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I began writing this article at the end of last year but no matter how long I spent on it I never felt it was as good as it could be. I wanted to ensure it was throughly researched as I believe everyone should take the #52FilmsByWomen pledge as it is an incredible motor for promoting the role of female filmmakers in the patriarchal industry people have indulged in since the birth of motion pictures.
The #52FilmsByWomen pledge was started in Autumn of 2015 by LA’s women in film, an organisation dedicated to promoting equal opportunities for women in the film industry. The pledge asks those who sign up to watch one film by a female director each week for a calendar year. As 2017 is only a few weeks young, I knew I wanted to write a piece promoting why the pledge and movement around it are so important. Although the pledge is 52 weeks long, you can take it at any time, I myself only took the pledge back in August after graduating from University. By following #52FilmsByWomen, I’ve learned a lot about female dominated media, even writing a piece about what the pledge has taught me towards the end of 2016. I began this blog a few months after taking the pledge primarily to support these female-lead films and bring the #52FilmsByWomen pledge to a larger audience.
The role of women in film has been highly publicised in recent years, with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences coming under fire last year for not nominating a single female director. In fact, the last woman nominated for an Academy Award (or Oscar) for Best Director was all the way back in 2009 and there have only been four women nominated for a best directing Oscar in its 87-year history. Kathryn Bigelow won the award that year for her war thriller The Hurt Locker and was named on of the 100 most influential people by Time Magazine the following year. Since then, not a single female director has been nominated for an Academy Award. Unlike the Academy Awards, the BAFTAs have recognised female director’s since The Hurt Locker‘s release, nominating Ava Duvernay for her work on Selma in 2014 and Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty in 2012 respectively. However, in both these instances, the female nominees were the only of their gender acknowledged in their category. A 2015 study revealed that only 9% of the year’s top grossing films featured a female director. The same study also stated that ‘33% of films employed 0 or 1 woman in the roles considered.’ It therefore isn’t only the director’s chair that is void of female filmmakers but also other behind the camera facets of production.
BIGELOW ON SET OF THE HURT LOCKER
Although quite a few actresses come forward about the discrimination and inequality they experience in the film industry, their voices only count for a small portion of women who work within the entertainment industry. The countless voices of writers; cinematographers; lighting and sound technicians; gaffers and other professionals go unheard. The interesting thing is that in recent years, we have seen an increase of popular franchise reboots and continuations featuring an all female cast. With films such as 2016’s Ghostbusters film and the upcoming Ocean’s Eleven being announced, many people find solace knowing that there will be wonderful representation of strong women on screen. However great it is to see these films feature female casts, they still seem to be spear-headed by male directors, proving again that Hollywood’s openness to diversity is only skin deep.
Last August, it was announced that DuVernay will be the first Black woman to take on a $100 million dollar production for the upcoming Disney film A Wrinkle In Time. DuVernay is set to join only two other female directors who have been tasked with the same responsibility. Bigelow became the first director to helm a $100 million project with her 2002 film K-19: The Widowmaker and Patty Jenkin’s was handed the reigns of DC’s upcoming blockbuster Wonder Woman. What is most absurd is how often it seems female independent directors are passed up over their male counterparts. For example, independent film director Colin Trevorrow had been entrusted with franchise reboots such as Jurassic World and Star Wars: Episode IX despite only having one independent feature film under his belt. Jurassic World sported a comfy budget of $129 million while it’s safe to say Trevorrow’s Star Wars installation will feature a budget similar to the newest trilogy’s 2015 installment The Force Awakens which was a cushy $306 million. Despite DuVernay’s critical success with her previous independent films, which she earned a Sundance and Independent Spirit Award for, she still had to prove her commercial and critical success with Selma before being considered for a larger budget production. In an industry known for it’s liberal politics, it seems ridiculous that even in 2017, women are simply not handed the same opportunities within their field as men.
It seems that, despite its attempts at masquerading its sexism, Hollywood is reluctant to offer equal opportunities to women as it does men. This is why the #52FilmsByWomen pledge is so important. If you are interested in the pledge, I also urge you to consume female directed media in theatres as well as at home in order to show producers worldwide that there is a demand for female-lead films. If you want to take the pledge but don’t know where to start, you can check out a list I have compiled on Letterboxd for inspiration.
You can join the #52FilmsByWomen pledge on LA’s Women in Film’s website here. Remember to use the hashtag on any and all social media accounts to increase awareness about the movement as well as recommending films to other cinephiles who have taken the pledge. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram as well as in the comments section below to tell me how you find the pledge and recommend any and all films you think I should watch during my pledge.
Published by Gemma Pecorini Goodall