Tuesday, November 10, 2015

WOMEN, DISTRIBUTION Female led film needed male star for funding

There have been a slew of stories over the past year about the unequal status of women in the film industry. I've highlighted and commented on a few, but really that's just spotlighting the tip of the iceberg.

This latest account of ingrained sexism highlights how deeply ingrained the attitudes and desires of distributors are. Seeking financing for a film, a female star finds blanket rejection until a male star is added to the package.

There we can see the primacy of the star as the continuing primary initial concern of a distributor (paying upfront, in advance of production, is often the funding device for Indies), with this added gender twist. Barring a few exceptions, race is likely to remain a factor too.

Will this change? The impact of the websites, social media and high profile media interventions by a growing number of stars, and that of the Sony hack revelations, are creating pressure for a fairer system - and in a numbers business it certainly won't pay to alienate half of your audience.

I wouldn't like to put a timescale on that though - and think it will take an organised boycott of a tentpole to make serious leeway, something that is hard to conceive of in 2015. The Hunger Games could have been that film - its a disgrace that the female star who drives the entire marketing effort is somehow not given the financially superior package to male co-stars, supporting players all in what has become a Jennifer Lawrence vehicle.

In recent months, a number of Hollywood actors have come forward to speak out about misogyny in the entertainment industry. Jennifer Lawrence recently publicly attacked the gender pay gap in the industry in an essay that went viral. And over the weekend, Sharon Stone recalled weeping over unequal salaries more than 20 years ago, following the release of Basic Instinct.On Sunday in Los Angeles, during a panel discussion dedicated to independent film at AFI festival, actor Olivia Wilde joined the chorus, recounting the hurdles she went through to get a female-led production financed independently.

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