IN THE FRAME (L-R): Producer Paula Crickard, colourist Vanessa Taylor and Bronagh Lawson

Putting women in the big picture in the burgeoning film and television industry

Are you a woman who has thought of working in the television or film industry? If so, you’ll enjoy the latest initiative from Paula Crickard, Head of Post Production at Millennium Hollywood Studio, Los Angeles.

Paula, a Belfast native who has worked in more than 20 films, recently returned home to lead a two-day conference on the topic of Women Breaking Barriers. The event showcased talent in all areas of the television and film industry.

Carly Paradis, composer and musician on the critically acclaimed Line of Duty series, has spoken about her love of music and her winding path to her current status as a BAFTA nominee. She spoke of her desire to compose music every day and the joy of “secretly manipulating the scenes with her instruments.” She also referenced the time she was canceled as a composer—a vital step in every television and film composer’s career.

Louise Gallagher of Hat-Trick Productions in Derry spoke about her quirky path from taking a course in community radio to her current position as a producer. She commended the women who reached this sector later in their lives, who are beginners themselves and have various organizational skills that are required in the sector.

All speakers highlighted the skills shortage locally. The sector, which has spread rapidly thanks to the requirements of online broadcasting platforms, has many opportunities in all areas of the industry. Paula Crickard got a chance when starting through NVTV locally. There was a point where she felt compelled to leave to advance in the industry. However, now the industry has developed a lot in the North and this is no longer the case. A woman can have a good career without leaving the territory. NI Screen has promoted their training plans and a wide range of financial grants on offer for people who want to take a step in the industry. Screen skills are a good starting point for a lot of training.

The ethnic diversity of the audience was really encouraging and a lot was said about production houses having gender equality goals, so the opportunities in this area expanded.

One participant asked if the Me Too movement had changed anything for women who often bear the brunt of harassment in the industry.

“The industry is at a crossroads,” Paola said. “We understand what problems and changing behaviors are required. Now everyone working on a project has a mandatory requirement to complete diversity, bullying, harassment, and unconscious bias training. That makes a huge difference.”

One of the barriers identified by the audience was simply knowing a few different skill areas. Lucy Bright has had a career supervising music, but many of them didn’t even know the role existed. It turns out that she sorts out the music rights to television and movies and acts as an agent for composers. Exhibited clips from some of her work shed light on the complex area and legal challenges of having any music in production.

Nicola Waddell has spoken about people in the industry who either have a biopole or have ADHA. There are opportunities for people who like to work alone and are less social as well as people who like to work in a team. The main findings from the conference were that everything seemed very accessible and that Belfast MET, Ulster and Queen’s University and SERC all received training that was not available until recently. It was emphasized that many people working in the industry did not train to the degree level or did not start their careers believing that working in the industry was a career goal.

On the artistic side, Vesselina Georgieve, who has supervised visual effects on more than a dozen major action films, including London has Fallen and Hellboy, spoke about her start with a degree in fine arts. She now runs a company with more than thirty employees in Bulgaria. There are many roles and skills required, from being a colorist to animator and visual effects. “Learning technical skills is easier than learning to be an artist,” she said.

It amazes me how many people have entered this industry by chance and with a lot of production going online over the past few years, people can work from anywhere in the world. Carla Strong, who founded the Additional Business division here, provided an update on the add-ons and castings, with Game of Thrones being a big driver. I started with a large folder with photos and details and moved into an online business with over 20,000 additional lots offering movies and TV all over Ireland. She then moved on to acting where she landed Derry Girls, among other productions.

The two-day conference expanded attendees’ understanding of the various roles in the television and film industry. The multi-ethnic and multi-generational audience received new information about what the different roles entailed, and it certainly reinforced my understanding that it’s not something you should start a career with when you leave school. The industry is likely to continue to expand, so whether you’re thinking of it as a second or first career, there are plenty of opportunities to travel and get a good job. Full marks to Women Breaking Barriers for high-level speakers and excellent organization.

The Women Breaking Barrier Program is for women in NI who want to broaden their horizons and is supported by the UK Government’s British Community Renewal Fund. It offers several courses across the Women’s Center network and online, and is a great vehicle for an eclectic mix of certified training. The conference was organized by Women Breaking Barriers in partnership with WRDA, Women’s Support Network, NI Rural Women’s Network and sponsored by NuBoyana Film Studios.

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