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Why Are Female Directors Having (Relative) Success in Independent Film, but Not in Hollywood?

Filmmaking has gone through many great evolutionary events in its over 130 years of existence. It has seen technological advances: from Edison’s Kinetograph, (arguably) the first motion picture camera to the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, from exhibiting films on a Kinetoscope, to exhibiting them on smartphones. However, one change that has yet to really be made in the film world is its presence of female directors. Fandor released an infographic that breaks down the distribution of women in both independent cinema and Hollywood, and the figures may surprise you.


There’s no question that there are great female directors — I’m sure most people know who Kathryn Bigelow and Sofia Coppola are. Unfortunately, names like Lone Scherfig, Mary Harron, Lynne Ramsay, Jane Campion, Valerie Faris, Julie Taymor, and Miranda July don’t come to mind as quickly as Martin Scorsese or James Cameron.

In independent film especially, female directors are finding “relative success” compared to how they fare in Hollywood. According to Fandor, from 2002 to 2012, 23.9% of the directors at Sundance have been women. Still, only 4.4% of the directors across the top 100 box office films were women. No, that’s not a typo. 4.4%. That is almost 0%.

Agnes VardaBy the Numbers

  • 23.9% of directors at Sundance were women
  • 4.4% of directors across the top 100 box office films were women
  • Women made up 5% of directors in Hollywood in 2011 — down from 7% in 2010 and 9% in 1998
  • 34.5% of documentary directors are women — compared to 16.9% of narrative directors
  • In the last 85 years, female directors were nominated for an Oscar 4 times
  • For every female director there are 15.24 male directors
  • In the last decade, only 41 women have made films in the top 100 released films every year across the decade — compared to 625 men

For me, being a woman in this industry can be — complicated. On one hand, most of my favorite films have been directed by men. Great men. Men who defied convention, broke rules, and rewrote the book on cinema — teaching me and inspiring me to follow my dreams of being a director. On the other hand, most of my favorite films have been directed by men, because there haven’t been a whole lot of women directing films.

I’ve almost always been vastly outnumbered on the sets — most of the time I was the only female crew member. Though I’m sure the ratio was higher than 4.4%, I was still the only one who stood in the way of making that percentage zero. It must be much more difficult for a director to know that her craft belongs to an industry that doesn’t represent or encourage female leadership or involvement.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, V! How can you come to the conclusion that the industry is to blame?”

Well, the ratio of men and women who graduate from film school with a focus on directing is about 50/50 and has been for some time. This means that something is happening between the commencement ceremony and wrap party — so, what is it?

There are plenty of theories as to why there are so few female directors: purported misogyny of studio heads, the belief that “women just can’t handle it”, and even maternity.

female directorPossibly the most glaring theory, though, is sexism. In a 2010 article, British journalist Kira Cochrane goes into depth about why more women aren’t directing in Hollywood.

In it, British film director Antonia Bird said her first directing job, “I was the only woman there, and all the guys just ­assumed I was the producer’s PA. That was good.” Director Beeban Kidron once fired a male assistant director who called her “the little lady.” There are even more sinister and extreme accounts of sexism on and off set. Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris described a meeting between her and a male executive at the Beverly Hills Hotel at the beginning of her career:

– the guy was pretty drunk, and he ripped some of my clothes trying to take them off me, and when I got up and started screaming he said, ‘Did you want to make this music video or not?’ You say sexist, I say felony.

Martha Coolidge, director, co-founder of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers and the IFP, and the first woman president of the Director’s Guild of America, tells the story of the female president of a major studio who said:

– no woman over 40 could possibly have the stamina to ­direct a ­feature film. I’ve heard ­people say that the kind of films they want to make are too big, too tough for a female director. The worst was when my agent sent another woman director in for an interview, and afterwards the guy called up and said, ‘Never send anyone again who I wouldn’t want to fuck.’

Maybe the toughest thing about filmmaking for women is not the actual making of the film, but having to deal with sexism, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Perhaps this could be playing a role in the low numbers of female directors — women simply deciding that making a film is not worth being mistreated.Sofia Coppola

Though data proves that being a woman and wanting to direct films is sure to be an uphill battle met with more rejection and less respect than our male counterparts, independent film is starting to become more open to female directors. In a time when a female director is seen as a risk — financially and/or creatively — it’s good to know that independent film is about taking risks — whether on content, story structure, or cinematography — or on which gender is chosen to direct a film.

I’ll admit, in 2010, when Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for Best Director, I cried. I sat alone on my couch watching her give her acceptance speech, pursing my lips as my eyes filled with tears, and for the first time I thought, “My god, it’s possible. She did it.”

After she directed Blue SteelBigelow was asked by an interviewer how tough it is for women directors. She responded:

If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.

I still live by that tenet and keep my eye on the prize.

What do you think we can do to improve the situation? Any female filmmakers care to share their experiences in the industry, good or bad?

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COMMENT POLICY

We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Women are less likely to sell their souls to the devil and make thoughtless retarded action movies?

    • best possible hypothesis ever!
      btw, one of the best films in my “best films ever” little list is “in the cut” from Jane Campion, a colorful strange and poetic little noir tale!!! Here in Brazil there seens to be more women directing today, but it’s not a 50/50 thing, we don’t have an “industry” running things from a patriarcal point of view today in here, so maybe the sexism thing is a real problem in this industrial enviromment. In the past (50s to 80s), the moviemaking was deeply controled by men, and in return there was almost no women directing movies.

