This year’s Virgin Media Shorts shortlist (see news story) features more women than ever before, demonstrating a growing confidence and presence among women in the male-dominated film industry. Scout London speaks to some of the finalists about their experiences.
Jennifer Sheridan, who directed Rocket – a sweet film about a border terrier’s stellar ambitions (above) – says she used to have a chip on her shoulder about the male-domination of the industry.
“When I was at university I met a lot of people who wanted to be directors and it put me off because I didn’t know if I had that amount of drive. I’ve always been interested in telling stories, but not necessarily as a writer or director, so I decided to become an editor because that’s where the tales are really shaped.
“I focussed all my efforts on that, but I found it quite challenging anyway because as a woman I was in a minority. It’s happening less and less as I’ve got older, but people still do ask ‘are you the editor?’. But as I’ve now built a name for myself, it’s not so common.
“Now I’m taking on more directorial roles I’m finding that, as I’ve already faced that challenge, it’s less daunting. I certainly don’t feel that being a woman will hurt my chances – if my work’s good enough then it’ll get recognised. If it’s not, it won’t. I almost feel that the lack of female directors gives me more incentive to achieve – I see the ones that are doing it and think ‘if they can, so can I’.”
Alice Seabright’s film Dream Girl (above) was shot in Paris. She has been making films since she was a teenager. Like most of the Virgin Media Shorts entries, hers was shot on a shoestring budget.
“I was delighted to be shortlisted,” she tells Scout London. “Of all the competitions, this is the most exciting.
“I’ve been working in the industry as an assistant for a year and a half now and I don’t feel like I’ve experienced any straightforward disadvantage being a woman. What’s interesting is that there are few female role models for women wanting to be directors. However that’s changing, which I think is really exciting. More and more women are doing amazing things in film.”
Another finalist, Hazel Meeks, was awarded an MA in directing from UCLA last year. She shot her film, Sprokett, while in LA, and is currently making films for corporate clients.
“Being shortlisted has been a real confidence boost,” she says excitedly. “I’ve been making films for a long time and I hope this recognition on such a prestigious platform will open doors for me to further my career.
“I come from a production design background where a lot of women work, so it was quite a shock when I started my MA course and found myself very much in the minority as a woman – plus all the tutors and guest lecturers were men. But it gave me more of a kick up the backside, as I felt I had to put more effort in to prove myself. However, as far as jobs go, I certainly like to think that it’s based on skill rather than what sex you are.”
Jennifer, Alice and Hazel are three of the 13 nominees vying for competition’s top prize and its affiliated People’s Choice Award. You can watch all the entries and vote for your favourite at virginmediashorts.co.uk