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Infographic: Women Directors Need More Support

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There are so many articles lately about how difficult it is for women to get ahead in Hollywood. The subject invariably turns to directing. Why can’t women get ahead? Why can’t they get jobs? Why, in 86 years of Oscar history, have there only been three women nominated for director whose film were also nominated for Best Picture? There have been a total of eleven films directed by women to be nominated for Best Picture (even if their directors were not nominated, which is most often the case). Compare that to 500 or so directed by men. You think there’s a problem with Oscar? There might be a problem with Oscar but there is a bigger problem with the film industry, and with our film culture — how we have come to define what is a good movie, what is a great movie and what is a masterpiece.

In building this infographic about women directors in Hollywood I plowed through an enormous amount of information about women in film. I wanted to know how many women directed films every year, what happened to the famous directors I grew up hearing about, whether it really was just the Academy that shut women out or whether there was a deeper truth in there, maybe even a truth we women really didn’t want to face. But in my research I discovered that it wasn’t just that women only made “relationship movies” and it wasn’t only that the industry rejected them at every turn. In fact, what I found, was a willing community that will support women when the right women, or rather the right films, come along. The critics threw their support behind the big three: Jane Campion for The Piano, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.

It turned out that what made the difference with those three women WAS the critics’ response to their work. It really did come down to that. Since the awards race is built on perception, perception starts with critics. What I found was that when the critics are dominated by the male aesthetic, so too will the awards race be dominated by that aesthetic. If the critics were more willing to redefine what exactly constituted a great film in their minds that would change the dynamic for awards voters and eventually level the playing field.

Ah, so here is where it gets sticky. One can no longer ask whether women are recognized for their work in the film business. One has to ask a harder question: what is the male aesthetic and why does it dominate film criticism? Take a movie like Jane Campion’s Bright Star. If you look on Metacritic you’ll see the best reviews the film got were from women: Carrie Rickey, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Stephanie Zacharek, with Kenneth Turan and AO Scott also in the mix. Some women also gave the film a bad score as well, along with men, sealing the inevitable fate of each film: shut out of the critics awards, thus, shut out of the Oscar race. But if more women were in film criticism, might not Bright Star have gotten more support?

That’s how it works, you see. Even if ten years from now Bright Star is discovered to be the greatest film of its time it won’t impact that year it would have been up for awards. Awards drive the power in Hollywood. They drive perception in Hollywood and it is a club reserved, almost exclusively, for men.

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What none of us wants to talk about is why the critics generally do not like the female aesthetic. Many point to The Hurt Locker as a film that a man might have directed. Bigelow’s highest aspiration would have then had to be: I want to make a movie so good people will think a man directed it. That’s how little room we have for appreciating what the female aesthetic might be — and I can tell you, this runs through Bigelow’s entire film career. Not just The Hurt Locker, but almost every film she’s ever made, even the ones the critics panned, like Blue Steel, Strange Days and Point Break. Yes, she made a war movie. Yes, she had a male cast, but her visual storytelling was entirely from a female point of view. Having a background as a painter made her pay more attention to how things look, which is generally how you tell the difference between men and women. The finest male directors are renowned for caring more about how the shots look. Women directors, by and large, unless they have a background in painting or photography, have tended not to focus as much on visuals. Women are complex thinkers — we see the underlying layers of an issue while men can tend to address the top layer of an issue — this is one of the key differences between us.

Does that mean all men see things that way? Hell no. There are plenty of directors who rely completely on their (male) cinematographers to make them seem more visual than they really are. Get a good cinematographer and your work is half done. Yet somehow, this is how the male/female distinction has been divided up. Try it for yourself. Think about the female directors you know. How many of them are known for their visual style? Now think about the great male directors you know. How many of them are known for their visual style? You see what I mean?

This leads me back to the critics and this idea of why is it they mostly hate films directed by women. Actually, hate is too strong a word. They are “disappointed” by the work women do, and most of the time, the majority of the time, do not regard it as high art. For instance, why was Lost in Translation the only Sofia Coppola film the critics, and the industry, liked? Why was Jane Campion’s The Piano the only one? Awards voters followed the critics on both counts so we have to keep our attention, for now, focused on the critics. What was it about Lost in Translation that was so much better than Marie Antoinette, Somewhere, and The Bling Ring? Why did The Piano capture their fancy but not An Angel at my Table or the wonderful Holy Smoke, or Portait of a Lady or Bright Star?

