Here’s the conundrum: isolated female directors have been succeeding in Hollywood for decades, and yet the percentage of films directed by women remains flat.
Of the top 250 domestic-grossing films in 1998, 9% were directed by women. The percentage was exactly the same in 2015 – 17 years, very little progress. What’s the deal?
Women in Film conducted research that showed a “perceived scarcity of talent pool and experience” for women directors. Perhaps it is, in part, a kind of blindness that occurs those both inside and outside the film industry: we are unaware of working female directors, so we don’t expect to see films directed by women. Because we don’t expect to see films directed by women, we’re not bothered by their absence.
Here’s a little thought experiment. In the next minute, name as many living, working, male film directors as you can think of. Ready? Go.
Now, do the same with female directors.
How did you do? If you’re like me (true confessions), I hit ten male directors very easily and could have kept going. When I tried to think of female directors I rattled off four names and then startled to struggle. I got to six before I completely blanked out. Six! I didn’t even remember the women who directed two of the Top 20 box office hits of 2015 – Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2), and Sam Taylor-Johnson (50 Shades of Grey), or the first-time director of one of my favorite films of the year – Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl). Now, even attributing part of this to my aging memory, this still means something. Part of what it means is that we need more women directing films, but I’m also owning up to the fact that I haven’t seen enough of the movies that women are already directing. There are over 1000 women on The Director List, and a back catalog of thousands of films directed by women that I haven’t seen.
So I can’t fix the film industry, but as someone who follows it and often critiques it from a feminist perspective, I’m going to work on fixing my viewing, or at least balancing it out a bit.
Women in Film has issued a #52FilmsByWomen challenge. It’s simple: watch one female-directed film each week, all year long, and share on social media what you’ve been watching. “We believe that #52FilmsByWomen is a fun way to bring attention to the many talented female filmmakers around the world, and a great way to spark a creative and interactive conversation.” I took the pledge, and I’ve been at this for several weeks now, but I only just had the idea of sharing my journey here at ZekeFilm. I’ve watched five films so far, so I’ll soon be putting up short reviews of those five films: then I’ll post more brief reviews, each week, as I live out – or rather, “watch out” my pledge. These will all be first time viewings for me, but I’ll also point you to some other great films by women that I’ve watched in the past.
I’m encouraging you, Zeke readers, to join me. It’s not too late!