The world of film opens doors to new perspectives, brings a variety of stories to life, and helps people express themselves. With all of its wonders, come hurdles. Disproportionate opportunities based on gender identity in filmmaking are among the largest obstacles still being addressed in the world of film.
Berkeley High School offers a variety of film classes, including IB Film, World of Media, Advanced Studio Editing, and Art of Video Production. Dahlia Hellerstein and Anna Eisen are both seniors in the second year IB Film class. The course is taught by Amanda Marini, who has been at BHS for about 20 years.
“IB Film is genuinely one of the best classes I’ve ever taken,” Eisen shared. “It changed the course of what I wanted to do with my life. It’s an incredible place to be.” Eisen plans on going into film, while acknowledging that, as a woman, opportunities can be harder to find in the industry.
According to San Diego State University, from 1998 to 2022, the percentage of women working behind the scenes only increased from 17 to 24 percent. Eisen pointed out that the film industry continues to struggle with equality and inclusivity, explaining that it “can be a competitive environment and can be a tough place to navigate.” She went on to say that her experience with BHS film classes has led her to believe that it’s a good environment to start in. According to Eisen, Marini is one of the reasons for this, due to the thoughtfulness she puts into the diversity and inclusivity of her curriculum and classwork.
Marini teaches four different film courses at BHS. Reflecting on her own experience in the film industry, Marini said that most of the people she worked with, including her former professors, were male.
“I think having gender diversity within the teaching staff is really important,” Marini said. Offering a range of sources and examples in the curriculum is an important aspect of gender inclusion. While it’s possible to relate to films that don’t necessarily pertain to personal identity, it helps to see a similar experience reflected in films and film classes. “I really do think about the diversity of the curriculum that I present,” Marini said. “Trying to show films from different parts of the world and different viewpoints and different races and genders.”
It is essential to recognize the ground that female filmmakers have gained. “While there’s a lot less opportunities for people of color and women in film, there are still people of color and women in film, who make incredible movies,” Hellerstein said. “And so having a female teacher who really emphasizes that has really helped avoid that feeling of, ‘Oh maybe this isn’t something I can do.’ ”