The glass ceiling seems to be thinning. More women are accepted into medical schools and are on their way to becoming lawyers and business owners. Women have even made a considerable dent in the world of CEOs, but one frontier women have barely grazed is the world of film direction.
In the 83 years of the Academy Awards only four women have ever been nominated for Best Director: Linda Wertmuller for “Seven Beauties,” Jane Campion for “The Piano,” Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation” and Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker.” Out of 413 nominations for Best Director, only one woman — Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 — has ever won.
In 2011, only 5 percent of film directors were women. Even fewer are actually employed by major Hollywood studios. Most female directors gravitate toward documentary or independent filmmaking. Only 18 percent of all backstage work in the film industry is done by women. It’s hard to find another industry where women are so chronically absent.
Hollywood is a male-dominated industry and most Hollywood movies target male audiences. It’s a perfect example of an “old boy’s network.” Most director gigs are given because of connections or are based on reputation, and no formal interview is ever conducted. The people who are respected and have the most pull in Hollywood are men. Age, achievements and esteem are extremely important in film, and these can only be achieved with time, time most women have not yet attained.
Hollywood is a business of money. The highest priority of any studio is box-office profits. Most blockbuster movies involve guns, violence, sex and female nudity. While movies like “Magic Mike” and the “Twilight” franchise showed that male bodies sell just as well as female ones, these movies were still directed by men. Employers don’t believe that a female director could pull off the level of gun-toting nutheads needed to produce the desired profits. Female directors are least likely to be involved in action, horror and animated features, the backbone genres of a profitable summer blockbuster.
Additionally, directors are burdened with the task of translating a screenplay into a visual experience. Directors have to make quick decisions. As a woman, I can tell you that I rarely make a decision without looking at every possible outcome, talking it over with at least three different people and taking a night to sleep on it. Many women are much more in their heads than men, analyzing and over-analyzing everything — not the most efficient quality in a director.
A director is in charge of numerous people. Not to pull out stereotypes, but as managers, studies show assertive women are liked less than men. I don’t want to put the blame on men and come off as a radical feminist. I am educated enough to know that men and women’s minds work differently. Some might say it’s harder for a woman to execute a large-scale film. But this is refuted by the fact that female CEOs outnumber female film directors by three times. It is my thought that powerful women are not drawn to the arts. Instead, they go into business and become those CEOs.
Films directed by women are also more likely to pull in female crowds. The ‘chick flicks’ of the Hollywood scene are therefore directed by women to attract a female audience. Nora Ephron’s “Julie and Julia” as well as Anne Fletcher’s “The Proposal” are perfect examples. The romantic comedy has long been dominated by female characters, directors and audiences. However, it’s not uncommon to see a man directing a romantic comedy like Adam Brody’s “Definitely, Maybe,” but you would be hard-pressed to find a woman directing Michael Bay’s “Transformers.”
My view is that as society continues to promote more women to executive positions, the gender gap in the film world should narrow, just like everything else. This should be especially true as women become presidents of major film companies and increasing the hiring of female directors.
Jesse Klein is an LSA sophomore.