...the % of film directors who are female!
This is 1 of 2 lengthy posts on the huge topic of the clearly differential treatment of women at all levels of the film industry - there are relatively few senior executives, producers, scriptwriters, directors, actors given lengthy dialogue, even women in crowd scenes are a minority ... This post (a short video and an overview of female directors, including the campaigning company Birds Eye Views) and its companion post - are a start ... look for much more using the female fimmakers tag.
|Its a story that just won't go away, and the BFI are playing their part to publicise the issues.|
I'll add the full article below (and see the longer post on fem dirs.), but first, 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...
The BBC also covered this story, with a fantastically detailed overview of the overall British film industry, not just its appalling record on gender:
Damsels in distress
By Kev Geoghegan Entertainment reporter, BBC News [10 March 2011]
When Kathryn Bigelow accepted her Oscar for best director last year, making her the first woman in the Academy Awards' 82-year history to do so, many people recognised it as a pivotal moment.Yet, a year on - the figures show little has changed for women film-makers in the UK.
According to the most recent UK Film Council report, women directed just 17% of British films in 2009 and female screenwriters are credited on just over 16% of them.
Over the next two weeks, the annual London-based Birds Eye View film festival is shining a light on the work of women working in film at a domestic and international level.
"One of the biggest things that needs to be done is bring women writers through ” (Rachel Millward)Festival director Rachel Millward says encouraging talented women into a career in the film industry is a "long haul investment", explaining that it will take longer than a year to change things."Since the recession, more women have left the film and television industry than men so it's a vulnerable time," she says.
"What I think is important about having a balanced perspective coming from film, is that film has a knock-on impact on the rest of society.
"If you end up without strong female characters on screen in mainstream movies, then that affects the way women see themselves."
Millward praises the outgoing UK Film Council for its support of young women but adds "we have to be very careful at the moment with all the cuts that are happening, that we don't have this idea that talent will out in a really simple way."
Last year, more than £1bn was spent on UK film production, most of that money coming from international studios filming in the UK.
Lillian Gish starred in early psychological horror The Wind
But the number of domestic productions was down 11% from the year before. There are fears that the closure of the UK Film Council, a victim of the government's drive to slash the number of quangos, will leave UK film-makers, in particular women, without a champion.
"The pool of film writers in the UK is tiny and the vast majority are male so one of the biggest things that needs to be done is bring women writers through and connect them to everybody, to make producers and commissioners aware of them," says Millward.
If the small percentage of women directors working in the mainstream is sobering, when it comes to horror movies of today - the percentages drop even lower.
One of this year's festival strands - Bloody Women - looks to celebrate women's role in horror.
Women have been making invaluable contributions to the genre from its earliest days, whether it be Clara Beranger, screenwriter of 1920 horror Jekyll and Hyde starring John Barrymore, or silent screen legend Lillian Gish starring in 1928's The Wind as a woman terrorised by the elements in a ramshackle rural cabin.
"A lot of people see horror as one down from porn” Emily Booth
Bigelow herself directed cult vampire road movie Near Dark in 1987. All three films are showing as part of the festival.But it goes back even further, as far back as 1905 in fact when Frenchwoman Alice Guy-Blache directed the silent short film Esmerelda - the oldest film adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Actress and presenter Emily Booth has starred in several low-budget British horror movies, most recently opposite Stephen Graham and Noel Clarke in Doghouse.
She partly blames people's misconceptions about the genre for a lack of women working in the field.
"A lot of people see horror as one down from porn," she explains. "In the 70s there were a lot of exploitation movies and also the video nasties scandal of the 80s gave horror a bad name.
"But as far back as the 70s, there were films like The Shining which are clever, psychological, intelligent and get under your skin so you can't see horror as just the slasher film."
Horror movies, like so much else in life, enjoy something of a cyclical nature - witness the resurgence of vampire movies demonstrated by the popularity of the Twilight franchise and TV shows like True Blood.