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Could it be that Lost in Translation and The Piano were both male fantasy films? Having a doe-eyed Scarlett Johansson hanging on every word Bill Murray said — or Harvey Keitel finally fucking Holly Hunter so well it brought her back to life? So where does The Hurt Locker fit in? Ask any critic and they will tell you that those were just the better movies. They might also slip in the comment, as most did when the Sight & Sound poll was revealed, after 70 years of poll taking, not a single film directed by a woman: women didn’t make movies in the early days of Hollywood, which is when most of those movies were made.

Well, okay. But what about the entire history of film critics awards mostly ignoring women? In fact, the New York Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics have only recognized female directors a few times in their history. The NYFCC gave Best Director to a woman four times since 1935. Twice to Kathryn Bigelow, once to Sofia Coppola and once to Jane Campion. The National Society of Film Critics gave Best Director to a woman one time since 1966 — to Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.

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It isn’t that women haven’t been making films. They have been. They have been struggling to get films made for decades. Many of them have been given the scraps from Hollywood just to keep working — the really shitty sequels or comedies no A-lister male would touch. The benefit women don’t get is to be made into myths. I always wonder what would have happened if a woman directed In the Bedroom, for instance, or Beasts of the Southern Wild. Or if a man had directed American Psycho, Boys Don’t Cry, Gas, Food and Lodging, We Need to Talk About Kevin, etc. I think we know the answer. We can pretend it isn’t so but I think we all know it is so: men are made into myths, held up as the greatest new thing while women, well, aren’t. Except for a few times here and there.

And those who do rise in the ranks for their sheer and utter balls are sooner or later cut down, either by men OR sometimes by women. Diablo Cody is a great example of someone who just got too big for her britches. How dare she really try to go that far out as she did with the underrated (I’m sorry, but it is) Jennifer’s Body. But look at the career of Lizzie Borden, or now, Lynne Ramsay — being “out there” for a woman is often “crazy bitch” territory. Being “out there” for a man is wild genius.

Women, it seems, are more appreciated when they say very little about sexism in Hollywood — both Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow are very smartly tight-lipped. Men like that better than the alleged harpies who supposedly complain all the time. Well, at least Jane Campion has never stopped bitching about the sexism in the film industry.

But here’s the good news. The world of film criticism is changing by the second. While I constantly bemoan the old guard of film critics being ousted — a lot of the new guard are aware of the state of things for women. What women haven’t had all of these years is advocacy. Since I’ve been online and aimed my own coverage more at advocacy, I’ve noticed subtle changes here and there. Many of the very loud voice out there keep the subject on women filmmakers — Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci for instance, or Hollywood-Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells. Wells specifically champions the work of female filmmakers on his site. Wells is a controversial person to name here so he is so often labelled a sexist by the often hateful posts about women on his site – worse, is the den of misogyny in his comments section) but I also must acknowledge that he is one of the few who goes out of his way to support women filmmakers. He has also been generous to me for years, which is more than I can say for others in our industry. Mark Harris has been a champion for women and so has Anthony Breznican at EW. David Poland at Movie City News does this as well. And many female movie writers have their eye on this topic as well, like Thelma Adams, Carrie Rickey, Anne Thompson, Susan Wloszczyna, Katey Rich, and most especially Melissa Silverstein at Women and Hollywood, who is tirelessly waging a war against the clear oppression we see around us every day.

My point in making these infographics was to show how much film criticism is involved in how the work by women is perceived. We have two choices to make: hope that ambitious female filmmakers adopt the male aesthetic better, or perhaps start broadening our definition of cinematic art to include the female aesthetic. I’m hopeful for the future with the voices I hear online. More women are turning to directing and I hope more women will turn to writing about film, championing those women and opening a dimension of what Jane Campion called the “feminine vision.”

Your infographic…you can download the whole big thing here. Or else click each image below.

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47 Comments on this Post

  1. I would LOVE a piece on how difficult it is to be an out gay director in Hollywood? Or how about an Indian director or Mexican? I appreciate this well written article but there are plenty of minority groups (both visible and otherwise) that also get little support in La-La land and either have to hide in the closet or “sell-out” to get support and recognition. Just my two cents.

