Did you hit record?

Did you hit record?

Those four words were all I heard in highschool. They’re all I ever paid attention to. For good reason I suppose. See that was the question we asked as soon as we hit ‘transition’ in the broadcast studio. It was a routine, one that I will never get tired of. If we didn’t hit record then we had no record of what we were showing to the school at the time…it just became nothing. All the hard work, the hours we spent filming events instead of doing homework or sleeping was just gone.

I’ve written a lot about this topic before. I originally was planning on submitting it to Shonda Rhimes’s G2 Pilot Pen contest but I felt too self conscious about it and had struggles with handwriting it and copying the paper. Every time I did it the scanner would ruin my image and I had missed the time to mail in submissions. I also wanted it digitized because I have very sloppy handwriting. So this story never made its way to Shonda.

and I certainly also want to mention that I myself am not the first female director of my highschool’s broadcast program. There were about three I think before me? One was my mentor herself. But I had a lot of circumstances in my three years that I kind of really reflected on.

Everyone focuses on how great it is that I’m a woman and I had this power, and I’m very proud of that. But no one actually understands how hard it was. I enjoyed every second of it and I kept going back each morning because I was in love with the thrill of it. There’s a sense of feeling you get when you do a show and get to use a switcher, and press all these buttons. But life wasn’t just all button pressing.

The lay out of the class is a student run for credit class with a teacher to supervise us. He teaches all the video classes which prepare you for the broadcast class. You take video 1 to get in, although there’s exceptions who never take the class or simultaneously take broadcasting and video 1 together. See you don’t exactly sign up for the class.

I’ll walk you through my interview.

I had video one even though I was qualified to not take it, I was enrolled for elective credit. I went in during a study hour to the first classroom which was a make shift art room with computers and video equipment stored in a shared closet with Art next door. The closet is where I had my interview. Student directors sat on stools with only one set of lights on, for dramatic purposes. They ask about my experience, my leadership skills, my skills working in groups, what I wanted from the class…all to how I would solve technical issues. It wasn’t as scary as they tried to make it be. I got in like the next week. But that process is handed down through all the directors.

So I took my first year as a sophomore and in the spring they called for interviews for director. There’s some sort of rule about how it should go. Sort of like one senior, one junior, one sophomore for each position. Yes there’s multiple positions. I may be a director but there were three of us in total who all had the same power and ability. Our formal titles were different, I actually was executive producer? They actually messed up my year because they picked two incoming juniors and an incoming senior. Which made things unbalanced when we had events to cover that we would be at or when it came time to pick people for our junior year. Anyway I was treated just like any other director, I think.

Only let’s discuss that whole concept of being treated the same as a director. I was formally again, considered by staff and by other students but here is where it becomes a bit…messy? yeah. I’ll say messy.

What do you tell a 15 year old girl when she gets the title of director for a highschool broadcasting class? How do you let her know what she’d face over the next years of her life?

There is no guide book. There’s no process. There’s no amount of training I could have had to make this easier or better for me. I wouldn’t have traded my experiences for the world but I don’t think people realize that my experiences include being disrespected, bullied, put down, invalidated, creatively ignored, and having to do the hard stuff like reporting after the death of a student.

Honestly I learned to care less about what people think if it doesn’t benefit me but let’s forget all that mushy feelings about me finding myself and being able to take charge. I’m a shy person, but I grew and developed with my class of students and I found a way to be loud.

But here it is. We need to dig into the problems I faced out of pure sexism. This isn’t to blame anyone, or point fingers in any way but more of an understanding of how students work in today’s society. It was very difficult my first week. I received the title and status in April I think of that year so I was still 15 nearing 16 and I sort of was coming to terms with having this power. We run the class. We address the class each morning, we content check everything before it airs, we even graded our classmates. I suddenly could speak out when I didn’t like something someone had presented to us to air. I could creatively tell them that they were wrong, and I could propose things for people to film and so I started to try to.

Can you picture a timid 15 year old me, trying to tell an 18 year old senior his package can’t be aired because of say a mic being cut off or audio being fuzzy?

or let’s throw this one in

no one is actually doing work in the studio and you get a sixth sense your teacher is about to come in and witness the lack of effort, and you have the job of telling everyone to start working- and you do, pretty loudly…but they still don’t listen?

Those are two examples of what I dealt with on the daily. No one listened to me. I had to command respect suddenly. These were my peers who I know I sometimes pissed off by putting my foot down over certain topics…which is when middle of my first year I started being called a bitch behind my back. I sort of brushed it off. It worried me at first but then I had come to an understanding that in order to be in a professional environment that I had to accept what was being thrown at me.

There was staff meetings towards the end of my final year where they requested my male co directors over me even though they were discussing a project that I had been following, and was close to the graphic creator for. There were students who gossiped about our program, who put us down constantly and they didn’t even know I was running it. We have credits but no one reads them, they’re just to be fancy I suppose. Or male students accused us of brainwashing when we tried to cover news stories without bias about current state of affairs in our society, which included things that affected our student body like gay marriage and health care. From then we started a small segment were students could send in messages and do an editorial on them, to explain our content choices. It didn’t fair well with students, but was praised by teachers.

