Patricia Arquette Joins Campaign To Change Hollywood’s “Stone Age” Gender Bias

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In 2015, during her Oscars acceptance speech for her role as a Supporting Actress in the film ‘Boyhood’, Patricia Arquette unapologetically championed the need for equal pay in the industry, which was not so much of a left-field comment given the year earlier the Sony Leaks in the Fall of 2014 exposed how Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were paid less than their male co-stars on ‘American Hustle’. Of course, that’s not the only instance of pay inequality in Hollywood, it was simply the most high profile.

Along with this knowledge that has been widely talked about since (and not just in Hollywood but in many other industries also) is the frustration that many female filmmakers don’t get the same amount of opportunities in the industry as men do, which has now become the center of a high-profile ACLU investigation. With the knowledge that the role of a director on a film holds a lot of power creatively, many female directors are giving personal testimony to the Civil Rights advocacy group sharing stories about how the studio system discriminates against them based on gender.

While this is happening, there are some really great campaigns and initiatives being launched in order to shift the culture away from discriminatory practices, in the hope that the power-holders in Hollywood will understand the kind of talent they are missing out on when they exclude women filmmakers from the conversation altogether.

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But speaking up is not always a popular thing to do, when it comes to calling out discrimination in the industry. After all, this supposed bastion of liberal arts does not want to be painted as anything but progressive and creative. Earlier this year Patricia Arquette admitted in an interview that since her Oscars speech, her opportunities have definitely been affected simply for raising her voice about an economic injustice.

Great things have happened, some laws have passed, some changes have happened but there’s a long way to go. I told my boyfriend, I might not get work after this. It’s nice to have a cheap labor pool, and when you start saying: ‘You have to pay these people more money its not fair’, people get mad and I have lost a couple of jobs for it,” she told Hollywood entertainment reporter Diana Madison.

Thankfully, that has not stopped her from continuing to push for more equal representation in the industry. Patricia has joined an initiative to give an incredible opportunity to 4 female filmmakers share their work with the world. Allergan, the company behind the ‘Actually She Can’ campaign which aims to target millennial women and raise awareness about reproductive rights and birth control in an empowering way, is taking their feminist focus to the film world.

Patricia headed up an industry panel for the campaign, introducing the 4 filmmakers and how they will have an opportunity to screen their short films at the iconic (and important filmmaking industry showcase event) Tribeca Film Festival.

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Allergan teamed up with Tribeca Digital Shorts for this opportunity, which will allow the films to be screened at the festival. There are a select number of film festivals that are seen as “career breaking” opportunities for filmmakers, and getting into these can be costly and difficult. Sundance Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival are among the best known events which eventually spawn iconic directors, Oscar-winning filmmakers and opportunities which lead to major blockbuster films being made.

Tribeca Film Festival has arguably become one of the most important film festivals for documentary filmmakers, reports Indiewire. It is at these types of events where filmmakers can secure much needed funding, distribution as well as powerful industry allies who can be the gatekeeper to a director’s success in a highly competitive field.

With Allergan and Tribeca Digital Shorts giving a handful of women an opportunity that is not always easy to come by, they are signalling to the industry that they want to be part of the change. They introduced the filmmakers to the world in a panel event in mid-March, hosted by Patricia Arquette who did not mince her worlds when reacting to a popular rhetoric that women may not get as enough opportunities in Hollywood because they aren’t as talented.

“Those kind of arguments are at best very paleolithic. You can’t talk caveman to me. That’s always the convenient argument that people have made throughout times on how to oppress other people – that their value is less, that they don’t have a story to tell, that they don’t have the skills, that they aren’t smart enough. I think that’s not a valid argument at all,” she said.

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Pointing to the example of Kathryn Bigelow who to date is the only female director to win an Oscar for ‘The Hurt Locker in 2009, Patricia says a lot of it comes down to women being given a chance to showcase their skills in an equal playing field.

“When women are not given the opportunity to do something, you can’t judge the value of what they contributed. You can’t say that their time hasn’t come or that they are not prepared for that,” she said.

Especially in a country that prides itself on being “the most powerful nation on earth” it is hard to stomach the statistic that only 7% of the top 250 films in 2014.

“We all grew up in America where we told our daughters: ‘You can do anything you want.’ But a lot of people are smacking into this glass ceiling,” said Patricia, while adding that the film industry is worse off when we don’t have diversity.

“Men of color are not having enough opportunities. Women of color certainly are not having enough opportunities. And, obviously, women in general aren’t having enough opportunities and I think we are suffering for it.”

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While everyone can play their part, a lot of the burden does fall on the powerful decision makers in Hollywood at studios, networks and production companies in order to lead by example. Solutions start to be made when people are aware, and act on this information regarding gender bias, which is what Tribeca Digital Shorts and Allergan are doing.

“When you are in an executive role, it’s kind of a trickle-down effect: You have the power to choose your team and decide what stories you’re telling. When you see a woman in a position of power, it sort of changes the way people view women generally in the industry,” producer Annie Munger told MSNBC in an interview about the Actually She Can initiative.

The four filmmakers who were selected to be part of the ‘Actually She Can’ series have some amazing stories about women to share with the world via their short films. Emily Harrold‘s film ‘La Cocinera’ tells the inspiring story of Daniela Soto-Innes, one of the youngest chefs in New York City at 25 years old. Filmmaker Erin Sanger’s film ‘Leaders of the Pack’ follows the life of photojournalist Katie Orlinsky, whose work focuses on the everyday lives of people in extreme situations, as she covers Kristin Knight Pace, a female hopeful in the 2016 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

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Award-winning directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s film ‘Chromat: The Body Electric’ focuses on designer Becca McCharen as she prepared her latest line for New York Fashion Week back in February. Becca’s clothes are made from 3D printing and experimental new technology and are created to ensure women of all shapes and sizes feel empowered by their bodies.

Erin Sanger explained to MSNBC that over the past 2 years the movement to ensure more diversity in the film industry has really picked up steam and is starting to create real change.

“It’s important to remember that there’s an intersectionality to lack of opportunity – filmmakers of color and filmmakers that belong to the LGBTQ community are also underrepresented, so it’s exciting to see people in industry taking action to change this,” she said, echoing the sentiments of Patricia Arquette at the Actually She Can launch event panel.

This may only be one campaign designed to give an opportunity to a few filmmakers, but if it has a knock-on effect, by inspiring other diverse filmmakers to create their own projects as well as industry executives to widen the net when they are looking for talent, it is one important chip away at the gender bias that is about as “caveman”-like as Patricia Arquette suggested. You can watch ‘La Cocinera’ below, and the rest of the films by clicking here.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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