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Olle Sjostrom

#metoo and sexism in general

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Howdy folks

 

So, #metoo and all the other hashtags that follows in this tsunami of women not taking any more crap. 
In Sweden, 456 actors (women) originally wrote an article with testimonials of sexism and sexual assaults, harassments and other abuse, a few days ago. The number is now inflating and closing in on a thousand. Sweden is a very small country and that number basically says that nearly 100% of women in the business have been or witnessed sexual harassment or worse (forgive me if the terminology and wording is a bit off as English isn't my first language, please correct me if I'm wrong). 
 

I believe this problem really has to do with power, and the power structures in our business. Louis C.K is the newest example, and he explicitly says he took advantage of his position and offended these women. Weinstein was not so candid, but that's not the point. The point is that this is a power thing, right. The one in the higher rank thinks it's ok to treat someone lesser with a bad attitude, touching, pinching, grabbing "for fun". Or even luring people into sexual encounters or worse things. 
So I just assumed that people in the higher ranks, mostly male, producers, actors, directors, maybe DPs, could behave like this. I wouldn't think, for example, that a sound mixer would be sexist on set, trying to take advantage of actors. Just an example. 

 

In Sweden though, this other article comes out and there it is; a story about a sound mixer just saying something he (of course it's a he) thought was funny at the time. So the story is a young 20-something girl in an early role for her career goes to the mixer to be mic'd up. The lav is supposed to go on her chest. Her blouse accidentally opens up, I guess a button was already undone or something and it puts her in a very awkward position obviously. The mixer comments "I just had to look at your blouse for it to open up". (He's insinuating she wants him sexually). And it puts her off the whole day, having to work with him probably coming up to her to adjust during the day or whatever. She felt insecure the whole day. 

This story really took me aback. I had never heard anything like this in our field. I really hope this is just a one time thing.. 

Anyway, don't know where this thread is supposed to be heading, other than I guess talking about sexism and how we can change it on set. There's been so many stories about sexism on set in the US and I guess I was just curious to know how you guys deal with that. Or other stuff about sexism...

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Always have a costume person with you when you apply a lav to a man or a woman.

Always explain what you are going to do before you do it.

If a child, have the costume person plus a mother or chaperone present.

It's just part of your job but leave nothing to chance or misunderstanding.

 

mike

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I will always insist on wardrobe accompanying me when laving women and children (with children, I also ask the caretaker to be present. Just because I have heard of a guy who had bad luck). Misunderstandings are easily created and our job does sometimes require us to invade the privacy of other people and it can never hurt to have a witness with you. Plus wardrobe is really useful to have around when wiring someone anyway. 

If I am alone with the actress, I will explain to them where I want the mic to go and if it is anywhere near the bra area, I‘ll ask them to stick the mic there themselves. And this is probably not the time for jokes, as they, too, can easily be misunderstood, so I hold my tongue. Once you get to know the actress it can relax a bit, but it depends, obviously. 

 

I did work with a colleague once who couldn’t stop making „jokes“, like „this is the reason we‘re all doing this job“ (while putting a mic on a bra), and similar. He thought it was just easing the atmosphere, but it was terrible. I got really angry, because that is the very opposite of how it should be done. Luckily, no one else commented 

 

(just noticed how Mike said the same things, but so much more succinctly)

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Decided when I started out that if children needed to be wired, I would have their caretaker do it with me directing them. The risk of a misunderstanding alone makes me uncomfortable.

 

When I first meet them, I tell actors they can apply the lav themselves with my guidance if they strongly prefer it. I usually wire at set or near makeup in plain sight, but I’ll start bringing along wardrobe or a PA to be present.

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Just be professional, polite, have other professionals present or a parent... Be yourself...be  friendly... explain what you are about to do, if simple have them do themselves to create some interest and appreciation for the gear now mounted to them... Tell the talent what NOT to do... and your off...  I always tell them in advance we will be periodically irritating them for adjustments.. They then smile and i know were good to go...  ( actually my boom op tells them all this..)  I simply introduce myself .. get some levels and take a listen.. Difficult wardrobe or STAR talent and we involve wardrobe.. Many times they are busy with other activities and we try NOT to bother them..

 

And try not to say anything classless or plain stupid...  Hard for me, easy for my boom op..

