A few years ago I participated in the launch of a campaign called Please Adjust Your Set. It was a study of the labour issues surrounding women in the BC film and television industry. This type of initiative has been repeated in other cities with similar results.
The studies all demonstrate what was “previously understood only anecdotally; women are underrepresented and under-remunerated in many occupations and facets of the industry.”
As the results of our “record and report” strategy came in, it inspired a lot of discussion around why this is the case. When almost half of film school students are female, how come they are so glaringly underrepresented? In what stage does the drop off happen?
There are a lot of theories, from self-esteem issues to the old boys’ network to simple non-consideration for big budget genres (action adventure / thriller / etc). “Follow the money,” some committee members kept saying. “Pay attention to who gives and gets the funding.”
I think it’s a combination of issues, actually, and I think much of the time it’s not even conscious. But I’ve decided to make bring it into consciousness, especially since I recently had a conversation with someone on set who literally couldn’t think of one female director.
Whenever I’m working on a commercial film set or watching a movie, I always make a mental note of the % of women to men in the “above the line” rolls, which are the roles that have what we call “creative control.”
This includes the writer/s, director, director of photography, producers, and editor. These are the people who make all the decisions and it is not uncommon for ALL of these roles to be filled by men. The lead role/s on 10 of the 12 film productions I’ve worked for have also been male. (Stats say % of women producers has grown over last 20 years, but % of directors has shrunk)
Once when I looked around the studio counting 80 males and 3 females (scripty, hair, and make-up), I wondered why this didn’t strike anyone as odd and if it would were it reversed?
No female has ever won an academy award for directing (and only 3 have been nominated) and only one woman has ever won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or.