  2. Q Mark

    Ephron and Streisand don’t strike me as the best examples of badly-snubbed female directors. Which of Ephron’s films would you suggest she have been nominated for? Sleepless In Seattle? You’ve Got Mail? Julie & Julia? All enjoyable films (especially the first two) yet not at all deserving of a best director nod. Same with Streisand — even though Prince of Tides got a Best Picture nom, which of Demme/Levinson/Singleton/Scott/Stone would have omitted to make room?

    I’m probably not the best person to answer the Sofia Coppola question since I don’t like her movies and think she’s one of the more overrated directors working. My perspective gives me the opposite tack on Lost In Translation, though — why did THAT one get singled out when it’s just as mediocre as her other work? I can only chalk it up to affection for Bill Murray, who single-handedly did his best to elevate the material.

  3. The fact that Sasha Stone writing an article about women directors may seem obvious, is really quite irrelevant. Because reading this reminds you, unless you’re some ignorant prick, that even the sheer notion that there is an issue here, is being ignored. And has been for decades and decades. Which is extremely relevant. There is clearly still some eye-opening to be done here. I’ll read it again tomorrow, and it will hit me again. Great work on the graphics.

  4. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I would LOVE a piece on how difficult it is to be an out gay director in Hollywood?

    I see what you’re saying Don. But we might also observe how really remarkable it is that so many gay directors were out in Hollywood deacdes ago when being out would have been a career killer in other realm of American life.

    All these directors were loudly proudly out as gay or bi in the Hollywood community (or international film community). Everybody in Hollywood knew/knows they were/are gay.

    F.W. Murneau
    George Cukor
    James Whale
    Jean Cocteau
    Noel Coward
    Anthony Asquith
    Charles Laughton
    Marcel Carné
    Franco Zeffirelli
    Jerome Robbins
    John Schlesinger
    Chantal Akerman
    Gus Van Sant
    Luchino Visconti
    Pier Paolo Pasolini
    Rainer Werner Fassbinder
    Nicholas Ray
    Pedro Almodóvar
    Derek Jarman
    John Waters
    Lindsay Anderson
    Joel Schumacher
    Todd Haynes
    Bill Condon
    Rob Marshall
    Derek Jacobi
    Lisa Cholodenko
    Adam Shankman
    Alejandro Amenábar
    François Ozon
    Stephen Daldry
    Ismail Merchant
    James Ivory
    Lee Daniels
    Kimberly Peirce
    Tom Ford
    Ryan Murphy
    Xavier Dolan
    Bryan Singer
    Angelina Jolie

    It’s historically been more common for men to be a successful out director than it is to be an out gay actor — or an out gay anything else in Hollyoowd.

    (those 40 names make a good core group that should be easy to expand to a list of 50 Most Significant Gay Directors of All Time. I don’t want to hijack the discussion though, so we’ll do another post to discuss this futher, ok?)

  5. From watching GAME OF THRONES and BREAKING BAD, I found that I like Michelle MacLaren’s episodes very much. I was sad to hear she wouldn’t be doing this coming season of GoT but then I found out it’s because she’s doing BETTER CALL SAUL. But having said that I don’t have a favorite female director. I don’t think it’s my fault. I think this is it:

    “Women directors, by and large, unless they have a background in painting or photography, have tended not to focus as much on visuals. ”

    I’ve always been more interested in style. But I really do like Sofia Coppola’s style but guess who my favorite director actually is? Yeah, her dad. So it’s just a matter of her making more movies probably. I personally preferred MARIE ANTOINETTE to LOST IN TRANSLATION, a film I just found boring.

    I think we might be talking about volume here. But anyway, I always wonder how people got it done back in the day, like Ida Lupino and Leni Riefenstahl but now it seems like people are waiting for permission or something.

  6. Fair enough but how many have been nominated for an Oscar? The infographic focuses on awards, especially the Oscars. Where are the gay winners? And what about other minorities? This blog has a tendency to only focus on women and African Americans but there are a slew of minorities that go unrecognized for their fantastic work, often because they are creating less crowd pleasers and more provocative films. Think Deepha Meta, Satyajit Ray, Kim Nguyen.

  7. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    From watching GAME OF THRONES and BREAKING BAD, I found that I like Michelle MacLaren’s episodes very much.

    My two favorite episodes of my favorite new series, Penny Dreadful, were directed by Coky Giedroyc — the same woman who directed the sickest, wildest, most disturbing adaptation of Wuthering Heights (the one with Tom Hardy). My favorite screen version.

