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October 28, 2013

Comments

emilyreads

My friend and classmate Mynette Louie, an independent director, is doing something about this very issue. Her new company, Gamechanger Films, is found here: http://gamechanger-films.com/ and profiled here: http://www.fastcocreate.com/3019780/how-one-group-of-producers-is-looking-to-solve-hollywoods-female-problem

Cami

I'm so surprised with this topic. I would think that Hollywood, which typically leans left politically (women's rights), would be the first and foremost in women's filmmaking. Penny Marshal, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock are all women who have leapt over the barrier from acting to directing and producing. Granted, those are the only women I can think of, but still, I assumed men and women were on "equal" standing in Hollywood. It seems so hypocritical of the Hollywood lefties (which are many).

themagicviolinist

While I love "girl power" I dislike it when people can only see the "girl power" because it creates the assumption that girls weren't always strong/need to be strong to be interesting. Female protagonists (and females in general) are much, much more than just "strong and powerful". We can be smart, funny, clever, loyal, friendly, thoughtful, kind, humble, helpful, and so many other things.

Lindsay D

All great points. I went to see Austenland in the theater, and I don't know that I would have without your prodding. I loved it, and while we were surrounded by girls'-night-out groups, my husband really enjoyed it, too. I've been wondering about how Austenland has fared thus far and also when it's going to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray (I'd like to add it to my wish list!).

Valerie Ipson

How about a female Oceans Eleven? We recently watched one of those on TV (I think it was Ocean's 13) and it really bothered me that there was only one female and her role was a sexual one.

Melanie Nichols

I'm glad you didn't take offense to my post! I was worried that it would sound more critical than I meant it to be. I truly appreciate your response and can see your point-of-view on it. It's a tricky subject and one that doesn't have a clear cut answer.

It's a topic that frustrates me not only because it's tough and unanswerable, but also because people like to blame gender, race, economics, or any number of outside attributes for their issues or failures. Most of my original comment stemmed from my irritation with an article I had just read a few days before where J.K. Rowling blamed her first non-Harry Potter novel's utter flop to the fact that she's a woman and stated that she couldn't be taken seriously as an author. I'm not saying sexism may not have played its part in her life at times, but I think it's failure had more to do with the high expectations people had for the best-selling author of all time. And I'd like to point out she said this after having become the best-selling author of all time, which she did while people knew she was a woman. In reality, she had no place to go but down after Harry Potter. Yet, she felt she needed to blame sexism for its failure rather than accepting that maybe it wasn't that great of a book.

Yes, sexism, racism, and any number of other -isms exist, but the world is far more complex than an -ism. Why Hollywood doesn't produce more female centric movies could have to do with a number of issues, which may or may not have to do with gender.

And in the end, I'm trying to say that I appreciate the idea of supporting things outside the entertainment industry norm, but just because a movie is outside the norm or female centric doesn't mean it's good or needs to be made. I wish Hollywood would just focus on producing quality movies rather than just another clone of some blockbuster that came out a couple years ago.

Maggie O

I really agree with Melanie on her last statement (in the post above). I will go a support a quality movie (made by any gender) because I truly want to see the hard work of the many people it takes to make a great film.

Danielle

Wow. Both great points and it's hard to take an argument. It reminds me of the Norton Anthologies that I've had to read for classes in college - over time many authors, be they of a different race or of a different gender, have been included in the anthologies, when before the majority of pieces were published by white males.

That always leads to the question why these new authors were included... is it simply because they were great writers, or is it because they were good (or even not good at all), but we also need to diversify the pieces accepted into the anthology?

If it's because we need diversity in the anthology, does that mean we are shutting out other pieces, perhaps better pieces, that would have been put in otherwise? It seems to be a similar discussion as to this one about film. I'm not sure what the answer is. It's almost as though you would need several anthologies or several Hollywoods for each category, but that would be impossible and perhaps even undesirable.

