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Write your own script and ignore the critics – Fiona Tatton, Womanthology Editor

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Fiona Tatton - Womanthology Founder and Editor
Fiona Tatton

Epic Women

Hello and welcome to issue 49, our Women in Film special to coincide with all things cinematic and epic which are currently taking place around the world, include the Oscars and the BAFTA Film Awards. Indeed the conversations I’ve been having with contributors have been on an epic scale, so perhaps it should be renamed Epic Women?

I knew bits and pieces about the film world from my own interests and previously I’ve also been fortunate enough to have been able to interview the kick-ass Faye Ward, producer of Suffragette.

Delving deeper into the cinematic world for this feature edition though, I have become fascinated by this microcosm, where everyone seems to know almost everyone else and you’re literally in the business of creating and selling dreams. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that?

In this edition I’ve got filmmakers, directors, writers, producers, financiers, lawyers, studio executives and more. The conversations have made me realise that it’s not all red carpets and champers – although obviously there’s a bit of this – but it’s mainly hard graft and long hours.

Creativity rules while you hustle

As you might expect, it comes across as a very bohemian world where creativity rules, but you also need an incredible head for business and figures. In this increasingly competitive and globalised industry you need to have a diverse pipeline not only of creative ideas, content and talent, but you need enough hustle to be able to raise the finance to get the whole thing off the ground.

The arts are always hugely underfunded and you never quite know what films are going to make money, with a few exceptions (the latest Star Wars was a fairly safe bet, for example, but a low budget indie flick is not).

New funding models and digital disruption

Women are hugely under-represented in film, and so too are ethnic minorities and other minority groups. Like so many other areas, the make-up of the industry is a legacy of where the funding comes from. Historically, movies have been funded my white men, but this is starting to change, albeit slowly.

With the advent of smartphones we’ve all got the ability to make a movie, literally in the palms of our hands. Access to alternative funding models like crowd funding is starting to democratise access at the smaller end of the scale. On a large scale, digital disruptors like Netflix and Amazon are starting to influence how we watch films.

Write your own script

So this got me thinking about the film industry as a metaphor for women in the workplace more broadly. Why do we all have to keep re-reading and re-enacting the same tired scripts over and over again? “Women can’t do that.” Why not? What about if we tore up these scripts and wrote our own – new and fresh from our own perspective?

In the first instance, when you’re creating your new script this using your imagination, anything is possible. We all start out if life with the naïve belief that we can be anything or achieve anything, but then something happens to most of us as we grow up and we start to ‘get real’. In actual fact though, ‘being realistic’ is just a bad habit that we’ve all been taught. We need to unlearn this. Be unrealistic. Let your only limits be the boundaries of your imagination.

Pick your cast and crew carefully

I’ve learnt over time that the people you choose to surround yourself with can make or break you, personally and professionally. There’s certain colleagues and associates who will lift you up and encourage you, no matter what. Surround yourself with these people, and support and encourage them too in return. Acknowledge hard work and talent when you find it. Your professional network grows stronger when you build up supportive ecosystem of trusted associates and champions (male and female) who all look out for one another.

At the same time, allow people to play to their strengths. Learn about the skills of the people around you so you know where to come when you need specific expertise and experience. Keep learning new skills and encourage others to do the same.

Learn to ignore the critics

It’s all about the way we script things. It’s about your cast and crew, and it’s also about how we choose to react to the critics. How many times have you had a brilliant idea and you’ve shared it with a boss, family member or whoever who has shot you down in flames? It hasn’t been a walk in the park putting Womanthology together, but if I’d listened to all the naysayers and the critics, there would be no magazine and I’d probably be sat in front of the telly now. Maybe I’d be watching a film, but I certainly wouldn’t be interviewing the people who make films.

If you’re going to create anything worthwhile and new, you’re going to have to take some risks and be prepared for people who will reflect nothing but negativity and doom. Of course there’s a thousand reasons why you might fall flat on your face, but there’s also a thousand reasons why you might fly.

Remember that you’re the star of your own epic production, so write yourself a fabulous script, hire the best cast and crew, and learn to ignore the critics and you’ve got all the makings of your own box office smash.

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