    Interestingly enough, my second-favorite screen adaptation of Wuthering Heights was directed by Andrea Arnold. The sexiest, hottest most erotic version ever.

    Not surprising that it took two women directors to understand how to explore places in the female psyche that no male director was ever able to fathom in Emily Brontë’s novel.

  8. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Cukor and Robbins and Schlesinger won Best Director Oscars. Several of the others have Oscars for something other than Best Director. Murneau and Marshall directed Best Picture winners. James Ivory was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture 3 times (A Room with a View, Howard’s End, The Remains of the Day). Daldry gets nominated for Best Director every time he leaves the house.

    I agree with you though, Don. I sometimes think the Academy has deliberately sidestepped giving a gay director an Oscar. (I’m trying not to hijack the thread, so I’ll save the details for another post).

    But I do think that part of the point of Sasha’s post is to talk about the lack of opportunities that have been afforded to women directors — in that respect, gay directors have fared much better over the past 80 years.

  9. steve50

    ^Don’t forget another Oscar winner – Tony Richardson. He was “officially” bi, but I dont know any gay man who wouldn’t marry Vanessa Redgrave.

  10. Great work, but there is one film missing in the best picture nominees: “Children of a Lesser God”, directed by Randa Haines… So it would be 12, ridiculous figure anyway

  11. Steven

    Ryan, thanks for that great list. Several were surprises to me. There is one big name you forgot, Roland Emmerich. If anyone has had no trouble getting movies made, it’s that man.

  12. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Glad to bring this to the forefront, Steven, and happy to hear it’s interesting to people. This is definitely an angle we’ll cover in more detail in another post someday soon.

  13. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Since the awards race is built on perception, perception starts with critics. What I found was that when the critics are dominated by the male aesthetic, so too will the awards race be dominated by that aesthetic. If the critics were more willing to redefine what exactly constituted a great film in their minds that would change the dynamic for awards voters and eventually level the playing field.

    These lines are to me some of the most meaningful thoughts on movie-culture that I’ve read anywhere in a long time.

    What I like about this observation is how it crystallizes an implicit suggestion about how to bring about change where change is sorely needed. The percentage of women critics in major critics groups is even more perplexing than the percentage of women directors, women screenwriters, women cinematographers — at least we know the studio system has long been a boy’s club. It’s become a stagnant calcified network with deep cockcentric roots.

    One would think the world of mainstream publishing would offer more opportunities for diversity, but apparently not.

    So what’s the remedy? Honestly, to be fair, we can’t lay all the blame on the critics groups themselves. Each group must certainly have standards of membership that stipulate what kind of publications represent a readership important enough to ensure a certain level of authority. A glance at the member roster of most critics groups shows writers who are associated with familiar print venues. (I hate to say, but the more obscure the publication, the less I’m inclined to think that writer has a voice I have time to read. Simply because the very best writers do rise to top of their top of their profession and land jobs at the most prestigious magazines and newspapers, right?

    So what we have here is another systemic problem. If, say, the Academy’s directors branch can only reasonably invite women who have had a chance to prove themselves by directing one or two significant films, then it’s hard to blame them for not having a larger percentage of women directors in their ranks. The question we have to ask is, Who are the women directors that the directors branch has overlooked? Who are the women directors being denied an invitation? What are their names? I’m not saying there’s nobody to chose from, but I would like to know who they are — so then we know whose banner to carry.

    The same goes for women critics. I absolutely unequivocally wish that critics groups had more women critics in their midst. But how can critics groups invite more women to join “the club” if editors and publishers haven’t given those women an opportunity to get their reviews seen and read on a national platform? (or even the various local platforms).

    I certainty do believe that there must be dozens (hundreds?) of qualified women writing movie reviews for a multitude of niche or boutique venues — but do men who write for similar pocket venues earn invitations to critics groups? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. I honestly don’t know.

    So I have to ask the same question across the board: Yes, I’d like see more women cinematographers be granted membership to the ACS — but who are they? What are their names? I want more women directors to be DGA members, but who are they? What have they directed? What movies of theirs can we watch to see what they can do? More women critics? Yes, please, I want that to happen. But first I’d like to know who they are and I need to know where their reviews are published, so we can see what they’re saying.

