SALT LAKE CITY, (April 24, 2018) — In light of recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein and movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp finally bringing public attention to the marginalization of women in the film industry, institutions like the Sundance Institute are creating programs to help even the playing field for female filmmakers.
While these initiatives are presenting new opportunities for women, there is some concern that this reactionary response will become a band-aid solution to the broader issue of sexism in the film industry. The women leading these movements are determined that this will not end with a conversation, it must evolve into action. They acknowledge that change on such a large scale, especially when it is so institutionalized, demands time, conscientiousness, and ongoing effort. “I am hopeful, I have a lot of hope in the #Metoo and #TimesUp movements,” says Dr. Sarah Sinwell, a professor at the University of Utah. “I believe with celebrities coming out and telling their stories it enables other people to tell their stories. I believe that by putting money and funding and resources behind these kinds of institutions and what, for instance, McDormand talked about with inclusion riders and all those sorts of things that the general public is aware, not just the movie going public or not just the women, female film directing interested–people public. So many people are aware of this and I think that the constant publicity and the constant discussion and the way it’s entering schools and non-profit spaces and the way it’s kind of not just about those celebrity experiences but that it’s framing all these other contexts. I think that is why it may move into a space beyond this present one.”
Solutions must go beyond simply honoring the women who are already making films, and must take into account the inequality in resources and opportunities women face in making films in the first place. A study released by Women In Film in collaboration with Sundance found that even with the recent shift to more progressive attitudes toward female filmmakers very little actual change in the film industry has taken place.
|“Currently, the presence of women behind the camera in popular films is infrequent at best. Assessing 250 of the top-grossing U.S. movies of 2011, one study found that only 5% of directors, 14% of writers, and 25% of producers were female. These statistics have fluctuated very little since 1998, seeming to suggest that the traditional Hollywood economic model or power-structure is a leading impediment to access for women filmmakers.”
-Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers Phase I and II Research By: Stacy L. Smith, Ph.D., Katherine Pieper, Ph.D. & Marc Choueiti
The nominations at the Sundance Film Festival this year reflect their efforts for greater representation but, while higher than mainstream Hollywood representation, only 37% of the 122 films presented at the Sundance Film Festival were made by women. “What that says to me is that they are working harder to try to be more inclusive of women but we’re still not even at the 40 percent,” says Sinwell. “So, the numbers are growing, but they’re still not high enough, and I think that’s an issue not just of Sundance but I think it’s across the board that there’s not enough women directors, there’s not enough women directors getting high budgets like male directors, there’s not enough women directors working in a variety of locations and a variety of production companies.”
One often proposed solution to the problem of unequal representation of women in film festivals is the creation of separate categories for women and there are festivals created specifically to honor women in film, however some believe that this could lead to further marginalization or othering of women in film. “I think we need to value both, I think we need to value festivals that are specifically focused on women, that talk about the ways they value women, that incorporate women and that are inclusive of women and I think we need to promote quality filmmaking and make sure that women are a part of that narrative, of the general quality filmmaking or Sundance independent filmmaking narrative as well,” says Sinwell. “This is actually something that comes up a lot when people hear I’m teaching the Women Directors class, they say ‘why do we need a Women Directors class, isn’t that excluding all these other categories right?’ But I always remind people the reason we need it is because there are so few women that are talked about in general film history classes or intro to film classes, that the class is made necessary because the lack of women in our history textbooks and cinema kind of classes general classes.” –Lois Brady