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Where are all the women in film?

February 11, 2016

 

My friend Marie, shared a NYT article with me, "On Many Fronts, Women Are Fighting for Better Opportunity in Hollywood" and while interesting, I found it redundant. I've read the same stories so many times. I appreciate that journalists are reporting on the issue and helping to raise awareness. However, all these articles have come out railing against Hollywood, and nothing changes. Nothing changes because people advocate trying to change Hollywood from the inside out and the top down, which is not going to happen. The % of women directors in the DGA has been stagnant for years and no amount of talk about it has made a difference. 

 

I used to think that perhaps you don't see more films by women and about women because they just aren't out there. Then I attended a women's film festival in Toronto with one of my shorts. I was stunned at the consistently high level of product - all made by women - many of them stories about women - that screened over 6 days. And for a nice change of pace, when I went out after a screening with other directors, I wasn't the only female in the group.

 

There are women like me - lots of them - who are making movies despite the odds. We make them for pennies on the dollar in order to have the opportunity to tell our stories. And many of our films turn out as good as, and in some cases better than, our male peers. We exist; we just don't get seen. And we don't get seen because there's this artificial "rule" that boys go to movies, and girls go where the boys are. That's just wrong. Women go where we want to go. But the options in theaters are limited to primarily male-driven, man-made films, which get the wide releases and big marketing budgets. So we sometimes go to films by default.

 

Perhaps the focus on change should instead be convincing sales agents, distributors, and yes even festival programmers that work made by women and/or starring women is worth the distribution gamble. (The article states that 25% of Sundance competition films in the last 10 years were directed by women. No offense to a great festival, but I don't think that is a number to crow about.) 

 

There are a lot of us who are getting work done despite the odds. We have something to say and we're not going to be told we don’t have an audience – both men and women - that wants, and will pay to let us make them laugh, love, get scared in a horror movie or cheer a heroine as she kicks ass. When Hollywood does make a film that really is made with women in mind (as opposed to "chick flicks" written and cast from a male POV starring actresses that no regular girl can possibly relate to, but men will watch prance around in their underwear) - those films, the real "chick flicks," men go see. A movie like Bridesmaids had an audience made up of something like 58% women, but it still needed the other 42% (men) to show up to be a hit. And they did!!

 

The problem is perpetuated by people inside Hollywood, yes. But it’s also about what Hollywood is missing, and that is what these stories also miss. We’re already out there making movies. Give us consistently the same chance as the boys for exposure, marketing dollars and theatrical releases. We’ll bring the audience in and things will change. Because ultimately, this is showbiz and Hollywood will go wherever the money is.

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