By: Devin Riggs, Regular Contributor
The life of women in Hollywood seems glamorous: the lights, the cameras, the constant adoration from fans. When I was younger I spent a fair amount of time daydreaming of starring in an epic romantic drama…and even more recently contemplating the idea of writing my own screenplay, which would of course turn into a blockbuster hit and an Academy darling. Because why not?
The reality is very different. And it’s a huge problem.
Being a woman in the film industry is difficult. Thanks to the Sony email hacking scandal we now know female leads don’t get paid as much as male leads. Thanks to the Oscar nominations we know Ava Duvernay is apparently not worthy of recognition for her stunning film, Selma, even though it was nominated for Best Picture.
Hollywood is an industry built on a sexist foundation. After almost 90 years they haven’t managed to refurbish either. It’s 2015. Why have only four women been nominated for Best Director, and only one actually win?
It cannot be that a male director is the best person for the job 92% of the time.
It shouldn’t be all about the money, but it apparently is. In terms of diversity quotas, women are currently grouped together with minorities and most studios are able to fill those positions with minority men. When women are hired, they generally have less funding. Duvernay only had $20 million for Selma. Katherine Bigelow reportedly only had $15 million for her Oscar winning The Hurt Locker (2009). These budgets don’t compare to the hundreds of millions given to big productions like Marvel’s comic book adaptations, all directed by men.
It might be that Hollywood doesn’t have faith in women and are using money to prove it. It might be that we’re stuck in a 1950s way of thinking that women cannot have the vision to direct a blockbuster superhero movie. It might be that audiences just aren’t interested in what women have to say.
Except that females make up the majority of moviegoers. Hollywood is in the business of selling to them. Women are much more likely to make films and tell stories about women. So the lack of women making films is baffling. It’s also baffling that when I asked some of my friends about women film directors…they said they couldn’t name any of the top of their heads let alone the impact they’ve had on the industry. This is in stark contrast to their ability to name influential male directors and discuss favorites.
Being a woman in Hollywood is a never-ending uphill battle. You have to fight for every single inch. Every project is vulnerable. Even if you find success it can be taken away very quickly. And continuous success is unlikely. And many still won’t remember your name.
So where do we go from here? What is the future for women filmmakers?
A shift is already in motion as successful actresses transition from in front of the camera to behind it. More and more women are seeking to widen the playing field for themselves and others. Angelina Jolie is turning heads with 2014’s Unbroken. Reese Witherspoon, seeing a lack of roles for women, created her own production company that made the female centered Gone Girl and Wild. Michelle MaLaren is the first women to be hired by a major studio to direct a superhero project (Wonder Woman).
This is important because in a man’s world such as Hollywood, women need to stick together. We need to support and celebrate each other. We need to provide those opportunities so that little girls can grow up believing that they have the right, and the ability, to tell stories just like any boy can.
As an audience, we need to be proactive and “vote with our wallets” so to speak and show Hollywood we do watch movies made by women, and we do want more. We need more women like Duvernay and Jolie and Witherspoon to use their voice. We need female studio executives to make it their mission to hire more women. We need to take a stand against the sexism plaguing an industry too set in its ways to make room for new blood and new visions and new stories at a time when it so desperately needs to.
Does it make a difference who is telling a story? Why do you think it's important for women to tell women's stories? Weigh in below!
Devin has a degree in education with a focus in English. She is working to publish her first collection of poetry while also learning the art of patience. Her passions include Doctor Who, penguins, hats and scarves, potatoes, dancing, photography, and making people happy. She believes in the healing powers of music, spending time in the great outdoors, and a good night sleep.