Interview with Rachel Creaner

1.How have you managed to get hired so quickly after leaving university and what advice would you give to others about to graduate?


Honestly, with the same approach as I’m sure many others in my class did, by simply scouting out the companies that I had an interest in working with, and sending in an application. After doing a little freelance work with a smaller company, I was lucky to be accepted on to the ‘NI Screen Placement Programme’ which enabled me to apply for the company of my choice, and give me the added security of knowing that I had the support of NI Screen in case things didn’t work out, which thankfully wasn’t the case. As for advice, I would highly suggest that those who are about to leave university, make sure that they have an updated showcase of all of the work that they are most proud of, whether it be in the form of a portfolio, a CV, a showreel, a website, or all of those mentioned, and put it together so that it’s just a matter of attaching a cover letter and sending them into whichever company they want to apply for. I would also suggest applying for more than one at a time, even if you have your heart set on a particular company, as it’s better to have additional opportunities in case that one in particular falls through.


  1. Have you ever felt that you have been hired or given (or not given) a role because you are a woman?


I have been quite lucky throughout my limited career experience, in that the majority of places I have worked have had an even spread of male and female employees. There are, however, a few times in which I do recall my opinions being overlooked because a project had been more male orientated, or vice versa, in that I have been placed on specific tasks or asked for opinions on how to make characters more “cutesy” or to be more precise, “add a woman’s touch.”

3. In an industry swarming with men, do you feel like you are the minority? Do you see this changing?


To be completely honest, I used to feel quite strongly about this and found it to be a very disheartening thought, however, in recent years, this seems to have changed quite dramatically, and women have most certainly marked a path for themselves in this industry. My opinions on this matter began to change drastically during my time in university, especially when tutors brought in guests or had web chats with highly successful women from all over the globe who told us stories about their journeys into this industry, and how they refused to be categorised or held back because of their gender. Overall, the general consensus from these women was that gender equality will only be a problem if you let it be, which, although better, does suggest that women do still have to fight for their place in this industry.


  1. Do you think the industries treatment of the sexes differs from company to company or even country to country?


Due to my limited travel experience, I can only base my answer on the experiences I have had in Northern Ireland, which unlike those in my year that traveled to the likes America etc for placement, may not be as well rounded an answer. I can address, however, that in regard to my personal treatment from company to company, minus a few hiccups, that it has been quite a pleasant and positive experience. My first job was the one I had most problems with, in the beginning, however, personally I feel that might have been more of a managerial issue than one of gender. I have noticed, however, that in my current company, which is run and owned by a woman, that not only do we have an even balance of male and female employees, but we are rewarded and noted more so for our strengths and personal skills, rather than placed on specific tasks or projects based on whether it’s tailored to a more male or female approach.


  1. Regarding payment, have you ever suffered inequality with someone in the same role as you within the studio? Do you feel the wages you get is a good representation of the work produced? Do you feel you deserve more?


In regard to the first question, unfortunately, yes. There was one company in particular that I worked for that was very unfair when it came to wages. Whilst working there I was a placement student, so I was already aware that I would not be on full pay, however, I was not the only placement student there at that particular time, and over the duration of our stay, there was a slight increase in some of the students wages depending on the projects they were working on. The reason I feel this is related to gender equality is because this was the same company, I mentioned above, that had placed me on to more female orientated projects and overlooked any opinions I had relating to anything otherwise. As far as decent wages are concerned, bar this particular company, I do feel that I have been paid a fair representation of the work I have produced, regardless of the fact that I am on placement programme, which is considered slightly less than the average wage, I still feel it is an adequate amount for the work I am currently doing, and I am more than happy with what I am receiving.


  1. Brenda Chapman was the director of Disneys Brave, until she was taken off the project and replaced with a man. She doesn’t speak of the subject other than to say there were creative differences. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think in this instance, it was to do with gender?


