Women in Film: The Journey to Directing

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By Abby Wittwer

Editor: Katie Williams

On a rainy December afternoon, Heather Haughey and her team set up to record in Kresge Library. As the director for Video Services at Oakland, Haughey splits her time between her office and various locations around campus to provide digital support for clients. During a break between two large shoots of the day, Haughey sits down to discuss her journey in the department on campus, as well as her experiences being a woman in the film industry.

Abby Wittwer: What is your favorite facet in film?

Heather Haughey: The editing portion: that’s what I started out in the business. But through projects, I naturally gravitated into the director’s role, because I think that’s a result of being an editor. It lends itself to directing because if you know what you need to edit, you know what you need to record. That is where I kind of ended up in the latter portion of my career.

AW: So, how did you begin in the industry?

HH: I have a background in sports work. I was a shooter and editor for NFL films. My [other] job for the Jacksonville Jaguars was to edit all the in-game video material that will go on their jumbotron. I would also run parabolic mic or camera for the LPGA and PGA.

AW: You mentioned your move toward the Director of Video Services at Oakland, what does that entail?

HH: The director entails several things. Number one, we’re here to produce videos for the university. They are things like training videos, or messaging from administrator to faculty, staff, and students. The second facet is the operation and support of its cable channel. We must do a lot of original content production to put on that chain.

AW: As a woman in the film industry, have you noticed any pushback or constraints toward your rise in the department?

HH: Not so much in the film production here, but in terms of how we’re valued in comparable positions across the university. I make 10 to $15,000 less than the directors of communication and marketing, versus in the private sector, I don’t think we would see so much gender inequity, because there has been such a push in the industry over the last 10 years to raise visibility in talents of both people of color and women.

I think when you talk about university life, we lag really far behind in terms of equality. Understand that you’re going to have to assert yourself and say, “Hey, that talk is not acceptable to me,” and being able to feel confident setting whatever boundaries that you need.

AW: Did you know being a woman in film would be rare when you started working towards this career?

HH: Yes, I knew that because of the makeup of my classes. You know, when I walk into a class, there would be maybe three or four girls in a room of 30.

AW:  What are the experiences that have affected you the most in this industry?

HH: My spectacular failures. For instance, I had to pack all the equipment for a shoot and make all the arrangements. We were traveling to an island to go setup. I then realized I left the videotapes behind, not back in the car, but back at the television station, which was an hour ferry ride and another ninety-minute drive. After that, I have never forgotten recording material to this day.

AW: Did you have any role models?

HH: There were people that I really wanted to emulate in the industry, like Thelma Scoonmaker was an editor who I’ve always watched and I was like, “Oh, man, if I only I could get to that level.”

AW: Do you have any advice for women who want to break into the film industry?

HH:  Be willing to work harder than your male counterparts. We’re still, sadly, going to be perceived as less than, and the only way to get ahead of the game is to outwork your competition.

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