I have to admit, I didn't arrive at this conclusion without an internal fight. I started Moms-in-Film out of a selfish desire for community and support. I'm amazed everyday at how our over-tired yet determined tribe has grown (Become part of the Moms-in-Film community on Facebook
I expected that moms would want grants, writing retreats, community-building, and bit of advocacy to boot. I wasn't entirely wrong. Moms in the industry do need and want these things, according to the conversations at each of our gatherings. Still, when women shared what was keeping them off of sets, or what was making work so difficult, childcare kept coming up. It is inescapable.
I regrouped with my collaborator and some trusted advisers to figure out what practical steps we could take to help. Our mission is getting more moms working in the film industry. It's right there in our name. So, we are going to do our small part to help Moms-in-Film. We're starting with the creation of a specialized trailer for on-set childcare: The Wee Wagon Project.
We aren't experts in this type of design, but we are lucky to be working with designers, architects and early childhood specialists that are. We certainly didn't have the funding to take on this big nuts and bolts project, but we didn't let that stop us. Fractured Atlas agreed to become our fiscal sponsor, and we were awarded the first grant that we applied for. We are thrilled to have SXSW as a partner; the $10,000 we received from the festival's Community Grant allowed us to take the first steps towards building a Wee Wagon.
Some movie stars
have luxury trailers
that stretch 1,200 square feet and include 14 TV screens (and cost $2.5 million). Ours will have a pumping/nursing station, folding cribs, and a changing table. It will be full of soft textures, vibrant colors and engaging toys; a purpose-built environment that will engage children at various developmental stages. We want to create a space that is inviting and welcoming, that ignites children's imagination and appeases parents. We're considering having a theme for each wagon — a spaceship, a submarine, a rocket ship — and have already spoken with various experts in the field, including the executive director of 826LA.
We need to raise another $48,000
to complete the trailer. We are eager to make several; to see these flexible, mobile childcare units start popping up on film sets and at film festivals. We're hoping that one day, they'll be industry standard.
We have a long way to go: out of every 100 people working in film, we want to see at least 37 moms, like in other industries — not two. Luckily, we already know how formidable moms are when they band together to change the unchangeable and upend the insurmountable: they do it everyday. With an army of moms, we can come to the aid of those two, and claw our way to gender parity in the industry.
Speaking at one of our meet-ups, parenthood writer Elissa Strauss (Slate, Elle) and screenwriter Brooke Berman got fired up
discussing the need to politicize childcare. Berman, who is also a playwright, pointed out that the theater world has begun taking steps to support parents.
Playwright Sarah Ruhl dreams "of a theater (and a country) where productivity and love are in service of each other, not at war with each other." Accepting the 2016 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award earlier this month, she goes on state explicitly, "I believe this starts with childcare
." Ruhl has partnered with the Lily Awards and New Dramatists to make this happen.
Last month, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child"
star Noma Dumezweni called for the creation of a West End creche
to meet the same needs across the pond.
Strauss has profiled the success of Patagonia's on-site childcare center
, which, according to CEO Rose Marcario, basically pays for itself. Aside from the employee retention and engagement, Marcario "also believes there are other less quantifiable benefits that bring the return on investment up to an estimated 125 percent. One of these is the fact that women make up 50 percent of their workforce and nearly around half of their management; studies
show that diversity can lead to a more creative and innovative workforce."
If the film industry were to follow suit — if providing childcare became the norm, not just for the stars who can afford to demand it
, but for everyone — perhaps we would finally see a spike in those abysmal numbers.
Budgets need to include childcare. Policies need to change. The industry needs to pride itself on the talented women that make film great — at all stages of their life. Intentional or not, the lack of childcare, reasonable days and general support for women (and especially moms) is quite simply sexist.
We will keep fighting. We won't sit around waiting for the industry to change. We are ready to get our hands dirty; to push, to pull our Wee Wagon up to the studio gates. And if they don't open, we'll have to crash through.