Fanny Bullock Workman with her explorer gear, ropes, and face that means business

Go Out Of Your Way

By | Producing, Purpose | No Comments

Our producer Simon J Green talks about going out of your way to find more women.

If you’re a man, you’ve got some options. The history of cultures and societies, spanning centuries, has put men on top. We ruled over vast monuments in ancient Egypt, we covered the earth in global war, and we went to the moon and stars. That whole time, we were absolute pricks to women, keeping them down with every dirty trick we could invent. Now, finally, in the least 50 years, we’ve been trying to see humanity as a whole, not as two sexes.

With all these impressive feats of humanity, you’d think going out of our way to bring about equality would be easy. Certainly down at the pathetic level of being an artist or screen practitioner in Australia, the stakes are so low, the rewards so paltry, the barrier to equality should be thinner than a male artist’s skin.

When you’re a producer or director, you have a contact list with names you regularly draw on to help you create. Favourites and preferences. I have such a list, organised into at least 5 of each category of skill I need. My 5 editors, graphic designers,  web developers, directors, motion graphics artists, soundies, camera operators. Each of them has been tested on a job first, proved to be reliable, professional and talented before being added to my list.

When a job comes up and I need to send a quote or ask a question, I consult my lists. Each person has strengths and styles that exclude them from some jobs or make them prime candidates for others.

I started these lists years ago, and one day when I looked at them, I realised they were mostly men. About 90% of the names were dudes. I’ve written before about my failure to include women on the front page of my company website. In this list was the proof men were being chosen over women, because women weren’t even in my default consideration. I sucked.

So, I went out of my way to change it. I sought out women who were talented, reliable and professional in each of the categories. The men weren’t removed—the only time anyone is removed from my lists is if they’ve changed careers or states—but instead, my lists swelled to much more useful and flexible sizes.

Doing this gave me better access to more talent, better suited teams for individual jobs, and led to some of the best freelancer relationships I’ve ever had. I’ve also gotten jobs because of my diverse crew. All because I went a tiny little bit out of my way to equalise my lists. The culmination of that effort came in the stellar reviews we got for Night Terrors, a production that had ten women and two men. 83% women.

It also helped me see which parts of the screen and design industries are garbage at bringing up women. I’m still short on ladies who love:

  • Motion graphics
  • Camera operating
  • Directing
  • Editing
  • Gaffing
  • Sound

Feel free to reach out if you are someone who does these things. I don’t do as much video work any more, but I recommend my list to other producers and directors a bunch.

Thing is, men, go out of your way. A tiny little bit. Look at your list, your group, the people you draw on the most. Do they all have penises? Then go out of your way to find women with the same set of skills and traits. They OF COURSE are out there, you just haven’t bothered to look. And if you say you have but couldn’t find any, then you didn’t look hard enough and gave up too quickly. In fact, I have a bunch for you right now.

We ruled over the pyramids, started world wars and walked on the moon. By comparison, equality in Australian arts should be easy. One thing men can do is go out of their way.

IMAGE: Abril Latrene in full drag, bright blue hair, rainbow shawl.

Abril Opens Up Arts Culture’s Failings

By | Inspiration, Purpose | No Comments

I had the pleasure of hearing Abril Latrene speak at Huddle tonight. Abril is a drag queen, fabulous blue hair big as her bosom. By day she’s Shaun, working at a big corporate in change management. Incredible symbiosis, eh? Abril spoke tonight about her journey through the different motivations of doing drag. At first it was boredom, then as he got shows up for free, it became about a profession, getting people to see the show. Like many an artist, Abril then wanted to be paid for the performances, and ultimately, the motivation was for Shaun and Abril to be whole, one person, because that’s who he is. All through that, the villains of those who live the life they truly believe they should live popped up, forcing Abril to quit drag several times. Beautifully, the more Abril performed and Shaun’s workmates and friends learned he was Abril, the stronger and more confident he became.

Abril mentioned that he had to come out several times in his life, as a gay man, as a drag queen (with each new person and in particular each new boyfriend). Even tonight’s presentation for Huddle had him confront the coming out question, as Huddle has a national distribution list and that list had his name on it – boom, suddenly managers were aware of the Huddle event before he’d uttered a word. Tonight, Abril was honest, raw, vulnerable, fabulous, bawdy, funny and warm. She opened up to us – scared, she admitted she’s always nervous before anything, which she’s acknowledged as important to her to maintain – that no one would give a shit about what she had to say. Instead, we all connected with that fear. Abril talks about organisational change and comes out for performances, events and speaking engagements. She knows how to read a crowd. I tell you, friend, to get her in.

