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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Oh Hollywood

Are You a Female Who Wants to Make Movies? You’ll Have Better Luck If You Stay Out of Hollywood.

We know (though some choose to ignore) that there’s some heavy-duty gender inequality going on behind the scenes in movies and TV. But a new study conducted by the Sundance Film Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles has found that female filmmakers have it better in the world of indie film than in Hollywood. Not great, mind you. But better.

Writes the New York Times:

Between 2002 and 2012, nearly a quarter of the directors at [the] Sundance [Film Festival] were women, compared with 4.4 percent for the top 100 box office films in the same period. Including cinematographers, editors, producers and writers, women accounted for 29.8 percent of the American films at Sundance, which has become synonymous with indie film. Films directed by women were also more likely to have women in other key roles behind the camera. And breaking it down further, documentaries were rife with female talent – 34.5 percent were directed by women, compared with 16.9 percent for feature films.

The study also found that there are more producers who are female than with any other behind-the-scenes job, though “as the prestige of the producing post increased, the percentage of female participation decreased.” Oh, goodie.

Reasons cited for the gender gap include “gendered financial barriers,” “male-dominated industry networking,” ”stereotyping on set, exclusionary hiring and work-family balance.”

I don’t put that much weight on the specific percentages the study’s come up with (Sundance is only one film festival, albeit a prestigious one, and sometimes I think it’s not as representative of indie film as it presents itself) but the basic idea behind the stats is sound. Ask your average moviegoer for the name of a Hollywood director who’s also female, and you’ll hear back Kathryn Bigelow, and maybe Sofia Coppola, too. But when talking about indie films, female names, both veterans and newbies, pop up much more frequently: Nicole HolofcenerSarah PolleyJulie Delpy, Ondi Timoner, and Jane Campion, just to name a few.

I’m going to take an educated guess as to the reason for that. Making an indie film is already, generally speaking, hellaciously difficult. So it tracks for me that gender stereotypes, though still keenly felt, would be less limiting than with studio films, where the filmmakers don’t already have to fight tooth and nail every step of the way. (I should state that this is just an assumption on my part, and I’d be very interested in reading a study on why there are more females in indie film.)

With this year being a landmark one for female directors at Sundance—half the films in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section were directed by women—we are heading in the right direction, though, as Women in Film president Cathy Schulman points out, the increase in numbers among indie films “also highlights the work that is still to be done for women to achieve equal footing in the field.”

(via: Variety)

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  • Heather Leonard

    There’s a company called Alternate Dimensions Entertainment that is aware of this dearth of women filmmakers. They support the education of women filmmakers and are working towards establishing their company so they can forge relationships with local film clubs and college film departments to provide mentorships and internships for young female filmmakers. They are currently funding their first sci-fi series called Gwyddion and you can go here to learn more about the company and the show:

  • Rich Thomas

    How much of this has to do with the funding sources? What % of the Producers and Investors are female?

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Good for them!

  • Rebecca Pahle

    There’s at least one major female investor as far as indie are concerned: Megan Ellison. She’s super-rich and all pretty much throws money at movies she wants to see made, inc. Zero Dark Thirty. Not sure how you’d measure female vs male investors with smaller indie stuff, though, as so many are funded with a lot of people giving a smaller sum of money than one or two, like Ellison, coughing up most of the budget.

  • Anonymous

    I think if you want to make movies in general (regardless of gender) you want to stay away from Hollywood. Unless you are established, no one is looking for new people to give work to. Indie is the place to be as a creator.

  • Ashe P. Samuels

    I have a feeling this is only news to old straight white men.

    “Wh-What? This industry, built on the backs of the less privileged, for the more privileged, isn’t as shiny and wonderful as we, the privileged, believe it to be? Decades of ritualistic exclusion of pretty much every single kind of person ever can actually cause a long-term effect of negative social imagery and poor financial impact? What is a woman, anyway? Is it similar to those talking vaginas we sometimes let produce our films?”

    The indie film scene is more accepting in general. Not just women, but POC, LGBTQ, the disabled, etc. Since emphasis is more on creativity and collaboration, rather than making a quick buck, it’s not shocking that a lot of safe venues are thrown out the window. Including the very safe venue of adhering to strict genre types, rehashing old formulas, and always having a Destined For Great Things/Anti-Hero/Lovable Playboy White Male as the lead.

    I’m pretty disgusted at my chances of ever getting a directing position, being a woman of color, but knowing I actually HAVE a chance in the indie film scene, at least, is still something. And, who knows, maybe I’ll get a decent behind-the-scenes position should I ever reach Hollywood.

    As long as I’m seen and not heard, of course.

  • rone

    Rebecca: can you get your headline writer to not use ‘female’ as a noun and instead use ‘woman’?