The SAG awards lottery that is-I was chosen to sit on the SAG nominating committee! I was overjoyed as you can imagine, because this is like winning the Hollywood jackpot. Imagine if every movie from this past year started flooding into your mailbox.
The ballot came the other day and I tore open the envelope like a little kid tearing open a first Christmas present, excitement filling my body, as I was ready to make my choices for the all the Best Actors. I opened the pages and was completely taken aback to find a significant difference in the number of choices I had for males vs females. The list of male actors I had to choose from for Best Actor filled an entire page, whereas the female list was only about a quarter of a page. I felt my blood begin to boil under my skin, sitting in complete confusion and frustration as to why I wasn’t given an equal number of options for each category.
So I decided to do a little research and I found this startling statistic.
“Female characters accounted for only 15% of protagonists in the 100 highest-grossing domestic films of 2013, according to the study “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” by veteran researcher Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.”
Why are there still so few women in front of and behind the camera in the year 2014?
I have been hoping that if we had more females in power positions then that would translate into more strong female characters in front of the camera and more women working behind it. But sadly the answer is still probably, no.
I recently attended a women in film event where I had the pleasure of hearing a very established female producer speak.
She shared an astonishing story with us that still haunts me.
She told us she was at an event sitting next to a woman who ran a major studio. The studio executive was telling her how they were looking for directors for a particular show and she had put the word out and received a list with ten names on it. Our speaker had asked her how many woman directors were on the list. The woman looked at her for a moment and then answered in a quiet voice, “None.”
Our speaker said she scolded that woman for not standing up for her fellow females. The woman actually said she hadn’t even thought about the fact that not a single woman made the list. SHAME on her and shame on all the women who don’t hire and support females in this industry.
This woman is in an incredible position to hire females, where normally a man would get hired. And when a woman has that opportunity she needs to grasp it for the sake of us all.
Women, who have achieved powerful positions, must hire and go to bat for each other. We must think in terms of rising together.
While in pre-production on my feature film “Catching Faith,” I received a slew of resumes for each department. If I had a resume from a man and woman with equal qualifications, I hired the woman. We had a female electrician, a female first assistant director, a female art director, and the list goes on. As a female producer it was very important to me to hire as many women as possible, and to give jobs to the ladies, where normally a man would be the first choice.
There is too much competitiveness within the female community, and the reason may be because there are so few jobs for women. So we have no choice but to compete against each other instead of collaborate. But we must be the change we want to see. It must start somewhere, with someone, and we can each chisel away bit by bit. If we spend more time and energy fighting for each other, instead of clamoring over each other, we may be able to shift the paradigm. We must re-adjust our thinking so we can shape the future.
Men are more than happy to work and collaborate with the opposite sex, but honestly for the most part I think men just don’t think to hire a female in a crew position on a movie set. It is not that they don’t want to work with us; it is that it is not the norm for them to think of us for a job. Chances are a man would hire a man before a woman. I even made this a survey on a set I am currently working on, and all of the men answered my question with “I would hire a man for that job.” It is not the norm to hire a female grip or electrician, so it is up to us to make it the norm.
This is all a work in progress, and we can’t wait for someone else to do it.
It starts with you and me!
When there isn’t plenty of room at the top, we need to create the room.
So the next time you sit down to write a script, think about changing the hero to the heroine. When you’re in pre-production on a film, give your fellow female resumes a second glance. The next time you are in post production, hire a female editor.
Let’s be the change we want to see in the film industry today.