Reavis Wade

For many years I have enjoyed your books, they were one of the few things that got me through middle school and one of the main reasons I want to be a filmmaker (Have you sold the rights to Goose Girl? If not I would love to talk to you once I have some industry connections). The stories you choose to tell have a unique voice that I love and want to share with others.
I was following your Austenland filming posts as I went through film school and loved seeing your perspective during production. I have been anxiously waiting for it to reach Virginia and was finally able to see it last night at a Film art house. The turn out was great, a few people even dressed up for it. The film itself was for the most part endearing and funny and I could identify with many of Jane’s wishes in life. The cast was wonderful, so happy to see Bret Mckenzie and JJ Feild having more exposure (I remember him from Northanger Abbey). I hope the film does well and that this opens more opportunities for Jerusha.
To also comment on your post, the issue of women filmmakers is such a complex issue. Hollywood is still a man’s world, and so many women filmmakers seem content being on the fringes of the cinematic world. The majority of women directors work on independent films and this leads to the general public not being able to see women filmmakers work. We just need to have more female directors who have a variety of interests and have opportunities for big box office potential. Hollywood keeps saying they are for women’s rights but not putting their money were their mouths are is stifling the growth of women directors.
Thank you for brining more awareness to this issue for your readers. The majority of young men and women are not even aware of this issue. When I wrote an English paper on the topic, the majority of my friends who love movies still cannot actually call to mind a single female director when asked. That really upset me and I have tried to see as many films directed by women in the last two years. There are quite a few gifted independent female directors starting out and hopefully they will continue their rise and fight a system that has been the status quo for the last hundred years.

Laurie

I wrote a blog post for Modern Mormon Men asking our readers to support Austenland because it was written, produced and directed by a Mormon women trifecta, but mostly because all three of you had made works I'd loved in the past. I want to see more of you. All three of you together.

I plan to see and support the movie Wadjda for some of the same reasons: 1. because it's one of the first movies filmed in Saudia Arabia and 2. because it's directed by a woman. Two firsts deserve some accolades.

Also, your quote here: "And since Hollywood runs on money, I believe we actually need to make an effort to monetarily support films made by women so that more can get made until eventually we don’t have to talk about it anymore."

...makes me think of Joss Whedon's Equality Now speech where when asked why he wrote strong female characters, replied "Because you're still asking me that question."

It's worth it to put your money where your mouth is. I personally would put money on whoever is going to fill Nora Ephron's shoes, and I hope it would be you.

Bekah

I thought it was clear that you were saying we should see the movie because it was good, not only because it was made by women. Mostly I find it concerning how women are portrayed or not portrayed in movies more than who writes or directs them. Logically, it makes sense that there are more men in long-term no-break careers because they never get pregnant... so... that doesn't really surprise me...

On the other hand, I could be wrong, but I think there is a plethora of women writers. Much more than men. So... you know. Often the movies are based off books written by women. I think women kindof dominate the writing world. I mean--how often do you see posts from men on here?

Kaylie

Danielle asks above if we might be shutting out better pieces for the sake of diversity, and that's possible, but I think the point here is that the industry is shutting out other pieces that might be better by NOT diversifying. If you assume that a film is not going to be good or successful because it stars women or because it's directed or produced by one, as the industry often does, then in addition to depriving the industry of the different perspectives that diversity can bring, you're also denying it some pretty good movies, all because of assumptions Hollywood makes about race or gender. I don't think Shannon is imposing quotas here or suggesting that we all go on movie-viewing strike unless 50% of Hollywood movies are directed by women. She's just suggesting that movies made by groups that don't normally make them deserve a glance, too, and viewing those movies sends Hollywood a message that we don't want Hollywood's preconceived notions about women or other groups to rule our viewing habits.

Julie Sondra Decker

Not to mention that it's not like "go see this film to support women!" is taking anything away from films made by men. Some people who say buying something because you want to support a cause as a result are acting like consumers have a finite amount of time, money, and attention that they can only give to one thing, and that seeing this movie would take the money out of the pocket of a movie that reinforces the status quo. That's not true. But even if it were, it wouldn't be "sexist" to support a women-centric/women-made film at the expense of a man-centric/man-made one. As this beautiful blog post makes clear, things AREN'T equal, and it's just plain true that drumming up support for a lady-centric piece of art simply doesn't have the power to take it away from men. Women's works don't have the social power to dominate the narrative right now. They just don't. People who say supporting the underdog is "just as bad" as deliberately reinforcing the status quo don't understand how oppression, discrimination, and prejudice WORK. You can only kick someone off a perch if you actually have the leverage. Women don't. And even if they tried to kick the guys off that perch, they couldn't. Asking for an increase of attention and support for a women's cause does not take away from men, but even if it did, it wouldn't take an appreciable amount of attention and support away from men, given the current status quo. So it's totally inaccurate to portray preferential treatment in tiny pockets as if it has the power to upend the social structure just because it helps level some playing fields.

