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Netflix Post Panel Encourages Women in Sound

Netflix’s recent “Women in Sound” panel featured a panel of women working in post production, dubbing and music sharing their experiences in the industry.

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Paula Fairfield
Paula Fairfield

Hollywood, CA (December 22, 2020)—”There are a lot of things that need to be shaken up; a lot of the rules are made by men for men,” said independent sound designer Paula Fairfield on Netlix’s recent Women in Sound panel. The interactive virtual event explored representation in the sound community, with a panel of women working in post production, dubbing and music sharing their experiences in the industry.

Participating in the panel, moderated by Whitney McElveen of Netflix’s Creative Technologies team, were Fairfield; Lora Hirschberg, an Oscar- and BAFTA-winning re-recording mixer at Skywalker Sound; Cindy Takehara, an Emmy-winning sound technology specialist working for Netflix; and Christina Flores, a dubbing production supervisor in the streamer’s International Dubbing Team.

Lora Hirschberg
Lora Hirschberg

Fairfield, who has two Emmy wins for her work on Game of Thrones, recounted incidents earlier in her career when she was followed late at night on two separate lots. “I tried to say something about it. In those days, you didn’t bring that up—’you’re difficult, you’re a problem.’”

Her career might have gone a different way if, as a result of those incidents, she hadn’t turned down jobs that put her in similar situations, she said. “Figure out early on in your career what you need to do your best work,” advised Fairfield, who has built a succession of studios in order to work in her own environment.

“Men mentor one another,” she added. “We need to do this for each other, as women.”

“Your difference is your strength,” said Hirschberg. You are being hired for your perspective, she said: “That’s your power, the thing you need to rely on and trust.”

Cindy Takehara
Cindy Takehara

She added, “As women in a world that’s predominantly men, we hold back and try to fit in. Don’t do that. You have to assert your own tastes, your own interests and your own personality, and you’ll be successful. It worked for me.”

According to Netflix’s online jobs page, less than half of the company’s U.S. employees are white, and men and women each make up 47% of the workforce. A group of Netflix employees founded ION (Inclusion Outreach Networking) in 2018, and Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, advises L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Evolve Entertainment Fund, an initiative building pathways into film, television and music careers for women, people of color and low-income Angelenos.

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“This work [fostering inclusion] can’t be done just by the women,” said panelist Xander Lott, a Netflix sound designer who works on marketing projects. “[Men] need to recognize the discomfort or barriers we may not see so that we can make a space to allow for more women and more diverse people to come into this industry. It’s on us to do the work as well, to make sure we can diversify and include everyone in this industry.”

Christina Flores
Christina Flores

Diversity and inclusion initiatives and the #MeToo movement have begun to shake things up. “There’s a real initiative, and it’s long overdue, to bring more women and people of color and different backgrounds into the industry,” said Hirschberg. “It’s a good time to stick your neck out and try and get those jobs and knock on the doors. I think people really do want to include more women and the people who have been excluded for so long.”

When everyone is involved, everyone is better for it, she said. “Every project I’ve ever had that’s had a diverse crew or an interesting set of people involved has always been the most fun, the most creative and the best project. When it’s a monoculture, it’s boring and stale.

“Netflix is a really important place for this, because the point of Netflix is to open all these windows and doors so that people can see the entire world of television. That’s encouraging for all of us, to participate in that,” said Hirschberg.

Whitney McElveen
Whitney McElveen

Asked for her advice to any women starting out in the industry, Takehara said, “The advice that I wish I’d had when I was starting out was to understand that no one has everything figured out. Even with people who seem to be successful, you don’t know what struggles they had to overcome, so don’t compare yourself to anybody else. Focus on making a better version of yourself.”

When she was starting out, said Takehara, who has worked in her native Japan, Colombia and the U.S., “I thought if I asked for help, people were going to think I wasn’t capable of doing anything. If you need help, just ask. You’ll be surprised; a lot of people are willing to help you.”

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