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  • Writer's pictureThe Drone Lady

Female Drone Pilots Are A Game Changer

You're probably wondering who I am? Good, I'm glad you're confused. Let's get formalities out of the way.

Selfie of Rachael Dowling - The Drone Lady
Rachael Dowling - The Drone Lady

Hey, I'm Rachael. But I'm 100% fine if you call me "The Drone Lady" while we're on set. There's not many women in this industry, and I feel lucky to be here.

Personally, I'm a wife to my high school sweetheart... and am a mother to 4 amazing boys. I dominate at nerf gun wars and carry a mini medical kit with me for all of our outings.

Professionally, I started my business in 2007 and have been a full-time entrepreneur ever since. Even though I began my career on the artistic side of photography and videography.... I fell into the drone industry as a way to keep up with technology. Turns out, it's a way cooler career path than I could have imagined.

But... I'm about to say something, and I'm hoping you don't judge me harshly. But I promise, this experience has left me a much better drone pilot.

I used... I used to... *gulp*

I used to be a wedding photographer.

While I know this is kind of laughed at in the cinematic industry, I'm asking you to hear me out. This is why wedding photography prepared me for a life on a film crew:

1) I understand the urgency of getting the shot. While most movie sets offer a "take two" not all circumstances allow for things to be re-done. Like weddings, documentaries that happen in the moment. The perfect lighting will eventually fade into darkness. Or we'll spend all afternoon setting up the shot, only to have one-use props and sets destroyed. Getting it right the first time is imperative. Getting it right the first time is a sign of respect for the crew and actors.

2) Hecklers can't phase me. In the wedding industry, we have Uncle Bobs. This endearing terms usually refers to a family member with a "nice camera" who insists upon following you around the entire day telling you either: All of their ideas and the "best" shots or poses. OR They're asking you 20 questions about your equipment or techniques... Essentially asking to be trained during the wedding. Now imagine this person following you around... unrelenting... for 8+ hours.

3) Breaks can't always be scheduled. While taking an hour for lunch is nice, it can't always be scheduled; and breaks aren't guaranteed. Having the mental training to stick with the shot, even if you're tired, can make or break the final results. Sometimes, sticking around for the shot means working a 12+ hour day. There will be days when a cup of coffee doubles as breakfast and lunch... or dinner isn't eaten until 10:00pm. But if you catch me on set, I'll probably have snacks with me.

4) Drunk people. Everywhere. I'm located in Wisconsin and we hold the humiliating 10 out of 20 record for the "Top Drunkest Cities in the USA." Did you catch that? 10 out of 20 cities across the entire USA. Drinking seems to be an uncontrolled hobby in Wisconsin. Can imagine what the drunk celebrations at a Wisconsin wedding looks like?! So. Many. Drunk. People. Although I might be one of the only female camera crew members, I feel confident that I can stand my ground, even with rowdy crew members.

5) Technical issues can't stress me out. There's nothing worse than waiting for the perfect event to happen, and your batteries die, there's a technical malfunction, or something breaks. Photographing weddings taught me to bring back ups for my back ups... and what to calmly do in technical emergency situations.

6) I'll jump in wherever you need me to. Wedding days are unpredictable. Having boldness to help out where I'm needed is vital. Often times, I was the one pinning buttoners on the guy's tuxedos. Or helping move chairs and tables during the reception so the couple's first dance could start. While these wren't "my jobs" they helped keep things running smoothly. So, when you need someone to help carry equipment, run to get lunch, or to be a temporary PA... I'm willing to help.

So, that's it! While I might be newer to the film industry, I'm not afraid of hard work. I'm ready to be on your crew, and share your vision.

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