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Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Woman's Place is in...the Director's Chair?

[this post is due a refresh, but I've added further posts since]

Useful article at http://www.netribution.co.uk/people/106/1402-warped-imaginations-darklights-female-horror-directors to look at. The case of Sharon Maguire (look at the long gaps in her IMDB entry) suggests the film industry is still rather sexist? What do you think?
You'll find this is a much-discussed topic, with many references in books written by film insiders (and of course in Film Guardian articles)
Have a look at http://www.birds-eye-view.co.uk/ too.

http://www.womenandhollywood.blogspot.com/  is rather useful too!

Some additional articles: 

Jane Campion: 'I make films so I can have fun with the characters'

Portrait of the artist: Mira Nair, film director - 'Why are there so few women directors? Oh my God, I want to shake everyone and ask them that question'

Jennifer's Body: a feminist slasher film? Really? - It's written and directed by women, and stars a man-eating schoolgirl – but is Jennifer's Body as feminist as it thinks it is?


It's a scream! - As Halloween draws near, Wendy Roby explores a new wave of films, websites and festivals feeding women's growing hunger for horror






An intriguing addition from Sigourney Weaver, famed for taking the final girl into space/establishing the possibility of making money with a female action hero with Alien and its sequels:
This article contains a caustic rebuttal, though many of the comments that follow the article are supportive of Weaver.

The view from a broad: Sigourney Weaver speaks out against bosomism
The Avatar actor has claimed that James Cameron would have won the best director Oscar if he were a woman. Of course. Laura Barton 14.4.10

You know the truly great thing about breasts? They can really get you anywhere you want to be. Earlier this week, Avatar actor Sigourney Weaver explained that mammary glands were behind the film's director, James Cameron, losing out on an Oscar to Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker – and, lest you forget, the first women to win an Academy Award for best director: "Jim didn't have breasts, and I think that was the reason," she told a Brazilian news website. That's right Sigourney, women have been using their breasts to oppress men for centuries. Weaver, of course, has first-hand experience of bosomism, having found fame as the first female action hero, Lieutenant Ellen Ripley in Alien back in 1979. "It had nothing to do with feminism," she once announced. "Men decided to make Ripley a woman for commercial reasons."
Breasts are why we got the vote too, of course. And the only reason they let Marie Curie have those Nobel prizes and stuff. Still, if Cameron wants some breasts of his very own, we believe he need only pop by Primark's children's swimwear department.
This is quoted from the article "This much I know: Gurinder Chadha" [Bend It Like Beckham]
I wish there were as many female directors as there are male. Women bring a brevity to female characters, a lightness and humour among tragedy. We understand the gamut of emotions; that we can burst into tears and then laugh.

An interesting tale of how Hollywood's reluctance to trust fem directors led to a period in the wilderness for critically acclaimed Indie director Lynne Ramsey at http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2010/apr/22/lynne-ramsay:
It's been far too long in the wilderness for the woman who emerged in the late 90s as the UK's most exciting young auteur. She won Cannes jury prizes for her shorts, and then a Bafta in 2000 for her wildly-acclaimed debut feature Ratcatcher.
...
Ramsay turned 40 last December. So where has she been for the past decade, in which time she has been overtaken by Andrea Arnold as the critically-anointed heir to Ken Loach? She shot a couple of music videos – check out the Doves promo for Black and White Town on YouTube for those distinctive Ramsay stylings. But that's scant return for such a talent.

Kate Madison's work on the £25k Born to Hope is discussed in The Guardian.