Image: Abril Latrene, drag queen, with ashock of deep blue, huge hair, purple gown and heavy dark blue coral-like necklace.

Of the many interesting angles Abril showed us, one thing I kept thinking about was work place bullying. Something that pushed Shaun out of drag queen shows was the bitchy atmosphere and, even more so, the shitty attitudes of venue owners. Abril, clearly, is bulletproof, but if Shaun felt like he was being treated like shit, venues couldn’t give a flying fook. When he stood up for that behaviour, he was kicked out. This is a thing in the arts. I spoke with Abbie about it, she was totally in agreement that the arts is shocking at workplace safety. If the attitudes, words and actions she faced in her drag job were displayed in her corporate job, people would be managed, told off or fired. There’s so many reasons artists and the arts ecosystem allows this shitty behaviour to continue: we’re disempowered and talked out of self worth so much we don’t speak up or seek change; we’re exploited by those in power (even the tiny amounts of power they wield); we’re channeled into competition for shrinking pools of money or time; we aren’t organised; we aren’t educated in certain ways; we don’t have protection; we’re sensitive.

How might we reconfigure our disparate workplace cultures so that artists are protected and encouraged instead of exploited and crushed?

What if Abril had an arts representative that came in with her and negotiated, so she could leave early and perform on Friday nights while still meeting her job requirements?

What if venue managers had to pay for their talent if they made any money from the event, including the bar?

What if artists were trained better in empathy and support systems, so they looked out for one another in their practices?

What if the standard blood bath attitude of the arts was replaced with one of nurturing?

What if artists were paid more than arts administrators?

What if we didn’t accept the shitty status quo we have helped build, or at least allowed to perpetuate, and changed it for the our betterment?

Our Front Page Was Accidentally Sexist

By | Design, Purpose | No Comments

I changed our website front page because it was accidentally sexist. This is what it was:

IMAGE: Our old sexist frontpage, five men in a phlanx, no women.

Notice anything missing? Women. The first thing a visitor to The X Gene would see was a phalanx of dudes. I didn’t even realise I’d made this omission of gender for years. Way back when I arranged the shoot, we got costumes, props, and I asked the camera operators and editors, buddies that I’d been working with for ages to come in and be creative scientists with me. I was quietly proud we had a mix of skin colours. I didn’t mean to exclude women. In fact, I didn’t even think about it. I just got my friends in.

And that, my friends, was a lesson to me in how I imagine the majority of sexism or gender inequality takes place: the insidious nature of not thinking beyond the immediate. I daresay most inequality in our civilised nation – so respectful, so relatively progressive compared to, say, the Congo – isn’t bellowing fat men, their noses bulbous from consumption, barking sexist epithets through teeth clenched around a cigar while they pinch their secretary’s bum. (Though, I know that still happens. I won’t tell you story of the ad men in the pub who thought they were in Mad Men and copped a public serve from a woman who would have none of it.) I think most of the quashing of access for women comes from bone headed decisions like mine. Men who are lovely to their mums, sweet to their girlfriends, but simply don’t take a moment to think beyond their present surrounds.

I saw how easy it was to make the mistake that must happen a thousand times a year per skyscraper floor, each building on the other until the compounding effect is the glass ceiling. More vicious men than us built it, but the charming, inoffensive modern man still maintains its thickness.

This is the homepage now:

IMAGE: Our new less-sexist front page, a pug being tested like the mind reading in Ghostbusters

Still not a woman to be seen. In fact, it’s a dog. Sorry. I only have the photos we took, but at least now there isn’t a military formation of men shot at a slight low angle, accidentally turning away any woman who might think another boys club isn’t worth the time. Now, it’s that most gender neutral delight: an overweight staffy pug!

I changed our front page to better reflect my company’s values. We missed the mark originally, and I look forward to a future rebrand where I can balance the message. For now, enjoy the Ghostbusters homage with my dearly departed old dog, Chubbs, and use my dumb mistake to think a little further out of your immediate zone. Maybe we shouldn’t just go to our mates, and maybe if we do, our mates should be a little more equally distributed.

Image: Gathering of listeners in Inspire9 for This Digital Life

This #DigitalLife

By | Events, Innovation, Inspiration, Purpose, Technology | No Comments

Here’s some of the highlights on Twitter from our successful inaugural This Digital Life event. Four incredible women from digital work places shared their cutting edge stories from business, then explained parts of how they got their personal lives balanced. Thanks a billion to Girl Geek and Toya Ricci.