It’s hard to pick out a really terrible moment from a vast sea of them.

I had bad times too. When a male student thought it was okay to disrespect a deceased student, whom I was close with which resulted in me screaming at him (and I had lost my patience with him as a poor broadcast student who was flaky and very poor at due dates as well). I did things I was not proud of like undermining someone else’s project and so forth.

I struggled with finding my voice and this program helped me to. So I guess this is time to explain why I get so interested and invested in people directing because I never thought that I couldn’t direct. I never was like oh that’s a man’s job I can’t. It was more that as I became one, and the only female one during my year (and then went to choose two, very deserving, female directors for the year after I left) that I realized I was alone. But I also felt like that gave me power, being the only woman. I took everything into my hands, I often overloaded myself with work. I watched three different news channels a day, I was a junkie- but I believed in helping my classmates receive real news. We didn’t cover just when the sports played but impact stories about our community or the world. I also empowered my female students and I let their voices be heard, and we did things like accepting people to be anchors who had no experience and people thought of as just a cheerleader- she’s in a journalism college now. These people have stories and talents, and I helped them grow.

I get so excited when I see women directing because I know they’ll struggle, even if they never admit if they do. I’ll have felt the same as them. The frustration of not being listen to. The sheer anger when you’re about to go live in five minutes, and a script isn’t done being fixed.

and that moment when you ask did you record?

I can say, yes I did.

Drink: Orange flavored immune boosting drink, in warm water. Also a cup of English Tea Shop super berry mix.

I think I have my letter to Shonda typed up still if anyone wanted to know the full story behind everything. I go into a lot of depth, including things that I don’t mention here like the school trying to remove our program.

Advertisements

Coincidence

Life is kind of a series of coincidences. I’ve lived through many of coincidences, and I’ve reflected on them a lot but there’s one that just blew me away.I mean it’s something significant when just days before you officially change your concentration to something, one of your role models breaks the news they’re pursuing it too.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I’ve always kind of separated my interests from career to the point where I don’t actively search out people to idolize with my same exact goals in my career because I don’t want my story to be me trying to be a carbon copy of them. I am my own person under a realm of influence by the people I look up to and interact with. My want to go to ‘film school’ was that I already knew I wanted to create media within the cinematic elements, not because I idolized anyone.

So like let’s fast forward here to my first year of college, and I’m in this TV program because around sophomore year of highschool I realized I don’t want to make movies, I want to make TV. My sort of goal for TV has always been a way to bring stories to screen that made my classmates feel represented. I will always have a young white woman to represent me, I’ve found several. But I had started to realize my friends didn’t watch TV as much as me because they felt disconnected as POC, or lgbtq+ members and so on. Anyway so that’s why I’m in TV. I also, not to brag, have a real skill in it and have had background training starting from a highschool level ( I was broadcast director & won a few film festivals). I made sure to get into a TV program versus a film program because I knew that the specifics would benefit me, but I originally was in a editing concentration. I love editing but my school combined it with a lot of graphic and visual design, which I have played with and learned I don’t enjoy. So time came around and I changed my concentration this year. I had been planning for months. Then the news broke.

