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Where are the Women in Film?

Industry News

(By Theresa Syn)

As the saying goes, “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”. However in the world of film, it appears that behind 2011’s 250 top-grossing films, only a shocking 5% are women directors (Celluloid Ceiling).

However, this startling low number comes as no surprise. Women directors have long grown accustomed to standing in the shadows of their male counterparts when it comes to award ceremonies and film festivals. A recent example would be the 2012 Cannes Film Festival where not a single female director was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or award causing a feminist uproar in France.

This issue sheds light on the much-debated topic about the presence (or rather, lack of) women in film.  However, some might argue that women do have a place in Hollywood citing Kathryn Bigelow’s big win at the Oscars. During the 2009 Oscars, Kathryn Bigelow shook the film industry by winning the award for Best Director, making her the first woman in history to achieve the top honor. Although her win paved the way for women filmmakers around the world, female film creators are still struggling to keep this glimmering flame of hope ablaze especially with the numbers proving otherwise.

A woman in a man’s world, Kathryn Bigelow stands with her team at the 2009 Oscars (The Hot Pink Pen)

So what is causing this discrepancy between the numbers of male and female directors? Are women not given enough opportunities in the film industry as men?

Apparently so, according the Neil Peplow of the UK Organisation Skillset (The guardian), it is the existing lack of women filmmakers that makes it hard for studios to imagine them as directors.  “The whole industry is based on demonstrable success,” he says, “Unless something has worked in the past, it’s very rare that people will take a risk. There’s this perception that, well, traditionally it’s a man’s role, so we won’t buck that.” This mindset forms a continuous almost non-penetrable cycle for women with the men assuming the top roles when it comes to film.

But the numbers don’t lie. Women directors have proven to do as well as men directors. In a study called Women@the Box Office, Professor Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University revealed that the financial output of a film is mostly based on the budget of the movie. Thus, large movie budgets are more likely to rake in large box office grosses. However she also added, “When women and men have similar budgets, the resulting box office grosses are also similar”, proving that that gender has no part to play in contributing to the success of a film.

The imbalance of men and women in film does not only affect those working in the film industry but it also might have an adverse effect on viewers’ perception of women. Film-maker and mother, Kim Cummings voices her worries, “ When women work behind-the-scenes, the number of on-screen women increases…[this] means more diversity in women depicted. I want my daughter to see herself reflected onscreen, to see roles to aspire to… I want my son to see women as more than eye candy”.

NFFTY filmmaker and Creator/Director of the Horror Audience Interactive Web Series, Choose Your Victim, Gigi Saul Guerrero, 22, who recently graduated with a degree in film from Capilano University says that the key to getting ahead is to never let anything get you down. “In my years of film school, I always had to work twice as hard to get recognized for my skill. I was never considered for a directing gig until the teachers saw I had the confidence, drive and skill to do so.” she says, “My best advice is to stay focused and never quit. Being a female filmmaker will become a challenge that will often rise, but it must be looked at as just another obstacle to solve.”

Gigi proves that women can stand behind the camera too

With women proving their worth in film not only in box office numbers, there is absolutely no reason for the scarcity of women in film. Seems like Hollywood needs to lose its male dominated conventions and open its doors to a new era of women in film.


DID YOU KNOW, 30% of directors at NFFTY 2012 were women? NFFTY is definitely setting an example for Hollywood as the Future of Film.

Girls, show us what you’ve got and submit your films today!

4 thoughts on “Where are the Women in Film?

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