Panel anxiety & diverse representation

Yesterday I was incredibly grateful to have been invited by The Smalls Film Festival to speak on the panel Talk The Talk, Walk The Walk — Diverse Representation on Both Sides of the Lens at the Calvert 22 Foundation in Shoreditch.

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As with any new opportunity, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the event, nor what the event expected of me — as my background is not directly in ‘film’ but rather in using new forms of media (including audio and visual) for storytelling in my advocacy work.

I also had a rather bad experience during a Q&A panel in 2014, when I travelled to the University of Western Sydney to do a presentation on my work with Urban Refugees. To make a long story very short, I flew the red eye overnight and landed very sleep deprived, so I skipped the keynote session and decided to catch up on rest instead. I also needed to leave at 5pm on the dot, exactly when my own panel ended, in order to make my flight back home. Then at 4.58pm while I was making side-eye at the clock and trying to think of an elegant way to get out of the room, I was then asked a very specific question about the keynote I slept through and had no knowledge of. Catastrophe. One of my early blunders in trying to pack too much into my schedule, which I have since learned from.

Still it was somewhat traumatic, and while I have done talks and presentations of sorts, I hadn’t done a direct panel or live Q&A since then. So when I accepted this opportunity, I still felt a bit on edge about all of the questions the audience might ask me, and how I might respond to the other panellists. Though the topics of diversity and intersectionality are never far from my thoughts, something any reader of this blog will know, so I didn’t want to pass it up.

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I am proud to say it went extremely well, and I received some excellent feedback after the session. Though my background was wildly different from the other panellists, who each have long histories working in film (festivals, programs, commissioners, editing, producing, you name it — Mia Bays has even produced an Oscar-winning film and won two BAFTAs! Talk about impressive) I somehow managed to meaningfully contribute a very different viewpoint to the discussion.

We managed to bring in our own examples of ensuring that diverse perspectives and backgrounds exist in our work, both in front of and behind the lens. We also delved into the essential benefits of working with cast and crew members of all orientations, genders, cultural backgrounds and abilities. In my own work, this is extremely important when working in local cultural contexts, or with vulnerable women and children, just to give a few examples. Wherever possible, I believe we should be working with local crews and supporting women in the industry— not only because they have greater knowledge and access, but also because we can then invest in more meaningfully developing those ecosystems.

So here’s to not writing yourself off based on one bad experience, and to working to ensure that all different kinds of people get to have a voice and contribute to representation in an authentic way.

This is the 18th in a series of 52 Memoirs I will be posting weekly until April 2018.

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