Most women in tech movies (out of the few actually in existence) fall into very specific categories. There are the wonderful eye-opening documentaries that expose the world to the challenges women face in the tech industry. Women who have the courage to break stereotypes to help build and support the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) pipeline. There are also those intelligent women of action films and television shows who, single-handedly bail everyone, specifically the male superhero, out of sticky situations with their quick wit and engineering know how. (God bless women like Shuri). But sometimes it would be nice to have something to watch that is more uplifting and realistic.
Cue Freelancers Anonymous, the hilarious comedy about a woman named Billie (yes, Billie is her real name) who quits her job just months before her wedding and starts a tech company with the group of unemployed freelancers at her local church. The film is directed by award-winning Spanish filmmaker, Sonia Sebastian (De Chica en Chica / Girl Gets Girl), and is written by Amy Dellagiarino and Lisa Cordileone. It stars Lisa Cordileone, Natasha Negovanlis, Alexandra Billings, Jennifer Bartels, Mouzam Makkar, Megan Cavanagh, Amy Shiels, Cassandra Blair, Jamison Scala, Grace Rex, Jennie McNulty, Haviland Stillwell. The movie premiered at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco last Friday, June 15.
Freelancers Anonymous is a refreshing change to the typical narrative. It’s not completely centered around women in tech, but dare I say, it normalizes it?
Here are a few things I loved while watching the movie as a woman in tech:
- First of all, can we say girl power? A movie written, directed, and starring women. And again, not just a story about a group of women, but an entrepreneur building a tech company. Let’s sit and appreciate that for a moment…
- Women can support themselves just fine, thank you. No one looks at Billie and thinks she can’t start this business just because she’s a woman. Maybe questioning her ability for other reasons… But being a woman is far from one of them. There are also other strong women represented throughout the film. Gayle, Billie’s wife to be, doesn’t hesitate to hustle to make a living creating content for the web. Gayle’s mother? A successful businesswoman who owns a vineyard. Even an older woman at Billie’s previous employer secretly runs her own online candy business.
- Women in tech are more than just the programmers. One of my pet peeves about women in tech is the focus on molding and churning out perfect little computer programmers through this so-called pipeline. I have nothing against becoming a programmer, but it must be disheartening to anyone thinking of joining the field not interested in simply coding. In reality, there are so much more women can do in tech than just be a code monkey. I studied computer science and have never had the title of a software engineer. Women in tech need more women investors, women marketers, women designers, women project managers, women in operations, women in support, and I don’t know, wouldn’t hurt to have more women CEOs. In this movie, each freelancer has her own abilities that contribute to making the app a reality.
- Diversity matters. The Freelancers Anonymous app concept is not a new idea either, and they are quick to point this out in the movie. The world needs different perspectives that can elevate even the simplest ideas. Women I work with don’t all fit this generic idea of what a woman in tech is supported to look like. We are all in tech for different reasons, but our differing personalities, give employers needed perspectives. I may get stuck on an issue and my co-worker may be able to present a solution I may not have thought of. I’m excited to see what their company comes up with.
- Token female meet token male. Larry is the one white male in the freelancer group and can be easy to miss if you don’t pay attention. He appears mostly in the background and has a problem with getting a word in edgewise. Quite possibly one of the funniest parts of the movie having seen the Smurfette principle many times.
- Apps aren’t made overnight. I appreciate that they addressed the fact that one developer realistically can’t make a fully functional app overnight. An acceptable demo for a hackathon maybe (and that’s if you get help), but an app to demo and present to investors is a little different. I also appreciate that the technical jargon sounded at least plausible. When Sam’s colleagues brag about her creating her own video game, she is quick to point out she created her video game using an open source gaming engine and graphics help from one of the other freelancers. Need an app? um… let’s think about how it needs to be made for both iOS and Android platforms. It could take months. These were simple, but delightful references that I definitely appreciated.
- Relationships aren’t always black and white; it’s about loving and accepting the other person. Okay, so this isn’t focused on tech, but probably one of my favorite parts of the movie is the relationship between Billie and Gayle. My initial reaction to the trailer and what interviews were out about Freelancers Anonymous before seeing the movie, Gayle was going to be the typical bridezilla. The type of woman whose wedding is more important than anything in the world and her fiancé, Billie, was just going to have to deal with it. And of course, the rest of the movie follows Billie’s desperate attempts to give Gayle the perfect wedding while also struggling to start a company. Hilarity ensues. I even half expected Gayle to run off with the wedding planner part of the way through the movie, but I was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t quite follow that formula. It was nice seeing moments where they show that they both truly love and support each other. Truthfully an extravagant wedding isn’t why people should get married in the first place. This is probably one of the sweetest relationships I’ve seen in the film.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next for Freelancers Anonymous. In addition to being a laugh out loud comedy, Freelancers Anonymous is also rolling out a transmedia campaign. The hope is to continue following this quirky bunch into a web series and eventually release a functional version of the app the freelancers have been working on. The mission is to close the gender gap in the workplace by crossing the lines from story to usable technology and support women and the LGBTQ community working in STEM. My hope is we also get to see the creative progress and what a tech company and development team really looks like.
Update 11/16/18: Freelancers Anonymous is now available digitally on VHX! You can purchase a streaming copy at https://freelancersanonymous.vhx.tv/
Check out the Behind the Scenes as Lisa and Sonia talk about their hopes for the movie and how they want to affect the tech industry.
If you’re student or professional in STEM, please participate in their research study by filling out their survey. This information will help shape how this project can have a greater impact on the tech industry.