Women in Film, or the Lack Thereof

Anna Sophia Robb and Rachel Leigh Cook were two of six women speaking on a Women in Film panel at the Denver International Film Festival today. Their goal: talk about women and their relationship to film making, the roles they take on set and in crews, and why. It seemed like a promising discussion- until the panelists were asked their first questions, and no one clambered to answer.

It seemed to me that these women, for the most part, were in denial about the issues women face in the film industry, or they are entirely unaware. Anna Sophia, at 15, was the least aware – many things she said and talked about were indicative of the sexist nature of the film industry, and yet she failed to comprehend the weight of the things she shed light on. She mentioned at one point that she and her parents have the rights to a film and have pitched it – only to be told that a male lead must be written in in order to make the story more appealing. She said “I feel like it might ruin the integrity of the film, but it’s still true,” with no remorse. It is what it is to Anna Sophia – the fact that women seemingly cannot carry a film, that they need a male lead in order to bring in box office numbers, is indicative of that blissfully oblivious mindset we all have. Three films directed by women receive mediocre numbers at the box office and because women are not the majority in film making, this started what the media viewed as a trend – women are not good filmmakers. This is obvious because three films made by women received mediocre numbers.Would you say this is a trend? Would you say three bad films by women mean that women cannot make movies? Why do we not say that about the hundreds of terrible films men have made? Does that mean men cannot make good films either? Well, we know that’s not true, so why do we seem so willing to qualify the other argument?

What I find strange about this whole thing is that so many independent films about women or by women, films that had to be made independently because they were rejected by big studios due to their lack of appeal, have blown up, receiving more money worldwide than many big budget blockbusters out around the same time. Though these were not all made by women, several were written by, or directed by, or edited by women, and most importantly, are about women, the gender that big studios do not believe can carry a film. To name a few: Bend it Like Beckham, Juno, and most recently, Precious.

There is a four quadrant system Hollywood uses – a film must appeal to at least three quadrants’ worth of audiences in order to get the green light. But what about the hundreds of films that defy this quadrant system, and still blow up? Hollywood assumes they know the audience, that people won’t like this, but they will like that – the only reason they believe that is because Hollywood is the one making the market – if there’s nothing else out there, then how can you say you know for certain something else would not get the same viewership?

So to believe that women are not marketable, that they cannot carry a script or that female directors make mediocre films, is to rule out 50% of the world’s population as a source of storytelling, inspiration, and hard work. I just find that crazy.

312 people have been nominated for best director since awards for films were started – guess how many of those nominees were women? 3. Guess how many of them won? Zero. Can you believe that in the 1910’s- 1930’s women were directors, writers, editors, executives? And that for some reason, after this era ended, we separated from the industry and have still not made a comeback? When you get  a chance, google Frances Marion. you will be surprised by what you find.

This industry needs to change. It starts with women. It starts with women having the courage to take on roles that men have traditionally carried in the film industry – it means that women must let themselves be an editor, or a writer, or a gaffer, or a director. It means standing up for ourselves and saying “I think that a female lead is just what this film needs” and believing in that. Because the worst enemy we women have had for a very long time, besides a patriarchal culture that says we are not capable, is ourselves. We are the ones standing in our way.  And when we stop saying “a male lead is better than a female” or “I trust male directors more than woman directors”, we empower ourselves and we empower millions more to take on an industry that women have not been able to break the walls of since the 1940’s.

Alright. I’m done now.

One Response to “Women in Film, or the Lack Thereof”
  1. k pradeep says:

    this note is very helpfull for my under standing abuou women faced strugling in film idustry thank you………….

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