By middle school I had already decided I wanted to spend my life making films. I couldn't wait until 8th grade so I could be an audio/visual aid. I would watch with fascination as they wheeled a cart into the classroom and set up the projector, threading filmstrip through the machine which hummed with a pleasing click-click-click in the darkened room. On the first day of 8th grade I breathlessly told the administrator to make Audio/Visual my elective. Her response: "Only boys can be AV aids. You'll have to pick something else." When I asked why, she told me that's just the way it's always been.
I came home that day deflated and unsatisfied with the administrator's vague reasoning. My mother suggested I collect signatures from students who agreed that girls should qualify to work a film projector, and present the petition to the administration. So I did exactly that, carrying a handwritten petition from class to class collecting signatures. I had no problem filling up the sheet. Boys and girls alike were more than happy to sign. Some grabbed the clipboard out of my hand and were adding their names before I could even finish asking. In one day I collected nearly 300 signatures, and became the first female Audio Visual aid at Bay Point Middle School.
There is no doubt that my early experience as a projectionist helped pave the way for having my own production company. It was that year spent working hands-on with the medium I loved which gave me the confidence to pursue a career in film, in spite of the difficulties I would face in a field which offered very little precedent for women operating cameras. Unfortunately, I had to endure many more episodes of gender-related harassment, discrimination and lost opportunities, most without the triumphant ending of this story.
And yet, I persevered, and it worked for me in the long run. Today, many of my clients are women who are more than happy to trust their vision to another female.
Female cinematographers are still very rare. Most of the images we see in movies, television, and still photography is filmed by men, from a male point of view. Men point their cameras at women, and other men, and tell us how the world should be perceived. What is inherently wrong with this isn't the male perspective, but the lack of a female one. Balance of gender influence is necessary for a civilized society.