Interview : Lisa Gifford
With women representing only 11.4% of the UK’s TV and Film directors and only 16.1% of the UK’s TV and Film writers in 2012, it is clear that attitudes within the media industry are preventing women from reaching their full potential. Owing to this lack of opportunity, female writers and directors are turning to new media, and to new countries, to get their work seen.Writer and director Lisa Gifford did just that, and now her webseries, 3some, has been honoured worldwide with an abundance of awards and accolades. 3some has no less than 16+ combined international awards and nominations.
Where did the idea for 3Some come from?
I had the idea for a while. I’d wanted to do something with a couple and a gay guy. Where at the time the gay guy was not quite sure of their sexuality and was actively hiding it, getting with a woman and ‘becoming straight’. It’s a story I wanted to tell. It’s kind of based on real life too. I wanted to bring the characters together.
I went to see the Mike Leigh play ‘Ecstasy’ in 2011 and after watching that it triggered off what I needed to do. I then wrote a stage play…..the characters are out drinking…..a three some happens…..and then the implications following this and everything explodes.
How did the web-series come about?
The stage play ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I then began to receive lots of emails from people asking ‘What happens next?’. That’s what triggered the web-series.
How did the series end up on the web and not on TV?
It’s hard work to get something on TV. The commissioning process is very difficult. A lot of people in power are white, middle class males who have a real dominance in the industry. It’s really tough for females to get their voice heard. I was in my 30s when I came into the industry so I think there are added obstacles, like ageism. I think it’s similar for people who are disabled or of a different race. In the industry, everyone looks the same. You go to industry festivals and you look around the room, it’s all middle aged white men.
It can also take between 5 and 10 years for a show to get picked up for TV so the web was a great platform for the series. It was a real calling card for all involved. We had a story and we were able to tell it. I also run my own production company so by self funding the project I could call on the skills of lots of very generous people, many whom supported the project for nothing. Lots of fire went in to it. I’m really lucky to have had this support and we all do favours for each other.
The web gives you more freedom and you can portray your own voice – this is more complicated when you have investors.
“When women make up over half the population but less than 10% of Directors are women, something needs to change.”
What about challenges?
Working with a very small budget, in the writing process you’re always thinking of what the scene will be like to film and how it can be done for the cheapest possible or for no cost at all. If you have a scene in mind and it involves a character running along a railway platform, the reality is it’ll cost you about £500 for two hours filming and then you have the logistics of getting everyone there, makeup sound crew…..you think, ‘Does it really need to be there?’ And then you think, it would probably work just as well at a bus stop, without the costs.
Why do you think women are so poorly represented in the industry?
I think it could be a historical thing. In the 60s and 70s there were less women going to film school. That’s where networks are built and you find people work with the same people again and again.
I think there is also a lot of sexism in the industry. I know a Casting Director who has said they won’t work with women. There’s some of that around.
It’s difficult for women to push forward and helm those big Hollywood movies and be a part of it all.
“I think there is also a lot of sexism in the industry. I know a Casting Director who has said they won’t work with women. There’s some of that around.”
What’s the answer to changing this?
Positive discrimination maybe. When women make up over half the population but less than 10% of Directors are women, something needs to change. The same applies to disabled people and those from ethnic backgrounds. It’s
across the board, not just with women.
I believe there is a problem with class too. It’s a UK thing. It’s all very financially orientated. Those aspiring film makers, directors, writers…..from a working class background can’t be supported by mum and dad. I think we’re finding more people in their 30’s just starting to attend film or drama school as they can now afford to take a career break. They’ve built a career in another field and can financially support their studies. This could be a part of the problem too.
And children. When do women stop to have children? There are lots of choices to be made. Childcare still traditionally falls to women. The film and TV industry is not 9-5 and it is very difficult to balance this with having a family. It’s difficult, but not impossible. It’s hard to have it all, and if your partner is more flexible, that makes it easier. It’s more common for men to go to work. Feminism, we all make those choices in life.
Did you have a role model growing up?
That’s a difficult one. There were so few. The obvious role models weren’t and aren’t doing the things I enjoy. But I don’t want to have to pick a woman for the sake of it so I am going to say Ricky Gervais. I admire his work. I love that he directs, writes, acts and produces, and does it all really well. He also knows how to work PR and social media and is completely unapologetic about his views. I admire that. He also doesn’t compromise and he gets his way. When he approached the BBC about ‘The Office’ they wanted to give him a Director. He said, ‘No, I’m doing it’. He took a big risk, and it paid off. I wish I had that much coverage.
Thanks for your time Lisa. We’ve loved speaking to you!
To keep up to date with Lisa you can follow her on Twitter – @lisagifford @Watch3Some or visit the 3Some website – threesomeplay.moonfruit.com