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Why the Academy Awards Matter for Gender Equality in Hollywood

"I hadn't even heard of that movie until the nominations."
"Oh, it's Oscar nominated? I'll have to see it."
"I need to see all the best picture nominees before the Oscars are on!"

How many times do you hear these things during awards season? All the time? And then also through the rest of the year? Yeah, me too. Because it turns out that no matter how apathetic you can be toward awards, this is the one award that most people use to judge the worthiness of a film. It makes them seek it out.

That's the first reason why the Oscars matter. Here is the second reason.

After the Oscars were announced this morning and I aired my grievances -- not shock by any means, but annoyance -- on Twitter, I got some push back. Who cares about awards? Well, a lot of people: see above. But mostly, my displeasure comes from the fact this is another greater representation of how skewed Hollywood is.

In the entire history of the Oscars, since 1927, there have been four women nominated for best director. That's four out of 423. Less than one percent. There have been 637 people nominated for cinematography -- zero of them women. That is also less than one percent.

There are some women nominated this year, like Sandra Adair for her editing work on Boyhood. Becky Sullivan for sound editing on Unbroken. Laura Poitras' documentary CitizenFour. Documentary shorts Crisis Hotline: Press 1 directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Joanna directed by Aneta Kopacz. Some nominations for songwriting, make-up and hair, production design and costuming. And yes, actress categories, haw haw. But my point is that beyond the editing nominees, this is pretty much how Oscar nominations for women tend to go in a good year.

Things don't change unless people in places of power and decision-making seek to change them. Studios don't take chances on women because they're still "different". People hire from within, and they tend to hire people that look like them. All of these things that come back around to internalized sexism -- sexism that is mostly just casual and societal rather than outright malicious -- and it feeds into Hollywood and gets spit out on Oscar nomination morning in the form of eight best picture nominees about men.

That's why awards matter: they bring attention to stories that might not get attention, and they represent what Hollywood has to offer us which often serves as a reminder of what Hollywood lacks. The visibility and success of these films from Oscar season tells Hollywood what "we" want to see, which circles back around into creating next's year crop of things. And the lack of diversity in what "we" desire does nothing to help eliminate the gender gap in Hollywood.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Jan 15, 2015 at 8:13:52 pm oscars, post-production

Editing for Social Impact: How I Saved the San Gabriel Mountains

(Okay, maybe the headline is a LITTLE strong, but I HELPED.)

In the world of corporate video, the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world didn’t come around often for me. I know that’s not true for many people in the “corporate video” world, which is a general term I could use to mean anything from industrial how-toe or non-profit event highlight reels. But in my little piece of that land, my videos were generally not going to make a change that would last for future generations. At least, not a positive one.

When I started working on the PBS series This American Land, I finally got the opportunity to see what it was like to work on content with consequences in the real world, specifically the natural world and everything in it. The two seasons I’ve spent on it have been focused on the angle of people working toward a greater good to solve an issue — an endangered species, shrinking wild land, or polluted river.

In 2013, I edited a segment about the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California. The San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign was trying to get the area designated as a national monument so it would be protected from development in the same way other natural lands are in the United States, and with its proximity to Los Angeles, the conservation of the area for providing drinking water and green space is important. It was kind of a tough edit because, to put it delicately, the field producing wasn’t tops. The executive producer (who did not produce the segment) was worried we wouldn’t have what we needed because it was pretty rough, but he gave it to over to me with the hopes I could find the story. We emailed back and forth a couple of times about the mission of the piece and what they hoped to accomplish, and I dug in without a script or guide or notes and came back with a six minute piece called Backyard Wilderness. The EP was so glad I did what I did with it, he gave me the producer credit for the story.



Late last year (in 2014), I got a news alert on my phone that President Obama was going to designate the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument. I was like hey, whoa dude, I edited a thing about that and now it happened. Not to say my editorial work had any impact (or maybe it did, for the right people — it’s on the campaign’s main page and was broadcast nationally and all) but I’ve never felt that kind of connection between cutting a video and then seeing the direct outcome of that. I felt a smidgen of ownership in that because I had dived so deep in the material to draw out pieces of the story that would make the best case for the campaign.



People have been working on this for over a decade, and I’m sure it’s been hugely rewarding to finally see it come to fruition. My part of it coming in the final year before the designation was given is pretty cool too. I hope everyone in post-production gets the opportunity to edit something that has meaning beyond the half hour its broadcast to the world. It certainly gives you a new perspective when you’re still working on it.

Another edit I really enjoyed was about an area of West Virginia that contains the beginning of six watersheds that feed into bigger rivers downstream. Birthplace of Rivers is a campaign to designate this area a national monument, so the quality of drinking water can’t be affected by oil and gas development or other industries. This edit was another where I was given a bunch of stuff and a loose guide — not out of necessity but rather to see what I’d make with it — so it was another I’ve grown attached to. I hope Birthplace of Rivers will see the same kind of success as the San Gabriel Mountains.



Posted by: Kylee Peña on Jan 11, 2015 at 1:36:12 pm editing, conservation



Focusing on post-production, from editing and motion graphics to personal experiences and the psychology of being an editor.


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