    These are not problems that can be solved by looking around on the fringes for women who haven’t been given a shot to become prominent yet. If we do that, then we’re giving people invitations based on nothing but their gender (I mean, regardless of their actual individual achievement, which has to be an important consideration, right?)

    So the same systemic problems exist for women critics as exist for women directors : the career paths are not there. Before we fix this mess, somehow the usual pathways have to open up and new pathways need to be created.

  14. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    (I’m always surprised when comments of mine don’t get pelted by “tl;dr” reactions)

    So ok, a brief footnote. In all sincerity, I would very much like to know who are these women critics whose voices are being ignored. I trust that you readers are familiar with many of them, many of whom I would probably like to become acquainted.

    So will you tell me who they are, what you like about their style and perspective, and where I can find them?

  15. James Ivory was bisexual? It surprises me, since he was married to Ruth Prawer Jhabwala for so many decades.

  16. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Gustavo, I’ll try to find a source to back that up. But I’m pretty sure that I’ve read that Merchant and Ivory shared various homes together throughout their long partnership.

  17. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    here’s a page that claims to know of a relationship between James Ivory and novelist Bruce Chatwin.

    surprises me, since he was married to Ruth Prawer Jhabwala for so many decades.

    Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton were married from 1929 to 1962, but, well…

    heck, I was married when I was 20. This is how we bi people do. This is how we’re a threat to the sanctity of traditional marriage.

  18. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Children of a Lesser God
    Awakenings
    Prince of Tides
    The Piano
    Lost in Translation
    Little Miss Sunshine
    The Hurt Locker
    Kids Are All Right
    An Education
    Winter’s Bone
    Zero Dark Thirty

    Which one am I missing?

  19. Bryce Forestieri

    Is Lucrecia Martel an academy member? Miranda July? Both made several of the very best movies of the last decade and haven’t done anything in years. Will AMPAS membership help them out? Do they need help? Why they aren’t making movies is all I care about. Do they just not want to anymore? I don’t think either one is interested in making movies that the Academy will ever like or even see.

    Cinematographer Natasha Brier, if she’s not a member yet, probably in the next 48 hours, wait and see. (THE ROVER, SOMERS TOWN, MILK OF SORROW, XXY, GLUE, IN THE CITY OF SYLVIA[!!!])

  20. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Which one am I missing?

    Middle of Nowhere?
    oh wait, I’m asleep and dreaming.

  21. Ryan, I read every word of your “too long to read” piece. I am not here to skim read what people have written, or at least not those whose reputation warrants it. Now, offer me the same courtesy:

    The “career paths” aspect was something I was thinking about last night when I first read this article. And my thoughts that came from that were in no way meant to play devil’s advocate, but you do perhaps have to try and work backwards with this, to at least make some sense of it if you possibly can.

    Forget about the women directors. Move beyond the women critics. Go back, right back.

    Imagine Variety are filling a position and interviewing fifty people – I wonder how many women would be selected for those interviews? Or even, how many women applicants were there compared to the male ones in the first place?

    Let’s go further back. How many women post-graduates in the US or UK, are likely to land a prestigious job in the film industry? Or in the media in general? Or any old crummy job for a magazine? And again, how many is that compared to men?

    Let’s scrap that too. What ratio of young adults that even go to university or college to study Film, or Media, or TV, are female? What percentage of teenagers dreaming of being a film director or executive or film critic, are actually female?

    How many girls decide, whether subconsciously or not, that being a film critic or film director is just not for them {or they never entertained the thought in the first place}? Simply because when they look out into the world, open the Hollywood Reporter, browse their Twitter feed, turn on the TV, talk to their friends, the numbers taking part in those fields are so few. They just don’t see them. And best go become nurses, pop stars or teachers instead then.

    And we’ve come full circle. And we don’t need to delve that deeply to know that this is simply madness.

  22. Great article Sasha! Speaking of Michelle MacLaren, let me just note that it is also the one of the reasons why movie is stagnating and TV is flourishing. Watching TV, one can’t help but be amazed by the directorial works of the likes of Jennifer Getzinger and Lesli Linka Glatter on their respective shows (they probably make the best episodes of the season if not their shows’ bests). Sure they get the recognition they deserve and television is just doing a great job in giving women directors like them a platform for their voices. Not only they deliver, I love how they also give depth and nuance to female characters on their series.

