Women In Post Join Forces
CreativeCOW presents Women In Post Join Forces -- Business & Marketing Editorial

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Women have notably been a minority in film/TV, and especially in post production and other technical fields. I began my career working in post houses in Los Angeles and New York, and when I switched to writing about the industry, in 1989, I discovered just how few of us there were. Whether it was a press conference at NAB or another technical conferences and meetings, I was often the only woman in the room.

Times have changed, but female participation on the technical side, especially in the higher echelons, is still not very robust. I used to sit in at the HPA Tech Retreat and count how few women were in attendance, especially as speakers. Apparently, I haven't been the only one wondering where all the women are.

Above, Max Ma, Alicia Rock and (right) Eileen Kramer

Above left, Kari Grubin
Above right, Loren Nielsen

"This has been something on the HPA's radar for a little while," says HPA Executive Director Eileen Kramer. NSS Labs Sales Director, Entertainment Sector, Kari Grubin, who is Chair of the WIP committee and has been a member of HPA for over a decade, notes that she has often had conversations with women at the Tech Retreats about how the majority of people attending were men. "Only a small core of women attended, although we knew there were a lot more women out there in technical positions, with influential roles in technology and post," she says.

Also joining in the conversation was Entertainment Technology Consultants president/co-founder Loren Nielsen; and Otis College of Art & Design Assistant Chair, Digital Media, Kathleen Milnes. They called a meeting of all women at the 2013 HPA Tech Retreat. "Almost all the 35 women in attendance at the HPA Tech Retreat were there," says Grubin. "We were 7 percent of the approximate 500 attendees. It was really important to the four of us to see what was important to other women within the group to promote."

For Nielsen, a member of the HPA board, a women's group was something she had wanted to do for a long time. "I wanted to encourage more women to have a face in post, in particular," she says. "It bothers me when I go to these events and there are no women speaking -- or just one. We need more women leaders in post." So when Grubin asked Nielsen if she thought the HPA's Board would be interested, her response was unequivocal. "I said, absolutely, let me bring it to the board," she says. As she predicted, the HPA Board unanimously met the idea with enthusiasm. "The board absolutely wanted to support this request for an opportunity for women to gather knowledge and information within their own group," says Kramer. "It was an idea that had to evolve and come into being in its own time."

Once the board approved the idea, shortly after the 2013 Tech Retreat, the four members began planning their next move. "We started brainstorming," says Kramer. "We wanted to do something that was casual, comfortable and conversational." Milnes suggested the idea of a series of roundtables, in which four or five women leaders would make the rounds of tables filled with WIP attendees, telling their stories and answering questions. "The opportunity for one-on-one time seems to have resonated to women attending this event," says Kramer. "We have speakers at every table to engage with, but it's also the opportunity to get to know everyone else around the table. It radiates out, in a nice, easy way."

At the first roundtable, on June 20, "The Path to Leadership" included Sara Duran Singer, Chief Executive Officer, Todd/Soundelux; Maysie Hoy, A.C.E.; Beverly Wood, Vice President of Technical Services, Deluxe and Efilm; and Jane Swearingen, Vice President of Marketing at Slate Media Group. "We took four women in leadership positions and asked them to tell their stories about how they came into their careers, the struggles they faced and what they see for the future," says Grubin. "The feedback was fantastic."

The second roundtable -- "The Content Filled Life (Cycle)" -- featured an equally impressive group of speakers: director and cinematographer Anna Foerster who is a member of both ASC and the DGA; Disney Studios Vice President, Post Production Technology, Annie Chang; Lone Survivor Co-Producer/VFX Producer and Post Production Supervisor Petra Holtorf-Stratton; Modern VideoFilm Digital Intermediate Colorist Natasha Leonnet (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) and 10-time Academy Award nominated Sound Mixer Anna Behlmer. To say the roundtables have been enthusiastically greeted is an understatement: they quickly sold-out as soon as tickets went online. By this point, MTI Film Director of International Business Development Belinda Merritt joined the WIP committee.

Nielsen notes that the comfortable feeling of camaraderie found in a group of women is ideal for sharing experience and knowledge. "I think that applies across all levels of women in post," she says. "We're also interested in reaching out to younger women and sharing our experiences with them, but, honestly, this industry is changing so fast it's hard to keep up -- and I'm happy to learn too. The educational aspect is good for all of us."

According to Grubin, WIP is planning another roundtable event for October "As a group, we're still defining what we want the group to accomplish," adds Nielsen, who points out that WIP is ideal for mid-career women as well as those just starting their careers. "As our members help communicate what they're looking for, that will be refined." One of her specific goals is to "help find ways for more women to become leaders in the post industry and to have a higher profile in the post industry, whether it's articles and speaking engagements and jobs, or board memberships. "There will be lots of different things to help develop women into those roles, including industry mentoring," she says. "Part of that is to provide a platform, which we hope to do with WIP."

That includes continuing to ask some of the questions -- and seek answers -- to why women in post continue to exist in small numbers. "Why is it that more young women aren't getting into the technical side of the business?" asks Grubin. "There are a lot more women in sales or operational leadership, but not as many pursuing a career in technology. People paved the road for me, so it's our responsibility to this generation to pave the road for them."

Interested in joining? "Readers not in Los Angeles should join the LinkedIn group Women in Post," says Kramer. The more women who join up, the more voices will be heard. I became a member at that first meeting at the HPA Tech Retreat, and I encourage you to get involved. Let's see if we can take this group to the next level, and make a difference in terms of women's representation in film/TV technology.