Women In Media Holiday Luncheon: Tema Staig’s Speech

Manon De Reeper

On December 17th, 2017, Women In Media hosted its holiday luncheon. With approximately 120 people attending, it was a buzzing, but intimate affair. We invited four impressive guests who we honored during this lunch: cinematographers Nancy Schreiber and Kira Kelly, composer Germaine Franco and writer/director Amy Holden Jones. They thoughtfully answered questions on a panel and spoke about their experiences in the film industry. Their candid insights were fascinating and inspiring.

Women In Media founder and executive director, Tema Staig welcomed our honored panelists, VIP members, and their guests. Here is her rousing keynote speech in its entirety.


Welcome women and men in media,

Thank you for joining us today to celebrate not just an historic year on many counts…. And it’s been a roller coaster…. But to honor four accomplished, brilliant women. In these women we have wisdom, perspective, and insight about where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going. These women are inspiring.

It’s been an emotional, sometimes painful year. However, out of the worst comes the best things and I do believe we have made accelerated progress. Because so many women were heroic and fearless, we have made incredible change that did not happen for millennia. The needle for women in our industry has jumped off the Richter Scale. It feels like the earth shifted just 2 1/2 months ago, but really, it’s been a slow upheaval for decades. We cannot, CAN NOT let it slide back to where we were pre October 5th 2017.

We are here today, because women are so often left out of the narrative. From Director Dorothy Arzner, who successfully transitioned from silent films to talkies and incidentally created the boom mic. To the women directors who were snubbed by the Golden Globes just this past week. It’s incumbent upon all of us to keep talking about women’s excellence. Today, we salute four exceptional women who must be remembered for their contributions.

This year, we found our power through telling our stories of assault and normalized sexism. The only thing shocking about these stories, was that anyone was shocked. The only thing that actually surprised most women is that people were finally LISTENING.

So I’ve been hearing that there is fear of potential backlash. Powerful men are afraid of losing their jobs over misconduct. Any one who is afraid to hire more women, out of fear of being sued, needs to do some soul searching. People of all genders must actually double down on hiring women above and below the line. And the excuse that they can’t find women to direct no longer floats. Ava did it. AmIRight Queen Sugar Cinematographer Kira Kelly?

There is a palpable desire to hear new narratives. We want diversity in our programming. This year, we saw an absolutely gorgeous film named not after the boy protagonist, but after the matriarch, who is the emotional heart and true center of the story. If you haven’t seen Pixar’s Coco yet, take your grand parents, the kiddos, and a box of tissues. Thank you Germaine Franco for the gift of music that lights up this deeply moving work of art.

I’m very proud of the work Women in Media has done to forward inclusion in the crew. Since our first event in 2010, we’ve been supporting women and folks who believe in balance on set with networking events, technical classes, panels, and screenings of films by women directors of historical significance. Speaking of…. there’s Amy Holden Jones! We screened her classic horror film Slumber Party Massacre in October. She told us that she declined editing ET so she could direct. Totally epic. So, if anyone tells you that women don’t direct genre, tell them they are wrong.

Until we pushed the issue, virtually no one was discussing a need for parity below the line. The general wisdom has been that we need to focus on getting more women into executive and above the line positions and that it would trickle down. Now, we do need more women at the top, but we’ve been waiting for the trickle down to happen for 40 years. I do not have another 40 years for it to work out – I am an impatient woman. I believe that we must push from the bottom up as well as the top down. We must use a multi-pronged approach if we are going to achieve equality in our industry. ­

Women In Media is an organization of action. A year ago, there was no Women’s Crew List, a google doc I created that became a data base of over 2,000 women in 26 departments. There were just excuses about how no one could find women to hire. Well, it turns out there are lots of women to hire, and actually, a lot of people who want to hire women above and below the line. We have facilitated the hiring of thousands of women, and we hope to continue that trend, now more than ever. And let’s face it. If you want to reduce risk on set, there is safety in numbers. Aside from it being the right thing to do, when you have parity and inclusion, you have a happier, healthier set.

2017 was the year we became a 501C3 charity in order to expand what we can do to create more equality in the crew. In just a few months, we created a new website with attractive profiles that consolidate crew member’s information onto one page, because we all know that women must be vetted multiple ways before they are hired. We partnered with JL Fisher to bring 23 women and 3 men for a hands on class in laying track and mounting a jib arm. Frank said it was one of the best classes they’ve ever had. And ladies, I’ve been getting a lot of calls for women grips.

On January 7th, we’ll be at Canon with Jen McGowan for the #HireTheseWomen Camera Crew Lunch. We’re inviting 25 women who are grips, gaffers, electrics, AC’s and DIT’s to meet with 5 cinematographers of any gender who want to hire more women. Over 60 women have applied. Our goal is for them to work their way up to earning accolades and awards – much like our friend Nancy Schreiber – the first woman to be recognized with the American Society of Cinematographer’s President’s Award.

Women in our industry have to be twice as good to get half the respect. We are held to a different standard and we are never allowed to fail. Yet another reason to honor these four women today. They are damn good at what they do.

Here’s the plan for 2018, and I hope you’ll join me in this. Interview at least half women for every position in your crews. Hire as many of them who are a good fit. If for some reason, it doesn’t work out, don’t stop hiring women. Replace her with another woman, or even better, mentor her to be better. We’ve all worked with men who didn’t work out and it didn’t stop us from hiring more. When they are excellent, recommend them to your friends and colleagues. And of course, invite more women to become Women In Media members so we can easily find, vet, and hire them.

So, ladies and gents….This is our time. The momentum is incredible, and we must keep our energy up. We must continue to talk about women in film classes, with our friends, and make sure they get a lot more prints and advertising. We must push to be recognized at awards shows. We must keep telling our stories and be heard. And we must normalize hiring half women above and below the line. We must follow the lead of these extraordinary women and continue their legacy of excellence. Everyone, please raise a glass to Germaine, Nancy, Amy, and Kira!

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