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The Mission to Get Female Composers More Visibility

The Mission to Get Female Composers More Visibility

Women are underrepresented in many positions in the film industry, and while the press is finally starting to pay attention to the unacceptable numbers of films by and about women, there hasn’t been nearly as much discussion of female composers. 

Of the 112 original scores eligible for an Oscar this past award season, only three, or 2.7%, were composed or co-composed by women. 

Back in September of 2015, the Alliance for Women Film Composers launched a helpful, important new resource: an online directory of women composers working in film, television, video games and media. The first of its kind, the Online Female Composer Director helps give visibility to qualified female composers who are ready to work given the opportunity. 

Laura Karpman, co-founder of the Alliance, recently spoke about the issues facing female composers. 

“It is a man’s world and we’re changing it. I think that what is different now is there’s a conversation,” said Karpman on “The Frame,” a Southern California-based radio program. “That’s the beginning of a difference. For the past 25 years no one’s even been asking that question, there has been a tacit assumption that there are no women composers out there working.”

There are women composers out there working — they are just not being hired for the majority of high-profile jobs. Women accounted for one percent of all composers who worked on the top 250 films of 2014. But, according to Karpman, things are getting better.

She explained, “There are quite a few of us, actually who are working at a high level. I’ve really perceived in the past two or three years that there’s a real shift.” “I’m a new member of the motion picture academy,” the “Underground” composer added. “I’m actively recruiting women to come into the music branch. The academy is very much supporting that effort…I think the very fact that they let me in indicates that they’re open and willing to look at this issue.”

Karpman, whose Langston Hughes-inspired composition “Ask Your Mama” recently won two Grammys, said that it would be “ridiculous” to look at the number of female composers and deny the impact of unconscious bias. However, she’s had meetings at studios where she experienced “an openness and willingness to look at why this is the case.” 

“I think the issue for women composers is the same as women period,” Karpman stated. “Visibility, are we getting out there, are we making enough money to hire the publicists to get us in the conversation, is there a consciousness about putting us on panels, is there a consciousness about including us in concerts. I think that the more advocates that we have…the better it is, and we need men, frankly, to advocate for us.”

[via The Frame

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