I had the opportunity to talk to a female cinematographer about her experience in a male-dominated sector, and learned about where she feels the problem lies.
Although Em Turner doesn’t have to, she prefers to operate the camera on her projects. The focus of her job is overseeing and orchestrating the visuals. She has worked on many projects including music videos and covering live events.
Em Turner behind the camera (source: Em Turner Cinematography)
What made you decide to pursue this career?
I always knew I wanted to tell stories. For a long time I thought my tool for doing that was a pen, but I was equally infatuated with art and visuals and had skills at physics and maths that I didn’t think could be implemented into my creativity. When I found cinematography it was the perfect balance of my skillset and passions. The camera became my pen. Cinematography is all about using light and colour and movement as your instruments, and finding harmony between these to tell a story.
Have you ever felt discriminated against as a female cinematographer? I’ve never been directly discriminated against, but I am freelance and often see gendered job advertisements that ask for a cameraman with ‘his’ own equipment. This can be frustrating and I don’t doubt there are jobs that don’t consider me because of my gender.
On another note, I often get jobs specifically because of my gender or sexuality. Female directed and female produced projects, especially ones with intimate subject matter, often need a female eye to tell those stories, and I’ve been able to get work specifically because of my gender and people have sought me out.
What would you say to young girls who believe working behind the camera is a ‘man’s job’?
It’s my belief that the person orchestrating the visuals needs to be as in tune to the story and the emotional journey as the director and the actors are. This is something that absolutely must be shared with every person of any gender, race, ethnicity or sexuality — because there are many stories to tell. The industry is in an exciting time right now for women, with Rachel Morrison’s Oscar nomination and an increase in women in technical roles, and this is only the beginning.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m currently working on a few different projects, as Camera Assistant on some and as Director of Photography on others, with the hope of going to film school to complete a Cinematography M.A. in the next few years. I’m collaborating with as many people as I can, and working on projects that raise awareness about women’s issues and that are emotionally driven and complex.
To view Em’s work please visit her website:
Em Turner: https://www.emturnercinematography.com/
To find out more about a career in cinematography or camera operation: