'Our stories are being heard' Irish filmmaker Karen Healy on women in production and not pulling up the ladder behind you 5 months ago

'Our stories are being heard' Irish filmmaker Karen Healy on women in production and not pulling up the ladder behind you

Just three percent of airline pilots across the globe are women.

It's a telling statistic, one that Irish writer Karen Healy found so outrageous that she decided she wanted to make a short film around it.

“I wanted to write something about two women in a male dominated space," she says. "Only three percent of pilots worldwide are women, which is a staggeringly low percentage."

"It was then that I realised you can’t be what you can’t see, and there is no media representation of women in positions like these, so although it’s a comedy there is some serious thought behind it."

Ascending Grace tells the story of two female pilots, seasoned captain Cara and her enthusiastic co-pilot Maedhbh.

The pair are already at odds with one another over their contrasting personalities, an issue that is only magnified by a cabin full of a religious stag do who need to be gently told that their flight to Lourdes has, tragically, been grounded.


Karen Healy

Healy's film recently received full production funding from Bumble as part of Female Film Force 2019.

The initiative has been offering grants to teams of all female writers, directors and producers, encouraging each of them to achieve at least a 50/50 gender split in their extended production crew.

The process wants to encourage more women to make their voices heard in the film industry and beyond - a move that Healy, alongside producer Sharon Cronin and director Claire Byrne, have touched on in their short.

“I tried to focus on the relationship between the two main characters, so one is feeling threatened that the second is encroaching on her space," explains Healy.

"She’s enjoying being the only female pilot and she feels like this new woman is threatening her status. It’s about mutual respect and it’s about pride, but it’s also a lighthearted comment on how important it is to not pull the ladder up behind you.”

Sharon and Karen 

Ascending Grace is Healy's writing debut for a short film. A few years back, she founded her production company, Pondering Media, with her brother.

It was there that she began creating her own work, writing and producing award winning comedy sketches and later moving on to producing short films.

"I was very nervous (about writing) so having the film funded has been very encouraging," says Healy.

“We’re also very excited about the 50/50 gender split on the production side. We'll probably even hit a higher percentage than that."

Healy says that during her time in the industry, she's noticed that considerably more men are often suggested for production jobs, at least in Dublin.

"When I’m putting feelers out and trying to crew up for a project it’s always men's names coming up," she says, "and it's the same men coming up too."

Claire Byrne

"Unless I reach out specifically looking for women, they won’t be suggested.

“That’s why we’re so keen to get this going, there are so many incredible female filmmakers and women working in different departments across the industry."

Although she hasn't been in the industry that long, Healy says that over the past few years she has noticed a lot more interest in working with women - a  shift that initiatives like Female Film Force are hoping to eventually make the norm.

"Our stories are being heard and taken a bit more seriously," she says.

"We’re being listened to more on set and having our opinions taken on board. They kind of have to be at this stage.

"Having a diverse cast and crew - particularly a crew - makes for a far better environment on set. And there’s far more interesting stories to be told."

You can find out more about Bumble's Female Film Force here. 

Images via Karen Healy.