Where did all the women go?

There are approximately 24 male directors for every female director in Hollywood.

24.

You might be asking yourself, “Why is that ratio so large? Why aren’t women stepping up to direct films?” Let’s talk about it.

First off, from my own personal experience, there seems to be this notion that people in the entertainment industry can just choose their jobs, almost like picking petals off a flower. However, that’s not true. Individuals can pitch ideas to their team or to the studios that they work with, but having their projects picked up is more difficult. Television networks, studios, and production companies work together to hire showrunners, and directors are hired by the showrunners and executives, but the majority of them are male screenwriters. The Writers Guild Awards (better known as the WGA) reported that women made up about 15.1% of the executive producer positions during the earlier half of 2015, which was an 18.6% decline from the preceding season. The report stated that, in 2013-14, only 136 women held executive producer positions out of a total of 457 EPs.

Deadline reported that, in 2015, when director Marie Giese took her complaint about the lack of women directors to the ACLU in Southern California, the organization informed their director of the LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project, Melissa Goodman. Goodman then alerted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which started inspecting the lack of women directors in the industry, with points such as potential cases of sexism, ageism, and racism backing the investigation. At the time of the start of the investigation, it was reported that women only received
16% of episodic directing opportunities.

This isn’t the first time that the EEOC has been involved either. In 1969, there were hearings held in Los Angeles concerning potential discrimination against women and minorities who were trying to procure behind-the-scenes jobs. The Commission, however, didn’t have as much power at the time and looked to the Department of Justice to further the case. The outcome was an agreement between the DOJ and the industry to establish “goals and timetables” that would increase minority representation, but women directors were not included in the agreement. Unfortunately, no real improvements were even
seen.

In 1983, the Directors Guild of America (better known as the DGA) filed a class-action discrimination lawsuit against both Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures regarding the lack of female and minority directors. After this case was settled, there was a small increase seen in female-directed films, but there was a quick decline. Earlier this year, in May, a video of Jessica Chastain addressing the depiction of women in films that premiered at Cannes Film Festival went viral. Chastain, star of “Zero Dark Thirty” (directed by Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow, who also directed “The Hurt Locker”), stated, “This is the first time I’ve watched 20 films in 10 days, and I love movies. And the one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women from the female characters that I saw represented. And it was quite disturbing to me, to be honest.” She also went on to explain that she hopes to include more female storytellers in film, and that these women would be similar to those she recognizes in her “day-to-day life — ones that are proactive, have their own agency, don’t just react to the men around them. [Ones who] have their own point of view.” This statement was after Chastain’s jury awarded the Palme d’Or (the most coveted award at Cannes) to Sofia Coppola for her film “The Beguiled” — Coppola is only the second woman to be awarded this honor (the first was Yuliya Solntseva in 1961 for her film “Chronicle of Flaming Years”). Director Maren Ade (director of “Toni Erdmann”) was insistent on the fact that the jury “didn’t give awards to women because they are women;” she called
not only for more female directors, but also suitable material and more diverse stories. Out of 19 filmmakers up for the Palme d’Or, only three contenders were women: Sofia Coppola, Scotland’s Lynne Ramsy, and Japan’s Naomi Kawase. San Diego State University recently released a report, in which it was revealed that women made up 7% of all directors “working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016;” this is a 2% decline from the levels in 2015 and 1998.

As an aspiring writer-director, these stats are shocking to hear, but this is the reality. We idolize so many individuals from this industry, but there are so many voices we have yet to hear from. There are stories missing from diverse voices, which is equivalent to pieces missing from a puzzle. The attention given to films such as “Wonder Woman” (directed by Patty Jenkins) and “Pitch Perfect 2” (directed by Elizabeth Banks) are just a few examples of recognition given to women-directed pictures. However, in order to wipe out the Chastain-dubbed “disturbing” depictions of female characters in film, it’s imperative that we bring in these new voices and see these characters from a woman’s point of view.