In “The ‘Invisible Art’: A Woman’s Touch Behind the Scenes,” a May 25, 2012 NY Times article, John Anderson writes about the deficit of women DPs (2) and directors (0) in this year’s 22 nominated features for the penultimate of film festivals – Cannes. This lack reflects the still abysmal statistics for ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) which has 225 male and 8 female members and the DGA (Directors Guild of America) which has 25% female membership and reported that Caucasian males directed 77% of the 2,600 scripted TV episodes for the 2010-11 season.
Anderson goes on to note that one-third of the films were edited by women and went on to look at other numbers regarding female editors: MPEG (Motion Picture Editors Guild) has a total of 1,500 women in its 7,300 active membership (21%); A.C.E. (American Cinema Editors) tallies 650 members of which one third are female and has six females on its 14-member board of directors.
Are women more suited to editing?
I wonder, as Anderson does, if there are male and female characteristics – a gender basis – for editing (and other professions). Here are the responses he got from female editors:
Mary Lampson, feature doc editor (Harlan County U.S.A and A Lion in the House): “Many good editors are sort of introverted, shy people, observers of life. They’re very funny. They’re ironic. And all those traits are what you need to be a good editor. I don’t think women have a monopoly on those traits, of course. But women tend to be more like that than men.”
Dana Glauberman feature editor (Up in the Air and Labor Day): “It’s easy to say we, as women, are a stronger talent at it, simply because people think we are more nurturing than men are, we are more sensitive than men are. Obviously, there are many talented male editors, some of whom I’ve learned a great deal from.”
Alyse Ardell Spiegel, feature doc editor (Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory and Unraveled): I’d like to think my being female contributes to my sensitivities and strengths in storytelling, but it feels ridiculous to say that. You have to be a good listener and interpreter.”
Why do so many women go into editing?
Anderson interviews women editors and delves into the question of what women bring to the editing table. Mary Jo Markey, feature editor (Super 8 and Star Trek): “A lot of women go into editing because women go into editing. People come out of film school wanting to be directors and the odds of that are long. “It makes sense to me that women would see what a viable option editing is, and it’s one that women are succeeding in.”
Kim Roberts, an Emmy winner and feature doc editor (Food Inc. and Waiting for Superman) remarks: “There’s a lot of joking among editors about our willingness to be alone in a room with a computer, not seeing the sunlight. But there’s something in my personality that wanted something more secure, where I didn’t have to hustle and I could have a family and go home and have dinner with them every night.”
The Research and reactions
Researchers such as Simon Baron-Cohen have looked into gender characteristics and occupation. Editing involves both male preferences such as “sympathizing” and extended periods of working alone and female preferences of “empathizing” and being able to read facial expressions.
Mary Jo Markey states: “Empathy is one of the most important things I bring [to editing]. Making the action work depends on your investment in the characters. I won’t say this about all women, but I do think I was raised like a lot of women in my generation, not so much to be seen and not heard, but encouraged to be observers. And I do think it creates a quality where you look at people and think about what they’re thinking and experiencing, and that’s kind of what I do when I’m cutting.” Markey also notes that women edit “male” TV shows like Alias while men work on Felicity, a “female” series.
Why are there more women editors in documentaries?
Anderson raised this question with female doc editors and garnered these answers.
Penelope Falk (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work): “…there’s not a lot of money in docs. It’s not glamorous. No one’s getting rich. And that’s another reason it tends to be very female. It sounds sexist, I know; I’m sounding reductive, but there’s more pressure on men to make money. Although I know it’s shifting: I want to make money, too.”
I agree with Penelope Falk about gender traits with editing and other professions: “It’s more cultural than biological. But what you do in the edit room, I don’t think it’s gender-based.”
Mona Davis (Advise and Dissent and Adama): “It’s all conjecture on all our parts. But what’s struck me now, at least in documentaries, is that my generation, and I’m in my mid-50s, we’re the last generation in which a preponderance of women will go into editing. I know so many documentaries now directed by women, shot by women D.Ps. When I was coming up, there were like two.”
I am both encouraged and discouraged. Encouraged that more women are becoming DPs and directors as well as editors and that there are fewer boys’ clubs dominating sound and picture cutting rooms; discouraged that in general, women (and many male parents) still are caught between kids’ schedules and work schedules and that there is no universal childcare. Also, I see how culturally there are certain female and male values and traits and I continue to question their biological basis and how they serve society.
What do you think?
Editing practices, Editor’s role, History/research, Jobs