There are times in this industry when you will be the only woman in the room, and in my experience most men are generally progressive and respectful. We are blessed at ECG with both respect AND tampons (you’d be shocked how many businesses refuse to provide them). There’s a part of being a woman in this industry where you have to get with humor, sometimes turning a dick joke into a tit joke. And there’s a part of this industry where you have to remind someone that you are a professional.
Recently, I had to do that exact thing.
A Little Background
The women of ECG are currently working on an original podcast called Rack Focused (@rackfocusedpodcast) where we discuss the entertainment industry through a female perspective. The podcast goes live later this year (so stay tuned!) but one of the topics we broached was what to do when the seemingly “professional connection” is clearly attraction driven.
Recently I made a business connection through a social media platform. He asked to connect with me, but as a rule of privacy, I only connect with people I know. When I denied the connection, it was met by a personal message.
It read something like this:
I’m a professional. Let’s do business. Here’s my email.
– Mr. Guy
Mr. Guy seemed legit so I emailed him looking to do business.
Hi Mr. Guy,
Let’s talk business. Here are some questions I need answers to.
Post-Email Numero Uno
Mr. Guy responded with some validation and a little about himself. He asked a couple personal questions, including an off-hand question about a mutual friend. I had an instinctually off-put feeling (strike 1) but I thought maybe I was being a little too presumptuous.
Especially in entertainment, people are very friendly and open in conversation. Plus he was essentially giving me an opportunity to further my skillset and perhaps win a commission. But as the email correspondence continued, the questions became increasingly personal. And there was even a winky face.
I copied my boss on the email thread and invited him to explore the project with me. Mr. Guy responded by taking my boss off the thread, explaining he wanted me specifically to work on a project with him…
RIGHT?! Weird (strike 2).
Let me preface something, I’m an editor predominantly. However, I camera operate quite a bit, and since I love that experience, I'm working to gain more experience in that capacity. Directing and conceptualizing are things I’m decent at but have very little experience in. As most of my edit projects go uncredited (such is the life) there is no, NO reason for him to specifically request to work with me. Or at least, he gave me no explanation why me. But the opportunity to prove myself and impress my superiors was still there. So I agreed to a phone conversation.
Ring, Ring, Ring…
He requested to call me to talk about the project. I said yes and gave him a window or ANY TIME before 7:30pm.
Me: This is Emily
Mr. Guy: Is this a bad time?
Me: Well, I have an engagement at 8.
TWO HOURS LATER
Mr. Guy: Tell me about your parents. What’s your religion? Would you like a record deal?
(break screeeeeeech) ALRIGHT!
Though the questions were personal and the duration was too long, I handled the conversation very well. Being new to sales, I was nervous to talk about details and money. However, I redirected the conversation back to business and discussed budget, trends, and realities with him. During the phone call, I had a sudden surge of confidence, because besides having to constantly navigate back on topic, it was going so well. Plus, I was excited about working on the project.
Mr. Guy told me that he would send me some assets (which I never got). He explained that he lost the assets (which I thought was weird). And continued to ask me personal questions and mocked my fitness routine (boy, bye). Things were officially creeping past friendly potential client into the land of creeperdom.
But Nevertheless, She Persisted
Upon requesting an in-office meeting to discuss production with the team, Mr. Guy expressed how limited his schedule was. BUT he had time Friday night. He invited me to a show “or two” and then suggested we talk about the project after the show. I’m assuming naked in his apartment.
At this point, I had to break out the B word. Boyfriend. Normally in business, I don’t mention my boyfriend for a couple reasons (which I'll save for a future blog) but it became apparent that I needed to lay out a boundary…and cue the radio silence…
The thing that bugs me the most about this experience was not the flirting itself, but that he used business as bait. I have worked very hard and made difficult decisions to get to where I am today. I’ve been underestimated as a female editor, fought past it, and conquered. Why? Because I’m good at what I do AND it’s my profession. In my mind, if attraction grows during your working relationship, that’s acceptable. Approaching someone in the industry specifically BECAUSE you find them attractive, is acceptable. But to use business as a way to connect with unprofessional intentions, is insulting and frankly sleazy (gross). The project went from being very exciting and opportunistic, to a joke. It’s disheartening.
What to Learn From Mr. Guy
To other women–and men, for that matter–if they lead with their dick, YOU lead them with a handshake. Handle the shit out of that deal. If they don’t want to take you seriously and just dangle business in front of you like it’s not real, make it real.
Inform them of your level of professionalism by being prepared, poised and better than them. Smile when they can’t contain themselves, and politely remind them that you are there for business and that their Harvey is showing. Sadly, women aren't always taken seriously in this industry; but when that happens, take the opportunity to show your worth and unravel their biased, ridiculous conceptions.
Trust your instincts. You're not locked into anything and no one can stop you. Boggle their minds with the hard work and effort you’ve put into your individualistic aesthetic. Force-pivot their perception of women in the industry through your approachable yet professional demeanor. Dazzle them with your brain. Force their eyes up or tell them to get out of your way. #NotTodayHoney