A powerful documentary about the history and future of female participation in the Australian music industry will screen at Kambri Cinema, ANU on Thursday 3 December as part of HERE I AM: Art by Great Women.
Her Sound, Her Story (2018) is one of four films scheduled to play in December and filmmaker Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore said she was thrilled to see the documentary shared with new audiences.
“It will likely still resonate with people in ten years’ time,” she said.
“A big recurring issue for a lot of women was a lack of confidence, and that’s why they wouldn’t take the next step.
“They’d study music but not go on to become musicians.”
Featuring artists such as Tina Arena, Vika & Linda, Camp Cope, Claire Bowditch, Ngaiire, Alice Ivy, Okenyo and Thelma Plum, the documentary highlights obstacles like the lack of female-identifying talent on music festival line-ups and the gender pay gap, to explore why so few women pursue a career in music.
Australian music rights organisation APRA AMCOS represents over 103,000 members who are songwriters, composers, and music publishers.
At the time of Her Sound, Her Story’s production in 2017, 21.9% of musicians registered with APRA AMCOS identified as female and the organisation set out to double annual female membership applications within three years.
That statistic rose by half a percentage point to 22.4% in 2020.
APRA’s main goal was not achieved, however, it reported a 5% bump in newly elected female-identifying members, from 25.8% to 30.7%, according to October 2020 statistics.
Sangiorgi Dalimore said the documentary set out to help rectify this imbalance, with the motto, “If you can see it, you can be it”.
Message hits close to home in Canberra
Local singer-songwriter Lucy Sugerman, 19, said her love for music, and her desire to participate, began when she saw a female musician performing.
“I probably picked up music when I was four and I always loved singing,” she said.
“The first album I ever loved was Carole King, Tapestry, my first concert was Norah Jones – my dad took me at age four.”
The list goes on – she picked up the violin because she saw a lady on The Wiggles playing a violin and she started singing and writing her own songs because she saw Taylor Swift doing the same.
“Representation is huge when you’re little, even if you don’t realise it until later.”
“Every single person who has inspired me to do music has been a woman.”
Sugerman said she was pleased to see female and gender-diverse driven initiatives like Girls Rock! Canberra and MusicACT’s recent Women in Music networking event, which led to the formation of a local music group for women.
“When I was younger I had little to no mixed-race artists as role models, it was only more recently that I discovered Jaguar Jonze – she has Asian-Australian heritage, like me.”
Canberran musician and arts professional Ruth O’Brien, MusicACT secretary Lauren Melksham and friend and collaborator Sophie Edwards were Sugerman’s inspiration close to home.
The making of the documentary
The mission began six years ago, when Australian photographer Michelle Grace Hunder wrapped a passion project documenting the hip-hop music community in Australia which involved two years of travel to photograph 182 artists.
When she realised only 10 of those artists photographed were women, she set out to amplify the names and voices of female identifying musicians in Australia.
Enlisting filmmaker Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore as collaborator, the pair worked independently and unfunded to photograph and film interviews with more than 45 musicians of diverse ages and backgrounds.
Sangiorgi Dalimore told Canberra Weekly they continued that way for about one and a half years and joked about making a documentary.
“I didn’t have a structure, it was very conversational and unstructured,” she said.
“We ended up with something like 48 hours of rushes of sometimes hour-long conversations.”
The final product is an independent and unfunded documentary, which reflects the organic, intimate nature of its production.
“The film grew us in many ways,” she said.
While Sangiorgi Dalimore didn’t believe the industry had fully progressed, she noticed small changes in the time since Her Sound, Her Story premiered.
At the 2020 ARIA Awards Sampa The Great took home three titles: Best Female Artist, Best Independent Release, and Best Hip Hop Release.
“I look at moments like that and I think that’s positive, and she’s set the landscape in terms of who else feels like they have permission to succeed like that,” Sangiorgi Dalimore said.
“What has changed is there are a lot more role models.”
The free screening of Her Sound, Her Story will take place Thursday 3 December, 7-9pm in the Kambri Cinema (ground floor of the Cultural Centre) with free parking available at the Kambri Car Park. Register here.