    • I agree with you Cee… that and women may generally be less likely to put up with bull-@#&% and physical aggression. It can be a rough ride making it through a lot of B and No listers before finding smart and creative folks that know their roles, put in there all and find it personally rewarding to be involved in a meaningful project… hence why so many stick w/in a certain group of Editors, DPs, Actors.. etc. I’ve seen a DP (that clearly wanted to direct) flat out tell the director that all the director needed to do was ” …control his D$%# ” (DP instantly fired), as well as seen an actress attempt to create her own “casting couch” to land a role (she was instantly dismissed from consideration). I’ve seen random violence including a first AC who out of no where jump the Gaffer and slug him in the face breaking his nose… these are by no means isolated incidents. It can be a dangerous and ridiculous circus sometimes, and all it takes is one really bad experience for many to throw in the towel… its the ugly side of film making that is rarely talked about. I suspect most of the negative energy is the result of there being only so many management/creative roles… and when just starting out very few if any paying gigs… very few go to film school for 4 years and become satisfied being a grip or even an AC.

    • Less women going to film school than men = less women than men in the film industry = less female directors than men = less female Hollywood directors than men.

      Thousands of men crash and burn in that town, but people take it for granted.

      • Well it clearly says that the number of men and women graduating film school is 50/50. Being in one right now, I can attest to that.

        No one is ignoring the fact that thousands of men fail in this industry, but there is obviously a problem when so little women are directing when it would seem that so many want to.

        • You want equal outcomes, so you go looking for usual culprit, discrimination.

          • Well I don’t think most of it is conscious discrimination, but I think there is a thought in the back of most people’s minds, still to this day, that women can’t do many things as good as men.

            The women’s movement wasn’t that long ago.

        • Some Guy From Germany on 07.6.13 @ 3:09PM

          >No one is ignoring the fact that thousands of men fail in this industry, but there is obviously a problem when so little women are directing when it would seem that so many want to.

          They can. Everybody can buy a camera. Nobody is holding them back.

          Hollywood is about making money. If so many women don’t want to (or can’t) make mass-appealing movies.

          What is happening here right now is feminists invading the space and demanding women given the way without having to sacrifice for it.

          Christopher Nolan, Shane Carruth, Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez and many, many, many more risked so much to get noticed in the industry.

          Lena Dunham tried and succeeded. (Although she did come from a relatively wealthy artsy family and did not have to risk 20.000$+ dollars in credit debth like Kevin Smith did.)

  • The reason why females have lower success in hollywood than in the indie world is the same reason females have less success in the NBA than in the WNBA. It’s a different league with tougher competition. The higher the competition, the lower the female to men ratio becomes. For example, if I was to ask you to compile a list of the worlds top 500 directors, you would list some females, but if I then said “a list of the top 25″, or “top 5″ etc, there would be less females.

    • Sorry man but this is not professional sport, this is a JOB. There are no leagues. The problem is sexism only, the lack of respect towards women in the working enviroment (is very discriminating to say, as you did, “men and females”)

      • So women just being as good as men when it comes to exceptional directing skill simply is not even a possibility right? Since evolution is an egalitarian. When women fail, it’s men’s fault. When men fail, women are just superior. I disagree. I believe that evolution made it so that exceptionality would occur moreso in men than in women. Not to say that women cannot be exceptional, but rather that there would be more men to every woman. By exceptional, I don’t mean that women cannot be great doctors, or even great directors. What I mean is that if you were to compile a list of the top 50 doctors, or top 50 directors, there would be more than 25 men in each list. Tat is not to say that women shouldn’t be allowed to compete in Hollywood. What I mean is that the sexism is not the reason why 50% of directors are not women. Even if you removed evolution out of the equation, you still have the issue of women getting pregnant, choosing not to be a director, or not having as much experience being a director as men. The fact that 50 percent of a “film class” is female doesn’t mean anything since there is very little correlation between being a film major, and being a successful director in Hollywood. Once you adjust for the fact that there are more men than female of exceptional IQ (men and women have the same average iq, but there are more male geniuses and idiots than women), account for the fact that not as many women are interested in film making, women are mor elikely to choose not to be a director due to choosing to be a mother (nothing is wrong with that), etc, you will see that the figures are accounted for.

        • Saying that men have evolved to be superior to women is sexist.

          We live in a male dominant society due to oppression, not evolution.

          • Morality exhibitionism isn’t science. Calling someone sexist isn’t an argument, and your understanding of the word is inaccurate. It would be sexist, if for example, I claimed that I would never higher a female director since I assume all females are mediocre. I didn’t make that claim. I would still give females opportunities, and in the event that they qualify, they should stil be hired. Also, if simply acknowledging the facts could constitute “sexist”, the word would be meaningless and I would not take offense to being called that.

          • According do Pianohero we live in a vaccum.
            Society, history of civil liberties, patriarchy, has nothing to do with the equation.
            -guy

          • According do Pianohero we live in a vacuum.
            Society, history of civil liberties, patriarchy, has nothing to do with the equation.
            -guy

          • Also, you are straw manning, or simply misunderstanding. I never claimed that men were superior to women. Making the claim that men and women have a similar average IQ, but that men had more geniuses and idiots than women (as is evident by studies), would be saying that men were just as superior as they were inferior. Secondly, you are assuming that being more intelligent means one is superior. I deny this premise. Even if 100 percent of men were more intelligent than every woman (which I never claimed anything remotely close to that), it would still still stand than it wouldnt make men “superior” to women. It would only make them “superior” in the category of intelligence. For example, I have friends and family members that inevitably have lower IQ than I do, and I don’t see them as “inferior” to me.

