This year the news has been bad for UK female film directors. Statistics have revealed, in article after article, the depressingly low numbers of women directing feature films. I look at the slates of our UK funding bodies and find little to be optimistic about in terms of female directors. I watch female director friends who, for all their clear brilliance and absolute competence, struggle to break through the institutionalized sexism of the UK film industry.
Despite announcements, gasping in surprise, over the underrepresentation of female directors, and despite public funding bodies’ breathy pledges to readdress the balance, it is nigh on impossible to imagine a wave of change that could move fast enough to raise my hopes of cinematic equality.
Yes, these are miserable times for the ladies, or rather they were, because there is some good news. This week, I attended the first meeting of the London chapter of Film Fatales — and there was much to be optimistic about.
Film Fatales was set up by the New Yor- based director Leah Meyerhoff as a community of female film directors who support, collaborate, and mentor one another in the making of feature films. The London chapter will function in the same way — an aspirational, positive collective focused on directing features. We started small — myself, Rebecca Johnson, Jo Coates and Claire Oakley — but September’s meeting already has a larger number of participants, and I imagine the numbers will continue to grow.
I have long believed that a positive shift will occur when women start helping women. In an informal way, a small group of us female directors, having met through The National Film School and Guiding Lights, got together from time to time and naturally discussed the problems of filmmaking. When Rebecca Johnson emailed me a link to an article about Leah Meyerhoff and Film Fatales, the plan to set up a London chapter was formed.
That we have formalized discussions through Film Fatales is recognition that we can enable each other, and others, on a much larger scale and create a strong network of female film directors. With no subscription fees, it is open to those on a low budget. It removes isolation and energizes. It gives us a voice greater than our own, links us to a growing independent filmmaking resource, both in the UK and the US, and inspires a "do it for ourselves" attitude.
As female directors, we will be empowered by such unity and, as Jo Coates succinctly put it on Monday evening, “we will be part of the dialogue about film because we are filmmakers and not because someone has told us we are filmmakers.”
Nicola Mills is a writer-director, a graduate of the National Film & Television School, a Guiding Lights mentee, and a Binger Film Lab, Torino Film Lab, and Sheffield Doc Fest Devise to Deliver participant.