It features strong language and pulls no punches, but the Final Girl blog, by a filmmaker at the very low budget end, can be not only very entertaining but also highly insightful and illuminating - the blog includes blow-by-blow accounts of the blogger's film-making experiences to date: http://finalgirl.blogspot.com/2009/04/so-i-made-movie-part-one.html


[March 5th 2011]
After Bigelow's 2010 success, whither the 2011 crop of fem Oscar nominees?
Hadley Freeman is straight to the point with her article, 'So why do women film-makers find it so hard to win an Oscar?'
After Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to be given the best director award at last year's Oscars, there was hope that a traditionally male-dominated barrier had been broken at last. This hope looked all the more plausible because of the number of critically lauded films released in the wake of her award directed by women, notably Winter's Bone, directed by Deborah Granik, and The Kids are All Right, by Lisa Cholodenko.
Yet while both of these movies have been nominated for best film, and both feature actors who have received nominations, their directors have been ignored.
"Last year Kathryn opened doors for female directors so I was particularly disappointed that Lisa didn't get a nomination," says Celine Rattray, producer of The Kids are All Right.
Notably, the subject matter of Bigelow's film, The Hurt Locker, was war and there was only one woman in the cast, raising the question whether a woman might be able to win a film award, but she has to make a very masculine film to do so.
"I think the nominations this year in general were for flashy movies and maybe The Kids are All Right was just a little too heartfelt," suggests Rattray.
Others have claimed that Bigelow's triumph was not so much the breaking of a ceiling but a mere blip: "After Kathryn Bigelow's supremely satisfying double win for best director and best picture last year, it's particularly disheartening to see Winter's Bone and The Kids are All Right, both made by women, relegated to 'great film—who directed it again?' status," Dana Stevens wrote on Slate.com.
One fem nominee for the 2011 Oscars (4 nods, incl. Best Picture), Debra Granik, speaks of the impact of Bigelow's breakthrough ... but also of how she found herself as typecast as any actress when her debut feature made waves:

Down to the Bone won two awards at Sundance in 2004, for best director and best actress, and Granik was soon being assailed with scripts about abused, self-destructive women trying to rise above their circumstances. "What seemed to make women interesting was the degree to which they were distraught or incapacitated," she says. "I need and want to see capable women. I don't like to see them weep all the time."
Although she isn't nominated in the directing category at the Oscars, she says Kathryn Bigelow's win last year, for The Hurt Locker, gave her a tremendous shot of optimism. At film school, her class was roughly half men, half women, but even now, only one in 10 movies is directed by a woman. "To me, the quiet work is being done," she says. "In the independent world, there's just a crew of men and women working together. On the ground, day to day, you don't have to wait for a Bigelow effect."
The article is also useful for the insight into Indie filmmaking, and the struggle to get funding.
Granik had been featured before in the Guardian:
Women directors: the new generation
Debra Granik, Nanette Burstein and Sanaa Hamri discuss their ground-breaking work
The "Bechdel test", which appeared in Alison Bechdel's comic strip in 1985, goes like this: does the film have at least two women in it, who talk to each other, about something besides a man? As Debra Granik, protests, laughingly: "That's not asking so much!" but most films still fail it.
...
Granik is at pains not to "make these reductive gender things" when talking about what it is to be a female director, but she admits that "the idea of the auteur, the bad-boy director" has established "a kind of protocol that was very subjugating of other people. One thing that would be positive from women entering the field would be less bad behaviour.
"

[UPDATE 9.3.2011]
The figure is around 6-15% in the UK...
...the % of film directors who are female!

I commend the full article), but here's an extract and then a video containing a rather useful but also intriguing bit of theory (v. useful for hoovering up a few marks...):
Birds Eye View started out as a positive response to the fact that women make up only 7% of film directors (a statistic that remains accurate for Hollywood, and that has fluctuated between 6-15% in the UK over the last few years), and around 10-18% of screenwriters (depending on which year, and which side of the Atlantic). That's 6-18% of the creative vision in the world's most powerful medium. We live in a visual culture, and what we see on screen profoundly affects the way we see ourselves and each other. Film offers us an incredible thing – an immersive trip into someone else's universe, someone else's vision of the world. But if that vision is dominated by men then we are missing out on so much complexity, richness, diversity and creativity.
Here's the theory, wrapped up in a short but entertaining vid for you...

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