AK: As you know women are underrepresented in the film industry. Have you, as a woman, felt like you have been faced with obstacles within the film industry because of your gender?
RS: I haven’t had a fat cigar-chewing film exec sit across a desk from me and laugh in my face because directing ain’t for little ladies. However, I can't know what unconscious bias has done for my career, or what having kids might do to it in future. Women are supposedly less ambitious, less competitive, less forceful with their will and that’s meant to explain the pay gap. If you’ve always lived in a society that favours 50% of the population, (or less when you count BAME, LGBT, disabled people, people from underserved backgrounds, etc) how can you define what impact that could have had on your ability to perform in a working environment, to feel confident enough to push for what you believe in, to believe in yourself? What I do know is the further you can claw your way up the food chain, the more damning the statistics, which occasionally makes me want to get off the carousel. But then I think, F*ck you Statistics, I’m special. Because that’s what a man would think.
AK: Women tend to be more successful within the documentary field. Why do you think that is? How do you think the situation can be improved?
RS: The obvious reason would be that documentary budgets are generally smaller than narrative budgets and everyone knows you can’t trust women with money, they’ll just spend it on lipstick and heels. If we want better diversity of thought in our industry, we obviously need more female (see also BAME, LGBT, disabled, etc) directors and more female (etc) commissioners. I keep hearing this quote from people and it’s really getting me down: “When an interviewer meets a male candidate, he sees potential. When he meets a female candidate, he wants to see experience." We need people behind desks who can see the potential in the people on the other side of the desk, whatever their minority status. These people can be of any background, they just have to be conscious of their potential for unconscious bias. The commitment to 50/50 gender parity in commissioning by public film finance bodies suggested by Directors UK would certainly improve the situation, and it’s encouraging that Creative England has backed the proposal. Given that in 2007, 32.9% of films with UK-based public funding had a female director but by 2014 that had dropped to just 17%, it seems like a good time for a dramatic change.
AK: What type of difficulties did you face while working on From the Bronx to Yale when it comes to funding and support, productions services, finding crew etc.? Did you use British production services and crew?
RS: We were working with the Guardian and were commissioned by a male and a female exec who were both brilliant and very right on. I camera operated and directed whist Joanna sound-recorded and produced so we were a tiny two-woman crew. But for the record I have never had any sh*t from a male colleague about being a female Director. At least, not to my face. I work with a lot of male editors, DoPs, gaffers, etc and it’s never been an issue on set. The endemic issues that the statistics show are far more of an obstacle for minority talent.
You did think I was cool in the first place, right guys? Guys? Hello?