Sundance vs. The Blockbuster: But Where Are All the Women? Jessica Tholmer

In a report entitled “Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities For Independent Women Filmmakers,” as cited on deadline.com, only 4.4% of studio released movies were directed by women in the past ten years.

Though the percentage is hardly impressive, female filmmakers are, in comparison, a whopping 23.9% of the contributors at the Sundance Film Festival. This year in particular, half of the films premiering at Sundance involved either a woman director, producer, writer, or editor.

Though it is a small success, we should definitely celebrate the opportunities women are presented with at Sundance. Clearly, there is more room for women’s creativity at the very famous indie film festival, though I can only hope more women submit their work and challenge society to increase our percentage to at least 50%, one day in the future. Progression takes time. But Sundance does not seem to be the greatest issue for us. Why are less than FIVE PERCENT of big blockbuster films written, produced, or directed by a woman?

We are in the height of award season right now, and I cannot help but notice the lack of women nominated for Academy Awards yet again this year. Besides the guaranteed nominations for women in both actress categories (Best Lead and Best Supporting Actress), there are no other categories in which a woman has to be nominated. There are nine Best Picture nominees this year, let us break them down:

Amour was written and directed by Michael Haneke, a man. One of four producers listed on the film is a female.

Life of Pi: written by David Magee, adapted from a book written by Yann Martel, both men. Directed by Ang Lee, a man. All billed producers are men.

Argo:  adapted by Chris Terrio, based on an article written by Joshuah Bearman, and a book written by Tony Mendez, all men. Directed by Ben Affleck, a man, and produced by Grant Heslov, Affleck, and George Clooney, all men.

Lincoln: adapted by Tony Kushner, a man, from a book written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, a woman! Directed by Steven Spielberg, a man, and produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, a woman.

Though two of those billed are women, I have major issues with Goodwin’s book and the fact that this movie is credited to her in the first place because she has been proven as a plagiarist, and all of the historically accurate information written about in her book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln was a man’s work, so, to be fair, this is mostly credited to a man in my mind.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: directed by a man, written by a man and a woman, produced by all men.

Silver Linings Playbook: one of three producers is a woman, though the movie was written and directed by men.

Django Unchained: one of the three producers billed is a woman, though we all know it was written and directed by a man.

Les Miserables: one of the four producers billed is a woman, though we all know that the screenplay was adapted by a man based off of a book that a man wrote, and the film itself was directed by a man.

And then we get to Zero Dark Thirty, the movie women (and hopefully some men) were rooting for to boost our presence in the Academy Awards this year. Two of the three producers are women, the writer was a man, but the director, Miss Kathryn Bigelow, is obviously a woman. And not only a woman, but she is the only woman to ever win an Oscar for directing. But this year, in a year she was almost certainly going to be nominated again, she was snubbed.

Though there are a few female producers acknowledged in the all-encompassing Best Picture category, all five names in the Directing category are men, and there is only one woman’s name acknowledged between both screenplay categories (Lucy Alibar for Beasts of the Southern Wild), and she shares the honor with a man (Benh Zeitlin, also the director of the film).

In the entirety of Oscar history, there have only ever been four women nominated for Best Director, with the first woman, Bigelow, as mentioned above, won in 2009.

Why are women so severely underrepresented during award seasons? Obviously there are not enough opportunities for women to express themselves in the blockbuster realm of Hollywood, but why is that still a stigma? Are there truly more men than women with an interest in movie-making, or can it truly be chalked up to men having an easier time financially backing their projects?

There should be a solution for this ancient issue–women should be as financially or otherwise able to make, produce, write, direct a big screen movie as a man. Or a smallscreen movie. Or a television show. Or whatever a woman wants to put her creative mind toward, she should be able.

Ladies, let’s make the change. Fight for our rights, we are our only hope.

Oscars image via awardscircuit.com, Sundance image via content.levoleague.com, collage smushed together by moi.

comments

Please help us maintain positive conversations by refraining from posting spam, advertisements, and links to other websites or blogs. we reserve the right to remove your comment if it does not adhere to these guidelines. thanks! post a comment.

  1. Could it be that men are better at working in the mainstream because they go for things that sell, and “what sells” is determined by men? Im not basing this on any study, but in a shall we call it a patriarcal society, men have set the tone in the past and women have rebelled and thus gained more rights, education etc. Could hollywood be like the corporate world, where the culture is made by men to keep men comfortable? So if a woman offers something too out there or without enough female nudity or without whatever elements are deemed necessary to make a good movie, its rejected in favor of things like Shoot-em-Up (which I actually liked), a very guy-friendly movie.

  2. “Silver Linings Playbook: one of three producers is a woman, though the movie was written and directed by men.” — perhaps this is what went so wrong with it! For a romantic comedy, appealing mainly to the female audience, it seriously lacked a feminine perspective. Brutally masculine.