This woman is a boom operator. She holds a long stick with a big microphone on one end, to record sound on movie and television shoots.
If you've ever tried to hold something over your head for a long time - or even just hold your hands over your head for a long time - you can imagine how tiring this job can be.
In some shots, the boom operator is luck enough to be able to use a less arduous position:
Or even reduce the strain on their arms and shoulders by setting up a sort of lever mechanism:
Given the existence of such lever mechanisms, and more high tech options, like cranes and gantries, why does the boom operator ever have to do his or her job the hard way?
I can imagine several ways to make the boom op's job easier:
In scenes filmed in one place, without much movement, a stationary mic could record ambient sound (and dialogue). If necessary, each character's dialogue could be recorded separately via clip-on mics.
Suspend the boom mic from a crane or gantry overhead
Use the unipod (if that's a word - I mean the one-legged tripod thing in the third photo) instead of forcing someone to hold a long boom over their head all day
Put the unipod thing on wheels or a track, as is sometimes done with cameras, so the boom mic can follow the action more readily
Why has the film industry chosen to stick with a physically tiresome, incredibly old fashioned method, when better options appear to be readily available?