Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

Half the Picture

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

Half the Picture

Article excerpt

Although half the students in film schools are female, only a small percentage of these are allowed to become directors. Between 2002 and 2014, only 4.1% of the directors of the 1300 top grossing films were women. And in 2014, only 7% of the directors of the top 250 grossing films were women, and this number is 2% lower than in 1998.1

This film addresses that issue head on. Amy Adrion interviewed a wide variety of female directors of film and television, including Lena Dunham, Rosanna Arquette, Ava DuVernay, Jill Soloway, Miranda July, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and many others. They tell their stories, including the obstacles they have faced and how they have dealt with them. If one was to generalize, all the women were determined to be directors: they had confidence in their abilities, and had the drive to follow their dream. And yet women have not succeeded in breaking the glass ceiling of Hollywood. Although this could be said about many industries, it seems that the film and television industry is especially sexist, still. All of the women interviewed tell stories of how the system is built for women to fail. At all levels, women are passed over, viewed as inappropriate for certain projects, viewed as unable to lead a film. And yet they have directed a wide variety of films: romantic comedies, action movies, dramas-showing that there is no reason to think women are unable to direct any genre of film. Minority women experience even more obstacles, and even fewer succeed. There is no lack of women who are interested, but a lack of people willing to give them experience or financing. Brenda Chapman tells the story of how she was brought in to direct the Pixar film Brave, clearly a story of a strong female character, and yet she was replaced by a man midway through who was viewed as more "appropriate" for the film. Other women tell of how they succeeded in the independent market, were able to direct a major film, but then were not hired to do any more major projects after that. Even if they show that they can succeed and deliver a fine movie, Hollywood still turns them away.

This is especially odd given the fact that many viewers do not know or care if the director is male or female. Female directors can produce profits as well as male directors if given the opportunity. And, as one of the women points out, this isn't just a question like why there aren't more women as executives in the toothpaste industry: movies express an artistic vision, and if women are systematically excluded from being storytellers, our culture is thereby impoverished. …

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