The 2020 Celluloid Ceiling Report, a study published every year that tracks women’s employment in the film industry, found that women comprised 21% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 grossing films in 2020. This is a historic high for the industry - but men are still out numbering women.
From producing a campaign for Real Madrid to champion their first female team, Real Madrid Fem, to working with the inspiring body positive activist Lotte van Eijk for Dr. Martens’ ‘Tough As You’ campaign, We Are Social Studios has had the opportunity to work with outstanding female talent over the past year, both in front of and behind the camera.
Behind the camera, we’ve worked with some of the industry’s most talented women and, as an all female production team, we’d like to celebrate next week’s International Women’s Day by shining a spotlight on some of the amazing directors that we’ve had the chance to work with.
We chatted to Gemma Yin, Raquel Marvez and Coral Brown to hear about their journeys to directing, and what advice they’d give those thinking about following in their footsteps.
I got my start in the world of fashion, having landed a job as Head of Video at Tank magazine after finishing an illustration and animation degree. After four years looking after all the moving image content for the mag, I left and started working as a standalone director. Since then I’ve made mixed media work for Charlotte Olympia, Red Valentino, Sigrid, and plenty of other brands and artists, together with Greatcoat Films.
My advice to others is to try and confront your fear of failure. It’s easy to feel like everyone else is cruising along effortlessly, and you’re the only one struggling, but in reality that’s not the case. Moments where you don’t quite get something right the first time, or you get negative feedback, might feel like a failure, but they teach you how to do it better the next time. That fear of getting it wrong sometimes stops people from even trying in the first place.
The other thing that’s been helpful for me is taking time to step back and pay attention to the work that engages me on a deeper level – the kind of projects where you don’t even notice the time passing. This really helps identify what it is you love doing and channel that towards future work.
How did I end up being a director? By not getting the job I wanted. Yep, sometimes it works out that way. After graduating in journalism and a masters in communications, international news was my thing... or at least I thought so.
I'm not a director by trait, but a director by coincidence. I married an Englishman that happened to be younger than me. So, instead of getting the job I wanted, I stayed with him and looked for a job that would pay our student bills. Once I experienced directing, there was no turning back.
We all have plans, and think that life should go a certain way, but that's not how it usually works. You then realize that the experiences, the ups and downs, the crappy jobs and the random ones polish you, and make you humble, and open your eyes to worlds that you didn't even know existed. My love for directing comes from the desire to tell stories in an artistic way. It's also the love to see how a united team can collaborate to bring a concept and story to life. It's not the director who makes great work, it's the team that makes it happen.
Listen, observe, learn, feel and move towards the direction you want without ignoring the new paths that may open along the way.
As a filmmaker, I always strive to use the tools around me for positive change and as a vessel to tell the stories of the people and communities that need a platform most.
Starting as a runner, PA, researcher, and treatment designer I feel as though I’ve touched each part of the production process while absorbing the work of so many other talented artists, cinematographers, and directors around me.
My first few personal projects took me to some incredible corners of our planet working with NGOs in Cambodia, India, and South Africa telling the stories of some of the most incredible and courageous people. Never being the wealthiest of jobs I was pushed into learning every aspect of the filming process, from producing to picking up the camera and teaching myself how to edit.
As I’ve started to direct jobs with bigger budgets that allow me to play some more, having that basic understanding of each person's role is key.
I feel over the past few years brands have become more interested in telling human stories that depict a lifestyle as opposed to forcefully pushing products. This has really helped me take that jump into the commercial world. I’ve been really fortunate to have worked on briefs that have encapsulated real people and been able to turn my passion for storytelling into branded content and commercials.
I’ve been so fortunate to be in the hands of many great teachers, from leading creative directors of the ad world to award-winning film directors. Every brief I’ve taken, I always try and enter with curiosity and intrigue. I find the beauty of directing is that for that split second you are filming, you get to jump into someone else's world and learn as much as you can before you have to wrap and onto the next.
At We Are Social Studios, we want to continue to champion underrepresented talent in the industry - this includes helping to play a part in improving the gender imbalance in the film industry. We hope that other women will be inspired by Gemma, Raquel and Coral’s journeys and will follow in their footsteps, and we’ll have the opportunity to work with the next generation of directors in the near future.