          • I agree with Pianohero here. The traits that are required for great directing, just happen to be traits that men posses more often than women. There’s nothing “sexist” about it. But YES it does have allot to do with evolution. Men were the more expendable sex in evolution, they were the ones “competing” for mates. Women were simply selected based on fertility. So yes, genetically speaking with humans, the “exceptional” traits are found more often in males for that reason. Especially the traits required for directing/film-making… leadership, problem solving, visual/spacial, ect. Men have evolved to be the “creators and protectors”, it’s just how the cards of the universe fell. HOWEVER, like it has been stated, this DOES NOT mean women “can’t” ever direct. And EVERYONE should be given an opportunity… just don’t cry “something-ism” when the results aren’t equal. They were never meant to be. This is just nature. Nature breeds what “works”… not what’s “fair”. To claim that “everything and everyone is equal… at everything” is simply just ignoring reality.

            “Saying that men have evolved to be superior to women is sexist.”

            No, it’s not. And nobody is saying “men are superior”. Both sexes OBVIOUSLY play equally important roles in various areas, men typically just tend to be the creative/logical type (i.e. Filmmaking). There are a great deal of women who are also creative/logical… but they just don’t occur as often as the male counterparts, and if they are, chances are good that they will not be quite as competitive as Pianohero pointed out, and thus less likely to gain recognition. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and it doesn’t mean that they should not be given a chance. Nobody is saying this. Directing and film-making, in general, is a very exception craft by it’s nature… certainly not just “a job”… even among males, only the exceptional will be successful.

            Anyway, are you really suggesting that men and women are completely equal in all areas? That’s absolutely absurd. Men are superior in SOME AREAS. And women are superior in SOME AREAS. If men and women were both completely equal at everything, there would simply have been no reason for two sexes ever in the history of life in the universe. To believe everything is completely equal in nature, is again, just ignoring reality.

            “We live in a male dominant society due to oppression, not evolution.”

            This is simply just the propaganda of certain agendas and/or wishful thinking. Most of the societies that exist today were Profit-driven (aka. WHAT WORKS). You really think the wealthy studio and entertainment companies are holding onto some sexist-grudge? Grow up. They are chasing PROFITS. They looking for what works. Look at music… are there “only males” as predicted by this sexist-society theory? No. Both equal and successful here. Look at professional sports… all different ethnicity… and all disgustingly wealthy. Oppressive society? I think not.

        • Where are your scientific facts for this? If you are going to bring in this argument with science, show us some real studies and proof. Not something that sounds like you read it off on an internet article.

          • Stu Mannion on 05.7.13 @ 2:12AM

            Agreed. What is missing from this argument is the long running social factors that make it much harder for women to ‘get the hours up’ that are need to be great. It’s well established that you 10 000 hours of practice to get really great at something and every society places more time consuming demands on women. Role-models and expectations also play a huge role.

            Kathryn Bigelow is a good director but she became successful by making male-orientated, conservative action films.

          • It is easy to google male and female IQ distributions. Here is an article by a scientist that essentially argues everything I’ve said verbatim. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1274952/Men-ARE-brainy-women-says-scientist-Professor-Richard-Lynn.html

        • -”I believe that evolution made it so that exceptionality would occur moreso [sic] in men than in women.”

          Are you saying, simply, that men tend to be better at any particular task more often than women? Your claim is quite a bold one, and would need to be supported with substantial data and studies before being convincing.

          -”If you were to compile a list of the top 50 doctors, or top 50 directors, there would be more than 25 men in each list.”

          Assuming you’re correct, figuring out why the lists are that way would be the point of this whole discussion, wouldn’t it?

          -”Even if you removed evolution out of the equation, you still have the issue of women getting pregnant, choosing not to be a director, or not having as much experience being a director as men.”

          Becoming pregnant does not preclude a woman from working as a director before, potentially during, or after their pregnancy. There is a period of time where working as a director would not be realistically feasible for a pregnant woman, though that period of time eventually passes. What prevents a woman from working as a director afterwards?
          The act of choosing to not be a director is one that will be made on a personal basis and, barring some statistical evidence otherwise, there’s little reason to assume an average differential of choice between males and females who would even be in a position to make such a decision in the first place. In other words, unless you can prove otherwise, why would you just assume that “choosing not to be a director” is a factor important to the discussion of women in particular, as opposed to just being a factor for everyone in the film industry?
          Also, is not the point of this discussion to figure out why women are so few in number in the role of director on larger film productions? If we already know that few women are directors, how does using that information as evidence to support why more women aren’t directors make any sense? Your example of ” not having as much experience being a director as men ” begs the question.

          -”The fact that 50 percent of a “film class” is female doesn’t mean anything since there is very little correlation between being a film major, and being a successful director in Hollywood.”

          There may not be much of a correlation between those two, but, unless proven otherwise, that lack of correlation would apply to both men and women. Also, you may have misinterpreted the information in the article; the fifty percent statistic was relating to film school graduates “with a focus on directing.” “‘Film class’” is never used.

