How’s a little girl like you gonna carry that heavy thing?
As with all behind-the-camera roles, the number of female Steadicam operators in film and television remains stubbornly at less than 10%.
Leaps in Steadicam technology to perfect weight distribution have allowed shorter and less physically strong people to operate their rigs flawlessly, but only in the 1990s were vests developed specifically to fit the female form – allowing female operators to work comfortably on set. Typically, female operators have to carry a much higher percentage of their body weight on their rig (a 50kg rig for a 70kg woman as opposed to a 85kg man!) meaning that posture and good form are paramount to avoid injury.
There’s also a negative attitude towards the capabilities of female Steadicam operators on film sets, leading to the women being held to a higher standard of composure and ability than the men. This is from the Steadicam Operators Handbook by Laurie Hayball:
“On the set, it is even more critical for me to maintain a certain composure than for my male counterparts. There is already a doubt in people’s minds that I can lift the weight of the rig, so I must never complain, groan, huff and puff etc.”
There are bonuses to being a female Steadicam operator, however. In general, women carry their weight on their hips and take smaller steps, whereas men’s centre of gravity is much higher – in their shoulders – and their steps are much longer. A lower centre of gravity and smaller steps means a more naturally steady shot, and that’s really the name of the game here. As with all members of crew, it’s beneficial to have a mixture of men and women Steadicam operators on set to achieve the most diverse array of shots.
As Jessica Lopez wraps up her Steadicam work on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld this week, we take a look at the handful of women making a name for themselves in this specialty in Hollywood and beyond.
Liz Ziegler was one of the first female Steadicam operators, and is a legend in her own right. So it’s only right that this list should start with her. Known for her stellar work on Ghost (1990), Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and One Hour Photo(2002), Liz’s IMDb page lists 55 feature films under her belt from 1987-2003.
The master operator behind ladyops.com is Jessica Lopez. She’s amassed a huge social media fanbase following her Steadicam work on online teen drama East Los High and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, not to mention a whole host of feature and short film accolades.
If you head to her website, you can also view great videos of Jessica in action.
Ilana Garrard is not only one of the tiny amount of UK-based female Steadicam operators, but she also started her own film kit rental company PodHire only a couple of years after graduating in Cinematography.
Ilana has worked with Bafta-winning directors, indie projects, and everything in between – including her own short and feature-length movies. Visit her websiteto see some examples of her work.
Katy Most’s was Russia’s first ever female Steadicam operator, and has yet to disappoint. She has a brilliant showreel of Steadicam experience and has worked with the likes of Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, James Franco, Catherine Keener, Steven Lang, Nikki Reed and Forest Whitaker. Katy’s successful journey through a male-dominated field is inspiring; you can read her full story at katymost.com/.
As the equipment becomes easier to handle, made with female operators also in mind, and as attitudes to women in film change, there’s hope that we’ll begin to see a lot more women on film sets operating our Steadicams and accessories. Fortunately for future DoPs and cinematographers, these trailblazers have already paved the way for a new generation of women.Back to the blog