Crystal Braunwarth (left) names her mother Cheryl (right) as one of her biggest inspirations.


iatse891 | Mar 08, 2023 |

International Women's Day, celebrated every March 8th, is an opportunity to shine a light on the women and female-identifying people in our lives and communities who inspire us.

Crystal Braunwarth, who was sworn in as the IATSE 891 Business Representative in January 2023, shared her thoughts on the women who have inspired her most in her leadership journey. Before being elected to her current role, Crystal served as chair of the 891 Women’s Committee and Assistant Business Rep., following a 20-year career in motion picture production working as an ICG 669 Senior Unit Publicist and an 891 member in the production office. Here are her reflections on building more inclusive and equitable workplaces as a union leader and advice for women entering the motion picture industry today.

It’s been 13 years since the Union has had a woman as the 891 Business Representative. What inspired you to take on this leadership role?

Reflecting on the legacies of former 891 Business Representatives, I quickly understood that this was one of the biggest advocacy roles within our Union — interacting with government, with our producing partners, with communities, and with all stakeholders. The past Presidents and Business Reps. I’ve interviewed or worked with as colleagues all had one thing in common: the goal of building a safe and thriving creative industry in our province that supports workers and their families. 

I’ve been active in advocacy work and film production for all of my working life. Having worked in the Business Rep.’s office prior to holding office exposed me to just how aligned in values and goals the labour movement is with what I want to bring to all aspects of life. Dismantling systemic structures that have collectively held women and people from other marginalized communities back, both economically and socially, is an essential part of the ongoing work we are doing at the Union and cannot be overstated. Much has shifted in the 13 years since a female-identifying member has held this position, and I intend to bring a holistic, inclusive, and progressive approach to all the work that comes through the Business Representative’s office. I hope to build and improve on the incredible work that our members and past elected officials have established. 

Can you name a few women, either dead or alive, who have been an inspiration to you in your career and leadership journey?

There are so many to name. First, my mother, Cheryl Braunwarth. With $25 in her pocket and an idea to open her own business in the early 70s, she started and ran a dance school successfully for over 45 years while raising three children in rural Alberta, as a single mother. You can imagine the challenges she faced, but she persevered like no one I’ve seen. I aspire everyday to infuse her spirit of survive, thrive and follow your path of heart in everything I’m motivated to do. There are of course many other women who have impacted my life and career choices, including Sarah Polley, Kamala Harris, Sofia Coppola, Margaret Atwood, Malala Yousafzai, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. All of these women have impacted my life in meaningful ways through their incredible work.

Thinking back to when you first started your career, what advice would you share for women just entering the motion picture industry? 

Create your own strategic plan. No matter how educated, experienced, or dedicated you are, you need to be in control of the direction of your career, because it ultimately impacts every area of your life. It’s not new to hear that in addition to obtaining high levels of education that juggling — careers, raising families, taking care of aging parents while taking care of ourselves —  has become the presumptive skillset and expectation. You can take hold of this business or allow it to take hold of you. Continually make and adjust your personal and professional strategic plan. Also don’t believe anyone who says your goals are not possible. There is always a way forward and when I need to remind myself, I refer to the poem Invictus I keep on my desktop as wallpaper. Always have those touchpoints to bring you back to centre when the storm of this business gets rough. Embrace the challenges and the failures, reframing the failures as your opportunity to grow, and finely tune your plan along the way. 

What do you hope members and the wider motion picture community reflect on for International Women’s Day?

It’s easy to take for granted the hard-fought rights we are afforded here in Canada specifically, and yet there is far more work to be done. We see our kin in the USA fighting for Roe v. Wade, and a wave of legislation that is designed to reverse gains not only to do with women’s rights but also other equity seeking groups and historically marginalized communities. We must tell these stories in our crafts, celebrate and hold space for one another, bring more allies into the fray and understand that there will always need to be voices that hold steady the path to equity and go beyond the status quo. I would invite all of us to reflect on how, in our own ways and from our own lived experience, we can contribute to the health and progress in all areas of equality. There is inherent value in bringing your voice to the table, so dare to speak the words, change the laws, rabble rouse, and make change.   

You can read more stories about women in film championing positive change in our 891 Member Spotlights here! Email suggestions for 891 members to spotlight to