Women have always been an equal part of the past, we just haven’t been a part of history.
- Gloria Steinem
When you look at statistics like this:
(Both infographics found here–along with a whole lot more information about women in front of and behind the camera)
How long do you suppose women have been directing films?
How about 118 years?
Alice Guy-Blaché is the first female filmmaker and is responsible for creating one of the first narrative films in 1896. Guy’s career of 24 years of directing, writing and producing films is the longest career of any of the cinema pioneers. From 1896 to 1920, Guy directed over 1,000 films, some 350 of which survive, and 22 of which are feature-length films.
Guy was and still is the only woman to ever manage and own her own studio, The Solax Company.
Women were directing, writing, and producing films from the very beginning, so why is film treated like a boy’s club?
There’s more attention than ever on women behind the camera right now in part thanks to Etheria Film Night, “a one-night event showcase of the best new horror, science fiction, fantasy, action, and thriller films from emerging female directors.” Heidi Honeycutt, film journalist and the director of programming for Etheria Film Night, explained to LA Weekly that it’s not a lack of women directing.
“That’s not actually the case,” says Honeycutt, who is currently working on a book about female horror film directors. She says that, on a low-budget indie level, the ratio of male to female horror directors is about 50/50. “As you move up on the budget level,” she says, “the numbers drop dramatically.” That, she says, is pretty similar to what you’ll see in the rest of the industry.
“Women tend to not be given the benefit of the doubt the way male directors are,” says Honeycutt. “Directors who are male who have one successful low budget film— it goes to Sundance, it goes to Cannes— and gets a lot of attention, will often be offered a very high budget film in Hollywood not too long after,” she says, citing the most recent version of Godzilla as an example. Director Gareth Edwards was picked up after his indie film, Monsters, made a splash.
That’s not the case for female directors. “With women, it’s more that they have to prove themselves and it’s always considered a ‘risk’ but nobody really knows why and nobody explains why they think that.”
Lexi Alexander, getting real on her blog, said it more bluntly:
There is no lack of female directors. Repeat after me: THERE IS NO LACK OF FEMALE DIRECTORS. But there is a huge lack of people willing to give female directors opportunities. I swear, if anyone near me even so much as whispers the sentence “women probably don’t want to direct” my fist will fly as a reflex action.
Greater success in Hollywood will depend, in part, on overcoming the perception that a woman succeeding is an anomaly and a woman failing is proof that all women will fail. Women need to be allowed to stand on their own both in success and failure.
But why sit around and wait for Hollywood’s gatekeepers to catch up when they continue to show they have no real interest in doing so? So, if there isn’t a lack of women directing, but there is a lack of opportunity, what can we–as fans and supporters–do? Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and GoFundMe have opened up the gates to projects that might never see the light of day.
You can also Invest in the future with Reel Grrls, a media training program where female media professionals teach girls ages 9 – 21 production skills through classes and hands-on workshops. In the last 13 years, more than 1000 girls have participated in Reel Grrls programs, and donations can help subsidize the costs for girls attending in the future.
Finally, never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Indie projects especially can live and die on positive buzz. Don’t have money for that Kickstarter? Share it. Help it reach as many eyes as possible. See a trailer for an awesome film? Share that, too. When one of those films does come to a theater near you–or is available to rent or purchase online–your ticket or your rental matters, and when you’ve seen a film you loved, letting everyone know how much you loved it generates that precious word of mouth.
I’m personally waiting with bated breath for the US release of The Babadook this fall.
Are there any films directed by women you love, or you’re eagerly waiting to see?