Zombies rose from the dead with films like 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead and TV show The Walking Dead. The popularity of eastern cinema and films like Ring also continue to grow.
But the boom of "torture porn" like Hostel and the hugely successful Saw franchise has led to recent questionable remakes of rape revenge films like Wes Craven's Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave - which feature horrific violence directed towards central female characters.
Booth admits, as a female fan of horror, those films make her argument difficult,"I can't say I'm against showing rape in a film, it depends how it's done.
Horror shorts will also be shown at the festival
"If it's done in a titillating way then it's wrong and disgusting but if shown in a grim way like it is, then surely that's ok, stuff that happens in the real world is far worse."
UK writer and director Kerry Anne Mullaney's career hit the ground running as her 2009 film The Dead Outside was nominated for several of Bafta Scotland's New Talent awards including best new work.
"I don't think enough is being done to help women film-makers. But I don't think the problem is at short film level, it's with features that it's most prevalent," says Mullaney - who produced the film independently through her own company Mothcatcher.
"Because of the current financial situation, people are scared that their film won't make money so they're not going to take risks or, from my experience in horror, they will be very aware of their target market," she continues.
"With horror, they are very interested in grabbing that young male audience, so when it comes to directing, they'll think maybe a young guy will connect more with that audience."
And Mullaney - who admits she hasn't come into contact with many aspiring female horror directors - stresses that women could be doing more to help themselves.
"Film-making is risky, sometimes it's not the most pleasant job but if women don't push themselves forward then no-one else is going to.
"It's easy to take a back seat. In some ways I was lucky but you do have to have a bit of an ego."
Bird's Eye View runs from 8-17 March.
Birds Eye View festival: And Woman created films for both sexes ...
On International Women's Day, the director of the female film-makers' festival, which opens tonight, insists it has balance
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.It staggers me that we accept such a radically skewed perspective in cinema. Film after film of nearly all-male casts, with female characters as thin as their waistlines, and we barely bat an eyelid. If you do the Bechdel Test you'll be amazed at how many films you love fail to pass. That is, they don't have two or more named women, or if they do, those women don't talk to each other about anything other than men, if at all. Think about it. Then watch Inception again.
What you will find in the Birds Eye View programme, is a sense of balance. These films, without doubt, boast more interesting representation of women than an average night at the flicks. Whether that's 24-year-old Lena Dunham's incredibly vulnerable and comic self-exposure in Tiny Furniture, in which she plays alongside her mum and sister, also playing themselves, or in Zeina Durra's innovative The Imperialists Are Still Alive, portraying a female artist within a never-before-seen-on-film culture of second-generation American Arabs on the fringes of celebrity in post 9/11 Manhattan, or the dangerous confusion of a teenage girl's sexual awakening in Adriana Maggs's Grown Up Movie Star.
But what's interesting is that, when women are writing and directing, the films we see aren't the gender opposite of the male mainstream. Films in the Birds Eye View film festival don't tend to have nearly all-female casts, with no men over the age of 35. No – Susanne Bier's In a Better World digs deep into father-son relationships, Tanya Hamilton's debut Night Catches Us deals with the Black Panther movement, with Anthony Mackie as a particularly strong lead, and short films Stanley Pickle, Winter and On Your Own explore emotional upheavals in men.
Birds Eye View exists to celebrate the creative vision of some extremely talented women. I don't for a moment expect that all creative women should want to say something about gender, or make films solely about women, or even be particularly aware of their gender as they make films. But it's absolutely unavoidable that film-makers bring themselves to their projects.
So, too, it's unavoidable that as viewers we resonate and respond to the story on screen from our own perspective and experience. Thanks to Birds Eye View, I guess around half my annual film viewing is of films written and directed by women. I'd hate for it to be more than that, I'd hate to miss out on the boundless creativity of so many inspiring men. But how odd for that balance to be so skewed.
Until it's the norm, Birds Eye View will keep a spotlight on female talent, and we'll relentlessly celebrate women's vision in film, in all its diversity.
• The Birds Eye View film festival opens today at cinemas in London.