Women Behind The Camera: a film made by women, for women

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EL PASO – The idea of getting slapped on the butt at work may make a woman’s jaw drop in 2011, but for beginning camerawomen in the 20th century this was an all too familiar event.

This story of a female camera engineer in Hollywood who experienced sexual harassment by former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before he entered politics is one of 50 cases documented by filmmaker Alexis Krasilovsky.

Krasilovsky traveled around the world to shoot the stories of women filmmakers in many countries for a documentary on women behind the camera. She suggests that film schools should teach women self-assertiveness to handle these situations in their future workplace.

Camerawomen of Video SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association), videotaped by Tavishi Alagh and Alexis Krasilovsky for "Women Behind the Camera" in Ahmedabad, India, January 2004. (Courtesy of Women Behind the Camera)

Camerawomen of Video SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association), videotaped by Tavishi Alagh and Alexis Krasilovsky for "Women Behind the Camera" in Ahmedabad, India, January 2004. (Courtesy of Women Behind the Camera)

Filmmaker Krasilovsky screened the documentary Women Behind the Camera recently at the University of Texas at El Paso. In the film, camerawomen from all over the world talk about their professional and personal lives and how they dealt with sexism in their chosen profession.

The term “camerawoman” is not a term many people in the film industry were familiar with in the past, and women who wanted to be part of the movie making process were not greeted with open arms, Krasilovsky said.

The number of camerawomen in the U.S. quadrupled from 1985 to 1997, but in the years that followed the number of camerawomen only grew by a disappointing one percent each year, she said.

“Guys are used to working with guys,” Krasilovky said in the packed Union Cinema. Krasilovky, currently a professor at California State University, Northridge, works in the Department of Cinema and Television Arts. She believes that to change this statistic more women need to be given the opportunity to show what they have to offer, which could be challenging since the “old boys” network still exists in the filmmaking industry.

UTEP student Adrian Gomez asked Krasilovsky about the opportunities for women wanting to break into the filmmaking industry. “We also need to encourage the development and production of films and television programs that show the points of view of women, of minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people because that’s the world we live in. That, to me, is what responsibility is all about,” Krasilovsky answered.

Women Behind the Camera asks women where they got their start or inspiration to enter the field, about working mothers behind the camera, and what future they saw for camerawomen, directors, and producers.

Women in France and India do not experience as much resistance in their own industry as there is in Hollywood, according to Krasilovsky. French Filmmaker Caroline Champetier says in the documentary, “It’s a line of work that must be done with a passion and it’s a lifetime choice.”

Although there are still obstacles, Krasilovsky  said, “This is a wonderful time to get started because everything is digital. (Filmmaking) is doable more than ever before. It takes courage and the will to say ‘Yes, I can!’”

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