CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

DP Sherry McCracken on Cinematography vs Photography, Pre-Visualization and the Growing Ease of Equipment for Female Crew Members

Filmmaker Magazine: In part two of this interview, DP of American Gothic Sherry McCracken discusses moving from photography to cinematography, what she’d do differently, and how lighter cameras make it possible for more women to work as cinematographers.


Helena Hewitt said...

I’ve had more than one conversation recently with how ridiculous it is that physical strength is prized and applauded over so many more impressive skills. We tend to be really impressed by the big, burly dudes that can lift heavy scenery pieces or lighting equipment and make people feel ashamed if they ever struggle to pick something up. Providing lighter equipment is great and it sounds like having a camera she could carry by herself really benefitted Sherry McCracken on this project, however, it disturbs me that this article (and McCracken herself) frames the benefit of lighter equipment as “so women can do the work.” Yes, obviously women tend to be smaller and able to lift less weight, but 1) they are acting like just the women would benefit from lighter equipment, but I don’t know a single guy that enjoys lifting heavy and unwieldy objects, even if they can, and 2) we need to stop fetishizing the ability to lift heavy objects, because it's not a primarily a skill its just how you're built, so the women working in these male-dominated can get to work putting their talents to work while not being ashamed to ask a colleague for a hand. Lastly, there are a lot of reasons beyond heavy equipment keeping women out of these fields. See Lauren’s comment.

Lauren Miller said...

First of all - there is a lot more than just the weight of the equipment keeping women out of the film industry. The weight is often used as an excuse (one that I am far to familiar with as an underweight woman) to not hire "the weaker sex" for this labor intensive work. Good for her for trying to remove the excuse (it will still be used - I have no illusions as to the nature of this industry), but let's not pretend that lighter equipment will fix anything. Entertainment is an inherently sexist industry. All you have to do is look at the numbers - we are worse off than the rest of the rest of the United States. I remember the first book I got on theater management (my Grandmother gave it to me sophomore year of high school) and in the first couple of paragraphs it had a few sentences on women stage managers and how their presence could be a cause for concern since they had no control of emotions and tended to "mother" the actors. To this day, I actually haven't met a woman in technical direction who wasn't currently a student. Don't let the demographics at CMU fool you into believing that its okay out in the real world (I actually decided to come here because it was the only school I applied to were I saw other women in the TD track).

If you're interested, there was a recent inquiry into sexism in the industry done and presented at Yale. (Link to presentation - ). The numbers are scary (yet, as Helena remarked to me when I showed her, not surprising at all). It's not the equipment that is the heart of the issue.