          -”Once you adjust for the fact that there are more men than female of exceptional IQ [...], account for the fact that not as many women are interested in film making, women are mor elikely to choose not to be a director due to choosing to be a mother (nothing is wrong with that), etc, you will see that the figures are accounted for.”

          Giving you the benefit of the doubt about the distribution of IQ across the sexes, you still go on to make the assertion that fewer women are interested in filmmaking than men, which would also need to be bolstered by some sort of evidence.
          Also, I fail to see how choosing to be a mother is relevant to the larger issue of women directors in Hollywood being so few in number. Aside from time taken off of directorial work for medical and initial maternity leave, there is little separating women from men when it comes to the decision to be a parent and care for a child; either parent could care for a child after birth.

        • This is an excellent and reasonable opinion, whether correct or not, and its guaranteed to elicit negative knee-jerk reactions. Critical Theory has deteriorated the critical thinking skills of many of the most educated and most intelligent minds in the Western world. If something does not fit the moral frame work per the new Cultural Marxist guidelines, it is therefore wrong, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

  • Its pretty simple actually. Hollywood is interested primarily in tentpole blockbusters. Women, by in large, tend to be less interested in these “spectacle” films, preferring thoughtful dramas and romantic comedies. I’m generalizing here but the box office returns back this up. The film bis tends to be a boys club, like auto racing and other professions. Women directors will become more prominent but they will always be a minority. The cards seem like they are stacked against women but actually, I would rather be going into the profession as a female. It would probably be easier to get attention for my projects. Sad but true. For every 1 woman trying to get a job in the film industry there are probably 20 or 30 guys trying to break in.

    • Why is there a huge urgency to get women to be proportionally represented only in the attractive areas, such as business, film, politics etc, but not in the unattractive areas? I don’t see anyone complaining about the lack of females in waste management, plumbing, coal mining, construction, dam building, sewage work, etc.

      • Because business, film (media), and politics are all areas of leadership that have great influence on our country and world.

        • Yeah, but if by some miracle, it was made so that 50 percent of directors, ceo’s, politicians, (every other attractive position etc) were female, but everything else remained the same (ie women were still underrepresented in prison figures, work-place injuries, undesirable jobs such as waste management, construction, oiling, etc) it would create a society that wasn’t in the end 50/50, but would give females superior position.

          • This actually happened in Spain a few years ago, I remember all leading governmental positions during Zapatero’s first term were shared 50/50 among genders, total nonsense if you ask me, the first step towards equality is to forget about the differences, that and in this case to make a lot more and lots of much better movies (and best the kind people actually like to watch, even better if directed by someone who’s Daddy is not already a Hollywood Legend)

      • Best question here!

  • john jeffries on 05.6.13 @ 4:07PM

    DUH, patriarchy. Hollywood is a male dominated industry

  • Without a doubt I believe the sexism/discrimination against female directors in the industry can play a role in the low numbers. But, believe it or not, I’ve heard these same things happen to men (gay and straight) alike suffering the same thing. It happens in most creative industries be it fashion, photography, modelling, etc.

    Based on my experience I’ve come notice – what I personally believe – the greatest reason there’s not many female directors working, and that’s because there’s not many females TRYING to become directors. Before I get publicly lynched, let me elaborate on what I mean:

    - in high school, 20 or so of my friends wanted to be filmmakers. About 5 of those were female. (It’s fair to say I had a tiny bit more male friends than females, but we ‘drama kids’ were a healthy mix anyway).
    - of those 15 men approximately 10 wanted to direct. Of those 5 girls 2 of them wanted to direct. (Those not directing wanted to act.)
    - of those 15 men that wanted to act, 1 went to film school for it (me) and 0 of the 2 girls pursued directing further. All other girls went to acting schools and a small remainder of the men went with them.
    - in my film class of 30 people (six classes total every year) there was about a 3:1 split for males to females. This was fairly consistent throughout every class (acting wise this number was inverted in favor of the females).
    - of those 20 males and 10 females, 5 males and 1 female are working in some degree of the industry, mostly independent and commercially.
    - I have seen roughly 1/10 directors in the indie/no budget realm to be female directors.
    So, forgive me if I sound ‘sexist’, but if you would consider my limited experience as a filmmaker as a generalized cross study of the female to male directing ratio… Why would there be expectations of women being equal to men in numbers for directing positions?

    Keep in mind my experience is very much in the no budget undies realm where there is no ‘keeper of the keys’ that is denying opportunities .for women – quite the contrary. My directing peers have worked on minuscule ‘couple thousand’ budgets to create their work and received no exclusive ‘boys club’ privelages (Pff, I wish). There is simply no excuse why a woman wouldn’t be snot to do the same (as the few that I’ve encountered have). Who’s to blame that they couldn’t create their no budget films like the guys?

    Again, I don’t doubt there’s sexism abound and the women take the brunt of it, but what excuse is there if fewer women are interested in the profession in comparison to men?

    • Brock, I totally get what you’re saying, and I’d completely agree with you if that was the case all around the country/world. But, about 50% of film students in the US who graduate with an emphasis on directing are women — and that percentage has stayed the same for quite some time. So, the desire is there. The opportunity, however, is not.

      (By the way — “Keep in mind my experience is very much in the no budget undies realm,” — ya don’t say! Ha!)

      • My phone is funnier than I am… Sigh. lol.

        50/50 split? Really??? Maybe my year/class/institution is the exception? Very odd. Because I’m the natural skeptic, is there any references for this statistic?

