The AFI DOCS Interview: CODE’s Robin Hauser Reynolds
The pioneer computer programmers — those first to grasp that coded instructions were more important than the machines reading them — were mostly female. With computer science now touching almost every aspect of life, women are barely represented in a coding community urgently seeking more skilled workers. With humor and optimism, the AFI DOCS film CODE: DEBUGGING THE GENDER GAP considers how we reached this crossroad and charts a course toward a more balanced tech workforce delivering superior products designed by and for all.
We talked to CODE’s director, Robin Hauser Reynolds, about the film.
How did you learn about the topic of your film and why did it inspire you to make a film about it?
My daughter was studying computer science in college and frequently called home to discuss the challenges of being one of only two women in a class of 30. Producer Staci Hartman’s daughter was working at a start-up and experienced first hand the workplace culture. International headlines reported that by the year 2020, there would be one million unfilled computer science jobs in the U.S. This supply and demand imbalance fascinated us, so we began to look into the reasons for the gender gap.
How did you find the subjects in CODE?
Networking, social media, newspaper articles, word of mouth and more networking.
Was there a particular obstacle you faced while making the film?
The biggest challenge we faced was getting a “brogrammer” to speak to us on-camera; I felt it was paramount to have that perspective represented.
Why do you think Washington, DC is a valuable location to screen CODE? Does the film have any particular issues that would benefit from DC exposure?
The gender gap and digital divide is caused – in part – by the lack of computer science education in US schools. It is imperative that computer science is integrated into classrooms beginning in elementary school. Policymakers in Washington, DC, can help make this necessary change in our education system.
What led you to documentary filmmaking?
I’ve been a professional photographer for about 15 years. In 2010, an opportunity to make a cause-based film about my daughter’s cross country coach presented itself (RunningforJim.com) and I ran with it. The experience of making my first documentary sparked a passion for visual storytelling. Now I’m hooked.
Which documentary film or documentarian has been the most influential to you?
BORN INTO BROTHELS — I love the artistic footage and I appreciate that the directors successfully changed course on their story when they realized their story lived in the children of the prostitutes and not in the prostitutes themselves. This taught me that documentary filmmaking is about discovery, about being flexible enough to change direction mid-production, if you learn that your true story is something different than what you originally thought.
What did you learn from making your film that you’d pass on to aspiring documentary filmmakers?
If you believe you have an interesting story, go for it. Keep digging deeper, even if people try to dissuade you.