In today’s NY Times, critic Manohla Dargis gives us her second feature on women directors working in Hollywood entitled In Hollywood, It’s A Men’s, Men’s Men’s World. She focuses this time on the lack of opportunities for women directors in the studio system.
For those of you not obsessed with the film business, the thing to understand about how the business works is that a film really can’t generate significant box office without significant marketing and production budgets, and those budget come from the studios (especially the marketing money). It is a vicious cycle that women can’t break into. It goes something like this:
Big budget movie + Lots of marketing dollars spent + Release on at least 3,000 screens = Big Gross (Only six movies in the top 50 grossing films of 2014 were released on less than 3,000 screens)
Most of the movies that fall into that category are about men (about 10% are about women), and practically every single one is directed by a man. Ms. Dargis makes the important point that the six major studios (not including their art divisions) will have released just three films directed by women by the end of 2014.
I want to be very clear. While people are pissed and the conversation may be shifting (the fact that the NY Times is writing a series on this is an indicator), the numbers for 2014 are actually worse than they have been over the last five years. According to an infographic that Women and Hollywood created, from 2009-2013 the studios released 4.7 films directed by women each year. (Over that time, Universal was the worst and Disney was the best.)
This year the number is 3. The numbers are going in the WRONG DIRECTION.
I know that people were curious about the three women referred to in the piece who will have movies released by the major studios in 2014.
Shana Feste – Endless Love – released (and financed) by Universal- domestic gross – $23 million. Budget $20 million.
Angelina Jolie – Unbroken – released (and financed) by Universal – estimated domestic gross as of Dec 28 – $42 million. Budget $60 million
Ava DuVernay – Selma – released (but not financed) by Paramount – opened in limited released on December 25. Opens wide on January 9. Budget $20 million.
And only 2 of those movies directed by women — Endless Love and Unbroken — are in the top 100 of the year (as of this writing.) Jolie will have the top grossing film directed by a woman this year, and she may break into the top 50. DuVernay’s movie has only opened on a handful of screens as of right now, but Feste’s film opened on almost 2,900 and Jolie’s movie opened on 3,100.
And keep in mind, there is no Frozen this year. In fact, none of the big animated films this year had a woman director or was women centric.
And here’s a fact to piss you off: in 2014, four of the major Hollywood studios — 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Disney and Sony — will not release a single movie directed by a woman.
Donna Langley from Universal gets props for having released two of the three films directed by women, and Amy Pascal at Sony gets a lemon for not releasing a single film directed by a woman this year. Let’s hope the arrival of Stacey Snider at Fox will shake things up over there a bit.
And things are not great from the studios art divisions in 2014. There are only two women directed films.
Amma Asante – Belle – Fox Searchlight
Martha Stephens – co-director of Land Ho! – Sony Pictures Classics
And lastly, here are the women directed films released by the smaller distributors (top 300 grossing features of the year from boxofficemojo.com)
Step Up All In – Trish Sie – Lionsgate
Beyond the Lights – Gina Prince Bythewood – Relativity
Obvious Child – Gillian Robiespierre – A24
Laggies– Lynn Shelton – A24
Palo Alto– Gia Coppola – Tribeca Films
The Babadook – Jennifer Kent – IFC
On My Way–
Emmanuelle Bercot – Cohen
A Five Star Life –
Maria Sole Tognazzi – Music Box
Night Moves– Kelly Reichardt – Cinedigm
Here are some thoughts from Manohla Dargis’ piece for people to ponder:
"Yet sexism in the workplace doesn’t necessarily surface in clear, crude ways, and it’s unusual for anything damning or actionable in the movie business to leak out. Sexism there often works like a virus that spreads through ideas, gossip, and stories about women, their aesthetic visions and personal choices, and doubts about whether they can hack it in that male-dominated world. Of course, the end result is that female directors don’t get hired.
There isn’t a back-room cabal of cigar-chomping male — and female — executives conspiring against female directors, at least that I know of. Rather, the reluctance to hire women seems symptomatic of a conservative, fear-driven industry that recycles the same genres, stereotypes and impoverished ideas year after year. So, exactly like the outside world, the movie business clings to dusty stereotypes as when insiders refer to directors as generals and ship captains, as if today women don’t have those jobs. All that said, it remains surprising that the industry fails to grasp that women, on screen and behind the camera, are good for the bottom line."
We all know that things must change. What we don’t know if there is the will or desire to force this change. Maybe its time to start shaking the leaves of the shareholders of these multi-national parent companies of the studios?