A Man’s Work? Camerawomen In Conversation: Caroline Macheka & Sandra Kaunjika

There are not enough women in here!

Facilitated by Alex Gwaze (Researcher)

In Zimbabwe, and all over the world, it’s rare to see a woman operating a camera on a film or TV set. I can count on one hand all the women I’ve seen behind the camera or in the editing booth. And two of those women, Caroline Macheka and Sandra Kaunjika, despite being at the forefront of reshaping the look of  local film / TV crews, they have never met. Therefore, I decided to facilitate a conversation between these two kindred spirits and they exchanged notes, talked inspiration, “men”, work, and their loves.  But, before we cut to the excerpt of their conversation – first, the briefest of introductions.

Caroline is a freelance Camera person / Photographer, the former Camera person and Editor at Drewmas Media, and a Zimbabwe Film and Television School of Southern Africa (ZIFTESSA) graduate.

On the other finger, Sandra is a Camera Operator for Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN), a Midlands State University graduate, and the former Camera person and Editor for “Ndine Thaza Show”.

Both women are recognizable figures in the male dominated camera operator / editor professions and this is the first time they have ever talked to each other. In their brief chat they touched on breaking barriers, other women, and stereotypes …

CAROLINE: What made you choose this career? This whole film industry and becoming a camera person thing?

SANDRA: Growing up I used to wonder what happens during the making of films and TV series. I wanted to know what happens behind the scenes, so I watched to learn how it was made. And I fell in love with TV. So the love of how TV is made, made me choose this career. And you, what made you choose film?

CAROLINE: I think I always liked film. And had the passion for it. That passion made me to go for it, you know. I just jumped at the opportunity. What shows or whose work influenced you the most?

SANDRA: A woman. Her name is Roselyn Charehwa. She is the founder and MD of Surdax Investments and Surdax Africa. I like for her business and managerial skills. But, in the film industry I appreciate Joe Njagu’s work and his skill set. Internationally I like Shonda Rhimes work. She works hard and she has created alot of jobs for women in this industry.

CAROLINE: How long have you been in this industry?

SANDRA: I have been in this industry for 5 years.

CAROLINE: And what are your career goals?

SANDRA: I want to become a successful media entrepreneur, so I want to learn everything I can especially the technical aspects. There mustn’t be something I should not be able to do cos it’s usually done by guys. I want to change the game. How do you think we can deal with some of the gender imbalances in the film industry?

CAROLINE: By giving females the platform to do what they do. We just need the chance to prove that we can do the work. Any type of work in the field. And, women also need to  just try it. If both the opportunity is there and the go getter attitude is there, we will amaze you.

SANDRA: What camera do you like to use?

CAROLINE: A Nikon D3200. For stills. It’s not exactly the one I like to use but it’s the one I’m currently using for my own things.

SANDRA: What’s the most useful technical skill you’ve had to pick up with it?

CAROLINE: Taking video and stills at the same time … Managing to work under all pressure while thinking of different types of shots – moving shots and still shots.

SANDRA: And what is the most memorable location you’ve shot?

CAROLINE: The Snake Park (laughs). Tell me something. What is the most difficult part of being a female camera person for you.

SANDRA: Well, some people are not confident enough in you and your abilities. They look surprised and concerned when they see you, a woman behind the camera … Even other women. Have you ever collaborated with other women in your industry?

CAROLINE: I haven’t collaborated with other women yet. But we can link up and keep in touch on social media. You know if it wasn’t for the pandemic, we could do workshops for women and that would be the best way to find more collaborators. By the way, what’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

SANDRA: You can become what you want to be as long as you have confidence in yourself. What advice you would you give to other female cinematographers?

CAROLINE: Start now, don’t let them tell you that this industry is for men … the future is She. What’s been the greatest challenges you’ve faced so far? As a female camera person.

SANDRA: Male dominance at work and family restrictions at home. Film has inflexible and awkward working hours so it’s always a challenge to leave home to work at certain hours. And, some jobs create an unsavoury work environment. Also, people in general, men and women, have this assumption that film and media industry is not a serious profession. Why is it looked down upon?

CAROLINE: Ignorance! People are making a living through this industry and it’s about time people start to accept it as a real profession. People never took it serious, most people even call it “zvema drama”, but change is near. Just remember what drives you. What inspires you?

SANDRA: Seeing women pulling rank in male dominated arenas (laughs).

CAROLINE: What’s the best thing about being a woman in this industry?

SANDRA: The feeling of breaking the barrier and doing what is ‘normally’ designated to be a man’s job. What essential lesson has being a woman in the film industry taught you?

CAROLINE: I have learnt that you have to start somewhere, no matter how small you start. Just take every chance you get, drop all your fears  and earn your role. What advice would you give other young females in this industry?

SANDRA: The sky is the limit. We know we can get there – go further, think bigger. And you, what advice would you give all cinematographers, not just the women?

CAROLINE: Don’t give up! The beginning is always the hardest.T his industry can be difficult sometimes but there is no better feeling than earning a living from doing something you love.

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