Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Ciara Chambers
Women in the Film and Television Industries Symposium
The “nameless sidekick”: feminine invisibilty in the UK and Irish film industries.
NUI Maynooth
Invited Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
When the Irish News announced that Anne Morrison, then Chair of BAFTA (the British Academy of Film, Television and the Arts) would provide the keynote address at the Women’s Leadership conference in Belfast in 2016, it reduced her to a nameless sidekick in an article titled: “Gender inequality still an issue at senior level says Stephen Fry's 'warm-up woman'”. Without a hint of irony, the article recounts her struggle to establish herself in a “boys’ club”, acknowledges a lack of female representation in the creative industries, and then moves on to detail the amount of “nice dresses” required by Morrison when attending a range of BAFTA events. The “nameless sidekick” is perhaps a useful label when considering women’s visibility in the film industry more generally. The names of Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan are ubiquitous in popular culture, but those of Alma Hitchcock, Thelma Schoonmaker and Emma Thomas are not so well-known. Alma Reville was an accomplished editor when she married Hitchcock in 1926 and her extensive screenwriting credits illustrate her sustained contribution to Hitchcock’s oeuvre. Schoonmaker has edited every Martin Scorsese movie since 1980 while Thomas, Christopher Nolan’s partner, has produced all of Nolan’s films, amongst others. These invisible collaborative relationships have had significant impact on the canonical cinema produced, but it is telling how little this input has been recognized. Equally problematic is the clear inequality in gender representation in directing and screenwriting roles internationally. This paper will consider statistical studies of gender imbalances in the film industry in the UK and Ireland as a means of excavating notions of unconscious bias at play in funding and hiring decisions. It will also consider the implications of the absence of a “female sensibility” in 21st century cultural expression.