When I was in high school and college, I spent a lot of time in the flute section of bands and orchestras, and immediately after college I spent a year or so working in the public library. These are the domains of women. I worked at three different branches of the Public Library and of the dozens of people I worked with, only two were men. Two very creepy men. And in any situation where one gender far outnumbers the other, there’s a certain dynamic in the room that you can feel, particularly if you are in the minority.
Television production work tends to be fairly balanced overall, but there are more women producers than men, and far, far more male editors than female. So for the past few years I have found myself in the minority. Oh there have been a few women editors that have come and gone. There was the crazy German woman. Then there was the crazy French woman. And occasionally there’s Cecilia, who’s half-French and very nice. But most of the time, it’s just me and the guys. And most of the time, it doesn’t bother me. I realized in college I got along better with men than women. And one of the reasons I am always happy to return to this particular job when there is work available is because I like all of the people, the men and the women. However, because I work in the office where all the men work, I mostly hang out with the men. (Actually, if you ever read Dave Barry, you’ll know what I mean when I say they’re not really men, they’re actually guys.)
The latest joke amongst the guys comes courtesy of the local gas station. Every afternoon at least two of the editors make the trek down the street for an A.D.S. (All Day Soda – one of the giant 44-oz fountain drinks.) Well about a week ago they found a piece of sausage called a “Lil Chub” and they haven’t stopped talking about it since. This doesn’t actually bother me. Crude humor can be funny, though I’m more of a “That’s what she said” kinda gal. (“That’s what she said!”)
But every once in a while the gender dynamics creep back in the room. Last week I took a hard hit to the ego concerning my voiceover (VO.) As an editor, it’s part of my job to read a “scratch track.” It’s the dialogue or voiceover that will eventually be provided by the talent, but not until the show is almost finished and any revisions to the writing have been made. I have found reading VO to be kind of a humbling experience in general. First of all, until you get used to the sound of your own voice, listening to your own scratch track is excruciating. Second, when I was reading VOs for my first show, Gardening By the Yard, I realized early on I was talking WAY too fast. This is a problem because when you finally get the voiceover track from the professional, you want them to match as closely as possible so as not to screw up your timing. So I had to start reading much slower, and to keep myself in check, I wound up taking all the emotion out of my voice. If I didn’t get excited or try to act, I could concentrate more closely on leaving enough time and pronouncing all the words correctly. (Something else I realized very quickly was just how many words I gloss over in everyday speech. All that time I thought I was so eloquent. Try it someday, you might find the same thing.) However, an emotionless VO is a boring VO and can affect the energy of the show. So I’ve have spent some time up-ing my game so that I can read slower but still with emotion. I’ve gotten better, and one thing that helps is my current show (Sell This House) has a female voiceover anyway, so it’s much easier for me to imitate her cadence.
Last week one of the online editors was teasing me about my VO. How it sounded just like the professional’s, and how he would only talk to me if I used my voiceover voice. I protested that the VO voice was just my normal voice, but he called me on it saying “no it’s not, it’s different.” Well he’s right. It is different. How could it not be? Another male coworker from my days on Gardening came down and joined the fun, hassling me about the VO from the emotionless days.
I am not a great voiceover artist. If I were, believe me I’d be looking for work because it pays very well. But I’m not and my point here is that no one else is either. We have one editor who has done actual paid VO work and he’s pretty good, but the rest of them are just like me. Not great but acceptable for what it is. And no one makes fun of them. I don’t mind being made fun of, it’s par for the course and actually I rather like it because then I’m allowed to give as good as I get. But sometimes that dynamic just kicks in. It feels different when they pick on me for my voice. It feels like they’re picking on me because I’m a woman. Also, the two people who were picking on me for my VOs never have to read VOs themselves.
People also pick on my car (you know, the world’s best car) which is fine because I choose to drive that car and I like it, but two other people there – men – drive Corollas and no one ever makes fun of them. I’m just saying.
I wish I had more of a moral to this story, but I guess this is where I have to realize I’m just sharing part of my day. How about you, wide world of readership? Can you shed any light? Do you ever feel the dynamic? Do you, like me, watch film credits to see the names of editors? The latest Star Trek film was edited by two women!