 “It took 13 years, but Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo will boldly follow in several of her co-stars’ footsteps when she directs an episode of the ABC medical drama this spring, TVLine has learned.”
Hold up…you’re telling me I changed my concentration just before I learned Ellen Pompeo, someone whom I’ve looked up to for a few years now, and have always dreamed of seeing what her production company does…actually became a director which is what I changed my concentration to?
I changed from an editing concentration to directing/producing concentration.
My mind was made up before I my appointment time with my counselor, so the actual timing is officially after Ellen’s announcement. I was stunned. As a creative person who over analyzes, seeing someone you look up to or idolize and seeing how their creative mind works is honestly a fever dream. There is nothing better than the rush that comes when trying to analyze someone’s work, that you feel so connected to. I’ve never met Ellen, probably never will; but the life that comes from interviews, and from social media influences how I view her work obviously. Fast forward to now and I got to screen the episode at Paley Fest (side note here, many people met the cast at Paley, my seats were in the balcony and security did not allow anyone from those seats down to orchestra where the cast was signing and taking selfies).  I already talked about the episode and it’s meaningful impact to me last post, how I watched with my mother, so I’m going to talk more about directing here.
First off its a beautiful episode and I don’t only want Ellen to continue to direct Grey’s Anatomy, but this only made me more excited for her production company. Not many people know but Ellen has her own production company, Calamity Jane and she’s bought the rights to multiple movies and mini series. As a media person myself I’m so excited to see her career develop, and I think that’s what made me so excited about all of this. I’m very young and going to college for my dreams, but I see that my dreams can come true at any age. I could discuss more but I’ll just mention here about Ellen’s career, that it didn’t start until she was in her 30’s as an actress that when she moved beyond the Law&Order guest star phase into her first movie role, Moonlight Mile. Quickly after that she was cast in Grey’s Anatomy after Shonda Rhimes suggested to Betsy Beers, “Can we get someone like the girl from Moonlight Mile?” to which Betsy replied they could actually get that girl.
For an actress 30 is considered by majority of Hollywood to be too old, and Ellen felt the backlash of that by being cast as a mother, girlfriend, and love interest in several of her other films. She saw that Meredith Grey was more than the idea of someone’s lover, and a very complex character which is why she’s played her for over 13 years now. So Ellen broke that boundary on TV in 2004 when Grey’s first aired but she didn’t stop there. We can’t mention her directing without talking about the numbers. The number of women directors.
I don’t have numbers for television, and I think they are slightly more than the numbers I have for film alone but the statistic that I go to the most is that there’s only 13% of directors that are women.
13%
Shondaland has made progress with this number for years, for example co-star Chandra Wilson, has directed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy herself, as has Debbie Allen who helped coach Ellen Pompeo on her journey to directing. But the reason for me that Ellen’s episode is such a big deal is because she’s much more visible by viewers, known for this role she plays,  and the influence of this one episode is so great. Because it tells her fans, it tells these young girls, that you can do more. Besides acting Ellen’s always been an activist as well, and really put forward the notion that celebrities are real people. It is so easy to knock away all of her big fancy things because she’s very down to earth in the outlets she uses to interact with people. So that combined with directing is basically a show stopper.
There will probably never be a clear way for me to express the joy I feel knowing someone I adore so much, I can sympathize with in terms of struggles job wise but this is me trying.
This is an open letter to Ellen saying you did amazing, you have such a talent you probably had no idea you had, thank you for listening to Debbie when she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Thank you for documenting it over social media, thank you for being so open at Paley Fest about your process, the vulnerability of your story being told, the personal touch that needed to be shared. Thank you for giving a young aspiring director like me hope, and thank you for breaking barriers.
Love Danielle, a TV student with a directing producing concentration.

One Day Feminsim

We need to have a talk. A deep talk, one you probably don’t want to hear. But we have to talk or else things won’t get better.  There’s been a movement happening and I could bore you with stats and facts I have about feminism existing for years and each of the waves but that’s counter productive here. You know feminism exists, and you know it’s becoming mainstream. There is a evil lurking in that mainstream factor, and that is what I call “one day feminism”

Every ounce of support is wanted and needed, no matter who you are let’s just address that first. I’m not at all saying to never participate if you happen to fall under the category of one day feminism but I’m asking you to try harder. If not for yourself for all the women you’re supposed to be supporting with your activism. I’ve seen a huge up rise of young women being self proclaimed feminists and I love it, I do, but being feminist for your convenience be it for celebrity popularity, or to stand out, and make a fashion statement- whatever it may be there is a gap. This gap exists when you don’t make a habit of putting feminism into your everyday life. You have the merchandise, you have the gear-but do you have the feminist heart?

There is a lot of hypocrisy I find. I delve into the existence of online fandoms or so be it, which is where a lot of this happens. Girls who feel they’re special for liking books still while other girls party (which in itself is partially part of slut shaming, but let’s not dig into that too much), or are outsiders- you know the type. They have this tendency to gravitate to the feminist movement and then drop it the next day. They won’t admit they are but how do you raise up a woman and empower her, but turn around and dismiss and undermine another just the same day and call yourself a feminist when your favorite celebrity gets online? That’s not how feminism works. I believe in embracing it through lifestyle changes, through speaking out which takes me to a second topic here. One woman’s voice is worth more than others right now. How did we get here? I see it constantly, you praise a woman for speaking her mind and getting rid of negativity or toxicity around her and then when you inflict that very negativity on another woman, and you shame her for trying to remove it- the very basis of “internet dragging“. That is a problem.

Women’s voices are being silenced every day and yet this culture wants to simultaneously tell women to speak out but allow other women to negatively shame them. What is this mess? I see far too much of it. Under the guise of being “petty” or being “extra” as a joke which is just them hiding because they know they’ve done wrong. Their idol may even feel disappointed in them. So what do you do when you’re confronted with this issue. How can we carefully watch each other so we don’t invalidate what we want to believe in while not policing each others opinions.

You can have a negative opinion on a woman. You can not like her hair, her face, her personality- but you do not have to speak that negative opinion. Opinions like those are ones you keep carefully hidden up, and not associated with you. When hating someone becomes a part of your identity, it’s harmful. I hear a name, I associate it with them hating someone I love for example. That should not be how life is? Then to turn around and say “oh this or that woman inspires me and I love her, and go women’s rights we need to fight back blah blah”. It helps a little bit. It raises some noise. But does it raise it in your heart?

Don’t be a feminist for a day. We don’t need you for your celebrity or your to make yourself look good. Being a feminist is about bringing women up, starting from inside yourself. We need women who care about others who may not even care for them. Because we all deserve equality.

Be a feminist for life.