    It is also noticable how some critics easily dismiss movies that were helmed by female directors with distinct visual styles. Marie Antoinette, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Tempest comes to my mind (and I’m sure there are a lot more). Yes these movies have their issues, but the guts, vision and imagination of Coppola, Campion and Taylor in making these movies like they have balls of steal were undeniable!

  23. steve50

    Lina Wertmuller? (missing)

  24. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    What ratio of young adults that even go to university or college to study Film, or Media, or TV, are female?

    Robin Write, I’ll have to come back to this later, but quickly: in my purely anecdotal first-hand experience, in every film class I ever took, the makeup was around to 70% or even 80% guys. That’s at 3 different universities in 3 different parts of the country (but not west coast).

    so yes, you’re onto something more fundamental than what I was aiming to say. But your excellent point doesn’t contradict what I’m saying. It seems to me to be in accord with what I’m saying: Nobody is going to hire women critics and women directors who do not exist, and nobody was blocking girls from enrolling in any of the film classes I took.

    What is the ratio of males to females participating in this discussion on this page in response to a topic that should be of interest to girls and women? At a glance, what does the ratio of men to women look like on this page? Where are the women interested in this subject? I don’t know.

    I know we need to encourage more girls to pursue careers in film, but it’s apparently not very easy to do. It’s not so simple as saying, “hey girls, c’mon and give it a go!”

    Maybe if Disney would stop making so many movies about being a princess then girls could imagine becoming something other than an actress. I just don’t know. It’s not a simple problem, not by any measure.

    (Now you all know how I feel when I’m out trying to recruit guys to turn gay. It’s a lot of work! :) But it’s worth the effort.)

  25. Yeah I went to college and university, and studied media, and don’t particularly remember a landslide of sex demographic either way. But part of the issue is perhaps what the females may see ahead of them in terms of those already out there directing movies and critiquing the industry – that they are mostly men. Can this subconsciously detract their ambition to pursue that type of role because of this I wonder? Or at least make them less confident there is a place for them out there, regardless of their talent.

    Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win sure as hell will have boosted that confidence. As will the role Anne Thompson plays from the journalism point of view for example. And even Sasha’s writing right here maybe pack a punch – depending on how big an audience she has at the moment.

  26. For the record, I am MALE – for your poll / mission Ryan. :-)

  27. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win sure as hell will have boosted that confidence.

    Bingo. You’ve nailed an essential factor. The same way that we hope thousands of black teenage girls will be inspired by seeing Lupita Nyong’o and Viola Davis winning prestigious awards.

    That’s what Sasha has always said: if the Oscars have one reason to exist (beyond stroking prom-queen egos, prom-queens of both genders) then that purpose is to change the conversation in Hollywood, and to show the next generation that doors can be opened.

    But when we’re talking about changes that transpire over the course of a generation, there’s no point bashing our heads against the wall to make it happen faster than the biological realities of youth and death will allow. We can help lay the encouraging groundwork for great changes yet to come. But we can’t kill off the tiresome old guard. They have to expire on their own.

    Look at Sasha’s own infographic.
    6 women directors of Best Picture nominees in the first 79 years of Oscar history.
    5 women directors of Best Picture nominees in the past 5 years of Oscar history.

    A sharp curve in the data like that is called momentum. That’s fantastic news. Now is not the time to despair. It’s time to keep moving forward relentlessly at the same steep pace of progress.

  28. Robin Write, what you said is basically the way I feel too and how I always thought about the reasoning behind such ratios. Although I do believe there is sexism in the industry, I will echo Ryan’s comments and say I’ve been in 2 film schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding area of Philadelphia. He’s right, it’s about 1 girl to ever 4 boys. Nobody should be given something to help a statistic, but if they’re worthy of the job then they’re worthy of the job. What if a real producer came into my class and said something like, “Hmm there are 24 men and 6 women…men, hold up your hands. 3 of you will find jobs in the industry. Women, raise your hands. 3 of you will find jobs in the industry.” If I was a girl in that class I would be thinking my chances are 1 in 2, not bad, while being a guy my chances are 1 in 8. That’s why I’d have a problem with people handing over jobs to balance out a statistic. Now if I opened a production company and gave every opening to a woman because she deserved it and was clearly better than the male applicant, I wouldn’t mind that at all.