        Frankly, as a business man and filmmaker, I’d find hiring a woman to direct as being a smart business move… Though that’s sexist in its own way, but I think you get me. If the powers that be truly want to keep it a boys club I’d gladly hire the neglected and overlooked talents, be they male or female. I just want great movies that can turn a profit as well (who doesn’t).

        Someday when I make big budget undies…..er… I can make it happen.

        • According to the Dean of USC School of Cinematic Arts Elizabeth M. Daley their ratio is 50/50. And Tisch’s ratio is even slightly higher at 51/49…a higher admission rate of females. These are two MAJOR film schools, and granted, not all filmmakers come from film schools, but these figures at least reveal that the cause for an almost all-male Hollywood is not because women don’t want to be there.
          Also, Kathryn Bigelow is quoted as saying, “It’s irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don’t. There should be more women directing; I think there’s just not the awareness that it’s really possible. It is.”
          So no, it doesn’t matter really who made the film as long as it touched the audience — however, it’s unjust if women aren’t given the same opportunities as men in the film industry.

          • Are those numbers specific to practice or general admissions. I’m intrigued. I’d love to hear from other institutions for both admissions and craft specific stats (UCLA, AFI, full sail, VFS, TFS, etc).

            Bigelow has always been very on the mark with her perspective. I think she foregos her ‘female card’ and approaches her success on a product specific platform. And let’s be honest, her work is what one would call ‘male driven’ (male protagonists, action genre, ‘testosterone elements’)

            It really leads me to believe its not so much a sexist issue as it is an audience issue. There are a plethora of under represented people behind the camera as well as the films themselves? Why aren’t there more French Hollywood films released? The audience (domestic box office being 50% of the take) are English speaking. Why not more cerebral, character based dramas at the multi pledge? Because no 13-18 yr old really wants to see it (the majority at least). It’s a pity the theatre has catered to a rather simple demographic, but that’s business. Superheros, explosions, 3d jungles, larger than life male characters?… Cha ching. That’s all that matters in business, the bottom line. I’ll be the first to say I want something different.

            And I completely agree that no person should be given an opportunity (or denied opportunity) based on anything but their work. Seems obvious but sadly it this isn’t completely there.

            Oh, and as for the lack of recognition for those females making bug films, I totally agree that more attention / fair attention would inspire tons of young women. I’d go further .to say that, as a Canadian, my countries filmmakers, audience and powers that be simply can’t accept we can be just as good/profitable as Americans. This cultural ceo.hr affecting Canada’s self worth definitely plays a role in our pursuit of becoming something in the film industry – I think this is what bigelow means in regards .to female directors getting their work out there to the next gen of female directors.

          • The fact that a classroom/program is 50/50 is not correlative to the question of whether females are as interest, in general, in film making as men are. For one, the figure doesn’t account for the multitudes of amateur, and professional film makers tharent film majors. Also, it does not account for the fact that women in general are simply more likely to go to college to begin with, and it also doesn’t factor in the fact that schools are incentivized to give preferential treatment to women in areas where they are typically underrepresented etc. It could be the case that 1000 men applied for the acceptance, while only 300 women did, and they could still artificially accept the same amount of males as females.

          • * throws autocorrecting phone into garbage.

          • The reason I’m looking at film school admittance is because you have to start somewhere concrete to make a plausible claim on unrepresentation of female directors.

            If you point at the low numbers in the work force you have to step back and look at where are they coming from. Of course looking at film school admissions doesn’t give you a perfect representation in the film industry, but it’s better than giving a vague ’50/50′ estimation that women are just as active/interested in becoming directors.

            Again, I can only speak through my own experience; I simply don’t know/see/hear of many females pursuing directing. Blame can be thrown at everyone and anyone, but if there’s simply a lack of interest then is sexism, prejudice, misogyny to blame? Knee jerk reactions always trigger my own knee jerk reaction -> skepticism.

            In the end, I just want good movies. Too much to ask? Maybe.

          • Please do not take this the wrong way. Film school admission figures are not exactly representative of talent or post graduation success. I’m sure I will come off as a jerk for saying this but I am basing this off of personal experience. Some of the women at USC or other top tier film schools may not be there because they were more talented than other male applicants. Film schools and colleges in general like to diversify the student body. If admission was based solely on talent, the ratio of men to women would probably be 70/30. By in large, men seem to be more interested in film production as a career than women. All of my film classes were mostly male. The film forums I frequent are mostly male. On the other hand, acting programs tend to have higher percentages of women than men. Women tend to be more interested in what happens in front of the camera that what goes on behind it. This is a gross overgeneralization but this is what I have seen over the years. You seem to be implying that there is an equal number of women looking to work as directors, DP’s, Producers, Grips, AC’s ect. and this is simply not the case. I’m not saying that sexism does not occur in this industry, I’m sure it does. I have personally never seen it and I have worked with a number of successful women in the industry over the years. Film school is highly competitive and merely getting in is a huge advantage over those who were rejected. There was a girl I went to high school with who got into Tisch for film production. I was rejected even though I felt that my films were stronger. I can’t help but think that her gender had something to do with it (she was the only girl in our film program).

          • Who is giving these opportunities away like candy? If it were like school and you were a child, by all rights you would deserve the same amount as everybody else and we should strive for fairness and equality. But in the hustle bustle of the world we actually live in, you may get farther by trying to make your own opportunities.

            And no love for Ida Lupino?

