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Post-Award Thoughts

Post-Award Thoughts

As I watched the Oscars and the Independent Spirit Awards this weekend you could see one clear difference between the two events (aside from the formal dresses and the hosts) — the presence of female winners. The Oscars followed the usual path and having male winner after male winner, especially in the creative and the high profile awards.

Look at the list of winners. Aside from the actresses there were only a couple of female winners.

At the Oscars the winners included:
Susanne Bier for best foreign film – In a Better World
Karen O’Hara for set decorator – Alice in Wonderland
Colleen Atwood for costume design – Alice in Wonderland
Audrey Marrs as the producer of Inside Job for best documentary
Karen Goodman for doc short – Strangers No More
Lora Hirschberg for Sound Mixing – Inception

But that’s it. But you got a sense that the Oscar folks know they are out of sync because they seemed to want to make a big deal of Kathryn Bigelow giving out the best director Oscar so she got a special introduction from Hilary Swank. It was kind of a gee whiz we know that last year a woman won and this year we have no female nominees but we will give a bigger shout out to the award from last year to make up for the fact that no women got nominated this year.

Didn’t work. Just made the lack of women seem even more stark.

The Independent Spirit Awards the evening before showed just how far the Academy has to come. There were women everywhere and there were actually female winners in creative categories. Lena Dunham won an award for best first script for Tiny Furniture (though she didn’t make it to the telecast for some reason); Lisa Cholodenko won for co-writing The Kids Are All Right; and Nicole Holofcener and her cast won the Robert Altman award for Please Give.

It also felt like it was the safe place for people to talk about the ongoing issues and I was impressed that best actress winner Natalie Portman was the one who stood up for the women. She is using her new found power well.

Here’s part of her speech:

…and just to be among all these female filmmakers. I love you male filmmakers too but to have Lena Dunham, Nicole Holofcener, Lisa Cholodenko, Debra Granik. I mean to recognize these people in an industry with a different set of standards…It is a great honor to be in this room with you.

She is right. There is a different set of standards for women. They fight twice as hard and get half the recognition. But we are lucky enough to live in a world where there are women who don’t and won’t give up on their visions. As this Awards season is put to bed, I am looking forward to the next films from the women mentioned by Natalie Portman and all the other female directors out there. That’s what makes this job so fun. The great possibilities for the future.

2011 Independent Spirit Awards Winners List (Hollywood Reporter)

Academy Award Winners

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Bigelow is an English name. Just google Irish American filmmakers, there’s only a handful. Drew Barrymore is part Irish and directed a feature, that’s about it for women.

Anne Smith

Two female-directed movies in the Best picture category last night and not a Best Director nod between them. I’m especially annoyed Debra Granik wasn’t recognized. And bless her heart, but it’s sad Portman had to couch her little bit of advocacy for female directors in a lot of “I love you male filmmakers too” for fear of backlash.

@mft – Truth. There are several African American female directors who could have done a “For Colored Girls,” just for example. Julie Dash, for one, would have done a great job with that and I’d like to see more of her work in general. And “Slumdog Millionaire” would have been much better in the hands of Mira Nair. More of us need to seek out the work of WOC filmmakers – because few of them have much name recognition in the “mainstream,” so it’s necessary to make the effort – and advocate for their recognition too.

BTW I’m pretty sure Kathryn Bigelow is Irish American.

Akiva Penaloza

Good for Natalie Portman. Again, we have the power to change things by pushing our women with power to create a new indie studio that ONLY features work by women. We have the talent. We just need the financing. I am thinking about gaining entrance into these ladies’ presence and promoting the idea.

I am a Mexican woman who appears white, so I pass almost everywhere. In fact, Mexicans refuse to accept me as Mexican because I don’t look it. But I am damn sure to always say I am Mexican. There are the three “amigos” (Inarittu, Cuaron, del Toro) but no amigas. So the prospects for me as a female, lesbian, Mexican look pretty bad! I had no idea the Irish were not represented. Must be tough being marginalized twice as much. And let’s face it: some of the men on set are disgusting. We know who they are!


MFT, I didn’t mention Irish people to shut you up at all. There are no Irish American female directors, unless you count famous actresses who have tried to direct. We didn’t have someone like Scorcese or Coppola to open the door for us. Even now in New York Marty helps a lot of Italian American directors, but the Irish never seem to have gotten a foothold in the industry. Frankly, I was harasses constantly on film sets as the only catholic, being told by the men “I like Irish girls, come over here”. I know it’s hard to believe but my nationality is still brought up constantly in business meetings. People always ask me if I want a drink, cause I’m Irish. My point was that the industry as a whole should be more inclusive.

Melissa Silverstein

MFT- You are right. I should talk about race more. Thanks for bringing it up. I had thought about including the Halle Berry piece about Lena Horne in the post because I felt that they put that in because there were no people of color nominated but then I didn’t include it.

It’s harder for women of color than it is for white women.

Thanks for the comment.


Hi Nancy,

It’s interesting…this is the second time that I have dared to mention race publicly as a factor to be considered and someone brings up being Irish…LOL. Actually, I don’t see the connection to what I am saying. Is it to shut me up? Is race still such a trigger that it can never be mentioned? However, if your comment that Irish people are having trouble, as you say, with this industry refers to how Irish people are portrayed or a lack of representation in the Film/TV industry well then, by all means speak up! Whenever you see it in the media make noise about it so people notice and stop doing it. I don’t have an issue with that at all. Go for it, I say. I’m right behind you. Likewise, my noticing that race is a missing piece in the conversation is still valid and necessary to bring up. I agree, we are one of the most diverse nations in the world. Therefore I want to see that diversity in all its glory and be able to create work that gets recognition and reward (and not be told some nonsense that no one will watch a film that has a black and female lead and perspective because it’s not viable financially or whatever bs). I’m sure Irish folk want the same.

To be clear, in my post I wasn’t making a comment on what art ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be. We all know that the U.S. media is currently comprised of a narrow white, male worldview – that’s partly why I think this blog exists, to counteract and challenge that. I was remarking on the issue that I want race to be a component of the conversation as well (specifically in reference to the article above and also on this blog in general) particularly since I am black and a woman. Cheers.


MFT, even the Irish have trouble in this business…
I’m half kidding, but really we are the most diverse nation in the world and our media only reflects a very small portion of our society. Rich, generally white, predominantly male.

Shouldn’t art be about entering someone else’s world?


Yes, what Natalie Portman said was on point. i definitely agree with her however it would be great if some women of colour were included in both of those lists (the oscar and indie winners). I know this blog is targeted toward highlighting women in this industry and the struggles we face, but it definitely seems its only about white women (similar to U.S. feminism). I am a actor/writer/director who is also African American and as someone who experiences sexism and racism in this industry it’s frustrating to me that the racial aspects of this conversation are almost always left out. Yes, that may mean more work but it’s just as important and well worth it. At least notice it. You never know, things may change a lot quicker. Thanks.

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