Waving my feminist flag, I stepped through the BFI Southbank’s doors to a glorious sea of intelligent, creative and beautiful women, all with the same vision in mind: to spend the day encouraging, empowering and supporting women in the film and media industry. On Saturday 16 June, the BFI hosted the ‘Woman with a Movie Camera’ Summit, which, following a tortuous year in the industry, gave a platform to influential women in the industry to discuss, challenge and elaborate on what it means to be a woman with a movie camera.
2017 was a highly publicised and dramatic year for women in the entertainment industry. Following the exposé of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s abusing his power to assault countless women, the industry’s women — and men — demolished the culture of silence that plagued the industry and began using their voices to speak out against sexual abuse, power manipulation, pay inequality, and blatant discrimination for women in all industries.
Since these groundbreaking moments, activists and survivors have formed the #MeToo movement on social media — where victims of sexual abuse and assault bond together to highlight the number of attacks on women — and the Time’s Up fund, which aims to provide legal fees for women who were violated in the workplace. But these events spurred an even greater thing: conversation. The conversation about the mistreatment of women in film, TV and media has become the forefront of many discussions and has opened the eyes of many people both within and outside of the industry about its dirty secrets.
As a part of their June programme, which focuses on women in film, the BFI has pledged to keep the conversation about equality in entertainment alive. The ‘Woman with a Movie Camera’ Summit welcomed a fierce collection of female filmmakers, academics, scholars, cinephile activists, writers, critics, artists and programmers to discuss, debate and collaborate on how to make the film industry more inclusive for all. The all-day event featured a wide variety of panels and interactive events, followed by a screening of Jane Campion’s masterpiece The Piano, that made everyone truly feel the girl-power.
Yet, the event didn’t just a blindly praise these new movements, and instead, it challenged the movement. It questioned at times the validity of a social media run movement or the actual change talk is going to make. So Mayer, during her keynote ‘Blowing Up the Film Canon,’ even questioned the sincerity of the BFI, calling out their supposed willingness to incite change, despite not severing their partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas, who have been scandalised for not paying their front of house staff the proper and equal living wage. The ‘Woman with a Movie Camera’ Summit wasn’t the clickbait, Hollywood PR sugarcoats that has been spamming our lives; rather it was an honest, thoughtful, and enlightening conversation about how to genuinely help the next generation of women with a movie camera.
So, what can be done to fix the systemic inequality and degradation of women in the entertainment industry? The panelists of ‘Woman with a Movie Camera’ couldn’t come to a conclusion (Mia Bays, Oscar-nominated producer and head of Birds Eye View production company, said putting more women in powerful positions, Ellen Jones, a YouTube activist, thought education was the way forward, and, my personal favourite, Holly Tarquini, founder of the F-Rating, putting it simply, ’just punch the patriarchy in the face’), but everyone can agree that something needs to be done. And hopefully, the fiery rage of this generation will be able to accomplish the work started by our fellow women decades ago. One thing is clear: time’s up, and respect and equality for women, not just in entertainment, but in all walks of life, is beyond the point of discussion. We are ready for action.