          • V Renee,

            I’m curious as to these number of 50/50. You mentioned two programs, but then again being at major schools they are incentivised to have numbers like that, if only for PR reasons an no higher aim. Something else that is worth looking at, and I don’t have any of these numbers, would be the percentages of applicants to these and other programs and then the acceptance/graduation records and compare those with the numbers finding “success” in the business both independently and Hollywoodly. That might give us a more complete picture. I can say nothing other than my own hunch beyond this, so I will stop.

          • I don’t mean to add fuel to the fire, but does it seem like some of the “Man Club” charges are drifting into Dale Gribble territory?

            I mean, I’m not even thirty years old yet but I can’t remember a time when the collective voice of Western society didn’t condemn me for ‘having every opportunity available to me because I’m a white male.’ I mean, I get free monthly checks from the government, don’t pay taxes, get hired for every job I apply for (most are just given to me) like everybody else, but what has the system done for me lately?….

            Did YOU renew your 2013 Man Club membership?

  • Sexism, misogyny, prejudiced.

  • * I wanted to.direct, not act. Stupid Android.

  • vinceGortho on 05.6.13 @ 5:08PM

    I feel most women directors don’t have interest in making the movies that bring in the big bucks.
    I still think it was a farce that hurt locker got best picture. I think the academy felt it was time to hand the award over to a woman. Then again, I would of felt the same if avatar won.
    I had high hopes for Karyn Kusama. She took a stab at the Blockbuster pie with Eon Flux and failed. Then again with Jennifers Body; her drive seems to focus on women sticking together making films rather than passion for good storytelling.

    • My best friend was an extra on Aeon Flux and one of the things besides the fact that Charlize Theron looks like a man from behind :D was that Karen Kusama looked very uninterested on the set – he went so far to tell that she only did it for the money or credit or whatever it was – but it wasn`t the movie, in his opinion.
      And another thing – the post`s topic can be applied to almost all businesses, but I`ll focus especially on the arts – examples: I know very few top female motion designers, graphic designers, visual artists, visual effects supervisors, lead animators, lead compositors (except sheena duggal), director of photography and no female sound designers, mixers, gaffers, riggers etc etc etc – a lot of male workers in these areas don`t get along well with the stress levels but females do even worse, that`s my observation – so they stay back in the more “calm” areas.

  • There are similar numbers in American theater with women directors and playwrights. I think the call for 50/50 in a complete society is unfair to all. Men and women are different, that’s just a given. We have different bodies, different brains, different desires (I’m speaking in an average/aggregate/macro view). I think in an ideal society everyone would have the same chance to do what they want to do, regardless of sex or race or economic status. However we don’t. Lets face it, no one has the same opportunities. It is definitely harder for women, but even with in that there are other barriers. You mention Sophia Coppolla in this article. Is she on this list because she is more talented or determined than other women directors who are making indie movies? Or why was Bryce Dallas Howard at a Directors talk at Tribeca? I imagine it’s a combination of their being talented and working hard and having a last name that either opened certain doors for them or simply having been born on the other side of many of the doors.

    The thing that gets me about this situation is the divide between as you so perfectly put it, “something is happening between the commencement ceremony and wrap party.” The is the same situation in the theater. And I echo, “what is it”. I know it’s complicated. That is certain. Sadly, I’m sure misogyny is a major part of it.

    Thank you for opening up the discussion. I wish I had something useful to add to the discussion. I will say one aspect of the backlash from men to this topic, (and I must admit it has crossed my mind on more than one occasion) is “Why? You’re asking me to use energy to fight for bigger piece of the pie for your group, which, by necessity shrinks the pie available to me. I’m spending every ounce of energy I have to carve the tiniest piece for myself.” It’s selfish and horrible, but honest, and I think understandable on some level.

  • Raphael Wood on 05.6.13 @ 5:40PM

    It’s a man’s world.

    But only because we made it so.

  • There is no return on investment commenting on this thread. So WTF? Life isn’t fair. If you want something, try your damnedest to make it happen. I don’t get why anyone would waste their time indulging in statistics about sexism. How does it help you accomplish what you ostensibly want to accomplish to complain about how hard it is and unfair? I don’t get it. If some prick is in your way, treat that person as an obstacle to be overcome. There are a lot of gatekeepers out there, but that one gatekeeper doesn’t let you through doesn’t mean the next one will do the same. What else is there? In this sense I think lineally. There is more than one route to point Z from A in my mind. Just do it, fail a little, regroup, and charge on. WTF?!! Who cares what plumbing the storyteller has? Your goal is to tell a story to your audience. All else is should be noise. These non-sequitors said, if someone is actually harassing you, deal with it how you must then keep prosecuting that damn dream! Be dauntless!

  • Food for thought…

    How many male to female NFS peeps are there?

    • This is a more accurate representation of the male to female “interest in film making” gap since it also accounts for people that are interested in it, yet are not “film majors with an emphasis in directing” (which most directors aren’t). Also, this thread will have more females in it simply due to the subject matter. A more accurate thread would be one dealing with something technical rather than emotional. For example, I wager that the threads dealing with topics such as “how to unlock clean raw streaming in Mark iii” etc, have more than 50% of the posters being male.

