Wonder Woman and director Patty Jenkins have broken all the records in Hollywood for a film helmed by a solo female director. So now what? While there’s still a long way to go before women, who make up 51% of the population, are represented proportionately behind the camera. Shows like Jessica Jones, GLOW, Queen Sugar and The Leftovers are making a huge difference by committing to the inclusion of female directors.
There’s no doubt a ripple effect will take place as a result of Wonder Woman but how much? There are some facts you cannot escape, like films with female directors, women comprised 64 percent of the writers. On films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for just 9 percent of writers. So the sad fact is that only women hire women, generally speaking.
Here are some other facts:
-Roughly 19% of all directors, writers, exec producers, producers, editors and cinematographers are women in Hollywood.
-The DGA is composed of 7% female directors, that means roughly 1 in 16 union card-carrying directors are female.
A somewhat disturbing trend is that the current DGA leadership strongly believes that Guild governance should be composed only of actively working directors. So the majority of the rules are being implemented by a majority of the workforce, in this case men.
U.S. laws are in place for equal employment for women in the film making industry. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII states:
“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to (…) sex.”
And the DGA and the studios have several excellent agreements in place. The DGA Basic Agreement has a section on Diversity— Article 15— a non-discrimination policy which states:
“The parties mutually reaffirm their policy of non-discrimination in the employment or treatment of any Employee because of (…) sex. The Employer shall make good faith efforts to increase the number of (…) women Directors.”
So, what can be done to change attitudes, and more recent and historical trends? More firmly and in very plain English, what can be done to ensure that the LAW is being followed and that the DGA follow its the rules that itself enacted?
Well, for starters, let’s start listening more and watching more. Let’s start listening to these women’s stories and lets’ start showing up and watching their work en masse. The more you see, trust me, the more you’ll notice there’s talent to behold.
This San Diego Comic Con panel, in its second year, focuses on the incredibly talented, successful women who are currently expanding opportunities for women in film, who have made noise and are winning awards with their work on both the big and small screens.
Victoria Mahoney (above left) who has directed episodes of Queen Sugar, Gypsy and American Crime started the panel off by saying, “When one of us rises, we all rise. When one woman rises, we all rise.” Mahoney, when asked about working with Ava DuVernay on Queen Sugar also said, “When Ava hired me she said, “I hired you because I love your film. I respect what you do. She sent me a clipping of bad stats & said “screw them, let’s just start supporting each other”. That was an experience (working with DuVernay) where nobody clipped my wings”.”
In fact, DuVernay’s came up frequently as inspiration for a lot of these women and others looking to make a name for themselves in the industry. DuVernay is credited with being a leader in not only her own career, but being a mentor to so many more.
With Patty Jenkins, Sophia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow and Ava Duvernay leading the way in Hollywood these other women are starting to blaze a path for themselves and others.
Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Pierce says…
At a certain point, there’s a threshold of change that cannot be met until those who have privilege decide to give up some of the pie. And it’s hard. They love working and getting opportunities just as much as we do. But it’s the only way things change.
From left to right: Leslie Combemale (emcee), Victoria Mahoney, Aurora Guerrero, Tina Mabry, Rosemary Rodriguez, Angela Robinson, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Kirsten Schaffer.
Perhaps the woman with the most nerd cred at this year’s panel was Gina Prince-Bythewood, who was recently announced as being the director for the upcoming Sony/Marvel Spider-Man spinoff film Silver & Black. Bythewood, who was also the writer and director for Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights, is the first woman of color hired to helm a live action superhero film.
She would have this to say, “I have this opportunity because of women who didn’t shut up. We want to see people from our communities who reflect us. I only have this opportunity because of these women who didn’t shut up.”
And talking about getting Silver & Black, “There’s some idiotic idea in Hollywood that women don’t want to do movies like this, and that’s just not true.”
Tina Mabry, who also worked with DuVernay on an episode of Queen Sugar but also the hit Dear White People went on to say, “change is happening at an accelerated pace. But it’s not enough. There is so much work to do.”
Perhaps the best way to sum up the panel was when Mabry looked at her fellow women directors on the panel and said, “We are not competition, we are support”.
I encourage all to seek out more information on these directors and others. For more information and coverage on this panel and women in film, go to:
Till next time…