‘An Uncomfortable Woman’ brings diversity to film industry

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Meghan Ross wrote, produced, and directed Uncomfortable Woman, a women-led production with an all woman & people of color crew.

Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

From being talked over to being taken less seriously in the workplace, the everyday experiences as a woman are frequently frustrating and serve as the focal point in “An Uncomfortable Woman,” Austin-based director, writer and producer Meghan Ross’ debut film.

The dark comedy short film follows Dylan, a young African American woman in her early 30s, through day-to-day life as she navigates different levels of grief and trauma after an untimely breakup and the death of her mother.

After noticing a pattern in the way Lifetime movies portray women’s pain as a form of entertainment, Ross and her co-writer Sam Stepp decided instead to use dark comedy. They combined elements of drama and comedy to parody the tragic everyday moments women experience.

“(In the movie) we have a lot of buildup and tensions throughout certain scenes,” Ross said. “You think something bad and really messed up is about to turn the corner, and then what turns the corner is a joke (or) a humorous moment that cuts out the tension.”

Ross adds another twist to the film by reversing the traditional Hollywood trope of a white lead to a woman of color at the center of the film while a white woman plays her best friend.

“(Growing up), I kept watching films and TV shows where there is a white lead character that is the main subject, and the sidekick is a person of color who is just there to advance (their) storyline,” Ross said. “And it makes you feel like, ‘Oh, my voice isn’t as important, or my story isn’t as important.’”

Radio-television-film freshman Divine Nwokoye said to get new, diverse stories in Hollywood, directors need to bring people on board who have experience with the type of stories they are trying to tell.

“How are we going to have stories about these certain people if we’re not allowing these people to come forward and give it on their own,” Nwokoye said.

Ross said “An Uncomfortable Woman” intends to showcase interesting female characters, but the story follows a woman of color because she wants to see a shift in representation in the media industry. To accomplish this, Ross added an inclusion rider to the production to assist in hiring the cast and crew. Inclusion riders ensure that production staff and roles are diversely casted. They are conditions in contacts that stipulate that a film must fulfill these criteria.

Radio-television-film junior Namrata Prakash held a casting call for her short film “In Bloom” and said it can be challenging to assemble a diverse cast and crew without access to an inclusion rider. Prakash had to personally reach out to people to audition for her film to develop her own diverse ensemble.

“Whenever you open up casting and crew calls, (if) you don’t specify ethnicity, you mostly get white people applying because demographics of Austin are that way,” Prakash said.

Despite the additional effort to cast diverse teams and crews, Ross said it is important for people in marginalized groups to see themselves on screen.

“It’s important to have people writing their stories because this industry has been dominated by one group for so long, and that’s why we only saw certain stories for so long,” Ross said. “Stories from different perspectives, gender identities and ethnic backgrounds are important so people know they have value.”