gender and Inclusion Policies in British Television
Momentarily we hear quite a lot of bad news from the United Kingdom (UK), which actually should have been called UQ United Queendom ever since 1952. The Brexit, the proposed No-Deal Brexit, the new Prime MinisterAlexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who was only elected by members of the Conservative Party, the lack of discussion about returning stolen art and cultural assets to their countries of origin (think of the British Museum), an astonishing waste policy (do they really not have a refundable bottles system?) and so on and so forth. But that’s not what today’s text is about; on the contrary, I want to write about something quite positive, where the UK/UQ is more advanced in comparison to other countries, e.g. to Germany: initiatives and programmes for gender equality and inclusion in the television industry, especially behind the camera.
I met both Ratcliffe and Rawcliffe – the names probably are coincidental – through Anjani Patel, Head of Diversity at Pact (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television). Anjani & Pact organize Inclusive Casting Workshops for independent producers. In these workshops NEROPA is also discussed, and I may get the chance to present it there myself in the near future.
Anjani in turn was introduced to me by filmmaker Rebecca Brand, whom I mentioned for the first time here in the article Tis early practice…. . Or was it Jennifer Smith, Head of Diversity at the BFI British Film Institute, after the NEROPA Symposium in January 2017? Or both? Everyone seems to know each other, and I have been getting to know quite a few of them as well, some only digitally or via telephone so far. Thus the Westminster Insight Event was also a great opportunity to finally meet old acquaintances in real life on the by – like for example Leila Kurnaz and Natasha Connors from Ofcom. Whose colleague Vikki Cook, Director of Standards and Audience Protection at Ofcom, gave the keynote lecture that day.
There was a five day gap between the two dates, but I didn’t want to jet back and forth, so I stayed on until the ITV meeting and then went back via train, including the Eurostar, and yes, the connection Berlin-London by train is feasible without problems, it takes longer than the flight and is more expensive, but you have more space to work or sleep than in a plane, it is quieter and the view is more varied. Also the route leads through a number of German and Belgian cities, so you can also interrupt and visit people. Or drive through. 10 hours from city centre to city centre is doable, isn’t it?
Westminster Insight: Gender Equality in Television
Use by kind permission from Westminster Insight
The conference provided a condensed insight into the current state, data monitoring, initiatives and programmes, achievements, existing shortcomings, challenges and more. From the announcement:Continue Reading →