Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Education of Women in Film Production

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Education of Women in Film Production

Article excerpt

"...silence affects everyone in the end. "

Ada in The Piano by Jane Campion

For far too long, women were silenced in history and culture, and it did affect everyone who was deprived of hearing their voices. Now, as women are finding their voices, one of the arenas in which they are becoming increasingly vocal is film. Because many of the new young filmmakers are learning their craft in film schools across the country, it is worth considering how they are being educated, and particularly, how women are faring in these programs.

The premise of this essay is that the education of women in film production programs needs to be given consideration because of identified differences in learning styles and expectations between genders. However, it should be noted at the outset that the conclusions of this essay have implications beyond gender differences. Our task as teachers is to help all students learn the skills they need to succeed in a film program in a manner congruent with their learning styles. While our focus is on women, it has implications for all students.

Film production programs pose special challenges. In addition to the general educational requirements of a liberal arts university, within which most film programs exist, there are two sets of skills particularly relevant to film programs. One skill set is technical. Making films is a highly specialized craft. Constantly changing technologies require that the filmmaker who wants to be competent in all areas must have a basic understanding of techniques as well as instruction in the use of each particular piece of equipment. The other aspect of filmmaking is the creative component. This draws on students' imaginations and challenges them to confront themselves at a time when they are just beginning to define their identities and find their own voices. Balancing gender differences within this environment requires a sensitivity to the varying learning styles of all students and adapting teaching methods to address those differences.

Training in school has implications for how students will function in the world once they leave the confines of academe. As educators we must balance preparing students for work in the world with providing them with the ability to perhaps change that world. The film business has until now been dominated by men. In educating women to work in this world, we must decide whether to prepare them to accept the world on its terms and help them to be accepted within that world, or to give them tools to be their own creative mentors and perhaps alter the dynamics and values of that world. Because the filmmakers of the future will both reflect and create the world we live in, the question we need to ask is, in fact, not how to educate women, but what kind of filmmakers do we want to create. Taking into account women's needs in education is only the first step toward recreating the educational process to promote diversity and creativity for all students and eventually to broaden the media that we all watch.

This essay is a preliminary exploration of how film production education affects the academic success and creative potential of women students. It is based on the authors' personal experiences as teachers, research into learning styles and pedagogical processes, and information gathered from informal discussions with women students in the School of Film and Animation (S.O.F.A.) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).2 The observations, moreover, have been validated by discussions with colleagues from other universities who have noticed similar issues related to female students in their universities. The essay examines the literature on learning styles, with particular emphasis on women's learning, then it explores the learning experience of the students. Specifically, it looks at film production education, focusing on Crew-Based experience, Individual Creativity, Technical Skills, and Assessment. …

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