Interview with Edith Sepp

Edith Sepp - Head of the Estonian Film Institute

Edith Sepp worked as a Film and TV producer and director. She started off as an assistant director in the end of eighties, and went on working six years with international film crews. After graduating with an MA in film and TV drama, Edith worked mainly in the film and TV industry. From 2010, she worked as the adviser on film policies for the Estonian Minister of Culture and was in charge of setting-up the Estonian film industry strategy for 2013-2020. Since 2013, Edith works as the head of Estonian Film Institute, member of EFADs.

Please tell us about your career as a woman in the industry. Have you encountered any difficulties related to your gender?

My career in film business started in the end of the 80-ties and this means during the Soviet Union, the state that does no longer exist. In the Soviet Union we were all “equals”, men and women, and so were all the 15 republics in a political scale. Therefore Estonia had a state-supported film studio “Tallinnfilm”, named after the capital of Estonia. Estonia shot films with Soviet funding and it was a rather privileged life – whether we want to admit it today, or not. I can’t remember there being less women than men. We shot many films in one year and I started off as an assistant director. I had a great mentor, the best DOP in USSR Jüri Sillart and we became life-long friends.  When Estonia gained back its independence in 1991, I started my film studies at Lodz film school, in Poland. But I graduated in the UK, from Sheffield Hallam University’s Media School. My supervisor was Alan Fountain and he also influenced my life greatly over the years.

If I look back at my career, I have to admit that I have some influential male friends in my professional life who changed me and my life, but I am not sure I can remember having encountered any difficulties because I was a woman.

How does being a woman reflect on your professional life today?

In Estonia work is your life style and women in business live for workIf I look at the latest news in BBC concerning the gender discrimination based on salaries, then obviously it makes me think. Estonia is a young state and gender subject is also a very recent thing. We do not talk about it in society but surely we have unbalances as any other country in Europe, maybe more hidden and not talked about.

Estonian society is more male-orientated because women seem to fight with each other rather than together.
Again, it comes down to our actual age - 100 years of republic but 25 years of re-gained independence. The passion to do things is raw and people have much to prove. In older democracies, woman can have an a bit “deeper” view on life. Behind one tree could be a forest.  The Estonian gender balance fight is still very insecure.

Which are the most urgent issues to be addressed to achieve gender equality within the industry? And which kind of initiatives would be the most efficient?

From where I stand – the funding and salaries.
More decision makers should be women, in our industry but also in our societies. More women should enter in politics, then maybe we eventually will have less wars and more films, books, paintings, flowers.

What advice would you give to women who access the industry?

Just go for it, never give up if you think it is a right thing to do. Trust yourself.
Second, there are many reasonable women in the industry, find us.
And thirdly, it is quite all right to be alone, it is also part of life. In the top, we are all alone.

Who is your favorite female director?

A young and talented Estonian director, Triin Ruumet. She still has this ability to see.