Is Hollywood Becoming More Supportive Of Female Filmmakers?

By Jori Hamilton

In the history of the Academy Awards, only one woman has ever won the Oscar for “Best Director.” In 2010, Kathhryn Bigelow won the award for her direction of “The Hurt Locker.” In Kathryn’s company are only four other women who have ever been nominated for that particular award. The Oscars began in 1929, so for only five women to have ever been nominated for “Best Director” might seem like a shock to some people — and it should!

Granted, women have had to play catch-up for a while in the world of directing. You can probably list off a dozen male directors in Hollywood, but how many women can you name? Unfortunately, even though women began directing major Hollywood films in the 1920s, they have had a hard time getting the recognition they deserve, and they still are not often taken as seriously as their male counterparts. 

But is the landscape changing? Recent figures have shown that movies with a female lead or female ensembles do extremely well in the box office. So, can the same be said for the women behind the camera? Is the industry finally making a shift to celebrate more female filmmakers? 

The Scary Statistics of Female Directors

In 2017, women accounted for just 11% of the top-grossing directors in Hollywood. There has been a gradual, slim increase in this number, but certainly nothing to write home about. In 2018, only four of the top 100 films in the United States were directed by women. The statistics don’t exactly line up with what people want to see. In fact, it’s been proven that female-driven movies are often good for box office numbers, and that female directors are often more likely to attract a stronger female cast. So, is Hollywood really still sexist when it comes to women filmmakers? 

Unfortunately, it looks that way. In a study done by the Sundance Institute, it was discovered that movies directed by a woman have a better chance of being an “independent” film, while movies directed by men are more likely to make their way toward blockbuster status. 

This study also included a survey, in which 12% of people believed female filmmakers couldn’t handle certain aspects of the industry, like keeping a crew in line. That’s blatant discrimination, and it’s unfortunately all too common. Like other industries, some people believe that gender roles go hand-in-hand with certain job titles. Other careers where this is often a problem include construction, law enforcement, and even cybersecurity

The film industry has proven to be “on par” with the rest of the workforce in this country. Even though half of the general workforce is made up of women, only 16% of those women work in executive positions. In Hollywood, it seems no matter how many female directors there may be, only a small percentage are starting to get the recognition they deserve. 

The gender pay gap is also a big problem in Hollywood. For example, Zack Snyder directed 2016’s “Suicide Squad” and received $10 million. Just one year later, Patty Jenkins, the director of 2017’s “Wonder Woman” made only $1 million for the film. “Wonder Woman” saw incredible success, and it became the highest-grossing origin story for a superhero movie. As a result, Jenkins asked for a raise for the sequel, and she will reportedly make about $9 million for it. Still, you can see the unusual pay gap between these two directors of different genders, and different success levels. 

How Has the #MeToo Movement Impacted Hollywood?

Both the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp movement have had a major impact on the film industry in recent years. They’re more than just fodder for the Twitterverse; they have caused a lot of people to open their eyes as to how women have been continuously treated in the film industry over the years. 

Though the focus of these movements has been mostly on sexual assault (especially in Hollywood), they have also opened up a world of conversation when it comes to how women are viewed in movies. This includes the stereotypes in their roles, the discrimination of their jobs, and the fact that Hollywood hasn’t been the most inclusive when it comes to creating an environment of equality. 

Not only have these movements changed the way movies are being made today, they have also changed certain perceptions of past films and the roles women played in them. This includes things like a date rape scene in “Sixteen Candles,” and a romantic relationship between an older man and underaged woman in “Manhattan.” 

Because of these movements and the general shift in Hollywood, women are starting to speak up more. That has started to pave the way for more success and power for the females on screen, as shown in recent movies like “Pitch Perfect,” “Oceans 8,” and 2019’s “Captain Marvel.” 

At the same time, there are women in the movement whose voices have been suppressed. In some cases, the men who have committed abusive behavior have been given more of a platform. 

“The #MeToo movement intended to give a voice to the silenced, and one of the more literal ways it is now attempting to do so is through the stage and screen,” writes Yomi Adegoke for The Guardian. “There’s a highly anticipated offering on the Fox News boss Roger Ailes, written by Charles Randolph and directed by Jay Roach. John Malkovich will play the disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in the David Mamet play Bitter Wheat, and Harvey, another play about him, was directed and performed by Steven Berkoff. Ryan Murphy is in talks for a #MeToo-themed anthology series called Consent. The stories that were scaremongered, bribed and blackmailed out of the public domain are finally being told – and almost entirely by men.”

Adegoke continues, saying, “There is a churning sense of irony in the fact that a campaign created to amplify women’s voices is instead amplifying the voices of men.” While she’s not wrong, it’s still, it’s clear that the movement for women’s rights is gaining momentum in Hollywood. 

While there has been a push for more female representation in Hollywood, there also must be an intentional prioritization of women’s voices about issues that affect them the most. 

Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her work on twitter @hamiltonjori or https://writerjorihamilton.contently.com

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