Working in television has historically been considered ‘bread and butter’ labour for female filmmakers around the world. For decades, women have taken on roles in the production, writing and direction of broadcast series as a way of supporting their ‘real’ and hard-won work in feature filmmaking, with these television jobs rarely considered part of their professional profile by themselves or others. Insofar as it functions as paid employment but is not seen or valued at a symbolic or material level in the same way as the development of a film, this type of women’s television work functions as a form of invisible labour. And, given that a large majority of female filmmakers work primarily in spaces outside the global channels that are constructed and understood as ‘mainstream’, this mode of labouring has been especially recognisable in the career pathways of women broadly identified with independent sectors of film production around the world.
As we move toward the end of the twenty-first century’s second decade, though, this narrative is undergoing a critical transformation. Radically displaced from the cultural and technological profile that it developed during the twentieth century, television is now regularly valued as the preeminent screen art format of our age, with its once defining distinction from cinema far less pronounced. At the same time, a change in the profile of popular feminism in the contemporary era has led to the reanimation of issues and discourses from earlier feminist movements, such as systemic inequality, body politics and labour. And, relatedly, the issue of gender equity in screen industries is in the spotlight, with renewed calls for action from industry, government and celebrity organisations leading to schemes that actively support women’s creative leadership in television production.
In this environment, the work that female practitioners from the independent sector undertake in and on television has taken on a wholly different status and potential. In the Anglophone west, the critical logic of ‘Peak TV’ is in large part founded upon a conception of the current moment as a golden age for female-driven and female-focused content. As a result, women such as Jane Campion (Top of the Lake), Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar), Lena Dunham (Girls) and Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe) are now hailed as the visionary creators of their celebrated series, and the historically negative role of the director-for-hire has become a type of acclaimed cameo appearance for the numerous women who labour on multiple or individual episodes of high profile series, including Lisa Cholodenko (Olive Kitteridge, The Slap), Andrea Arnold (Transparent, I Love Dick), So Yong Kim (Queen Sugar) and Susanne
Bier (The Night Manager).
Many questions arise as a result of this shift. For instance, have these programs increased the presence of imperfect female characters, with women valued for their unlikeability, anger, vulnerability and precarity, rather than traditionally feminine characteristics? Has the rise of digital platforms allowed women practitioners to exercise more control and singularity of vision than has been historically offered in traditional television production? How is the global conception of independent production shifting along with these industry paradigms?
This special issue interrogates this shift in women’s television work and how it is being understood and valued globally. It aims to cast a transnational perspective on the migration of female practitioners from film to television, exploring how the industrial, textual and critical logic of independence moves across formats in different contexts. How is the profile of women’s television work changing around the world as a result of this migration, even if women still hold only a small percentage of the share of creative roles overall? How does this television work connect to the revitalisation of the category of ‘women’s filmmaking’ in academic screen studies and distinguished media circuits over the past decade or so? How does the narrative of imperfect womanhood operate outside the Anglophone west? And, ultimately, (how) are these changes impacting upon the long-standing marginalisation of women in screen production?
Topics for consideration by both scholars and practitioners include, but are not limited to:
- the gender politics of television series driven by women from independent film sectors around the world
- the transnational reach and reception of content identified with the narrative of ‘Peak TV’ that is driven by women from the independent sector
- the historical and political significance of the invisible labour of women from independent film sectors working in television
- the impact of transnational digital television platforms around the world upon
- the kinds of feminisms that female filmmakers from the independent sector can engage and generate, and the politics of independence that surround these (conglomerate) platforms
- the strategies by which independent female filmmakers working in television both promote and resist traditional auteur practices and discourses the potential of the category of ‘Indie TV’ for female filmmakers and contemporary television feminisms practitioner experience of moving from independent film to television production
Please submit a 350-word abstract as well as a short (2-page) CV to Michele Schreiber and Claire Perkins by April 15, 2018. Authors whose abstracts are selected will be notified by July 1, 2018 and asked to submit complete manuscripts by December 15, 2018. Acceptance of the abstract does not guarantee publication of the paper, which will be subject to peer review.
For more information on the journal, please review the Aims & Scope page.
- Guest Editor: Claire Perkins, Monash University
- Guest Editor: Michele Schrieber, Emory University