Considering I am not fully aware of this situation, and there is very limited information on the subject, I do feel that from what I’ve read, it could simply have come down to a matter of creative differences in this particular instance. From what I gather, Pixar were on a very strict deadline, and the story was not at the point it should have been at that given time, so with tension so high the decision to replace her with someone who had been on the project from the start, and describes themselves as a “scottishphile history buff”, well educated on the history and nature of the film Pixar wanted to make, may have just been the best decision for the project at that given time. The fact that she was replaced by a man, may have simply been blown out of proportion due to the sensitivity of her being the first female director.


  1. Chapman also states that when she was hired for Disney in the 1980’s, the executive who interviewed her literally said ‘We need a woman, and you’re the right price.” How would this make you feel If you were in her position? Do you think this kind of behaviour could still happen today?


I do not feel that what this executive said was appropriate at all, especially in the 1980s when the industry was considered to be very male dominated. Brenda Chapman seems to be a very headstrong woman, who knows what she wants and refuses to be categorised or held back by the restraints of her gender. I feel that a comment like this is one of the worst things you could say to someone who has worked so hard to build up to the position that she was in at that particular time. I wish I could say that this kind of behaviour is not around today, however, during an interview for my second job, my then employer told me that could really use my expertise on this project as it would be nice to have a woman’s touch. Considering the project was aimed at children, I took no offence at his comment, however, I could understand how other women might be insulted for this potentially being a reason for them being hired.

8. Reading Joanna Romersa’s take on working in the industry in the 50’s onwards, she discusses the men she worked with being horrible to her, not listening to her ideas because she is a woman. She has also discussed being groped in the workplace, and even explaining that if you did not receive this treatment as a woman, you felt like you were not doing a good job. This inappropriate behaviour was used as praise. Times have changed and (hopefully) these things don’t happen anymore. Whats your thought on this? Do you feel that this would still be a regular occurrence in the industry?


I think the treatment of working woman back in the 50s was beyond disgraceful. I can only imagine how humiliating and uncomfortable it must have been to come to work, only to be mistreated and disregarded when you were simply trying to do your job. The fact that she felt that by not being groped or treated poorly was a sign of her job not being done properly is ridiculous and unfathomable. Times have most certainly improved a great deal over the years, and due to the increase in women and human rights, one can only hope that this is no longer an issue, in any form of workplace.


  1. My opening statement is a letter from Disney 1938 basically explaining that ‘no women need apply’ and only men work on the films and that women can only trace and colour in, in the ‘inking and painting’ department. What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel this was normal practice for the time period? And why do you think this began to change?


From a modern point of view, we find this kind of behaviour unthinkable and highly offensive, however, it is important to understand that during this particular time period, this kind of treatment towards women was considered normal. During the 1930’s the workplace was pretty much dominated by men, and women were treated as nothing more than mothers and homemakers. For a women, in these times, trying to carve a career was near impossible and they were forced to overcome horrendous obstacles, many in which they were left humiliated and treated unjustly. I believe that this all began to change when the war began, as men were shipped out, and women were made to go into the workforce to pick up the slack. It was during this time that people began to realise that women were more than capable of doing the jobs that men were responsible for, and in many cases did them a lot better. When the men returned from war, a lot of these women wanted to continue their roles in the workplace and this led to the introduction and long-winded fight for women’s rights which has had clear and vast improvement on the future of women in the workplace. Though there are still many shortcomings to be faced, we can still rejoice in the fact that thanks to these strong women and their desire to work, we finally have a voice is this industry, and one can only hope that we will continue to grow and thrive in the workplace and that one day gender equality will be a thing of the past.


  1. Do you have any thoughts on this topic that you would like to voice?


I don’t think there is any doubt that women in this industry get the raw end of the deal, however, fortunately for me, my experience in this field, both in university and the workplace has been very positive. I don’t know if that can be said for all women working in this industry in Northern Ireland, but I can only hope that is is. I really want to believe that Northern Ireland will be partially responsible for the breakthrough in gender rights and equality, especially considering the amount of new and accomplished companies that are moving over to the UK and allowing people opportunities right off the bat, regardless of background or gender. One can only hope that due to this positive moment that this will work towards eradicating gender rights and push for gender equality that we most definitely deserve.