    On the flip side, maybe a lot of women didn’t grow up wanting to be filmmakers because so many films are male centered. Some grow up wanting to be models and actresses because they look pretty and that’s how they think they should be. I would absolutely encourage any budding female film lover to enroll in film classes.

  29. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    (Robin Write, I know. We follow each on Twitter. I’ve seen you tweet about your wife, and other clues :) )

  30. ‘How many girls decide, whether subconsciously or not, that being a film critic or film director is just not for them {or they never entertained the thought in the first place}? Simply because when they look out into the world, open the Hollywood Reporter, browse their Twitter feed, turn on the TV, talk to their friends, the numbers taking part in those fields are so few. They just don’t see them. And best go become nurses, pop stars or teachers instead then.’

    ‘I know we need to encourage more girls to pursue careers in film, but it’s apparently not very easy to do. It’s not so simple as saying, “hey girls, c’mon and give it a go!”

    Maybe if Disney would stop making so many movies about being a princess then girls could imagine becoming something other than an actress. I just don’t know. It’s not a simple problem, not by any measure.’

    ‘Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win sure as hell will have boosted that confidence. As will the role Anne Thompson plays from the journalism point of view for example. And even Sasha’s writing right here maybe pack a punch – depending on how big an audience she has at the moment.’

    Aaaaaaaaaand I have nothing to say. The purpose of my life has been to read this post and the comments on it.

    Here’s one more thing: there are so many talentless male hacks in institutions like the DGA for them to excuse not getting their arses in gear and launching a major recruitment of women. I’m not sure whom among these are actually members of that group, but I can guarantee you that they’re all considerably superior artists to the majority of the men populating those guilds:

    Chantal Akerman
    Claire Denis
    Agnes Varda
    Ava DuVernay
    Kristina Buozyte
    Andrea Arnold
    Jehane Noujaim
    Narimane Mari
    Helene Cattet
    Maja Milos
    Athina Rachel Tsangari
    Naomi Kawase
    Agnes Hranitzky
    Mira Nair
    Teresa Villaverde
    Lucrecia Martel
    Lucia Puenzo
    Penny Panayotopoulou
    Shoja Azari
    Hanna Antonia Wojcik Slak
    Barbara Albert
    Sofia Coppola
    Kathryn Bigelow
    Julie Dash
    Lynne Ramsay
    Jane Campion
    Agnes Jaoui
    Lone Scherfig
    Debra Granik
    Lisa Cholodenko
    Laetitia Masson
    Louise Archambault
    Angelina Maccarone
    Roberta Torre
    Joanna Kos
    Agnieszka Holland
    Ulrike von Ribbeck
    Cheng Fen Fen
    Alina Marazzi
    Malgorzata Szumowska
    Anne Fontaine
    Byambasuren Davaa
    Sara Johnsen
    Yael Hersonski
    Verena Paravel
    Pia Marais
    Julie Hivon
    Sarah Polley
    Isabel Coixet
    Lina Wertmuller
    Aida Begic
    Mia Hansen-Love
    Julia Loktev
    Sally Potter
    Haifaa Al Mansour
    Deepa Mehta
    Joanna Hogg
    Kelly Reichardt
    Mati Diop
    Susanne Bier
    Mary Harron
    Penny Marshall
    Patty Jenkins
    Julie Taymor
    Miranda July
    Sally El-Hosaini
    Celine Sciamma
    Dee Rees
    Lena Dunham

    And that’s just the directors. And that’s just a small fraction of them.

    Claire Denis (White Material, Beau Travail) was invited to join the Academy last month too. But she was invited by the writers branch. So that’s a clue that maybe some of the other women directors we see missing could be members of the writers branch as well.

  31. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Last November I was trying to help Melissa Silverstein compile a list of all the women in the directors branch of the Academy. We relied on The Academy Members Project to confirm names. 7 months ago, I posted the list we came up with.

    ===

    We think there are 27 women in the directors branch. So that’s 7/10ths of 1%

    For reference, in 1992 there were only 7 women directors in the Academy. Randa Haines, Elaine May, Amy Heckerling, Mira Nair, Susan Seidelman, Joan Micklin Sliver and (possibly) her daughter Marisa Sliver. (We’re not even 100% sure about Marisa Silver).