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3 hours ago, afewmoreyears said:

Just be professional, polite, have other professionals present or a parent... Be yourself...be  friendly... explain what you are about to do

About sums is up.  Introduce yourself with a smile, stay professional, and stay relaxed, there's nothing worse that getting mic'd up by someone who is awkward/uncomfortable and is showing it clearly, it's the first thing I tell my younger boom ops who are always very nervous/timid wiring talent.

 

As far as chatting and being friendly with talent, which is likely to happen, especially if it's for the run of a show, a feature, or someone you end up working with a lot, let them take the lead, you'll be able to tell when/if they've grown really comfortable and relaxed around you. Let them start to build up more of a rapport. And if they feel uncomfortable it will show.  Was recently mic'ing an actress and it became apparent she hadn't gone through the process before when I explained it needed placed on the chest area, so I paused, explained in laymen's terms why that's the best positioning and then asked if she was comfortable with me placing it or if she preferred to, no issues.  Clear communication makes sure everything goes fine.

 

I worked on a short with one boom op who asked if we had a female sound crew member to wire an actress, that he felt a bit awkward (we knew ahead of time it would be a thy mount riding fairly high), I said no, but if you would prefer I can do it or I can give a female PA or female wardrobe a quick tutorial, no big deal. He said he would just prefer to not do it, then the actress shows up (yes, attractive) and he came back up to me and said 'oh boy, look at her, man, can I go mic her up?' To which I immediately said no, and told him he wouldn't be mic'ing talent for the rest of the shoot, then quietly informed the 1st AD. I don't know if he was serious or joking, but either way it was highly inappropriate. But it was astounding, I, like Olle hope these are just small isolated incidents that aren't reflective of a wider problem. There needs to be a strong trust between talent and the sound department, because we do invade their personal space.

 

Didn't mean to write a short essay.

 

Be professional, be friendly, and be communicative. 

 

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4 hours ago, JWBaudio said:

I worked on a short with one boom op who asked if we had a female sound crew member to wire an actress, that he felt a bit awkward (we knew ahead of time it would be a thy mount riding fairly high), I said no, but if you would prefer I can do it or I can give a female PA or female wardrobe a quick tutorial, no big deal. He said he would just prefer to not do it, then the actress shows up (yes, attractive) and he came back up to me and said 'oh boy, look at her, man, can I go mic her up?' To which I immediately said no, and told him he wouldn't be mic'ing talent for the rest of the shoot, then quietly informed the 1st AD.


Bravo. That boom op would have had no business wiring up anyone. I really hope they learned something from that.

I've also been thinking about this a lot. A couple of times talent have made me feel a bit weird, insinuating that I'd be somehow attracted to them or that wiring people up is why I got into sound. I also kind of hate it when other crew joke about that as well, I'm still a newbie and it's already gotten very old. Any kind of joking around when in wiring situations is a really delicate balancing act, I avoid engaging in any unless the talent takes the lead. I also ask people I haven't worked with before if they've had a mic hidden on them before, unless it's super obvious that they have.

There was a good, civil discussion about this on the BOOM Operator-group on Facebook, definitely worth checking out, lots of stories and tips: https://www.facebook.com/groups/293491575232/permalink/10154970992095233/

As with all of these types of things, it seems to be harder on women. :/

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13 hours ago, Olle Sjostrom said:

I agree with all of you. Glad to be in a group of wise people. How about the sexism you see on set, I.E a director being an ass towards the others? 

 

How is a director being an ass toward others sexism?  Isn't that just being an ass??

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Interesting thread!

Often I work for documentaries where I come into the situation to wire up persons quickly who have never been wired before - just normal people, no showbusiness subjects. 

Most of the time there is no wardrobe or make up artist present. I try to be as reserved as possible and have them do lead the cable under the shirt themselves. When fixing the mike and transmitter I always explain before what I'm doing. Even if she gets very direct (opens her shirt that I can see the bra and saying "here you are, guy") I will stay reserved and not joking too much. 

I always take care that there's some witness around, for example camera person.

And I always wear my wedding ring on set, many talents notice that when they see your hands - though it may make noise on the boom :-)

Children I almost never do wire for docs.

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11 hours ago, Mirror said:

 

How is a director being an ass toward others sexism?  Isn't that just being an ass??

You are correct. The ways of being an ass are many. However, as the thread title might imply, I was suggesting that "being an ass" in this case was being sexist. I apologize for my being unclear

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   Funny but we're required to have specific training through our IA union regarding sexual harassment...  Of course we the Crew are all required to take the class, but I believe the Producers and Directors and I believe most if not all of production is NOT required to participate in the program...

