Camera crews can be very heteronormative and there is a lot of toxic masculinity, argued DP Michael Filocamo during the online IMAGO and Digital Orchard Foundation Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable at Camerimage. Also noting the current situation in Poland and even calling out the festival itself.
“As a queer cinematographer, I have experienced homophobia from the official Camerimage security guards at the official Camerimage venues,” he said, mentioning that other colleagues were spat on or forced to change accommodation upon arrival in Poland. But such behavior can be also experienced on set.
“Once, I had another camera assistant say to me: ‘Thank god it’s Friday and we don’t have to be around these pink people anymore.’ It creates anxiety,” he said. “We all know high-level queer DPs and they should come out, because we need to start talking about it openly. If there is one thing we learnt this year it is that silence is violence.”
ASC’s Bonnie Elliot added: “Women are tired of talking about being ‘female cinematographers’ and I understand this fatigue, but it’s not a secret that Rachel Morrison has a wife. She is a trailblazer and she is open about who she is, which is encouraging. I am not here to out anybody, but it would be wonderful if they would make this choice.”
As the panelists underlined the need for everyone to see themselves represented at every level in the industry, using call sheets can be a way to express one’s identity on set (“Sometimes I also paint my nails. It’s a signal,” added Filocamo) as well as letting others know they can reach out for help.
“I am a mental health first aider and when I worked on ‘His Dark Materials’ I asked the production to put it on the call sheet. They said no, but I basically ignored them and wore a T-shirt that said that on the back,” said Leo Anna Thomas, who became a mental health advocate after losing two friends to suicide.
Trying to generate awareness around so-called “wellbeing facilitators” with Matt Longley and helping production companies take care of their freelance crews, she aligns the role to that of the intimacy or stunt coordinator. “A stunt coordinator would never let the shoot go on if they thought someone would be harmed. When I talk to the producers, their eyes glaze over when they hear about ‘breathing techniques’ so I bring up facts and statistics, and how much money they are going to save,” she noted.
Indeed – as argued during the panel, making sure that sets are diverse and providing a safe working environment can be in the producer’s best interest. Still, as noticed by Nina Kellgren (“Solomon and Gaenor”), the industry hasn’t caught up with the idea that anyone can be a cinematographer.
“Between 1999 and 2016, in BSC there were only three female members and two Black members,” she said. “You would often get to shoot a director’s first feature and then miss out on the next with a higher budget.”
Estonian DP Elen Lotman added: “The first year we organized this event, our main tagline was: ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’ We have to keep it up even if we are sitting at home.” But so many minority cinematographers coming to Camerimage have seen very specific representation in the competitions, she noted, with Raquel Fernández Núñez chiming in.
“We see the same DPs, year after year – what is going on with the programmers? You check all these panels too and where are the women, the people of color and queer? It’s not like we do baby-sitting on set.”
Mentioning different campaigns and new initiatives for more diversity, including #whoisinyourcrew conceived by Elliot, it was noted that the change needs to happen in the camera teams as well.
“I realized I haven’t worked with as many women as I should have. I haven’t consciously employed them,” she said, pointing out that everyone has to step up, including guilds and associations, which still tend to be very exclusive. “They can’t keep on being a clubhouse, as that word already implies that some people are not in the club.”
Arguing that the unconscious bias training should be mandatory for anyone in a hiring position, the panelists noted that the change needs to start from the top, as observed by Edward Ames, adding that producers need to know who is out there instead of going through the same list every time.
“The main thing is to keep the conversation going between various groups. Unless my queer colleagues and my colleagues of color can’t go through the same door with me, I have not done my job,” said camera operator Deborah Brozina. But, as pointed out by Mobolaji Olaoniye, hundreds of years of trauma still stand in the way.
“The work we do is impacted by this trauma. The talent is there, what’s missing sometimes is the community that’s encouraging,” he said.