Imagine the film and music industries that Lisbeth Scott started out in in the 1990s. Before instances of abuse and sexism were discussed openly, when everything might have just been swept under the rug. As a woman in music, it can be hard to speak up or respond to unprofessional actions. Lisbeth Scott has endured difficult challenges in music, in film, and in her personal life. Her outlook, though, focuses on positive. In this interview, Lisbeth shares her perspective on overcoming challenges related to being a woman in her industries and what can be done to enhance respect and understanding.
Did you face any challenges in the industry as a female artist or composer?
As in any industry, there are nice people and not so nice people. There are generous people and selfish people. I have had experiences that have run the gamut.
I made a decision. It was 2004, I think, and I had just come through an incredibly difficult time. I decided that I was going to be very discerning about who I worked with. I was going to work only with people who respected me and whom I respected, and I was going to make sure that the business understanding was always clear when we began work. Once I made that decision, my life really changed. People said to me, “You’re crazy, you’ll never get enough work.” Contrary to what many people had said, my most rewarding work happened after that decision.
Yes, I have had many negative experiences with people. Every negative experience you can imagine. I’ll give you a minute to imagine them. If you can imagine them, I’ve had them. Take a moment.
Do you think that anything has gotten better?
Oh, absolutely. The whole #metoo movement has increased awareness of what’s appropriate and what’s not. It’s really something that is turning the brains of humans on their sides. I feel for people. Everyone is trying, women and men, to figure out what’s okay and what’s not okay.
Women can now ask themselves what is okay and what’s not. It’s different, what we have now. We have permission now to speak the truth about how we feel.
I recently had an opportunity to tell someone how I truly felt about a past experience. This was not anyone in the industry. Years ago a man had very badly abused me. I had an opportunity to say, “This is what you did, this is how I felt, and I want an apology and for you to take responsibility for what you did.”
I never would have done that if it hadn’t been for the permission we as women are being given by the brave souls coming forth and telling the truth. It’s an incredibly freeing feeling to be able to say, “Yeah, that’s not okay, actually. So don’t do it.” Especially, since I grew up as a very shy person. To say what I wanted to eat was a challenge, let alone anything else on the spectrum.
The world is really changing in a wonderful way.
You’ve done a lot of collaborative work with male composers and with mixed groups. As a woman in music, how do you make space for yourself and your own opinions and make sure that you’re also heard?
I do collaborate a lot and have had mostly incredible experiences. If something doesn’t feel right, I ask to speak privately with the person when the work day is done and say, “I’m not comfortable with X and Y, here’s why, and here’s what I would like to happen.” It works most every time.
We have to remember that this is such a transformative time. People are adjusting to a new normal, both men and women. There has been a tremendous amount of ignorance. I never want to shame or make a spectacle out of someone. It is of course different if it is a grossly abusive situation.
I was glad I was in situations where I could say, “I know this is something you always do, but I’m just not comfortable with it. It really makes me feel awful. Can we try something different and not this?”
I think that as a woman, it is time to let go of the fear of speaking up. We have to know that we have the right to do that, and we have the right to feel the way we feel. If someone says, “Oh, it was just a joke,” – no, it’s not funny. If they say, “You’re just being so sensitive,” – no, I am not too sensitive, this is how I am. You want to work with me, you play by my rules; you respect me and my feelings.
It’s very new for women to be talking like this.
When you compose or you score the piece, is there anything you do to assert your lead? To not be talked over, intentionally or unintentionally, for example?
Often times, I will wait until whoever is done talking finishes and then just start talking. And if they don’t leave room for anyone else, I just interrupt!
Sometimes it’s more of a personality thing. We all come with our bags of stuff that our families gave us, but I think it’s wise to be sensitive to the room and to make sure that you’re heard and seen and do it in a way that, for lack of a better word, creates awareness. I’ve very rarely seen aggressive behavior result in anything positive in terms of work. But if you are grounded and listen and respond rather than react, more understanding is possible.
I have to say, recently, with my last three projects, this has not been an issue at all. I think it’s related to what I said earlier about making a decision about the kind of person that you’re going to work with. Once I made that decision, really wonderful projects and teams started coming into my life.
In this industry you can get this disrespect between men and women or between people that play different instruments or different roles in the recording.
I think it’s up to each of us to raise the vibration of the world. There are two things I start my day with. I ask for all the spirits I believe in – everyone has their own thing – to bless the day and to have it run smoothly, easily and effortlessly. Second, that those around me feel loved and healed in my presence and that I feel loved and healed by those around me.
You can’t judge someone if you bless them first. It’s an interesting exercise to bless anyone you see the moment you see them, whatever that means to you. It might be just hoping they have a good day. Or it might mean whispering “Bless you, bless you, bless you,” under your breath. We all have a tendency – nobody’s perfect – to judge and make snap decisions and judgments. Everyone has a deep well of experience that takes time to know. I think it’s important to approach life that way, rather than everyone sucks until proven otherwise.
When I am in any work situation, I always try to be respectful and patient, supportive and encouraging. Kindness and love are the most powerful things we have as humans.