Tema Staig is a Jill-of-all-trades in the film industry. As a Producer, Production Designer and all-around film aficionado who later became the Executive Director of Women in Media, her life as a creative centered on building parity in the industry.
As an educator and activist, she sought to correct this by simply starting a networking group and it started with a Google Docs contact sheet that evolved into a goal that changed the norm in Hollywood.
For this week’s column of Sundaze, our Editor, Cyan, sits down with Women in Media’s Tema Staig and talks about her most profound learning experience ever, her hidden talent, and the biggest passion she has.
What are you most grateful for?
Through my work, I’m in a position to learn a lot and meet incredible people making great art.
Sweet or Savoury?
Savoury. Absolutely. I even like my sweet a little savoury
Most profound learning experience ever?
That some people would rather live in their closely held beliefs and egomania than make money. If that weren’t true, theatrical releases would have more women and gender nonconforming folks (especially POC) as directors and in the creative crew positions. The data is there. The features with inclusion in front of, and behind the camera make MONEY. Some folks in the entertainment industry would rather see guys fail upward (and support them with massive prints and advertising), than give those opportunities to women who are making better movies with higher returns. Just a small recalibration in the system, and they would gain a much bigger market share (hello, 52% of the population). That isn’t to say that women shouldn’t be allowed to fail as badly as some of the guys do. Historically, many women directors went to “director jail” – television after simply breaking even on a theatrical release. It’s not a bomb when a well-liked man does it. It’s no surprise that tv is now where the prestige and viewership is.
Name the biggest pet peeve you have. It can be anything and it’s no-holds-barred.
Apparently, I have a challenging name to pronounce. Even after I tell some people how to say my name, (Teh – mah) they continue to call me Teemah, Tammy, Thelma, Tay-mah, Tamar…..you name it, I’ve heard it. Sometimes, they will even question how my name is pronounced, even though I clearly am an expert in how to say it. It borders on silly sometimes.
Who is your fictional superhero/idol?
Ripley from Alien is hands down my favorite fictional superhero. She is smart, resourceful, and knows when protocol is a good thing. If only the captain of the Nostromo had listened to her, well… I guess we wouldn’t have a movie!
What is your biggest weakness and strength?
I need to consciously take more time off. I get irritated during the Holiday Season when other people aren’t available, and I’m dying to plan, create, and get the new year started. I think everyone else has it right – taking time to recalibrate and take a break is not a bad thing at all, I’m just not good at it.
My biggest strength is the passion I have for my work.
What’s your hidden and weird talent that no one, not even your partner knows about?
I was a club DJ who worked at Studio 54 and The Monster. It’s one thing to tell people that, but until they actually see you beat-match vinyl, they don’t fully believe it.
What is a trend that you wish to obliterate forever?
What did you want to do with your life at the age of 14?
I wanted to draw all day. I actually got into trouble with my 6th-grade teacher because I’m a tactile learner. He thought that I wasn’t paying attention because I was always drawing. What he didn’t understand was that If there was a pencil in my hand, I could inhale the information. One time, he asked me what he had just said, and I regurgitated it back to him perfectly. It made him so mad that he dumped all the stuff that was inside my desk on the floor. By that I mean, he picked it up and shook the contents out of it. It was very dramatic and shocking for the class. I was mortified, but also kind of amused. It was a pretty strong reaction from an older person having a misplaced tantrum. I learned that adults aren’t always able to check their emotions. That being said, he was one of my favorite teachers, because he would challenge us intellectually, and held us to a high standard. I’m glad that school teachers are still intellectually rigorous, but have learned that people have different styles of learning that can be an advantage, not a hindrance.
For more on Tema & Women in Media:
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