Lisa Gerrard on the film composing gender bias

We chatted with the one and only Lisa Gerrard who provided an exclusive insight into the unjust gender bias in film music composition.

Despite her vast body of musical work, Lisa Gerrard is probably best known for the Gladiator (2000) soundtrack. In particular, the emotionally charged ‘Now We Are Free’:

Gerrard is prominently a composer and singer, often singing in "the language of the heart", her own language that she invented at around the age of 12Gerrard worked with Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt to create the otherworldly Gladiator soundtrack and won a Golden Globe, Golden Satellite Award and was nominated for many more including BAFTA and Grammy Awards. Zimmer was also nominated for an Oscar, but sadly Gerrard and Badelt were deemed ineligible.


So why are there so few well-known women film composers? Gerrard believes the answer falls on the gender and beliefs of directors and producers:

There are many times during the process that they need to be extremely tough and have exhausting expectations. Film composing can be absolutely soul destroying and the risk of even making films these days that can remain competitive is high and littered with unseen pressures.  I believe that men feel uncomfortable putting women creatively through this gruelling process and at times do not feel completely at ease especially if they are young.”


Another issue Lisa highlights is the director-composer relationship:

The relationship you enter into with a director is extremely intimate on an abstract level and I feel that some men don’t want to become vulnerable in that way with a woman creatively. I came to this work through the choice of Micheal Mann who made sure that I had an enormous amount of support and a team of women in key roles to communicate delicate details with me. The males at the high end of this field are often older in age and extremely old-school where woman are concerned.”


Despite this bleak outlook, there does seem to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The gender bias in film crews is beginning to balance out, as more and more films directed by women are receiving box office success. In turn, a more gender-neutral crew opens up the opportunities for balancing out other aspects.


If we were to agree with Lisa’s insights, this rise in female-directed films should lead to a rise in female-composed films. But this has yet to be seen. So we are calling for female directors to hire some of the many female composers out there who have previously been overlooked due to their gender.


Change does finally seem to be happening, however, as it was announced last month that Pinar Troback has been hired as the composer for Marvel’s next superhero film, Captain Marvel.


Before we said our goodbyes, we asked Lisa if she had any tips for the plethora of women out there aspiring to be film composers but struggling to be taken seriously…

The only thing I can recommend is to be fearless with your imagination, and take any project, no matter how small, to find your musical sound dialogue. As far as getting work goes it is the toughest field and extremely competitive, in many ways. I would have to suggest that you try to get a job in a studio that focuses on musical application. The true answer is, I have no idea.”


Lisa Gerrard’s new highly anticipated album Hiraeth with David Kuckhermann will be available digitally on 6 August 2018.

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