It is wonderful that directors like Ava DuVernay, Angelina Jolie, and Gina Prince-Bythewood gave us superb films in 2014. But it is an indicator of the challenges still faced by women filmmakers that none of them was nominated for a major directing award.
The Alliance of Women Film Journalists quoted the analysis of Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film and professor at San Diego State University.
According to the latest Celluloid Ceiling study of women’s behind-the-scenes employment, women comprised a meager 7% of directors, 5% of cinematographers, and 11% of writers working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films of 2014. These percentages do not differ appreciably from those obtained in 1998 when women accounted for 9% of directors, 4% of cinematographers, and 13% of writers. They also belie the fact that women are well represented as students in film schools nationwide….The unconscious bias underlying the stagnant gender dynamics is in desperate need of outing. Notions that there simply aren’t any women directors, women filmmakers aren’t interested in high-profile studio gigs, change is just around the corner, and that this is solely a women’s issue need to be challenged and recognized for what they are – excuses that serve as roadblocks to change.
Calling attention to their work as often and as vigorously as possible is all the more important because the cinematic roadsides are strewn with the wreckage of major artistic careers of independent female filmmakers of the past half century, including Shirley Clarke, Barbara Loden, Claudia Weill, Kathleen Collins, Julie Dash, and Leslie Harris—as well as such men as Wendell B. Harris, Jr., Matthew Harrison, and Rob Tregenza. Critical attention is all the more important for the makers of films that aren’t box-office hits, that aren’t widely advertised, and that don’t have the built-in publicity of celebrity actors. A review and some vigorous follow-ups can make clear the kind of important experience that awaits, an experience that may differ significantly from today’s mainstream but that, with the right breaks, should be tomorrow’s.
In a more encouraging note, Robert Redford spoke about the obstacles women face in his session with George Lucas at this year’s Sundance Festival. The Daily Beast reports:
“Well, diversity is the name of game, as far as I’m concerned,” Redford said. “Independence and diversity go hand-in-hand, in my mind.”
He then paused. “I think the future—and this is just my opinion—but for us to move out of where we are now, and to move to something more sustainable and exciting, I think it will be in the hands of women and young people. With the young people that are coming on today, we’ve messed up what we’re handing them in terms of a planet, and they have less to work with than they would have years ago, but young people today are really, really smart. What I saw a few years ago was that young people were disenchanted with the system to where they didn’t want to get into politics and didn’t want anything to do with it. I think that’s changed. Now young people want to be given the reins. Women, because of their nurturing sensibilities, are also the way to go. If you put those two things together, I think that’s our future.”