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February 27 at 8:30am

Dept. Of The Obvious: The Film Biz Has No Gender Equality

That lack of gender equality in the film business has been clear for so long.  A lot has been written about it, and a lot more shall.  Like so much, it is a problem for everyone, not just whom it effects most.  It is all one world after all.

For a long time, white people did not accept that racial discrimination was their issue.  For a long time, heterosexuals preferred not to recognize that same sex marriage was a civil rights issue.  The majority stands so deep in the center of  things that they often can’t see where they truly are.  But the lack of gender equality in the film business is hard to ignore (Yes, there are many other issues that we shouldn’t overlook either, but I am starting here).

Sure, as Sundance has demonstrated, it gets better; and it is much better in Indieland for women directors than in Hollywood.  But it still sucks.  This year, just like last year, the Oscars were a demonstration of the Old White Male problem.  The Academy’s membership is 77% male after all.  This year, unlike any year before that I can remember, the Oscars were a demonstration of outright misogyny.

And we all suffer in the process, significantly.  We are not enjoying a culture, an art form, an entertainment form truly representative of the world we live in.  We are missing perspective and the best work may never get made, or seen.  And many are missing the opportunity to demonstrate that they can do it better.  It make work for some; it may never work for all, but it certainly can work a hell of a lot better than it does now.

Bloomberg Busisnessweek recently ran an article on “Why Women In Hollywood Can’t Get Film Financing” (featuring one of those great info graphics).  The Nation just ran “Sundance, The Oscars, And The Decline Of Film Criticism — Not Just A Lady Problem ” on how much harder it is for women directors to get a full, thoughtful review of their films.  Last fall I participated in a roundtable Op-Ed discussion for the NY Times on how women can gain influence in Hollywood.

Is it just a matter of encouraging and supporting women directors?  There’s certainly not a shortage thereof (here’s just one list). There are many great screening series out there to engage with or to model off of.  Is it just making us all aware of the reality, the challenges, and then advocating more fully?  There are many great websites already doing this.  Should the Bechdel Test be required for greenlight (as many directors would not be able to get their movies made if they were)? Or do we need something more akin to a bus boycott?  Should we stop making movies until things get better?  Should we stop going to the movies until things get better?  Should we boycott shows after they have been significantly biased or ignorant.

The challenges within the creative classes to not promote something because something is or not from a particular sector of society is large.  We want our culture to be a meritocracy — and we like to think it is even when it clearly is not.  We always want what we deem “best” but bias always perpetuates the status quo.  No one wants to ghettoize any form of creativity.  Sorting work by who makes it or even by what budget it is made at distorts, yet sometimes that becomes necessary in order to make sure a voice is heard.

But the point is that the gender bias, like racial bias and age bias, is a serious problem in the film business and we can’t just sit and watch.  We have to act.  But what to do?   Share some ideas and let’s move this forward.

I can say one thing now though, until the Academy approaches equal gender representation in it’s membership, I am only going to nominate women to join the producer ranks.  My last few noms have been women anyway, and that was just because I thought my noms were the best choices (even if they did not get in).


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  • http://www.facebook.com/lindy.boustedt Lindy Boustedt

    I think we need to have women like Megan Ellison at Annapurna talk with her peers. Start the dialogue making funders more aware of the pictures their funding. How they can help make the system better, make the art stronger. We need to inspire the change makers to help make the change.

    Now to find and identify the change makers. :-)

  • Alex Edmondson

    Women supporting other women within the industry, whether it be through mentoring, hiring other women, forming collectives, critics and those in a position to make or influence funding decisions putting forward a female perspective (which sometimes differs from a male perspective). There is strength in numbers.

  • Donna Harris

    Interesting…This came up in several conversations, I had last night, at ASMPdallas regarding the art and media industries, overall. Be the example Hollywoood by hiring women to produce, direct, edit, design special effects, engineer sound, roll camera, shoot candid photography, and on and on, for “main stream” films and television programming. Don’t stop there. Hire women to write the dialogue for women characters, instead of men. Hire women to direct film and television programming targeted at women, their age. Hire women to market and promote women’s programming, instead of boys and girls.

    Get the picture…Let’s start with hiring women and investing in women owned media! The rest will fall into place, as the public, universities and financers see more women in leadership positions, being recognized, in media and film.

    If you rolled your eyes at any one of these suggestions, Abbie Hoffman would say, you’re part of the problem, not the solution! Bring it on!

  • Brian Briskey

    Donna, I’m not sure if you work in the Dallas area but is it the exception that Austin and Houston have most (financially) successful projects produced by women… Elizabeth Avellan, Sarah Green, Michelle Mower, Megan Gilbride?

    Who are the leading female producers in your area?

    ~Brian

  • http://twitter.com/TheDirectorList The Director List

    Thank you for linking to thedirectorlist.com and being an ally to women in film!

  • kk

    Thanks for the s/o! MUCH appreciated!! Ditto what Destri said. <3

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