Izzy Chan and Paige Green are the director and photographer-in-chief of the revealing, insightful and moving documentary, The Big Flip, which goes behind the scenes and uncovers what life is like for four families where the woman is the breadwinner and the man is the stay-at-home dad. They talk to us about a project that is so close to their hearts, what they have learnt and how in the future they hope gendered biases will be a thing of the past. Help fund the final stages of the documentary on indiegogo and look out for Big Flip screenings at the end of the year.
So, how did the idea for the Big Flip come about?
Paige: It was Izzy’s idea. At the time her family was living the Big Flip and she was experiencing some of the challenges that go with that. She did some research, found the statistics and developed this idea. She knew that my family is a Big Flip family as well. We met, she showed me the presentation and I said Yes!
I knew that in my family I had always been more financially responsible but I hadn’t thought about it as being a social phenomenon – I thought it was just the way my family was. When I realised this was something that was happening, I was very interested in finding out more and figuring out how other women and men and families were dealing with it.
Izzy: This is a big self-help project!
Is it a full time project for you both?
Izzy: This is a passion project but it’s not financially lucrative so we still have to keep our day jobs and squeeze time to do this on the side.
Was there anything surprising you found as a result of following these families for 18 months?
Paige: When we first started I wasn’t sure how much we would be able to capture in 18 months. It’s not a whole lot of time in a life and I wasn’t sure if we would capture enough that would be interesting or dynamic, but all of these families had major life changes that happened in the 18 months we were following them. Partly it was their stage of life – they were adding on to their family, changing jobs, moving houses. To be able to see how they handled the changes and how their family made the adjustments was interesting and helpful.
Were the families open to sharing their experiences with you both?
Izzy: We took an approach to filming that was pretty observational. We would shoot a family for a couple of days and shadow them for a good amount of the day. Because of that ongoing filming, I think we captured a lot of candid moments because you’ve got to live your life! We didn’t interact, comment or participate in their activities. In that sense we got a lot of honesty.
During the interviews at the end of each visit, there was also honesty in the sense that the families were as honest to us as they were to themselves. We don’t have a reality TV producer approach where we try to create drama so the interviews may not be as hard hitting as some people might think they could be.
What has the reaction been at your test screenings?
Izzy: Test screenings have been amazing! It’s reassuring – all the work you’ve put in for so many years – it’s all for that moment. We’ve generally had very good reactions.
Paige: There was one in Southern California where there were women’s business groups from two universities – there were some fascinating questions about how the Big Flip was going to relate to their lives as very ambitious young women. I think everyone has something to learn – whether it’s the man staying home or the woman staying home. The feelings are the same just the gender’s different. The discussions that come from our screenings are always enlightening, revealing and engaging. That’s my favourite part!
Izzy: That’s the whole idea – it gets people to share and discuss.
Paige: There are little tips you pick up – like coming home and starting off with “How was your day?” instead of starting off with “Oh my God the house is a disaster!”
At the last screening one woman said the most important thing you can do is come home and support your partner. You are on the same side… against the kids! Appreciating each other daily and making sure each of us has some space for themselves to breathe and try and be the best person you can be for your family and each other is so important.
Izzy: When I went in, I really did think a lot of it was going to be a vindication of my own unhappiness with how my husband was handling the home. At the time, I was the one bringing in the majority of the income and I felt like he wasn’t really being super supportive in terms of taking care of all the things in the home.
But the friction we had was more to do with me and my own biases because subconsciously I felt I had the more important role. And while I would never think of it that way and it’s only in hindsight that I can say that, I probably was not totally appreciative or empathetic towards the fact that he wasn’t holding a job even though that was not intentional. So a lot of the learning was for me to be more understanding, encouraging and positive and to know that he has a different way of being at home than I would.
My husband is the main breadwinner now and he is so supportive. There are moments that I feel almost embarrassed at how much more gracious he is about being the breadwinner than I ever was.
How important do you think it is to have the right partner?
Izzy: It’s surprising how a lot of these old gendered expectations, no matter how educated and progressive we are, are actually there at the back of our minds. We have to learn to face and acknowledge our own biases and learn to let go of them and find our own new definition of what it means to be a good husband, a good wife, a good father, a good mother. You have to have a partner who is willing to do that, who is not going to feel any less-er as a man or woman.
Paige: I think it’s really important that we are presenting this to colleges and to the young women because I don’t think those biases need to be continued. Soon we won’t have to have these conversations anymore because it’s not going to be a thing to think about.
We have to let go of all the gender stuff –it’s more about a partnership. We have certain things we have to get done in our lives and it’s just – who’s going to do it?
What’s the next step for the Big Flip?
Izzy: We had always planned to have an accompanying book incorporating more of the data from the research.
Also the film is very US centric with a glimpse into the UK. We have had supporters though from all around the world and the rise of female breadwinners is in fact a global phenomenon – it’s just at different rates and more pronounced in places like the US and the UK. I am interested in partnering with local documentary film makers to create local versions of the Big Flip story.
What’s been the biggest challenge and biggest success coming out of your Big Flip journey?
Paige: The biggest challenge is always time and money. I think that is the biggest challenge of all independent documentaries. The biggest success is what we’ve been able to accomplish with the time and the money that we have had.
Izzy: All these women reaching out, supporting us and carrying us through has been amazing and delightful. There is something to be said about women supporting each other. Some of our biggest donors have been women in professional circles – some we have never met before. Just seeing and feeling all their support and belief in our work has been one of the best parts of our journey.