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Female Composers Are Trying to Break Film’s Sound Barrier

There are also new resources for support. The Alliance for Women Film Composers was founded in 2014, and now has close to 400 members. It has raised the visibility of women through concerts and advocacy work, and provides solidarity in a lonely profession with no formal union. “It’s a sisterhood, it’s a resource,” said Ritmanis, president of the alliance. “And although we are very much competitors, we are also each others’ cheerleaders.”

“I think because of the global awareness of women’s rights, and #MeToo, and Time’s Up and all these different movements,” she added, “there is an interest and a call to action” among studios and decision makers. “People call me wanting to meet and figure out what they can do, and I do think that there’s a lot more opportunity for women to be part of the big audition process” for major feature assignments.

As there should be, given their talent, said Doreen Ringer-Ross, an executive in the film music division of Broadcast Music Inc., the performing rights organization which manages the catalogs of many of Hollywood’s top composers. “The job of a composer is to be really sensitive, is to interpret the emotion of things, musically, she said. “And women are traditionally great at doing that.”

Still, emerging composers face a double standard. Jesi Nelson, has been apprenticing with several male composers as she develops her own career, and she’s dealt with potential bosses commenting about her legs or musicians assuming that she’s somebody’s personal assistant when she’s actually running a recording session.

“I do get angry, and sometimes I’m just like, what’s the point?” Nelson said. “If I’m working these ridiculous hours — seven days a week, 18-hour days — and it’s paying off for somebody to diminish everything that I’ve worked hard for in a few words based on my gender, like, why am I even doing this? But I love it way too much, so I won’t stop.”


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