My daughter was born four months ago, I’ve spent my maternity leave, as many people do, hanging out with other new mums in coffee shops and generally wondering where the time is going. I’ve got used to seeing other people’s slight look of concern when they ask me when I’m going back to work, but the reality is, as a freelancer in the film industry, I don’t really know.
I’ve done various roles in production, most recently I was the Location Co-ordinator on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. I decided a few years ago to work as a department co-ordinator as well as in production. I felt that this knowledge of different departments would improve my understanding as a production co-ordinator. There was also the added benefit of getting slightly more control over my time management.
When I initially decided that I wanted to start a family I was worried that I would have to give up my career entirely, I struggled to think of many colleagues I knew who were mothers. I was shocked to hear the statistics of how few women in the film industry are mothers, and I can’t imagine many of us feel we achieve a great work/life balance.
Having spent the last 13 years working hard and gaining experience in an industry that I have always found to be very rewarding, I am now increasingly frustrated that the same industry is so unsupportive of parents. Throughout my career the industry has invested in me, providing me with employment and on-the-job training; to throw that all away now and do something entirely different, seems like a waste. Can you imagine a large, monetised corporation writing off that many years of investment in a staff member? Companies such as Netflix are often praised for how well they treat their staff: we should be looking to the corporate world for ideas as to how we can support all of our employees within the industry. If the pressures of everyday life and families are accepted as the norm then surely that will encourage employees to be more relaxed at work and allow their creativity to thrive.
Myself and other below-the-line crew members have progressed through the industry tackling various challenges, no matter how time-consuming or arduous. I am no longer able to compete with other crew members on this basis. My child has to come first in so many instances, but I don’t feel I am any less able to do my job, I’m just motivated to do it more efficiently. I now also feel I have to persuade people that I will pull my weight and be supportive of my colleagues, when needed. I’m not sure where I feel this pressure is coming from; no-one has ever actually told me they wouldn’t employ me if I had a child, but I’ve been worrying about it enough to make me realise these thoughts must be coming from somewhere. Or is it just the fact that there are currently so few working mothers in the industry that I’m afraid to be different from the norm.
In this age of mobile technology where none of us are far from our phone or email I find it increasingly frustrating we are not using this technology to its full potential. There are many new innovations that would go a long way to helping us all work smarter and more efficiently which would then ultimately make it far easier for people to have a family alongside a successful career.
The UK industry is now busier than it has been for years and the demand for good quality crew is high. It’s fantastic that there are now more opportunities for new people to enter the industry, but couldn’t it also be the perfect time for us to support mums (some of whom I know have left the industry), so that we can all benefit from their added experience of being a parent as well as a film industry professional.
For now, it’s down to me to sell my experience and knowledge, and to be confident that I am an asset to any production I’m involved with. There should be no reason for me to qualify how hard I will work to prospective employers, my experience should speak for itself.
Above all, I shouldn’t feel like I need to explain my decision to have my daughter and have a career.