The Oscars started in 1929. Only one female director has ever won the Oscar for Best Picture: Katheryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. The Celluloid Ceiling is an annual report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University that records statistics about women in film. Martha Lauzen, the executive director for the center and author of the article, “The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2018.” reveals, “Women accounted for 8% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2018.”
Why are there few female filmmakers who are nominated and/or win the Oscars?
I interviewed three strong and talented female directors to get their perspective on this issue and discuss what it’s like for them to deal with gender discrimination in the film industry.
Charlotte Kennett is a comedy writer/director known for her popular Chicago LGBT+ comedy web series, Chapstick and Youtube Channel, Sleep Late. She moved to LA last year and worked for Starz as a Production Assistant on the TV series, Counterpart. Charlotte co-wrote a feature film alongside the well known LGBTQ female filmmaker Marina Rice Bader of SoulKiss Films this past year and a few months after wrapping Counterpart. The film, "Alien Jane at the Shangri La", is set to go into production in 2020.
Pushing onto another feature, Charlotte is currently co-writing a lesbian Rom Com alongside YouTuber, Jenna Larson, for Tello Films. The film is set to go into production in the Fall of 2019. Charlotte says about that experience, “It’s so exciting to be working with LGTBQ writers, producers and directors I’ve admired for years.”
Charlotte currently works part time as a writer and producer for a commercial production company in Los Angeles, and beyond that is working hard as a freelance writer, director and producer the rest of the week. Charlotte says about her current favorite projects: “The ones where I get to get behind the pen or behind the camera, I’m invigorated." Charlotte is currently in pre-production on her next LGBTQ comedy web series called “Hopelessly Homo” which you can look forward to within the next few months.
Follow Charlotte on Instagram and
look out for "Hopelessly Homo" on Youtube
Layne Marie Williams is an award-winning female filmmaker and founder of Women of the Now, a media production company in Chicago. They are focused on telling complex female-driven stories and providing networking opportunities and events for women identified folks in the film industry. She also created The Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia that offers opportunities and support to female filmmakers.
Check out Women of the Now's Website and follow Layne on Instagram
Gigi Saul Guerrero is a Latino horror female filmmaker best known for her style of TEXMEX horror with a touch of grind house. She directed the mini-series "La Quinceañera" for Warner Brothers / Stage 13, and fan favourite "El Gigante". Her company Luchagore Productions has made over 18 shorts films including viral sensations like Evil Dead in 60 seconds, A Luchagore Christmas and many more. In addition, she just recently wrapped her first feature for Blumhouse on Hulu's Into the Dark Series.
Follow Gigi on Instagram and check out Luchagore Productions' Website
Bridget Johnson: Why do you think there are very few female filmmakers in the past 10 years who win Oscars?
Charlotte Kennett: I think this would be because the largest budget films or ones with the largest producers attached choose notorious male directors over taking a chance on a newer, maybe less experienced female director. I think it’s hard for certain people in the industry to see beyond numbers. It’s a business at the end of the day. I think men trust men more than they trust women. There’s no exception when it comes to a big film. Like I said - people seem to have more faith in a man at the helm of a big film than they do a woman.
Layne Marie Williams: I think it goes back to “Oscar So White” it’s all in that same playing field. The patriarchy and who’s taking up space at the table for the longest. It needs to change.
Gigi Saul Guerrero: There’s still going to be politics no matter what kind of award, field, craft, industry we’re talking about. People are favored. It’s hard to say why there haven’t been enough women, but not enough women have been hired to direct and that’s the problem. Not enough women have been given those Oscar-worthy films to direct that we can all remember by.
Bridget Johnson: What is the result of having few female filmmakers?
Charlotte Kennett: The result is less interesting, honest stories being told from unique POVS. We are losing big stories, or they are being told by the wrong people. We have to remember our vantage point. We should want people to go into the movies to escape, but also feel like they see themselves - or could see themselves. Without more representation behind and in front of the camera - we lose that.
Layne Marie Williams: There’s power in numbers so I think that there’s few of us at the helm of who’s work is really being seen in like a demographic level. I think it’s a shame because it’s keeping our audience from seeing all the different voices of this world that the world has.
Gigi Saul Guerrero: The result is not just the fact that not enough of us are getting hired or recognized or that this problem is slowly being brought up and recognized. I think women have looked at each other as a competition when that’s not how it should be. Film is family. Film is support. It’s not a competition and I think that is the result of why there is so few of us is because we compete too much, and we complain too much. Why not just get up, work hard, and do your thing. That’s the only way to stand out in this business.
Bridget Johnson: What changes would you like to see within Hollywood to help elevate women in the industry?
Charlotte Kennett: More resources I would say. The more opportunities we can give women like labs and fellowships etc... we will be on the right path. Mentorship programs - women supporting other women. And men in the industry- it would be nice to see them support us more.
Layne Marie Williams: I would like to see more grants, more scholarships, more funding opportunities given to female filmmakers especially in the indie world, so it doesn’t have to be so impossible to reach that level. I’d like to see women directors directing big budget films.
Gigi Saul Guerrero: Hollywood has to also take the responsibility of recognizing more women, but also not just recognizing women for the sake of it, recognize them for their work. I just don’t want Hollywood to hire for the sake of having a woman or a minority or someone different to direct this film, to make this film. They have to really earn it.
Bridget Johnson: What advice can you give a young female filmmaker?
Charlotte Kennett: Keep making films and art in any way you can - keep getting better at your craft so that when they are asking more female filmmakers to direct projects that you are at a place to throw your hat in the ring. Do everything to create. And demand to be seen and heard by the higher-ups. They are finally starting to listen.
Layne Marie Williams: Make work! Have fun with it. Tell stories that excite you. That makes you want to wake up in the morning and work on your project.
Gigi Saul Guerrero: Don’t be afraid of failure. If you’re not afraid of failure, you can definitely take the mistakes that you’ve been doing and learn from them and grow. From there you’re just going to get better and better. This industry is very cruel. It’s hard. It’s competitive, but it’s all about being yourself and it’s all about working hard and not giving up.
I am so grateful to have interviewed these talented female filmmakers that strive for positive social change in the world. They inspire me to keep following my dreams no matter what and to not let gender discrimination in the industry stand in the way. Support them by following them on social media and keeping up to date with what films they're working on.
Comment below a female filmmaker who inspires you!
never forget to dare to dream!
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Bridget Johnson is the president and co-founder of Dare to Dream Productions. She writes and directs thought-provoking films that inspire others to follow their dreams.
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