  • I’d appoint this to Hollywood being a very male dominant industry, simple as that, it wont be until my guess a few more years? With some more notable female directors getting more buzz like Kathryn Bigelow that might inspire more women to get into the industry. A bit might also be the way society see’s the field, similar with alot of other work fields, women get treated with some kinda of lower class to males, sad but true. Thats probably why most lean towards more “woman’s role”(notice the the quotes) that might be easier for the gender like acting, makeup, etc. Not to mention possible sexual harassment and other issues that might pop up into play. Frankly its more of we as a society arent there yet, and its sad really, because there are alot of talented female directors out there that arent getting work. But give it some time, we’ll get there as long as there are women who want to work in Hollywood.

  • I’m not sure there is a good answer to any of the questions you posed, but I thought the article covered some good points. I find it fascinating that Kathryn Bigelow won’t really engage in the debate about why she makes testosterone-fueled movies. She does her job and that’s that. End of discussion. But she is also really passionate about the medium and I’ve heard and read things about her trying to help others in the industry (male and female). I think you have to concentrate on a goal like she does. Get your movie made. Don’t get distracted by all the sexist bullshit. There’s always going to be some sexist idiot. Don’t let it stop you from pursuing your passion.

  • Joe Obvious on 05.6.13 @ 9:04PM

    Sorry for pointing out the obvious here, but let’s start with Kathryn Bigelow. She got married to James Cameron in 1989 (don’t know how long they were involved prior). Do you think that had any impact on her ability to get “Point Break”? Sure it did. And what about her film after that? “Strange Days” was produced by James Cameron. I will not say why she got K-19 (but I do know the answer). For Hurt Locker, that is something she actually pushed for and owns. Then Zero Dark Thirty of course came about because Larry Ellison’s daughter liked Hurt Locker and had the billions lying around to pay Bigelow to make it. Speaking of daughters, oh yes, Sophia Coppola. “Lost in Translation” is one of my favorite movies, having Francis Ford Coppola as your producer/father doesn’t hurt. I thought “Somewhere” was okay, but that’s not a Hollywood Blockbuster type of film. “Hurt Locker” was not a Hollywood blockbuster either, only doing $17 million domestically, not enough to cover the production cost (already quite low at $15 million) and advertising. Continuing on with the obvious, most Hollywood blockbuster films are pretty low brow, aimed a teenagers with plots and cultural elements cut to their most simplest forms so they can be understood by teenagers in foreign countries as well. Do we need women to be making an equal number of THESE films? I’ll take “Lost in Translation” over the majority of Hollywood blockbusters. Making low-budget character driven (rather than effects driven) films has never been more affordable or accessible. Women who want to direct films now can. The only thing holding them back is themselves. Making cheesy spectacle films targeted at teenage boys will probably remain dominated by men, just because they have a better understanding of being a teenage boy. So long as that’s what drives Hollywood blockbusters, women will likely not dominate blockbuster filmmaking. I don’t see that as something to aspire to, but for women that do, by all means start shooting low-budget action and/or sci-films like Rodriguez and Cameron did. And let’s not forget with Cameron, he got his break with Terminator based on the wealthy daughter he was sleeping with, so that goes both ways.

  • why do we have to do this here?

  • Any sexism in the industry is purely that, internal. As a movie viewer, I personally (though I would guess most people share this opinion) don’t care what you’ve got betwixt your legs. When you look at the kinds of movies doing well at the box office, how many female directors are making those kinds of movies to begin with? Kathryn Bigelow makes bad-ass cool films, Kathryn Bigelow has a successful directing career. The two are probably related. Having a vagina does not entitle you to anything. If you want a career in the film industry, you should be making films that will do well at the box office.

    • Absolutely right. And I noticed that HURT LOCKER tanked at the box office for most part. Good, I thought. Since it didn’t do anything to me at any level.

  • I just want to commend everyone here for being able to engage in debate/discussion without resorting to insults and such. I also want to commend those that spoke out in agreement with me as it is very difficult to argue unpopular ideas. It’s a shame that it requires bravery to express one’s sincere thoughts, but is is brave.

    • Your argument has been made many times, in many different ways over the centuries, by many biased pseudoscientists. Look up phrenology… . an entire FIELD of science once dedicated to ranking of races, genders, and classes. Wouldn’t you know… white, affluent males were always the “best.”

      The lessons that science learned from that time were basically that your environment / what you observe biases your thinking, gives you a priori convictions, and from that point on, you see what you want to believe. You’re doing the same thing here. You look around, see no female directors, have no favorite movies by females, and don’t see many women in film classes… THEREFORE “women are worse at directing. Evolution made it so” Except, correlation does not equal causation. Never has, never will. Especially when gender inequality can just as easily explain everything going on here.

      • None of that was a scientific argument. The universe and reality do not have any dogmas they hold dear to, and as such, reality is unlikely to coincide with our hopes and wishes. IQ tests are not “phrenology”. Furthermore, IQ tests state that Jews have a higher IQ than whites, and so do east Asians, so there goes the “white man bias” argument.

        • IQ tests are a LOT like phrenology actually. The only thing they prove is that someone is good at taking IQ tests. It is NOT a causative indicator of innate intelligence, or an appropriate metric for “betterness” as you seem to insist. Jews may have more social opportunity, or stronger cultural encouragement to follow traditionally successful “IQ-test friendly” life paths. Again though, ALL of that data merely notes correlations in our environment. And while the universe doesn’t have dogmas, our environment certainly does. So when you measure it, you have to take that into account.

          Look up “mismeasure of man.” Interesting book about the history of science’s failures in attempting to quantify intelligence (while really just justifying the status quo). Pretty dense read, but it’ll open your eyes a bit.

