Media Parents

being a female TV director by Kate Dooley

August 27, 2018 @ 3:09 pm Posted in Freelancer Profiles, TV Training Comments

According to the Directors UK report Who’s Calling the Shots I’m a rare breed, writes Specialist Factual Director Kate Dooley. Perhaps (to be over dramatic about it) even heading for extinction, as the report highlights that the gender gap is increasing across the four terrestrial UK TV broadcasters.

PD Kate Dooley Directing for Great British Cathedrals with Tony Robinson, Channel 5

If David Attenborough saw me working he might comment on my tall giraffe easy rig that helps me self shoot, my kangaroo pouch bumbag that holds my essentials, and my alpha dog nature to get everything filmed on tight deadlines with ever decreasing funds. He wouldn’t question whether I missed painting my nails and looking at handbags.  Nor why I should have to deal with the male of my species rubbing themselves on my leg or putting their feet up on my desk.

That is because these are all human gender biases. They are nothing to do with me as a person or my capability to do my job. Thankfully, I have never felt that being a woman was a problem. But I have been the only female producer/director on every production in my career so far.

I have been the only female producer/director on every production in my career so far.

Producer Director Kate Dooley

So I warmly welcome the current atmosphere to foster females in the industry to gain some balance. It’s not just about the numbers. But it is about the balance of skills, opinions and experience from both the male and female perspective. As one of the female directors positively mentioned in the Channel 5 Diversity Guidelines I believe we have to provide nurture as well as opportunities. Media Parents felt like the right platform for this.

So how do we get more of these rare breeds?  What would help is a mix of push and pull tactics :

Most importantly, companies should positively seek out and hire women.  We aren’t hiding in the bush waiting for David Attenborough and his crew to see through our camouflage. We are here calling from the canopies. Give us a chance and then help us succeed.

Collaboration is more productive than confrontation. For an industry all about communication we also have to be open to how women communicate.   For example, I personally prefer a Socratic approach of asking questions which clarify options and encourage interactions. And I’m sorry (not sorry), I also believe we have to teach women to stop apologising.

Negotiation training especially when negotiating rates. There are (at least) two reasons women are paid less – they don’t feel they can negotiate, and the negotiators take advantage of that. The irony is most of the rate negotiations are carried out by female production managers. Thankfully Media Parents runs a great negotiating course and there is one coming up soon.

Writing / shooting training on and off the job as standard for everyone. Included in this is constant constructive feedback like chefs get in kitchens but hopefully with fewer expletives. Some companies run exit interviews with freelancers, I’ll settle for an email or call from the edit if I’m not cutting the show.

Positive role models as per STEM.  We need more female commissioners, execs, series producers and producer/directors to be in the limelight leading the way and mentoring the next generation. (Watch this space for the roll call of Back to Work mentors).

Properly tailored shooting equipment. All camera operators have back problems whatever they can bench press. We need cameras and rigs that are lighter and fit properly.

So employers, it’s time to act on the Directors UK report – I’m available!

[Since writing this, Kate has started work at the BBC]

kate dooley, producer director

Nominated for a Grierson in 2016, Kate has self shot and edit produced factual and specialist factual shows for the major UK broadcasters as well as Discovery. Science series include BBC2’s Inside the Factory featuring the largest food factories in Europe to uncover the secrets behind food production on an epic scale. History shows include Channel 5’s Great British Cathedrals with Tony Robinson and Discovery series Unearthed, following archaeologists uncovering new insights into world renowned monuments.

Kate’s degree is in engineering and this insight has helped her make engineering shows like Discovery’s Rise of the Machines, revealing the amazing human stories behind the inventions hidden deep inside some of the world’s most extreme machines. She is familiar with many cameras including FS7, A7S and C300 and has set up specialist GoPro rigs inside aircraft.

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