 

  I believe tho whole safety program works like this... In my opinion, everyone should be required to participate..

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10 hours ago, Olle Sjostrom said:

Well it's a sort of predicament to the whole patriarchy, that certain higher ranked gentlemen are excempt from certain obligations. 


...while they are precisely the people who need to understand these things. With great power comes great responsibility, and all that.

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A very interesting topic! I would like to share something that usually happens to me when I work without a male assistant, putting lavaliers on male actors And sometimes even female ones are the ones that make me uncomfortable in the wiring situation itself, nowadays after years of experience I already know what actors happen to me and several relationships have improved And others I found back, but Well I just wanted to share with you what happens in reverse, when it's a woman the boom operator or sound engineer


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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3 hours ago, maggyapo said:

A very interesting topic! I would like to share something that usually happens to me when I work without a male assistant, putting lavaliers on male actors And sometimes even female ones are the ones that make me uncomfortable in the wiring situation itself, nowadays after years of experience I already know what actors happen to me and several relationships have improved And others I found back, but Well I just wanted to share with you what happens in reverse, when it's a woman the boom operator or sound engineer


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

Yes, weirdness happens from all directions.

 

My first time wiring #2 in her green room, arrived with costumer who knocked and we entered whereupon #2 ceremoniously turned to us and dropped the sleeveless dress to the floor revealing that the dress was all she had on.

 

I think I just went on as normal, not remarking upon her condition. IIRC we went with a waist belt. I'm certain my hands were shaking as I did the work.

 

As I type this, my face is flushed. Wow. I didn't stay more than three weeks on that long-form job. Told no one until now.

 

Have not really had any issues with male actors but rather with (male) crew who pass by and make some remark about my kneeling to attach an ankle strap on a fellow or with my hand in a woman's costume somewhere. I'm quick to respond with a verbal bitch slap with enough force that commenters think thrice about ever coming near the sound cart again.

 

Last show, I had my hand under a knee-length dress up to the bra. We'd done the move before and I was confident the skirt was draped to modestly cover her but she remarked "Hey!" in such a way that I became aware someone was looking at her backside. Without turning, I said, "Get outta here, you!" with just enough bite and humor. Shit. It was #2. Didn't matter. He walked away. I assured the lady that she'd been covered and all was well.

 

I have no trouble pushing back / setting boundaries in a professional setting. The boundaries seem always pretty clear.

 

Thing is, I set the boundaries very early since one of the first bits of advice about the biz' came from Dennis Maitland (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0537946/) who told me (among other things): "Never sleep around." That's a different subject but worthy of mention since there's a different energy I put out if I'm not open to a romantic relationship with anyone. Kind of like saying, "Don't wear low-cut blouses and short skirts," but that was part of my solution dating from the 70's when I started college and soon thereafter was date-raped.

 

For a long time in the face of someone aggressive I would be like a deer in the headlights: frozen.

 

Having been raped as a little girl, I carried signs of victimhood around like flashing neon that predators could read from miles away.

 

I was as a result preyed upon a lot the first 45 years of my life and as a result have become a reluctant expert. Ha.

 

Did a lot of work and found a warrior self inside that tolerates none of that bullshit: a much better place.

 

Here's to warriors.

 

 

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I've run the gamut.  Years ago, doing an HSN shoot, I walked into a room to wire a lady wearing a mumu.  She sees me with the transmitter and mic and proceeds to rip the mumu off and is standing there in her bra and panties.  I was taken aback and she said 'don't worry, I'm from the theater'.  Well, so was I and let her know I wasn't used to women stripping in front of me.  

 

I'm a professional.  I've had two women the last few years that wanted to charge me with sexual harassment and I didn't know why.  One was a call from a producer that said the talent was not happy with me.  I didn't know why.  The second one, as far as I could tell, was because she had to change complicated wardrobe fourteen times.  Luckily for me the MU and wardrobe ladies were in the same room with me and were as perplexed as me why this 'actress' wanted to charge me with sexual harassment.  The next year she came back with the ad campaign and I refused the job when I found that she was the 'talent'.

 

I've done this for a long time and have always been a gentle man and a gentleman.  I do my job and that's it.  

 

Mike

 

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Jan, 

20 hours ago, Jan McL said:

 

Yes, weirdness happens from all directions.

