“Women in Film Production” Panel at SDCC Derailed by Male Con Staffer Who Didn’t Realize He Wasn’t There to Moderate Or, Like, Even Talk

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Cinematographer and creator/dean of RocketJump Film School Lauren Haroutunian sat on a panel this weekend at SDCC called “Women in Film Production.” It was moderated by her friend Brittany Sandler, who has led versions of this panel before at multiple conventions. Haroutunian saw it as a wonderful opportunity to educate and inspire aspiring female filmmakers, and for a majority of the panel, that’s exactly what happened. That is, until the male SDCC staffer who was there to facilitate decided to “help” the poor ladies on the panel with his “wisdom.”

As Haroutunian explained in a series of tweets yesterday, at the end of the Q&A portion of the panel, the older male staffer took it upon himself to hijack the conversation with his own words of wisdom as a filmmaker, promoting his own filmmaking school with loads of patronizing assumptions about what the ladies did or did not know:

With the audience clearly uncomfortable, and the moderator and panelists gobsmacked, the facilitator proceeded to wrap up the panel on the moderator’s behalf. He then had the nerve to do this:

You can check out Haroutunian’s full recount of the incident starting at this link to her Twitter feed. Needless to say, both the panelists and the audience were horrified at the sheer lack of respect and regard from a person who was there to facilitate for these women. He was basically there to hold the microphone during the Q&A, be there in case something went wrong, or help if the panelists needed anything. This was a clear case of overstepping.

Haroutunian regrets that they couldn’t bring themselves to say anything, and wishes that she could’ve been a better example for the women in the audience:

As much as I’d like to think that in that situation I totally would’ve told that guy off, the fact is I have no idea if I would. Just as women are trained to “let guys down gently” even when they hit on us aggressively—lest they be “provoked”—there are countless situations like this one in which male comfort is subconsciously treated as more important than a woman standing up for herself. That’s programming that’s very difficult to work against.

I’ve reached out to Haroutunian, Sandler, and San Diego Comic Con for statements, and will update this story as needed. However, it’s disheartening to know that for too many men, “helping” women still means “doing things for them,” instead of “respecting the space they create to do for themselves.” *sigh*

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.