Dinner with Dames Case File
Who: Dean Cundey, Director of Photography of Jurassic Park and Back to the Future, Cinefemme board, fiscal sponsorees, and referrals – Leslie Bumgarner, Kimby Caplan, Nausheen Dadabhoy, Toy Lei, Jenna Payne, Tema Staig, Maggie Walsh, and myself, Yamit Shimonovitz
What: Dinner 1.4 – a casual discussion on industry issues facing women & ways to excel in their careers over dinner & drinks
When: Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Where: Il Fornaio
Why: To propel women to bigger and better career opportunities within studios and networks
As a Director of Photography in the industry, I have shot many great projects working mostly with men. A documentary I’m shooting, Half The Picture, is about the dismal number of women directors working in Hollywood, and it uses the current EEOC investigation into discriminatory hiring practices as a framework to talk to successful women directors about their career paths and their struggles, their inspiration and their hopes for the future.
I’m working with a mostly female crew and listening to many stories told by successful directors. It has opened my eyes to something I was aware of but I always put aside: the discrimination we are facing in the film industry. While shooting the film, I have also been introduced to many different groups of female filmmakers who are spearheading a movement that is empowering.
Led by DWD Program Director Jenna Payne, our dinner host was Dean Cundey, the Director of Photography on Apollo 13, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Road House (one of Jenna’s favorites) and many more. With a successful career and nearly 100 credits, he started shooting movies in the early 70’s. He has seen the industry change in many aspects, including being more open to women.
He recently wrapped shooting with director Hallie Meyers-Shyer on Home Again, a production with many female crewmembers. He shared with us that owning a truck with lighting gear and three 35mm cameras help him jumpstart his career as a DP, and he was able to shoot many low budget movies while his wife at the time worked as a teacher to support the family.
Dean Cundey won the ASC lifetime achievement award in 2014, and his innovative cinematography was ahead of its time. He explained his method for achieving the look of Apollo 13. He had the camera rigged on a rope and pulley system to create the feeling of weightlessness in outer space before the concept of an easy rig and other camera support systems were created. His main light was always in motion outside the window of the space capsule, simulating the constant motion of the vessel in relationship to the sun.
He suggested that as a DP if you mute the sound and the image still reflects the mood of the scene without calling attention to the camera work, you have done a good job.
The conversation was enlightening. We discussed the way women are portrayed in movies and how it influences the worldview expectation of women. Is it the chicken or the egg scenario or will it change by increasing the number of women working above and below the line in the industry?
Dean also mentioned that instead of all the different women groups and collectives that are happening in the industry professional women should take the time to network with their fellow man to help create connections in their field.
Dinner with Dames is a great example of this kind of networking.
A fellow DWD participant Tema Staig, who created Women In Media, felt that the one big thing she took away from the conversation was that it helps to have someone to support you financially and emotionally for the first few years while you’re making 20 or 30 low-paying B movies and learning the ropes. That means that significant others or families should step up while women build their careers. Women do it all the time for their husbands.
The main thing I took from the dinner beside lighting and camera tips, is that having an open conversation on gender and race in Hollywood is healthy and can only lead to better understanding and support for women in the industry.
Video Footage by Kimby Caplan / Editing by Katie Letien
Cinefemme is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by women filmmakers, for women filmmakers in 2002. Cinefemme provides fiscal sponsorship to women filmmakers and artists, as well as peer-to-peer networking, mentorship, and strategy for project fundraising. By advancing women’s careers in film and the arts, we empower women’s voices to create gender parity in the arts and equal representation in the media.
About Yamit Shimonovitz:
Yamit Shimonovitz DP, Local 600, received acclaim for her innovative cinematography for the documentary Los Wild Ones, which premiered at SXSW, won Best feature at RiFF film fest, and Best Cinematography at Uptown Film Fest. Her current work includes commercials for Apple, Intel, and Whole Foods. Born in Israel and currently based in Los Angeles, Yamit has a gift for tuning into the energy of her lens’ subjects. She brings attention to cinematic detail and inventive problem solving to all the forms in her repertoire: documentaries, features, commercials, and music videos.