Author: Alan Miller GBFTE
Recently, my attention was drawn to a film craft agency that has supplied talent for Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey and Star Wars to name a small fraction of productions. Why? Because it’s for women only. REEL ANGELS was started by Lulu Elliott and playing Devil’s
advocate, I asked her a few knotty questions…
If I started a men-only film industry talent agency, I’d probably
get a torrent of flak. How do you stay immune to such criticism?
Because women are under-represented and are a minority, we qualify to be a social enterprise and we work under the Equality Act 2010 Positive Action policy. We rarely receive criticism, and even when we do after an explanation we get more understanding and therefore more support. At the end of the day its the clients choice who they hire, we are offering options.
You are dealing with a hundred and twenty years of ingrained
sexism in the film industry. How do you promote REEL Angels
in that environment?
Creating awareness with positive role models, viral videos, interviews, taking part of industry panel talks, anything to raise our profile. This year has all been about diversity and we are no longer on our own, we collaborate and receive funds to do our work, for example 25k from BFI Diversity Fund. Ultimately the crew members experience and skills speak for themselves, we are just a platform.
People of all genders have gifts that differentiate them from others. What can make a producer cleave towards employing a female rather than a male?
I am no expert in what women can bring that men can’t. I just know from who I have met and worked with, they are just as good. However I have read it is scientifically proven to improve productivity of a team is to have equality.
Has the agency been successful on your own terms of ‘success’?
Absolutely, we are placing women in paid roles, we are inspiring and supporting the next generation. We are just getting started though, still a lot to do. But I am very proud of who we are and what we have achieved so far, considering I run this operation solo. Its the slowly but surely approach I believe in.
What specific obstacles have you found in your way (apart from the male bias inherent in the system)?
People working with the same people they are used to working with, which I understand. But the industry is slowly changing there are schemes that support us, and more women are taking the HOD roles. We focus on offering the best, most professional service we can, make it hasslefree for our customers so they come back and recommend, which they do. All in good time.
Where have you been surprised at finding support for your agency?
The support has been fairly equal with both genders, I am not surprised men support us. But it is does mean a lot to me when they do! I hear from them it is a benefit to them to have equality, it balances and refreshes the atmosphere on set. I have found some of the guys that support us, usually have daughters so they are thinking of the next generation also, which is promising.
How do you judge the skills of your clients compared to the skills of men and women in the industry elsewhere vying for the same jobs? Or, do you even need to?
The clients come to us for crew, sometimes they aware we are females only, sometimes they are not, they are just in need of reliable skilled crew for a last minute replacement. The appropriate person is selected for the job based on their skillset, experience, attitude, the same for both genders.
Why ‘angels’? The most famous angel has a male name – Gabriel (but we could stretch that to Gabrielle).
At the time, the only role models I felt we had was Charlie’s Angels! I always wanted something a bit lighthearted. But also at the time you had Office Angels a recruitment agency so I felt it fitted.
How do you select your clientele or do they approach you?
Bit of both, approaching them more at the beginning, its taken me 6 years to build this 150 strong database, at the start I could only find 3, it was tough,but for some reason I just kept looking! Now people approach me, but we also go into uni’s to seek out talent. We work at finding it. I like
the challenge and its more rewarding and we can’t just sit outside films schools all day waiting for the next lot, we want diversity all round. It’s an agency which has a social conscience and purpose, so we sign up people who show potential, grow talent in house and we can’t afford to let
talented girls fall between the gaps, so we offer mentoring and training where we can. When they are ready and the appropriate job comes in, we start hiring them out as crew. Then there are women on our books with 25 years plus experience, who give back to our community and I do find jobs for them too. It is a team effort and we try to be inclusive as we can.
Thank you Alan and GBFTE for giving us a voice