8 Women In Film Share The Most Important Money Conversations Of Their Career

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No matter what industry you work in, it's always scary to talk about money with your superiors and colleagues. But inevitable awkwardness aside, having these conversations is important — especially for women working in the entertainment industry, where a notorious lack of women directors, writers, cinematographers, and producers has translated to an even more notorious gender pay gap.

In an industry where representation is part of the problem, failing to have tough conversations about equal compensation and money management can lead to leaving hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars in hard-earned compensation on the table for future projects. Of course, being clear about what you expect and deserve to get paid is easier said than done.

In an effort to empower women to take initiative and to openly talk about money — especially with those who are in charge of managing your compensation — Bustle reached out to women in the film industry to ask them to share the most pivotal conversations they've had about money throughout their careers. Read about their eye-opening experiences below, and let yourself feel empowered to have your own career-defining conversation.

I Leveraged My Skills For More Money

“I was asked to design a series that I'd designed the first season of, but it proved to be so challenging that I didn’t think I should go back. The producers felt strongly that I come back, and it made me realize I had leverage with my salary negotiations. I remember talking numbers with my husband, and when I told him what I was planning to ask for, he looked apprehensive ... In the end, I felt confident in my request and we came to an agreement, with me only slightly reducing my original number. It made me realize that if you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it." —Staci, costume designer, New York City

I Was Warned To Watch My Credit Card Spending

“I can't tell you the amount of actors I know who are on their fifth or sixth year in Los Angeles and have amassed tens of thousands in debt. Being a working actor is expensive. Classes range from $200 to thousands a month, and you ‘have’ to be in them consistently. Good head shots are $500 to the thousands, which have to be updated at least yearly. All of this for years in hopes for a one-day shoot on a network television show that pays maybe $1,000, before agent fees and taxes. No matter what you make, there's always a way to spend it.” —Anonymous, actress, Los Angeles

My Friend Helped Me Navigate Tough Money Conversations

"[A friend] told me something that has stuck with me: Always throw out a [compensation] number that feels a little higher than what you are actually hoping for. Best case scenario, they're willing to agree to that and you end up with more than you expected; worse case they can't do that number, but talk you down to a number you were actually anticipating. The best thing I've found about this is that it takes the anxiety and awkwardness out of giving a recruiter 'your number.'" —Marissa, TV social media producer, New York City

I Learned To Pass On Unpaid Opportunities

"Often in the film industry, people will offer credit or meals for your work instead of compensation. I was talking to a company I was excited to work with, but wasn't offering financial compensation. [My dad told me], 'Your job isn’t to make other people’s companies money for free. At the end of the day, you’re running a business.' Basically, he was saying you have to know when to say no, or move on." —Jillian, Founder and CEO of Ezra Productions, Los Angeles

I Learned The Value Of Having People Advocate For You

"The most valuable negotiation lesson I learned recently happened when a director fought for me to be on a project. In the end, they paid my rate and the experience was invaluable. What I learned most from that incident was the value of having other people fighting for you and negotiating for you. Your colleagues and employers, the ones you work with day in and day out, know your worth and can be your biggest advocates at the negotiating table, reiterating how much value you bring." —Autumn, cinematographer, Los Angeles

My Colleague Encouraged Me To Be Honest

“The first time a female friend in the entertainment industry said we needed to be open about our pay rates to uplift each other in this business, it was a game changer. No one ever said that to me before. She was open about her rate and I realized that I was both undervaluing myself in the present, and was so unaware of the actual pay potential for the future." —Tracy, comedian and writer, New York City

I Stood Up To Management About Unequal Pay

"I experienced unequal pay in my very first job. I confronted management and was able to resolve my issue: I was young and willing to walk away from the job (I was also very angry, having no prior experience with racial or gender discrimination at work). Now, as a mother with bills and responsibilities, I realize how much more difficult a conversation like this is, but I still have them. My experience with my first job prepared me for the many more tough conversations and negotiations ahead." —Mel, director and producer, Los Angeles

My Colleagues Gave Me A Wakeup Call

"This is a business where there’s always an eager, new crop of creators coming up, and companies take advantage of that lack of experience. I’ve certainly talked to filmmakers who premiered their films [at a film festival] with us who have horror stories, mostly about unfair deals, rather than specifically compensation. It’s heartbreaking to hear how they spent years making a film and then wind up making a pittance, or even losing money, while predatory producers profit off their work." —Amy, film director/producer, Los Angeles

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