Curated by Jennifer Tuckett, director of University Women in the Arts (UWA), the recent UWA event series included a talk with film producer Caroline Cooper Charles, who is also the former Head of Film at Creative England and CEO of Universal Spirits.
She shared her experiences working in film and offered advice to women aspiring to work within the film industry. I left not only reminded of why it’s so vital to push back against these gender inequality boundaries, but also feeling more confident of how to approach being in the arts when you’re a woman.
So if you’re a female playwright looking to try a different media, or just after some general (and brilliant) creative writing advice, here’s the best advice I learnt from Caroline:
1- Don’t panic – it all works out in the end
From getting a media job, to working in arts admin, Caroline explained how her career has not been one straight path. One of the most interesting things she noted was after she got her first commission writing a T.V series, she gave up her job to peruse this full-time and ended up not gaining much work for 18 months.
The inevitable reactions that come with working in a creative industry can fill you will self-doubt, but Caroline’s experience proves that everyone has their fair share of twists and turns. Not everything may always go to plan, but it can very often work out just fine in the end.
2- Build creative communities
Being a writer can often be rather isolating, and Caroline noted how working in a creative industry, such as the film industry, can often mean being self-employed or possibly working on a freelance basis.
I definitely find the idea of not having colleagues, or the routine of an office 9-5, intimidating. Caroline suggested the answer to this could be building a creative community around you. This could be done through attending workshops or simply reaching out online to someone you admire who works in the same industry.
Working alone doesn’t mean you have to be isolated. Find your network, people you can share your scripts and your concerns with, or even people you can just grab a coffee with when the blank page seems a bit too intimating.
At a time where female work inequality is being taken as a serious issue, and with so many online communities, it’s the perfect time to reach out and create your own working environment. (An added bonus to this is you get to have a Christmas Party! Something those who are self-employed often miss out on.)
3- Spend less time thinking about what’s to come
Women often feel more inclined to turn down an opportunity if they do not feel they can competently take on every element of the task. Yet men are more inclined to take opportunities regardless of whether they’re the perfect fit for the job.
For women to progress within creative industries, Caroline reminded me that we must believe in our skillsets and not be afraid to grow through learning and making mistakes.
She suggested that we spend less time thinking about what else is around the corner and embrace the opportunities that come our way.
Working in such an inconsistent field, this may not be the easiest thing to do, but as women, it is important that we believe in ourselves in order to progress in our work (as cheesy as it sounds!).
Don’t let your doubts stop you from entering opportunities or promoting your work – you’re taking yourself out of the running before you’ve even got started.
But this doesn’t mean you have to suddenly become competitive with other women, willing them not to succeed so you get the opportunity.
Caroline summed this up nicely, saying: “I don’t want to be a woman that fights like a man in order to dominate in a man’s world.”
4- Have an active routine
Whether it’s making sure you have time to go for you morning run, or time to cook yourself a good meal in the evening, having a routine that works for you, and allows you to motivate yourself, is so important.
This doesn’t mean you have to be weighed down by a certain structure, rather you bring in a healthy routine that ensures you’re not spending all your time on Buzzfeed quizzes and cat videos…
One of the best attributes you can carry is transparency. To be honest with those around you, to admit when you need help, and to work openly with your team, means people will be more open with you, and this is always a positive thing.
6- It’s okay to not have a plan
When asked what advice she would have given to her younger self, Caroline stated: “That it’s okay to not have a plan. I’ve never had a plan, and when I was younger I thought that was a problem.”
I think for so many women, we feel a pressure to consistently prove ourselves, and not having plan can sometimes feel like failing, so it was brilliant to hear a successful women say that it’s okay to not know.
After hearing Caroline talk, I felt as though being a young woman wanting to build a creative career wasn’t impossible, it was just means working hard – and we wouldn’t be a part of this industry if that wasn’t something we were prepared to do.
Conversations like this keep that fight alive for so many of us trying to push past the boundaries of gender inequality. Listening to Caroline reminded me how vital it is for women to support other women and to build the creative community she spoke so passionately about.
To find out more about the University Women of Arts programme, you can visit their website here.