Women in Film: Underrepresented in Scoring

“Women Who Score,” a 12-minute film by Sara Nesson, online, documents a concert–and a problem.

The concert took place last summer in downtown L.A., where Grand Performances hosted a night of film and TV music by 20 different composers. What was unusual was that all of the composers were women.

The concert, performed by a 55-piece orchestra and 30-voice choir, showcased the work of a segment of the music community that statistically show, ranks behind every creative field in filmmaking.

Nesson, whose “Poster Girl” was a 2011 Oscar nominee for documentary short, heard about the event from her “Poster Girl” composer, Miriam Cutler.

The concert was sponsored by the Alliance of Femal Comosers. Canon Burbank and the Emergence program of Burbank-based The Camera Division donated cameras and lenses for cinematographer Eve Cohen, and Cohen and Nesson shot two days of rehearsals, backstage interviews and the concert itself, attended by 1,500 people.

“The whole industry is struggling right now with the lack of diversity,” Cutler says in “Women Who Score.” “Nowhere is it more evident than among composers for film. The smallest of percentages of women are involved in scoring films. That’s not because they’re not interested; it’s because they can’t get though the initial gatekeepers.”

Lolita Ritmanis (“Flip the Script”), one of the 20 composers on the Grand Performances program and president of the alliance, says the concert had an immediate impact. Feedback from executives indicated that it helped focus attention on underrepresented women composers and at least granted them entry in the submission process for scoring larger, tent pole projects. She hopes the film “provides an ‘aha’ moment for not only the gatekeepers in Hollywood but for the public at large.”

Germaine Franco (“Dope”), another of the musicians whose work was showcased said: “It helped us as composers to build a camaraderie with each other, and to feel good about the fact that we are in an alliance; we’re not competitive.”

But, she adds, the composers need studio heads to take notice. “We’re not asking to be hired because we’re women. We’re asking to be hired because we’re professional composers and musicians and have been doing it for many years.” She believes that “working together, in numbers, is going to make a bigger change than us individually pounding on doors.”

The Alliance for Women Film Composers has 190 members.

Nesson hopes the docu will make a difference. “I just want to support women composers.  They’re not getting the attention they deserve. They’re not getting hired; they’re not even part of the