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Raising Films

In the first of our profile pieces related to our Equality Matters survey for Scotland's Film and Television professionals we speak to Raising Films.

Raising Films Logo

Raising Films aims to address one of the issues that prevents many female filmmakers from pursuing their careers, to enable filmmakers with families to keep working and feel supported during demanding times in their personal lives, and to challenge at a structural level the demands the film industry makes of all of us.

We speak to co-founder of Raising Films, director and writer Hope Dickson-Leach to find out more.

Hope Dickson-Leach

What led you to co-founding Raising Films?

After I had my first son I found I was essentially struggling to do my work. I had some projects in development, and it was a massive challenge to continue working on these while also adjusting to having a totally new set of responsibilities and passions as a parent. Trying to bring the energy required to get a film made to the table while adapting to this new phase of my life really made me think: “how easy would it be to just stop right now”.

Then that led me to thinking, I wonder if this is one of the reasons why there aren’t as many female directors, writer-directors, etc. (as females tend to be the primary caregivers, especially if you’re freelance). I talked to (Raising Films co-founder) Sophie Mayer, feminist academic and film writer, and she told me about models of financing in Sweden where childcare is more often included in budgets. So it led us to considering maybe there’s a different way to make films. Maybe there’s a way the process can be more inclusive to people with family responsibilities.

What reactions and responses have you had from people?

As well as trying to tackle some of the structural process aspects of filmmaking, one of the biggest components of Raising Films is to create a community. We’ve seen this growing, particularly online, and people are sharing their stories of how they’ve managed it or not managed it, what they’d like to change, what they’re struggling with and so much more. The responses we’ve received from parents in the industry or people who are considering having families have been incredible, saying everything from how reading others stories have made them feel less alone and even made them feel empowered to have conversations in their workplaces they’d never have had before, or even conversations with themselves about how they’d manage if they were to start a family.

Recently someone I know said she read a testimonial on our website and immediately afterwards opened Final Draft for the first time in year, just from having read someone else’s experience of how they’d done it. And that in itself is fantastic. We’re not in a position of trying to rush people back to work or make drastic choices, but what we do want is to ensure if people are struggling to believe they can be a parent and do the work they love, that they have a space where they are encouraged and supported.

What are the conversations that aren’t being had in the film industry that Raising Films recognise need to be happening?

We definitely need to open up conversations about childcare. As freelancers have a very different set up making these arrangements can prove really challenging. From personal experience, I’ve just recently gone into production on a feature film and my childcare arrangements were a hugely complicated part of planning how we were going to make the film. So a wider understanding of and willingness to talk about the demands and complexities of childcare within our industry could make a huge difference.

I appreciate the situations we’re talking about are by no means unique to the film industry, but I think the sporadic and often all-encompassing nature of production can really amplify their impact.  And for people who don’t have support systems then the prospect of balancing being a parent or carer alongside their work must seem, at times, a near impossible one. So it’s essential we start to factor these issues into the entire filmmaking process, the same way we’d factor in people’s health or even the weather.

There’s not a one size fits all solution, but we need to get comfortable with having these conversations at every stage of the process.

Why is it important to address the challenges those with family commitments face in working in the film industry?

We get better stories. It’s a bit boring to exclusively hear stories that are made by and for white adolescent men (the men making the films might be older, but the stories usually aren’t). I think if we can think about more inclusive ways of making films then we’re going to get a far, far more interesting selection of material on screen. We’re also going to have an industry that reflects humanity rather than one that is presenting a kind of cultural vacuum, with only one tiny sliver of people represented.

The film industry can be a flexible one, but it’s also an expensive one that puts people under pressure. What we’re trying to do with Raising Films is to question how we decide on the priorities, what are the places you can be flexible and spend a bit more money, and what are the long-term benefits and how might those decisions influence the body of work we’re producing.  I’d say those questions are too important, too influential not to be asked.

Hope will speak at Glasgow Film Festival Industry Focus on Wednesday 24 February: http://www.glasgowfilm.org/festival/industry

Equality Matters

Creative Scotland is calling on Scotland’s Film and TV professionals to take part in a wide-ranging screen equalities survey, to inform our understanding of issues of under-representation. The findings will help us to address these issues through positive action, going forward. The survey opened on Wednesday 10 February and will close on 7 March. Take part in the survey.

This article was published on 10 Feb 2016