Oscar-winning designer Jenny Beavan has said gender bias is behind an “extraordinary” pay gap between costume designers and male-dominated jobs on films and TV shows.
“I think it’s because we’re mainly women,” said the British designer, who won her third Oscar earlier this year.
The basic rate for TV designers was lower than “the man who brings your tea and your breakfast muffin”, she said.
She had the words “Naked without us” written on one sleeve at the Oscars. That’s the slogan of a campaign by the US Costume Designers Guild for fairer pay.
Beavan told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row that costume designers, who are roughly 80% female, are paid 30% less than production designers, who create the sets and are predominantly male.
Figures from the Costume Designers Guild show that its members are towards the bottom of the film crew pay scale, with a film costume designer below an assistant lighting technician, a prop assistant and a set grip.
The approved basic weekly rate for a costume designer’s film work is $3,139.86 (£2,800), compared with $4,102.70 (£3,660) for a production designer. A TV costume designer gets a basic rate of $2,952.11 (£2,640) a week, below someone working in “craft services” – who usually provide food to the crew while they are working.
Beavan is one of the UK’s most successful figures behind the scenes in Hollywood, winning her Oscars for A Room with a View, Mad Max: Fury Road and Cruella. She has had another eight nominations, for films like The King’s Speech, Gosford Park and The Remains of the Day.
“Our basic scale rates are incredibly low, compared to even craft service, which is the man who brings your tea and your breakfast muffin, [who] is paid more than a basic scale TV costume designer in America. That’s just extraordinary,” she said.
“And we’re way down, we film a lot, even though we do quite a demanding and necessary job.”
There has been a drive for fairer pay on screen in recent years after revelations that some male actors were being paid much more than their female co-stars. But Beavan suggested that had not yet filtered through to behind-the-scenes roles.
She also said costume designers see no cut when their creations are sold as merchandise or fashion ranges, as happened with Cruella.
“It was, to my eyes, disrespectful,” she said. “As costume designers, we tend to produce the things that can be most easily merchandised, be it Halloween costumes, be it all sorts of articles of clothing that people like.
“But we very rarely see any collaboration with the people who are doing the merchandising.”The rights to the designs are owned by the film studios. “You sign your life away, basically,” she said.
Credits: BBC News