Jenna

I'm now curious to see how Austenland does in the long run. Would you be willing to talk about the films success or lack of it in the future?

Sabrina Clifford

Haha! When I met you about five years ago while you were signing my daughters' books, I told you I made sure they read Princess Academy because it's all about girl power. I would never have known the phrase makes you shudder! To me, girl power doesn't make men any less so, it makes us equally so. It makes us smart and capable. Some of our roles are different, but that doesn't diminish us as human beings. And I feel like supporting movies made by women is about the same as offering girls special scholarships to encourage them into going into math and science programs. I am encouraging my daughters in these fields and helping them find their corners of aptitude so they can take advantage of these scholarships. The encouragement is obviously needed: I enrolled my daughter in a new STEM school that is mostly by special permit, and there are many more boys than girls enrolled. Sad.

Sabrina Clifford

I don't see a way to report spam. This page could use it.

Jaimie

I drove 5 hours to see Austenland! I couldn't wait any longer. (Wasn't sure if it would show up in my hometown.) It was totally worth it! We laughed so hard we cried!!! Thanks for making a film that is funny, romantic and clever without being vulgar. Love love loved it!!!!! Can't wait for the DVD release!!

Audry T.

I second everything Shannon said. The statistics for women in film are not good. The majority of students graduating with film-related degrees are now female, but men still get the majority of jobs. Just last week, I found myself staring at a photo of select students from UCLA, a big industry school, who had won accolades and in spite of there being more women than men in the program, ALL the winners were male. All of them.

Men get the majority of directing jobs, writing jobs, and myriad other jobs. Women are permitted to be producers, but they have to fight to be anything else. There is even an abysmally and near-record low number of FEMALE ROLES for actresses in movies this year -- and that's including THE HUNGER GAMES, MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, and VAMPIRE DIARIES. (Side note: MI was a box-office failure because it didn't make back its large budget. Based on experience, I'm going to say VD will be a "failure", too. And Hollywood will blame that on the pictures being "for girls.")

And then there's the stigma. If a picture that's considered "for women" fails, they blame it on the gender. If a picture "for men" (literally called "the coveted demographic") fails, they blame something else -- but not the fact that it targeted men. Female-driven properties have to prove over and over again that they can make money at the box office, even though it's been proven that they can, over and over again. Hollywood is run by money and math -- except when it's driven by deeply ingrained sexism (and racism).

This problem plagues a lot of inter-related industries. In publishing, I have heard from my peers (I used to run a publishing company) that male authors often get larger marketing budgets than female authors, and anyone who has spent time in publishing knows that female authors are constantly dismissed as "chick lit" writers, no matter what they write. The IT and video game industries in Silicon Valley can also be very hostile to women. One of my earliest jobs was QA at a major game developer. I was *the only woman* working in any capacity on the game. I had a huge bathroom in the building entirely to myself. It was slightly depressing. It's no better at the major Silicon Valley companies, which are now migrating to L.A. to make their own feature films. One guy who runs a major investors' workshop that gets funding for IT startups openly admitted in an interview that investors were more likely to fund a man, especially a white guy who "looked like Mark Zuckerberg" than a minority -- or especially a woman. He then gave an example of one such look-a-like who had an absolutely terrible business plan, but got millions in investment anyway and ended up blowing it all.

I'm surrounded by women in the film and television industry. The horror stories I have heard of their treatment would leave you speechless. Some of the things that have been said to their faces or behind their backs were vile. It doesn't happen all the time everywhere, but there are very serious reasons why there is such a huge gap between the number of women working their butts off to be in the industry and the number who actually get employed.

We aren't missing from these industries or disinterested in them, and we don't "prefer" being relegated to indie or fringe productions, as worthy and wonderful as they can be. We have to fight like hell to get careers by "dancing backwards and in high heels", as they say -- and with the door being slammed in our face before we even reach it.


Audry T.

Correction: I meant VAMPIRE ACADEMY. I was just reading something about THE ORIGINALS, so wires got crossed and I typed VAMPIRE DIARIES instead. (I love VA and want it to do well, but past math for similar films suggests it won't.)

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