Your say: Where are all the female filmmakers?

MadeUsThink2Today’s Made Us Think comment comes from “Elly,” who writes in response to Missy Schwartz’s interview with Jane Campion,

“I suspect a large reason there are so few well-known female filmmakers may be that so many female writers, directors etc. are too focused on the lack of “just for women” entertainment, and so tend to turn out stuff with distinct agendas for distinct female audiences — i.e. the ‘empowerment’ Campion spoke of — instead of just focusing on making a good product. I see it all the time in books – I rarely read sci-fi or fantasy by female authors, because the story is usually just there as a weak afterthought to help move the rant along, the real point of the book being to obsess over what patriarchal pigs men can be. Case in point: Margaret Atwood.”

That’s one theory, and it certainly got us thinking. What about you?

Comments (29 total) Add your comment
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  • Sarah El

    While I think this may be true in some cases, I definitely think that women are distinctly lacking in the big budget world. There aren’t that many well-known female filmmakers, because really, women are still figuring out the empowerment thing, and they aren’t in the old boys club of filmmaking. It takes women a lot more effort to get into those things. My mother tells me about how back in her day, her guidance counselor told her to not go to college and just be a secretary or housewife, and that was mere decades ago. No wonder women feel the need to clique into their own section of entertainment, to carve off their own place for “women only!” Otherwise, we’re just copying what the boys do. Not that I would really ever want to make a film or write a story simply to make men out to be the bad guy, because that’s just wrong. But we’re still transitioning into a world where men and women can actually be considered equals.

    • Matt

      Well said. I completely agree.

  • M.J.

    I think that theory is full of crap. First of all, THE HANDMAID’S TALE is a good book that has sold a ton of copies — a “message” doesn’t necessarily get in the way of entertainment. Second, there are many women who create mainstream entertainment and are successful, so it’s not some systemic thing. But I think there is still a big belief (more on the part of marketers than the public) that movies about women are “for women” and movies for men are “for all audiences”! If women write/direct about their own lives, they are seen as pandering to a niche market; if guys write/direct about their own lives, people are more likely to take it seriously whether the project deserves it or not. Honestly, my guess for the lack of women filmmakers is that it’s such a risky profession to go into — the vast majority of people who try don’t make it. Study after study shows that young women are more realistic about career goals and often don’t pursue such high-risk strategies, even though there potentially is high reward. Guys who are interested decide that they’re filmmaking geniuses and take off to L.A. Sure, most of them fail miserably too, but as they represent a larger part of the starting pool, they end up being a larger part of the group that ultimately makes it. Hopefully this will change as the world evolves a little.

  • Alice

    I don’t agree that all female writers and artists have an “agenda” But I will agree that having to read Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale did make me bitter in University.

  • Hanny Pay

    I think maybe that’s why Mira Nair is so successful. She makes great films that are for anyone (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake, and the upcoming Amelia)

  • Janie

    What about Catherine Breillat, Gurinder Chadha, Agnes Varda, Claire Denis, Gillian Armstrong, Patricia Rozema, Lone Scherfig, Catherine Hardwicke, Mimi Leder and many more?
    Seriously, we need to stop saying there aren’t any female filmmakers. This has been a great year for the female filmmaker, and yet, we still get the coverage of how female directors are lacking.

    • Erin

      I reconize maybe two of those women, I think the point here is big budget female filmakers.

    • rob

      no one claimed that there “aren’t any female filmmakers.” the post wondered why there are so few well-known female filmmakers. case in point: i had never heard of any of those directors besides catherines hardwicke and breillat, and i studied film in college and go to the movies regularly. there just aren’t any on the level of familiarity of a spielberg or even a christopher nolan in the mainstream public consciousness.

      the one who has the best shot, i’d say, is katheryn bigelow. she should get a best director oscar nomination (hopefully a win) for “the hurt locker” this year.

      • Bronson

        If Katheryn Bigelow doesn’t AT LEAST get a best director nom for “The Hurt Locker” then something is definitely wrong.

      • Shasta

        Thank you for correcting “Janie.” Btw, same case can be made for writers/directors from American minorities.

    • Gael

      foreign vs american?

  • Female Reader

    UGH. The Handmaid’s Tale is INSUFFERABLE.