 

My first time wiring #2 in her green room, arrived with costumer who knocked and we entered whereupon #2 ceremoniously turned to us and dropped the sleeveless dress to the floor revealing that the dress was all she had on.

 

I think I just went on as normal, not remarking upon her condition. IIRC we went with a waist belt. I'm certain my hands were shaking as I did the work.

 

As I type this, my face is flushed. Wow. I didn't stay more than three weeks on that long-form job. Told no one until now.

 

Have not really had any issues with male actors but rather with (male) crew who pass by and make some remark about my kneeling to attach an ankle strap on a fellow or with my hand in a woman's costume somewhere. I'm quick to respond with a verbal bitch slap with enough force that commenters think thrice about ever coming near the sound cart again.

 

Last show, I had my hand under a knee-length dress up to the bra. We'd done the move before and I was confident the skirt was draped to modestly cover her but she remarked "Hey!" in such a way that I became aware someone was looking at her backside. Without turning, I said, "Get outta here, you!" with just enough bite and humor. Shit. It was #2. Didn't matter. He walked away. I assured the lady that she'd been covered and all was well.

 

I have no trouble pushing back / setting boundaries in a professional setting. The boundaries seem always pretty clear.

 

Thing is, I set the boundaries very early since one of the first bits of advice about the biz' came from Dennis Maitland (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0537946/) who told me (among other things): "Never sleep around." That's a different subject but worthy of mention since there's a different energy I put out if I'm not open to a romantic relationship with anyone. Kind of like saying, "Don't wear low-cut blouses and short skirts," but that was part of my solution dating from the 70's when I started college and soon thereafter was date-raped.

 

For a long time in the face of someone aggressive I would be like a deer in the headlights: frozen.

 

Having been raped as a little girl, I carried signs of victimhood around like flashing neon that predators could read from miles away.

 

I was as a result preyed upon a lot the first 45 years of my life and as a result have become a reluctant expert. Ha.

 

Did a lot of work and found a warrior self inside that tolerates none of that bullshit: a much better place.

 

Here's to warriors.

 

 

Wow! Thank you Jan for that. I hate to think "boys will be boys" because it sort of gives them the right to be.
Thank you for being so impolite with those people not showing respect. That's really what they need. To see that not showing respect just reflects it back

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Jan moves to Permanent Hero Status.

 

I wire a lot of non-pro talent.  Bedside manner: friendly politeness, and a every task couched as a request.  Saying that "I need your help with this" seems to help.  With women I often ask them to stick the stickie on themselves in lav. position, having first said "I'm going to point out where", then pointing in a low key manner and then letting them do it.  And...some non-pros are just so nervous or wigged out by the scene that I don't wire them unless there is really no alternative...

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It is most often comments from other crew that spur these issues. 

 

It’s another reason I prefer to have my crew wire at the follow cart, which is usually somewhere appropriate for wiring, and whenever possible in the presence if another person. Always in the presence of a parent or studio teacher when a minor. At least for the first few times. After that, a costumer is fine if the parent and minor has previously indicated it’s ok. 

 

I once had a costumer walk away when I was wiring a 15-year-old girl. We had worked together a while, and the girl and I were fine, but it wasn’t the point. I was very upset, because a bystander, who might have witnessed the fairly compromising arrangement, could have seriously misinterpreted the situation. I had a stern chat with the costumer, who I had also been friends with for months. She completely recognized the issue and apologized. We had all let our guard down due to familiarity, but it’s important to remain professional overall for the sake of the collective. 

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Wow Jan, incredible.  You're a rock star.

 

When wiring talent, whether they are used to the camera or not, I think it's important to pick up on their body language.  I always explain each step of what I'm going to do before I do it, and if I get the sense any of it makes them nervous I pause and talk it through.  Sometimes that's asking them to do it, or sometimes it's just explaining in more detail what I am trying to accomplish and why the mic has to go where it does.  Either way I make sure I have their permission.

Even if talent makes jokes about what I'm doing, which some do, I won't engage because it is too easily misconstrued.  I just stay polite and professional.

+1 to having wardrobe and parents present while wiring.

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Useful advice here on wiring etiquette. Being aware of potential misreadings is very important.

 

My impression is that on set there is generally less sexism than in other work environments, that things are more balanced. And there are many strong women in the biz (such as our amazing Jan!) which scares predators who are usually cowards. 

 

Another story is generic, non-sexist asshole behavior on set, which we all have witnessed. 

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