Held on October 25 in New York City, the panel — The Ms. Factor: The Power of Female-driven Content — was held on October 25 in New York City, as part of
the Inaugural Produced BY: NY event sponsored by the Producers Guild of America.
Audience demographics and buying power are changing. The power of females at the box office reigned supreme this past summer in terms of on-screen presence
and audience turnout. A look at the 100 highest-earning movies of 2013 reveals that on average, movies with a female protagonist earned 20% more than
movies with a male protagonist. So why the overall shortage of female protagonists and women filmmakers? What hurdles or opportunities does the current
environment present for producers seeking to tell stories about girls or women?
The panel moderated by Cathy Schulman (“Crash;” “The Illusionist;” President, Mandalay Pictures & Women In Film LA) featured
Kelly Edwards (VP Talent Development, HBO), Lydia Dean Pilcher (“Cutie and the Boxer;” “The Lunchbox;” “The Darjeeling Limited;” Vice President: Motion
Pictures, Producers Guild of America), Stacy Smith (Director, Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative, USC Annenberg), and Lauren Zalaznick ( “Kids;” “Zoolander;” Media Executive Founder & Curator, The LZ Sunday Paper).
The printed information sheet ‘Females in Film & TV Facts: On Screen Behind the Camera, and Career Barriers Faced’ was available to attendees from
panelist Stacy L. Smith.
Prevalence of Females across 100 Top Films from 2007 to 2013:
Percentage of female characters in 2007: 29.9% and in 2013: 29.2%
Percentage of films with gender parity in 2007: 12% and in 2013: 16 %
Percentage with female lead/co-lead in 2007: 20% and in 2013: 28%
Behind the Camera
Prevalence of Female Filmmakers across 100 Top Films from 2007 to 2013
Percentage of female directors in 2007: 2.7% and in 2013: 1.9%
Percentage of female writers in 2007: 11.2% and in 2013: 7.4%
Percentage of female producers in 2007: 20.5% and in 2013: 19.6%
Gender ratio in 2007: 5 to 1 and in 2013 5.3 to 1
Independent Film Behind the Camera
Prevalence of Females Behind the Camera at Sundance Film Festival 2002-2012
Director: Narrative 16.9% Documentary: 34.5%
Writer: Narrative: 20.6% Documentary 32.8
Producer: Narrative: 29.4% Documentary 45.9%
Cinematographer: Narrative: 9.5% Documentary: 19.9%
Editor: Narrative: 22% Documentary: 35.8%
The Prevalence of Female Filmmaker across 120 Global Films from 2010 to 2013 in the United Sates:
Directors: 0, Writers: 11.8%, Producers 22.7% and the Gender Ratio 3.4 to 1.
For more information on these reports:
Moderator Cathy Schulman opened the discussion with the goal for the panel — to discuss some of the myth-busting in the industry and the deep set cultural
How do we break the status quo?
Lydia Dean Pilcher:
There is a perception in our industry that female-driven content is not commercial. We see that’s not true. Women are driving the conversation. We have a
responsibility to debunk perception. Finance models are driven by foreign sales estimates and the myth is prevalent among foreign sales agents. We have new
data for female-driven content internationally.
: Statistically 93 percent of foreign sales buyers are men,
Stacy L. Smith:
On screen, less than one-third of the speaking characters are girls and women, and if you are trying to appeal to the women audience, you’ve lost
proportion. Behind the camera, there’s a fiscal cliff; very few women are attached as directors in narrative films. Women are perceived as less confident
to lead a production crew. Internationally, female-driven films made more money. The audience is there, but authenticity is lacking due to who’s behind the
About Television and Cable
In television there is some movement that may be systemic or cyclical, we don’t know. The most powerful showrunner today is not the most powerful female showrunner, it’s the most-powerful showrunner — Shonda Rhimes. The heat around television programming now is based on strong female
: Kelly, what are you seeing in cable TV, how does it compare? Also, you’ve been involved in diversity, can you speak to those factors?
We (at HBO) are charged with bringing ethnic and gender to our network. I find the ennui comes often with people relying upon who’s in your circle; people
hire who’s in their contact list and who’s in arm’s reach. My job is to make sure that list is expanded upon. There is that bias. We keep having
the same conversation over and over again. For example, regarding cinematographers, I brought in 10 DPs and maybe five were white directors, the list of
cinematographers is so tiny. There are 900 in the local 600 (union) in Los Angeles. What we realized was that they weren’t connected (to the producers and
The Good News and the Other News
: Where are the women in power in all this? Who’s making the decisions?
The good news is, in television we do have more power; women are in creative roles, they are strong and not afraid to showrun.
Lydia Dean Pilcher:
I produce for a lot of women directors. I feel in my work, pitching female-driven content and female directors, there is institutional resistance. I always
understood that women tell stories differently than men do in a positive way, but these (the statistics) are abysmal numbers. This resistance — this is
why we have to debunk the myth of the power of the audience. It translates to money.
: Anyone with the purse strings will dictate.
On the Young Adult Audience
Lydia Dean Pilcher:
I’ve produced for teen girls and I became frustrated that there was no distribution; the indie producers don’t distribute teens. I was thrilled when Fault of Our Stars came out. The trend is that the Hollywood model is breaking down. There’s a different methodology with the new platforms,
including VOD (video on demand).
I asked the panel: What advice can you give to female film and screenwriting students soon to be graduating and trying to break into the industry when
males are still holding the purse strings?
If you’re in college now, you need to be doing an internship. Studios, companies want to see on your resume that you’ve already done something in the
industry. All studios now have paid internships year-round. There are always opportunities. When students are just out of college, network.
The other panelists jumped in with additional advice to join and research organizations, including the Women in Film and Television chapters, and the new
programs at Sundance and the Independent Feature Project. They all agreed: “Don’t quit. Persevere.”
Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting at Purchase College SUNY, and presents international seminars on
screenwriting and film. Author of SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! and THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER, she is chairperson of Su-City
Pictures East, LLC, a consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with writers, filmmakers, and executives worldwide. www.su-city-pictures.com, http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog