Amirah Mercer
Updated Jan 16, 2015 @ 3:05 pm

At first glance, it’s very easy to assume that women simply aren’t making movies. Zero women were nominated for a 2015 Best Director Oscar. And a new study last week revealed that the number of women directing the top 250 grossing films has declined by 2% since 1998.

Despite these facts, there are amazing women making waves behind the scenes in both film and TV. While the directors listed below are wildly different in their styles and interests, they are united in their keen ability to tell the sorts of stories that others can’t, aren’t willing to, or don’t want to. From the director who’s completely revitalized the horror genre, to the directors sharing both old and new tales with the deepest sense of empathy, here are 6 women to watch—and root for:

Ava DuVernay

DuVernay’s film Selma documents the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a heart-breaking tale that highlights both the best and worst of humanity and sheds some light on the man behind the legend. With Selma nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and DuVernay’s critical indie success, expect to see a lot more from this director and her beautiful storytelling in film.

Jill Soloway

If you didn’t know Soloway last year, you probably know her now, after she delivered an impassioned speech at the Golden Globes for her win for Transparent. The Amazon series was inspired by Soloway’s own experience when one of her parents came out as trans four years ago. Soloway built her chops writing for Six Feet Under and The United States of Tara, but it’s her latest tackling of deeply personal material (and making it funny!) that’s given her all the buzz she deserves.

Jennifer Kent

Kent arguably created the best horror film of 2014 with last year’s The Babadook. The Australian director put grief and isolation at the center of her movie about a widowed mother and child who are haunted by a creepy child’s picture book. With Kent’s sensitivity to human emotion, yet complete ability to make moviegoers jump in their seats, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Gillian Robespierre

When Robespierre’s Obvious Child was released last year, she was called fearless for daring to tackle the issue of abortion—in a romantic comedy no less! And indeed, she is. While it’s sad that we still exist in a world where discussing a woman’s right to choose is seen as controversial, if Obvious Child is any indication, we can expect more bold female-led comedies from Robespierre soon.

Amma Asante

Take this from someone who doesn’t like period pieces: Asante’s Belle was one of the most romantic, yet insightful films last year. Asante tackled issues of gender and race in her story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a bi-racial 18th-century noblewoman. When asked about the film, Asante revealed, “. . .even though she’s a woman of color onscreen, this history belongs to all of us. It’s both black history and white history.” Here’s hoping she has more complex stories of women to bring to screen.

Michelle MacLaren

Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones. Is there anything MacLaren hasn’t touched that turns into TV gold? Now she’s set to bring Wonder Woman to the big screen, one of 2017’s most anticipated blockbusters. Until then, we can expect more smart directing on the small screen as she’s been brought in to direct an episode for Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul.

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