By Sia Papadopoulos
Despite gendered inequalities that keep women under the leadership of men, more and more women are overcoming barriers in order to confidently accept leadership roles. Women are no longer willing to take a back seat. Among many of the professions that lack the representation of talented women, directing is still a profession dominated by men.
While directing music videos takes a creative mind, and assertive personality, women from Canada are taking the traditional art form of music videos, and transforming them into powerful short films. Working with artists like Drake, H.E.R, Summer Walker, Janelle Monáe, and Leon Bridges, Karena Evans, Natalie Rae, and Lacey Duke are among Canada’s best directors.
The Gender Gap in the Music Industry
Women have been fighting for equal pay for nearly a century. Although people argue that the gender wage gap is a problem of the past, according to an updated Statistics Canada report produced for The Globe and Mail, women working full-time in Canada still earn 73.5 cents for every dollar a man makes. Despite women making an effort to attain educational qualifications, and even surpassing the qualifications of men, Canada’s wage gap is still significant.
The gender wage gap is prominent even in the creative industries, especially when women are in leadership or executive roles. According to a 2018 study on the status of women in the arts in Canada, the Ontario Arts Council found “women are severely under-represented in key artistic leadership roles in media arts/screen, theatre and music.” Despite the study proving across all six creative arts industries, women are as highly educated as men, only 33% of directors and cinematographers are female.
They also found that across all sectors, women “receive significantly less public visibility (for example, productions or exhibitions) and recognition (awards) than those of men.” This study proves that there are women who have the talent and ability to hold executive roles, they just aren’t given the position, equal pay, or recognition that they ultimately deserve.
Female Directors Dominating the Industry
Despite the wage gap, and the lack of female representation in the music industry, there are many talented women who are overcoming barriers and deserving of the recognition. Although there are many women in Canada who are striving to be directors in the music industry, Natalie Rae Robison, and Toronto-natives, Karena Evans and Lacey Duke, are among some of my favourites, who are dominating the industry with their creative and unique approach to directing. Not only do their music videos compliment the artists they’re working with, but as directors, their vision turns music videos into short films with powerful messages.
Known for her groundbreaking “Nice For What” and “God’s Plan” music videos for Drake, Karena Evans is becoming one of the most sought-after directors. Her creativity, authenticity, and storytelling ability has her audiences captivated through the music videos she directs. Not only does Evans create narrative-heavy music videos, but she is also very aware of herself as a Black female director, and her role to create stories that are inclusive and representative.
“It feels like this revolution where you’re seeing a shift in the characters being presented on screen and the people behind them that are telling it,” Evans tells CBC in an interview.
In February 2018, Evans was the winner of the Prism Prize Lipsett Award, and become the first woman in history to ever receive this award. The Lipsett Award is a prestigious award presented to a Canadian music video director each year for their innovative and unique approach, and had never been given to a female director.
Natalie Rae Robison
Originally from Vancouver, BC, Natalie Rae has crafted her unique voice using raw emotion to tell stories through commercials, music videos, and films. Last year, Rae directed “Bad Bad News” for Leon Bridges in support of the #MeToo movement. The video features model and body-positivity activist, Paloma Elsesser, who spends the video chasing down a man who was cat-calling and whistling at her, late at night in a subway station.
Rae was able to turn Bridges’ musical vision into a powerful story with a subliminal message that they both believe should be seen as women taking back their power. In an interview with PopSugar, Rae shared how she was able to transform the lyrics of the song into a beautifully-crafted music video. “The chorus of the song is ‘I was told I was born to lose, but I made a good, good thing outta bad news. No one has made a better thing out of bad news more than women have around #MeToo last year.”
Working with artists like, Summer Walker, SZA, Janelle Monáe, and H.E.R, Lacey Duke, makes it look easy capturing the beauty of these artists on screen. Not only are her music videos brilliantly stunning, she’s also able to capture each artists’ unique personality differently in the videos she directs. One of my favourites, is the “I Like That” music video Duke directed for Monáe. With all the focus on Monáe, her beauty, and her outfits, Duke captured Monáe in multiple different settings while maintaining extremely smooth transitions.
Duke also recently worked on a special promo released by Netflix called A Great Day in Hollywood, featuring multiple Black leads to showcase the spirit of Black Hollywood. With every aspect of the film having a significant purpose, Duke made sure she picked the perfect setting. “I just figured that the best way to highlight this movement of Black excellence in TV and film would be to do it in secured Hollywood spaces that have historically excluded Black talent and creative,” Duke said in an interview with Vogue. Duke continues to impress through her unique style and powerful messages.