Filmmaking is difficult. This is hardly a secret. But it can be even more difficult to flourish for female members of the community, especially behind the camera. This is why it was an honor and pleasure to speak with the award winning Nancy Schreiber, ASC at the release of the new FUJINON MK18-55mm lens.
Schreiber’s body of work would be impressive for anyone (over 150 camera and cinematography credits on IMDB), let alone a woman in a heavily male-dominated industry. However, starting out, Schreiber had no trouble getting hired as a gaffer and electrician. It wasn’t until she stepped behind the camera herself that she had trouble breaking into feature work. She shot her own work, making numerous documentaries, and seized the opportunity for work whenever she could. It was this dedication and focus on her craft that helped her forge ahead where others may have balked at the obstacles before them, carving her own place in the filmmaking world. “If I had paid attention to how strange it was being a woman in those days I probably wouldn’t be standing here today”, she states matter-of-factly, simultaneously recognizing and pushing past the “issue” of women (or lack thereof) behind the camera. “It was not an easy road and it’s still not for women. There’s so few women shooting Hollywood movies.”
Schreiber’s assessment is all too accurate, as she is only the second female winner of an American Society of Cinematographers’ Award, having won their President’s Award just this past January. The award is presented to “film professionals who have in some way personified the organization’s motto of ideals — “Loyalty, Progress, Artistry” — not only through their work behind the camera but as an ambassador of the filmmaking industry of the highest order”. As the fourth female member to be inducted into the ASC (of just 15 total), her winning the ASC President’s Award means all the more, making her a role model for not just female artists and technologists, but for all of us in the industry. Her acceptance speech for the award displays her acumen and dedication, while also being an inspiration to anyone aspiring to work behind the camera:
“I want to thank the ASC for this amazing honor. The first time I entered the ASC Clubhouse, I thought there might not even be a ladies room. But, of course, [ASC event coordinator] Patty Armacost has been our den mother for a very long time, keeping the ASC running so smoothly. And then there was our first female member, Brianne Murphy, who opened so many doors.
I look out to all of you, my heroes and heroines, cinematographers who inspire me daily to reach beyond what seems possible. Receiving the ASC Presidents Award is the greatest honor, and I am forever grateful and humbled. I feel so blessed to be able to do what I love. It’s a privilege to create, communicate and collaborate — using color and contrast, light and dark, lenses and cameras — to tell stories of the human condition.
It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do this job because of my gender, and I’m still baffled when people come up to me and tell me I’m the first female director of photography they’ve ever worked with — yet it happens all the time. Why in the world would the job of being a cinematographer be available only to people of a certain gender, race, religion or sexual orientation? Or age? We all have eyes, hearts, minds and souls. And we all need to fight for the right to express our individuality, passion and creativity in the film and television industry.
I would like to accept this award in the spirit of inspiring more women, and all people who have been excluded from doing what they love, to know that their view of the world is important and they must — and will — have a voice.”
Some of Nancy Schreiber’s work includes FX’s Better Things and ABC’s The Family, as well as her Emmy-nominated work on The Celluloid Closet and much more.
For more on Nancy Schreiber and her extensive body of work, visit www.NancySchreiber.com