Feb 20

[The Lack of] Women in Film


As Giselle and I sat around discussing what we wanted to cover for our next few posts, I told her about a topic I’ve wanted to share here for a while now: the LACK OF WOMEN in the industry.  Then I said, jokingly, that I might lose my shit while writing this article.  Giselle laughed as she elatedly (because my internal and superficial torment gives her joy in a very Scorpio kind of way) continued with, “I know! Do it anyway!”  So, three weeks later, I’m sitting at my laptop typing away, trying not to outwardly lose my shit in a very public place.

Here we go.

We’re always attempting to keep it real and relevant here at Tips for Actors.  And although I have a tendency of, not flat-out exaggerating (much?), but embellishing (a little?) for mere entertainment purposes when writing — I often ask myself if my sarcasm translates properly on paper, digital paper, if you will — unfortunately, this topic is not a tall tale concocted by my storytelling ways.  I promise you that if everything I wrote was 100% serious, 100% of the time, you’d be asleep from boredom within seconds.  But let me tell you about something that is extremely relevant and so not sarcastic on any level and 100% serious, yet completely beyond me that these statistical numbers areavaduvernay still so incredibly high in the year 2015: gender matters, and a whole damn lot, in the grand scheme of things.  I won’t bring politics into this article, but I will say that this is an ongoing issue that doesn’t seem to be nearing its end, I don’t know that it ever will.

Before going any further — this subject is usually a sensitive matter and some people do indeed take offense to it, depending on how it’s expressed, obviously — I find it necessary to kind of preface what will follow below to NOT be misconstrued.  There will be absolutely no man bashing, nor should this be considered a feminist piece of any kind: I honestly don’t like to throw that word out too often, because it literally is a misinterpreted word more often than not.  I won’t exaggerate and say that I have to fight for equality every single day of my life, but I do find myself overcompensating (mainly in a work-related atmosphere) more than anyone should ever have to.  Why is it so common to just assume I don’t know something or can’t do something, simply and solely, because I am a WOMAN?  Just the idea that this actually happens, not because I lack knowledge or experience in a certain field, but because of my dual X chromosomes, is plain sad, depressing and so completely demoralizing.

A couple of weeks ago, while going through all my crazy awards season coverage, I came across a quote by Rose McGowan from when she accepted the New York Film Critics Circle “Best First Film” award on behalf of Jennifer Kent for “The Babadook” (if you have not heard of or seen this film, look it up NOW, it’s brilliant!) and it instantly floored me.  “I ask you to take up the hand of the female director until we no longer say ‘female director.’ It is a unisex term. I am a director. Jennifer Kent is a director. Let’s do smart, let’s bring it. She did. I think she’s thrown down the gauntlet.”  Why has this NEVER occurred to me?  I immediately shared this quote with almost everyone I know!  They HAD to know too!  It is a unisex term, yes Miss McGowan, you are 100% correct, it is.  A quite intelligent friend of mine said, “Well, maybe the word ‘female’ is placed in front of director because it’s so uncommon for a woman to helm a film, especially a huge studio film. Maybe it’s labeled ‘female director’ purposely, to bring a specific kind of attention to it, since it’s directed by a woman.”  I believe that — but it frustrates me no less.  And do we really need to bring attention to the director’s gender?  Can we not allow the film to stand on its own and speak for itself — as do all the other films directed by men?

julie-taymorHere’s a statistic for you: only 6.8% of the 250 top-grossing films of 2014 were helmed by female filmmakers. Uh huh, you read that correctly.  Forget the percentage, let’s get perfectly accurate, women directed only 17 out of the top 250 grossing films of 2014.  I would love to say that this shocks me, but being an active filmmaker, this is no surprise whatsoever.  In all my years and, give or take, the 100 sets I’ve been on, I can say that I have only ever worked on 2 films that have been helmed by a woman.  Only 2, my film friends.  What certainly surprised me — an understatement if there ever was one — was the other percentage: only 4.7% of major studio films between 2009-2013 were directed by women.  Um, yeah, that is about 22 out of 470 films.  The percentage seems slightly better in the world of independent film at 10% being directed by women between 2009-2013, but then you calculate these numbers and come to the disheartening conclusion that that is only 90 movies out of 880.  Thanks mathematics, I can always count on you to put me in my place.

If there is a bright side here — at all? — women directors are up .8% from 2013’s top-grossing films.  That, and the #34 highest-grossing film of 2014 is “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie, with $159,949,820 worldwide box office (even with it having a December 25th release).  “Unbroken” is also the highest-grossing film directed by a woman in 2014 — and is up for 3 Academy Awards in the Cinematography, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing categories.  This is fantastic and all, but where are the women in the Best Screenplay and Best Director categories?  No one is going to tell me that there wasn’t a great enough script or film in 2014 written or directed by a woman that wasn’t deserving of an Oscar nomination… I watched a few of them that were deserving of an Oscar nod, absolutely.  I LOVE watching the Oscars and anything related to it (I’m like a kid at a candy store when it comes to Oscar week, and Oscar Sunday, don’t even get me started), anyone I know well will tell you so, but c’mon, the Academy had such an opportunity to make history this year.  Ava DuVernay, who directed “Selma,” would have been the very first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Director category — if only.

In fact, the Academy Awards has immense gaps between nominations for women in the director category.  Let’s gokathryn_bigelow into details, shall we?  The very first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929 — making this Sunday’s ceremony the 87th — and it wasn’t until 1976 that a woman was first nominated in the Best Director category.  I mean, it only took 47 years to get there.  Forty-seven years!  That historical nomination went to Lina Wertmüller for her film, “Seven Beauties.”  It then took just another… wait for it… 17 years for the Academy to nominate another woman in the director category: Jane Campion for her 1993 film, “The Piano.”  We’re decreasing here, people, because 10 years later, in 2003, Sofia Coppola was recognized by the Academy for her film, “Lost in Translation.”  And finally, in 2009 — a mere 80 years after the Academy Awards began — another historical moment: Kathryn Bigelow won a Best Director Academy Award for “The Hurt Locker.”  It has now been 5 years since a woman has been nominated for an Oscar in the director category.  But, the even crazier detail that comes to mind this very moment, there have only been 4 women nominated in the director category in the last 87 years.  I won’t go into the Best Picture and Best Screenplay — CEO positions or any other Key roles that are not considered the Art Departments — specifics for women, because it’ll be another 1400 words.

Do a bit of research on your own, you’ll be astounded by the statistics.  And I didn’t even mention the statisticsCelluloidCeilingReport about women in front of the camera — not very many 3 dimensional roles available out there.  How about the lack of female-led action movies?  Unless women are playing the role of “girlfriend” and/or “sidekick,” it’s too much of a box office risk for a major studio to take.  Women aren’t funny either, I’m told.  Just ask all the “strong female characters” penned without a sense of humor, while the hero gets the fantastic, witty dialogue.  I think you know this better than I do, I’m not an actress going out to castings.  As for superheroes?  We’re getting there, both in front and behind the camera.  The latter has not happened yet — if it’s on IMDb it must be true, right?  Nope.  So many things change, and even at the last second, with so much money, egos and logistics flying around; I will believe it when the film is in the can.  Also, rumor has it… this is a monumental maybe.  Any “news” whose source is a tabloid should ALWAYS be taken with a grain of salt.  Of course every outlet is reporting on it; if this does become a reality, it will be a huge step, one I cannot even begin to fathom until there is tangible proof sitting before me.  Alas, it is a constant one step forward and three steps back.

Written by: J.D. Koumendakis

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