          • Here lies the paradox. If you are going to make the claim that IQ tests are unreliable, then you still cannot argue that intelligence and cognitive ability are exactly the same across all groups since the tests for such would be unreliable.

  • Because their films tend to cater to niche audiences, and big studios are interested product with wider appeal.

  • There is a very similar stats for women in business. Although a large number of women attend business school – only about 5% of women are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I think sexism accounts for some of the reason, but it’s not the whole story. There are a limited number of hollywood director jobs and the positions are highly competitive. When there is a limited number of positions for a high status position you tend to find the more assertive, risk-taking, do-whatever-it takes type people at the top. Things do change. There were plenty of careers where women were the minority and are now the majority for jobs like pharmacists, technical writers and chemists.

    I do find it encouraging to know that there are so many women directing documentaries. That’s wonderful.

  • We’ll I’m a female director, editor, web designer. I haven’t faced any sexism yet In the industry. Im self taught and I do pretty good job at filmmaking. So I’m ready to face anything that gets thrown my way. I didn’t know it was this bad until I read this article. Very interesting. Thanks for putting this up. This just makes me work harder in getting even better at my craft. I can handle it and I’m not worried. I love a challenge. And I do love working in this industry. I will hear my name one day in the Oscars. I can’t wait. I don’t think I will have a problem dealing with the sexism part of it because I tend to let that fuel me to get better and better. Being creative is something I can help but to do. Love this article!

    • Thank you! Same here. I have worked on quite a few films, both Hollywood and international, and there was never any sexism anywhere.

  • I’ll be graduating from Video & Audio Production courses at New England Tech in just four more weeks. There were only two females enrolled in the same quarter, and only one stayed the whole way through (the other was more interested in being in front of the camera than behind it, so to speak, and so needed to go to a different kind of school). But even after that, I’ve only noticed about one female per subsequent quarter in the course.

    There are usually plenty of females in Graphic Design, and of course lots in Nursing technologies, but not so much in Video. Perhaps it’s because they just don’t think of themselves in that role because they’ve never heard of a woman who was. MAYBE they’ve heard of Sophia Coppola, but that’s probably about it. The only other out of the list you mentioned that I recognized was Miranda July and that’s only because I was always shocked that she didn’t end up in jail for making “Me, You And Everyone We Know”.

    But my question to you would be Do you make appearances at colleges or perhaps more importantly at high schools, to show young women who you are and what you do, and encourage them to consider the same for themselves? I would suggest getting involved with some of these crappy girly teen hearthtrob magazines as well as adult women’s mags like Redbook, and Woman’s World, and do interviews. I’m sure it’d be more interesting than yet another list of “10 Hot Sex Tips He’d Love For You To Do”.

    Maybe you’ve done all of these things. Maybe it’s just not the way girls think of themselves. There is something to be said for the nature of human beings, and more often than not, women are nurturers, hence the plethora of female nurses and other healthcare professionals.

    At the same time, I enjoy working with/for females. I’m happily married, and therefore not looking for a date, so there’s a non-threatening work environment. I enjoy being supportive, and there’s just something in me that wants to see women really succeed in places where it’s not so well-trodden by a finer heel.

  • hmm, countering injustice in hollywood…
    which has a higher probability of success?

    tinkering with a powerful machine?
    or
    creating a more powerful machine?

    btw, you haven’t taken into account gender expressions outside binary categories… i’m going to guess that’s less than 4.4%, like actually 0. ya feel?

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  • Thanks for a great article & comments. Please go the site “Women Directors: Navigating the Boys’ Club” to read about solutions for viable legal action women directors could take to create gender parity in Hollywood. See you there!

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  • There are so many comments and reactions here that make it sound like there actually is a conspiracy out there against women!

    Studios are businesses, and they’re big businesses. They answer to the bottom line – money. If there is a project with a woman attached as director, that seems like a good business prospect, would they scuttle it and settle for a male director and a less attractive project financially? I don’t think so.

    I loved Niki Caro’s film “Whale Rider”, and saw it a number of times. I took all my friends to it, and we all enjoyed it. I think she is a superb film maker. I saw “Hurt Locker” and hated it, and I really thought nothing of the movie, and don’t think to this day Kathryn Bigelow deserved an award for that one. It had nothing to do with her being a woman.

    Across the oceans, in India, a woman by the name of Kiran Rao made a film called “Dhobi Ghat”, which was highly acclaimed by some, but it was a piece of crap in my view, and it tanked at the box office, got thrown out, more or less. The only reason it got traction and the money to be made was because her husband Aamir Khan promoted it and supported it. The women’s brigade was out in force, bashing me for hating it. On the other hand, a lovely film “Luck By Chance” was made by Zoya Akhtar, again a woman, and I loved it, but nobody thought I was supporting women’s cinema when I said so.

    I would love to see women make a lot of movies, but until they cater in large numbers to box office collections, I can’t see status quo changing. Things are stacked against them now, but whining for “equality” won’t cut it with businesses. That’s just reality.

  • These comments are frightful. It’s ironic to hear people say “if they want to succeed, they should make movies that sell!”. These folks seem to forget that someone has to “hire” a director before they can make an awesome movie. And linking to articles on DailyMail… good God. A tabloid is where you get your news? If the idiocy on this board is rampant in Hollywood management circles, it’s no wonder women are not getting hired.

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