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Women In Film: Nipples, Nudity, Bitches And Saying No

This past week I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren Sowa, Founder of Portraits of Women in Film, for an interview with my collaborators, Lisa Baron and Kristin Frost. We spoke about being women in the film industry, as well as our upcoming short film, Hedda Needs Help. Hours passed and in the end, we all found that it’d been truly liberating to sit down and talk openly about our experiences. It’s something we all agreed, needs to be done much more often amidst women creators in all industries.

Personally, memories of past experiences came to mind, that I’ve either never analyzed or discussed before. I’ve pushed these to a place in the back on my head, buried under embarrassment, insecurity or even indifference.

I have learned that ’knowing’ yourself, is not as simple as it seems. Often it calls for re-evaluation or even an open dialogue with others to really find out who you are and to embrace that. Letting yourself really tap into who we authetically are in those moments, feels like the key to really getting to ’know’ one’s self fully.

I moved to NYC from Sweden 3 years ago to pursue acting and I feel like I’ve done fairly well in a city and an industry that require nothing less than sheer bad-assery. I know I’ve matured with the years and hardened with the speed of the city, yet wouldn’t say I’m jaded. I’ve been able to retain some of that wide-eyed Swedish girl who came to NYC full of hopes and dreams. But, when I look back on certain situations, I’m surprised how things that are certainly not normal have often appeared to be so.

Live and learn, right?

It’s a fact, but with more dialogue and a developing industry, maybe the lesson can be learned a bit faster. Even better, that these lessons, generally exclusive to women, will be completely eradicated. The only lessons being served will be teaching the world about what has always been there – fierce, poignant, hilarious, brilliant female voices.

Part of the problem is, people tend to revert to saying, “It’s just how it’s always been,” in regards to the fact there are more men than women in film. Or, the argument is made that men are needed for these specific positions for this or that reason, but that’s bullshit. The ability to create and tell stories is completely gender-neutral. Of course . There are plenty of hardcore female cinematographers who can operate a Steadicam, female gaffers that can light the shit out of a scene, and female sound recordists can hold a boom for an eternity without batting an eye. Don’t get me wrong – I highly respect and admire many, many amazing, male filmmakers. Talent is talent, male or female. The undeniable fact is, we need more women in film. Furthermore, If we step away from the statistics, how does a majority of men affect a minority of women on a set?

From my experience, one of an acting standpoint, when you’re filming a scene that includes intimacy or sexual content and you’re the only woman in a room of men ; director, AD, cinematographer, AC, sound and grip, ’comfortable’ is not the word that comes to mind. Truth be told, I’m a big fan of chilling in my underwear, but having no less than six sets of male eyes on your body without a female presence can be unnerving.

 There are many times I’ve wish I could just be a Dude

On another side of the coin, there are the talented women who do find themselves at the helm of a project and still get challenged and ’put back into place’. Somehow, the male director who rants and berates his cast and crew, is regarded as tough, demanding, BUT incredibly talented, while this sort-of behavoir from a female director …It’ll probably earn her the go-to title of Bitch.

There are many times I’ve wish I could just be a Dude; not just in the film industry, but in general. Just to be part of the gang and not have to feel so alienated on account of the conversation turning to a topic ’only guys understand.’ Even worse, something potentially offensive to women. It totally blows my mind, that guys thinks it’s better to talk trash about women behind my back instead of in front of me, as if that makes it more acceptable, right?

Another on-set concern, exclusive to females, is the worry about what the fuck can I wear during the shoot and how is that going to rock the boat. Shorts or a skirt in the sweltering heat of summer , I constantly remind myself, “Don’t bend over, Malin!” Or if it’s cold on-set, my mental dialogue is constantly, “Can people see my nipples?” or “Why did I chose this soft bra today?” All of this mental clutter is such a damn waste of energy that could be put into performance, directing, producing, running the set as the AD…anything else.

All in all, I’m not looking to shit on men. In fact, I generally quite like a lot of them. But this year I’ve hit some bumpy roads with the opposite sex in this industry, which has brought me to a point where I had to stop. Stop, face myself, and come to terms with who I am and want to be, as an artist and a person. I had to take a deep look inside and examine why I had chosen for so long, to overlook certain things, particular as it pertained to demanding I be respected as an artist and a woman.

I am a female creative in an industry where a double-standard is commonplace . It’s no secret that women have a more difficult time reaching our goals in certain contexts, compared to our male counterparts. And it’s not for lack of ability. Sometimes, I think, it’s because we sell ourselves short, and fall into the very societal gender traps we’re constantly trying to avoid. This year, I learned an important lesson that’s helped me avoid some of these traps: I don’t have to say yes to everything; I can say no. I can say no to a project or people I don’t agree with, and I can say no to being treated in a way I’m not okay with and reject expectations to behave a specific way. I can just be myself.

In fact, choosing to be myself was the best decision I’ve ever made

Being myself has made me less nervous and stressed. Embracing myself and my personality has led to booking more jobs. I’ve found the courage to say no to scripts, parts or projects I didn’t respect or didn’t feel a connection to. Being myself has also pushed me to start writing and creating my own work, which has in return, led me towards an even deeper understanding of what my place as a woman in film can be. It might sound easy, but sometimes you gotta dig deep, to find the simplest of answers.

You can help to back Malins short film here 

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