So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Two great passions led me to where I am today. I love the performing arts (especially theatre and film) and technology. I’m a science fiction nerd who has lived long enough to see the science fiction stories of yesterday become the reality of today. I can hold in my hand a small computer (iPhone Xs Max) and make video phone calls as was predicted in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ back in 1968!
By legitimate stock and trade, I am a teacher. I teach theatre and film. I have taught Middle School, High School, and College. I am currently an adjunct professor at The Art Institute – Houston teaching film. My side jobs have always been in theatre, technology, or film. My two passions merged with home computers and digital video equipment in the 1980s. Thank-you Ridley Scott for the commercial that let us know on January 24th 1984 Apple Computer would release the Macintosh! The next day I located a computer store (still rare back then) and purchased my first Mac computer.
Today my main job is working in the film industry and my side job is teaching. Now being a female in a male dominated business is an epic experience in and of itself.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
53% of the films at Sundance this year are directed by females. The film industry is attempting to diversify allowing more females and minorities in higher level positions as producers and directors. It has been difficult at times in my experience to reach those positions but the door is opening. Females entering this business need to be sure of their goals and objectives and stick with them even when the going gets tough. It is worth it if you love what you do. I’m very fortunate that I love what I do.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Vernon-McKee – what should we know?
Most of the work that I do in film is in the production department. I work as a 1st Assistant Director, Production Manager, and Producer most often. However, I am also a writer and director and have had some recent opportunities to successfully utilize those skills. My business partner Larry McKee and I have several shows under our belts now that have done very well. I would say I am most known for being a fairly strict 1st Assistant Director on sets around town. When it’s my job to keep everybody moving safely on time and on task, I do my best.
We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
As I stated earlier, the doors are creaking open in regard to allowing women into better positions in the film industry at this time. However, the concept of equal pay for equal work is still a major hurdle to overcome even for actors in this industry. Just this past year we had the first female cinematographer nominated for an Oscar for her work in the film ‘Mudbound’. There has been some debate on her salary in comparison with male contenders. We need more women in these roles to prove our value and raise the bar for equal pay.
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Sanjay Patel, Larry Taylor, Wayne Slaten