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Female Composers in Film

By Jackie Shuman

The recent “Female Composers in Film: Balancing the Scales” panel was awesome and I wanted to share my personal take-aways as well as the ways we can help. This panel was specifically focused on women but we can (and should) apply these notes to all under-represented folks in music. WE CAN AFFECT CHANGE!

Have any of your own suggestions / experiences to add? Please share!

FYI, of 117 scripted primetime network TV shows airing in the 2017-2018 season with an original score, a total of SEVEN list a woman as their composer. And of the top 250 grossing films of 2018, women comprised 6% of composers.

This panel was moderated by music supervisor Tracy McKnight. It featured 6 composers – Miriam Cutler (RBG), Starr Parodi (The Starter Wife,), Kathryn Bostic (Clemency), Laura Karpman (Set it Up) , Heather McIntosh (Compliance), Amie Doherty (Here & Now)

Ways we can help:

The problem of CREDITS. Our clients want to see credits before they hire a composer or even listen to the tunes, but women sometimes don’t have the same amount of impressive credits due to lack of opportunity. How do we fix this issue when we want to present female composers to our clients?

ANSWER: ‘blind listening’ – scramble and remove names so people actually listen to the music, no genders. Have our clients listen to the music itself without the distraction of names / gender / recognizability.

Contextualize credits if they seem unrecognizable (example: Ava Duvernay’s 2nd film! Sounds better than a nameless indie.)

Mention repeat clients a composer has had, as it shows that a client can trust someone based on her prior repeat work with other directors / showrunners / filmmakers, etc.

Include personal notes from the composer if she (or he) is passionate about getting the project, help her stand out.

Mention bands they have been in for more context and familiarity.

Highlight festival darlings if the film wasn’t in big box offices.

Leverage your personal or company socials to highlight and bring visibility to female composers or supes. discuss their work. Do an interview. Show young girls this is a career option.

Composers want support and infrastructure of the studio / hiring party to help them not do 5 jobs at once… don’t expect them to do more for less. They are a composer first and foremost.

We need to provide more visibility into pay across genders. Tell women what men are paid for similar jobs. Normalize the conversation and help set a standard when hiring.

Useful links:
USC Music Inclusion Study

http://assets.uscannenberg.org/…/inclusion-in-the-recording…

Female Composer Database
https://www.theawfc.com/members/

Reposted by NARIP with author’s permission.

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