Susu Hauser as a photographic volunteer with WildLife Act tracking the endangered African Wild Dog.
A version of this article appears on Crew Connection.
“I feel empowered when I’m holding a camera,” Susu Hauser, adventurer, world-traveler, filmmaker, TV industry veteran, wife and cinematographer says with a gleam of pride in her eye. And she should feel proud. As one of the few female camera operators in the docu-reality TV world, she’s a groundbreaking trailblazer paving the way for more women to emerge in this extremely male-dominated field.
Despite her long list of credits and her massive accomplishments around the world (working Deadliest Catch in Alaska to trekking Ethiopia with a camera), she is often still treated as the sidekick or “little woman” next to men in her industry. Susu doesn’t complain about it. She doesn’t play the victim or pout, instead, she straps on her hiking boots, slings a camera over her shoulder and proceeds to her next adventure, proving with every impressive credit that the camera knows no gender. If you’re good, you’re good. And she’s good.
These are her thoughts in her own words about her journey as a woman behind the camera.
Empowerment through Cinematography
A wise person once said “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, and it couldn’t be truer of my craft. As a female cinematographer, I feel an adrenaline rush with every new environment I delve into, every walk of life I engage with, and every new adventure I embark on. The camera has been my tool to live life to the fullest – whether I am coasting down 10,000 ft in a Piper cub with the engine cut out, or trouncing through the “emerald triangle” of Northern California in full camo, I have challenged my physical and mental body to greet the unknown. There is fear, freedom and empowerment that comes with all this.
Life Behind the Camera
I wrote an essay in high school about my desire to be a National Geographic photographer “when I grew up”. Never did I think that 10 years later, I would be doing just that.
I've since been fortunate enough to have kissed the Blarney stone, visited the lost city of Pompeii, enjoyed the thermal baths of Budapest, swam from island to island in the Adriatic sea, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, sky dove over Fox Glacier in New Zealand, polished my Thai cooking in Chiang Mai, watched the sun rise over the temples of Angkor Wat, kayaked the Mekong and the list goes on.
With every new excursion and adventure, I have honed my photography skills. So you can see, travel, adventure, and photography are my lifeblood. I have a thirst for diverse cultures and exotic lands. Cinematography has enabled me to marry all these passions, and I am beyond grateful for that.
A Woman’s Rise up a Male Ladder
Truthfully, my rise up the ladder in this industry was slow, steady and incremental. On the one hand, it was a bummer seeing my male counterparts wiz by me in the job positions and titles when I knew we had the same work ethic, talent and drive. It seemed as though there was a tendency to shy away from putting females in the field unless they were fulfilling positions as coordinators, managers and associate producers.
On the other hand, I gained experience in every job title leading me to eventually running my own production company with my husband, The Invisible Lens. These rungs on the ladder included Post and production PA, Field and Post Coordinator, Production Manager, Associate Producer, Assistant Camera, Producer and Camera Operator.
Advice for Women Up and Comers
Be persistent. I ventured out with countless male camera operators before getting my hands on the camera. Observe them, soak them for knowledge, be indispensable, and if they are confident enough within their own craft, they will help you learn the ropes. It’s one thing to get an education from a film school, it’s an entirely other thing to be gaining practical knowledge in the field.
Know your thresholds, be safe and speak up when things don’t feel right.
A Message to the Industry
My message to the industry on behalf of us few female camera operators is do not underestimate us. I may be only 5’5’’, but I can trounce through the woods with a Sony F800 on my shoulder just like the rest of them. – and I may even be smiling while I do it.
To experience Susu’s work and learn about her upcoming documentary to empower women through the Fair Trade Market please visit susuhauser.com.