    Only 20 additional female directors have been invited to join the Academy in the past 21 years. Complete list of the 27 women we believe to be members of the Academy’s directors branch.:

    Gillian Armstrong
    Susanne Bier
    Kathryn Bigelow
    Jane Campion
    Lisa Cholodenko
    Martha Coolidge
    Ava DuVernay
    Debra Granik
    Randa Haines
    Catherine Hardwicke
    Amy Heckerling
    Agnieszka Holland
    Nicole Holofcener
    Callie Khouri
    Mimi Leder
    Kasi Lemmons
    Nancy Meyers
    Elaine May
    Mira Nair
    Kimberly Peirce
    Susan Seidelman
    Joan Micklin Silver
    Marisa Silver
    Julie Taymor
    Betty Thomas
    Claudia Weill
    Lina Wertmuller

    ====

    last month one more female director was invited to join the club.

    Gina Prince-Bythewood – (The Secret Life of Bees, Love and Basketball)

    Claire Denis (White Material, Beau Travail) was invited to join the Academy last month too. But she was invited by the writers branch.

  32. Insightful. So sad and heartbreaking with such divide.

    Now, let’s hope Angelina Jolie win that Oscar, please. Everyone go away.

    #JesusShield

  33. steve50

    “Claire Denis (White Material, Beau Travail) was invited to join the Academy last month too. But she was invited by the writers branch. ”

    Un-fucking-real.

  34. Joao Mattos

    Wait a minute: as far as I know James Ivory was married for decades with his producer Ismail Merchant (1936-2005), until he dies. Mrs. Jhabvala was married to someone else.

    And I disagree with Mrs. Stone: I’m a movie critic, and I know tons of colleagues like me, who are pretty sure that “Bright Star” is far better than “The Piano”, and the underrated “Holly Smoke” is in the same level; also that “”Somewhere” and “Marie Antoinette” are in the same level of “Lost in Translation”.

  35. Has the Academy directors branch invited Sofia Coppola already? Or she’s in the writers branch?

  36. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Sato, in 2004 Sofia Coppola was invited to join by the directors branch and the writers branch. She chose to be affiliated with the writers branch.

  37. “She choose to be affiliated with the writers branch.”

    As would I.

  38. Interesting. I thought that’s one way to defy Hollywood’s “all boys club”.

  39. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I suppose the writers branch is not much less of a boys club. plus, the writers branch probably has better parties with better drugs.

  40. I just checked their history at the Oscars for the past 15 years and you’re right Ryan they’re not much less of a boys club either. With only Sofia Coppola and Diablo Cody the only women who won Original and Philippa Boyens and Diana Ossana in Adapted. That’s only 4 women for the last 15 years. But the writers branch seems more lenient in nominating women writers. I supposed that’s why Coppola preferred it over the director’s branch. I wonder the number of women members of the writing branch?

  41. Sarah Marren

    I’m a bit bothered by one thing. While I know that minorities, including gays, also have a hard time getting films made, and that also needs to be dealt with, it should be noted that the difference between them and women is that WOMEN ARE NOT A MINORITY. We make up half the population. Half the people in the world are women. The difference between that percentage and the percentage of women directing films is staggering, and far greater than the underrepresentation in minority groups. They should not be lumped together. They are not the same thing.

  42. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I’m a bit bothered by one thing. While I know that minorities, including gays, also have a hard time getting films made, and that also needs to be dealt with, it should be noted that the difference between them and women is that WOMEN ARE NOT A MINORITY.

    Brilliant point, Sarah. Thanks for articulating it so clearly. Sometimes a reality like that is so plain to see that we forget how large it looms in the tangled thicket of brambles that sprout like weeds around The Big Picture.

  43. Yeah I agree on Sasha’s original point about advocacy. I mean, can you imagine this as a Slate headline 10 years ago?

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/07/16/game_of_thrones_season_5_no_women_directors.html

    (Substitute The Sopranos or whatever.)

    No way. The conversation is happening. And to anyone who thinks “conversation” = nothing, look at Super Bowl ads 2013 and Super Bowl ads 2014. The jiggle-objectifying crap was almost 100% reduced in just one year, just because of cranky activists that 95% of Americans never heard of, like these:

    http://therepresentationproject.org/take-action/not-buying-it/

    So keep doing the good work, Sasha

  44. Glenn UK

    I think this thread should be emailed out with all Oscar ballots to gave the old pricks a wake up call!!!!! Let’s see if they want to join the real world or stay in dreamland!!!

  45. Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Cheers

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