  • Lady

    Thanks for the encouragement. Im about to make a film. Gracias.

  • Katharine

    The fact that she insults Margaret Atwood, who is one of the few authors currently living that is writing real literature (there’s more than just The Handmaid’s Tale, people; though, full disclosure, that’s a great book) completely discredits her point. I think, personally, filmmaking is very demanding job, and the societal expectations for women to be both kick-butt in the workplace and great mothers at home limits the ability to work on a distant movie set for months at a time, pulling 20-hour days. And also, there’s not just a lack of female filmmakers, but filmmakers of color and from a history of low income. Film is an insulated system and people tend to promote those that remind them of themselves.

  • Gael

    i also think its a point about working your way up. i used to work in films and its so hard to get hired as a female grip, and the usual path leads from there then go on to gaffer then AD then direct.

    –we usually get relegated into PAs and you can network from there but not much else.

  • toonaspie

    I know it is juvenile to consider but what about J.K. Rowling? She wrote an epic 7 book series featuring a strong male lead. I don’t see much women empowerment in the Harry Potter books. I thought both genders were portrayed well without isolating one group or the other.

    And as for female directors and their approaches…it’s still a little better than how some of the male directors incorporate their godawful female characters (as either too masculine or too weak).

    • Anna

      I know I’ll probably get yelled at, but I actually think that Hermione in HP is sometimes (I’m saying SOMETIMES, not all the time) portrayed as a pushover…Ron treats her badly all the time, and both Harry and Ron often use her in order to get their homework done…and in HP 7, Harry often treated her badly (i.e., after she saved their lives in Godric’s Hollow), and all she does is cry and apologize instead of defending herself.

      I LOVE the series, but this is actually something that has always bothered me.

    • gael

      yeah and ursula leguin, but theyre hardly directors, are they?

  • Anna70

    Yeah, Hermione was a really weak character.

    One thing I’m noticing with women directors is that there’s very little hype when one of their films comes out. The Hurt Locker was the first Kathryn Bigelow film that I’ve seen receive any real attention from the media. Mimi Leder directed a few large budget films like “The Peacemaker” and little was made of that. Darnell Martin directed “Cadillac Records” last year. Kasi Lemmons has made some good films like “Talk to Me.” None of these directors make movies that are like what Elly described but most haven’t done all that well at the box office, whether or not they deserved it. It’s too easy for the usually narrow-minded powers that be in Hollywood to blame that on the directors’ gender. If we want more women directors we’re going to have to start seeing their films when they do come out.

  • eli

    If a movie is great, I don’t care who directed it. I mean, aside from Spielberg, James Cameron, Martin Scorcese, Roman Polanski, and some others, I don’t really go to movies for their director. I can’t even tell you who directed Die Hard and that’s one of my all time favorites. But so is Little Women with Winona Ryder and that was directed by a woman, whose name escapes me. GOOD STORY, LOVE FOR LIFE. I don’t care who makes them, just make them GOOD.

  • talkin’

    I think “Elly” is out to lunch.
    Any lack of women in the film business probably has to do with the business itself. The old and young boys clubs.

    • Laura

      Yeah, that’s really the key: Hollywood is a boys club. It’s also a nepotism club. Hence, many of the men from the old days’ of Hollywood make sure that their young male relatives and friends succeed. That’s just the way it is. Sure, some women directors that others have mentioned have succeeded. But as far as these women gaining Oscar nominated prestige, remember, the Academy is mostly made up of old men. Also, most respected film critics are men. So again, these groups are more likely to highlight male driven movies rather than female driven movies.

      I think, though, that things are slowly, slowly getting better. But if Kathryn Bigelow or The Hurt Locker do NOT get nominated this year… well, then maybe they aren’t getting better.

  • Synova

    For science fiction with female authors try Bujold, Wen Spencer, Cherryh, Asaro…

    Go for something with cover art that looks like the cover art on the books men write.

  • Tom Strong

    Women make the worst directors. 99% of all female-directed films are absolute crap.

    • Dave

      LOL, what a ridiculous comment. A LOT of crappy, plotless action movies are directed by men, whereas a lot of well-thought out, interesting films are made by women. My personal favorite director is Sofia Coppola.
      Both men and women have obviously made great films, but my favorite directors are women. Yup, I’m a guy who can honestly say that.

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