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by Lexi Alexander
January 15, 2014 12:37 PM
13 Comments
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No More Excuses: Hollywood Needs to Hire More Female Directors

Director Lexi Alexander

German-born director and former World Point Fighting and Karate Champion, Lexi Alexander worked as a stunt woman before directing her first film, the short "Johnny Flynton," which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003. Her first feature, "Green Street Hooligans" won both the Audience Award and Jury Award at SXSW. She later directed "Punisher: War Zone," which became a cult hit following its 2008 release. She wrote and directed "Lifted," and has been working on a variety of other projects.

Aware that she's taking a risk of being labeled a "difficult bitch" if she voices any complaints, Alexander took the bold move of excoriating Hollywood for not hiring more female directors on her blog. She's tired of hearing people say that women don't want to direct and that there are no women directors out there. "I swear, if anyone near me even so much as whispers the sentence "women probably don't want to direct" my fist will fly as a reflex action," Alexander wrote.

Yesterday, "Women and Hollywood," an Indiewire blog, re-published Alexander's blog post, but given that Alexander complained that mainstream outlets don't cover the issue, we felt it's worth republishing here (with her permission, of course). Read it below:

There are only two kinds of people who are successful at this social media thing. Those who are funny and those who get real. I am not that funny, and I have yet to get real publicly. 

Today is a good day to change that. Since funny is not an option, I am going to take a deep breath, muster up all the courage I can, and talk about an issue I have long observed despairingly from the sidelines. 

Over the past three or four months I have been contacted by a civil liberties organization regarding this issue, I have spoken to several reporters anonymously, I've had lawyers call me to inform me that my forty-minute Academy Award-nominated short film somehow uniquely qualifies me for something I never, ever wanted to qualify for (it has to do with an excuse showrunners like to use when turning down feature directors for episode gigs), I even attended two DGA Women's Steering Committee meetings, and the best part, I have met many fellow women directors.

Read More: Gender Inequality in Film: In Infographic Form

Facts:

1) The media has never covered the lack of women in film and television more extensively than right now (skip the links if you must, just trying to make a point):

"Because We Need More Kathryn Bigelows: Segregate the Oscars by Gender!"

"Only Two of the 100 Top-Grossing Movies of the Year Were Directed by Women"

"The Bigger the Film, the Fewer the Women: Nominations for This Year's Oscars Will Prove Hollywood's Sexism"

"Golden Globes by Gender: Where Are All the Women?"

"Quote of the Day: Manohla Dargis: 'The Movie Industry is Failing Women'"

"Hollywood Sexist? Female Directors Still Missing in Action"

Those are just from the past few weeks. The list goes on and on.

2) There is no lack of female directors. Repeat after me: THERE IS NO LACK OF FEMALE DIRECTORS. But there is a huge lack of people willing to give female directors opportunities. I swear, if anyone near me even so much as whispers the sentence "Women probably don't want to direct," my fist will fly as a reflex action.

Side note: The previous statement labels me as "difficult".

If I would instead have ended the sentence with, "I don't know what I'm going to do," I would be labeled as "indecisive." By letter of the law, all female directors must fall in one of two categories: Difficult or Indecisive. Bitch or Ditz. Hello, my name is Lexi Alexander, Difficult Bitch. Nice to meet you!

3) Despite the fact that plenty of outlets love to cover the "Women in Hollywood" issue, not one mainstream journalist has had the balls to really get to the bottom of the issue. (There are rumors about a prominent investigative journalist circling the story, but I'll believe it when I read it.)

4) Gender discrimination in Hollywood goes far beyond women simply not getting the gig. It is reflected in movie budgets, P&A budgets, the size of distribution deals (if a female director's movie is lucky enough to score one), official and unofficial internship or mentorship opportunities, union eligibility, etc.

5) Women in Hollywood have no male allies. There are some who pretend to be on our side, but yeah, not really. They may say the right thing because, after all, they're liberals and that's a public image they'd like to keep up. Others may actually believe in gender equality, but are not willing to put up a fight for it that could sacrifice their own status or relationships.

The majority of people think exactly like those anonymous commenters that pop up under any of the above linked articles. Check them out, they're easy to recognize: White male, oblivious to the affirmative-action bonus that came with the cradle? Yup, that's him. He will shout and scream in capital letters about reverse discrimination and argue that people should be hired based on merit and not gender, revealing that his three-hundred-thousand-dollar education really isn't worth a dime.

I'm going to get a lot of heat for the above statement, but I promised to get real. "What's that? You're saying this is not true, that there are many men in Hollywood who have tried to change the status quo?"

Okay. Let's be fair and really dissect this. (I would love, love, love to be wrong about this).

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13 Comments

  • veal hatred | January 16, 2014 2:42 PMReply

    Hollywood will never let itself be anything but a boy's club. Feminists need to quit fooling themselves, stop sucking up to male power and stop playing by the sexist rules, because it only reinforces their secondary position and men are not going to willingly give up their spot. The best a woman could hope for is an uncle tom position like Katherine Bigelow or Leni Reifenstahl, but now we are leaving the realm of gender politics and entering into another one altogether...

  • Truth Sayer | January 15, 2014 11:54 PMReply

    The problem with this whole "we need more women in Hollywood" rant is that what is really meant by that is that there needs to be more white women in Hollywood directing.Yes,yes,because white women usually don't take part in anything that Hollywood creates.Yes men do dominate the director world,and just because she wants to direct,does not mean there are like thousands of women wanting to direct.Most of the people that do produce films are woman and they trust only directors with a certain following in addition to proving themselves bankable people like Katheryn Bigelow.Some people in the industry need to realize that there are women in the industry that want to be directors but they have to work for it first and not just be handed the opportunity just because they are a women.Write an original screenplay like Lake Bell or Debra Granik then complain if you don't get picked up.

  • Dana | January 28, 2014 1:24 PM

    You clearly missed the entire point of the article or did not read it carefully. She specifically said she does NOT want to be hired just because she is a woman. She also cited the fact that she personally knows many female directors trying to break through. She hasn't advocated special treatment for women, she is calling out the BS of people trying to implement diversity programs but are really just sitting on their asses.

  • Yazmin Ortiz | January 15, 2014 3:53 PMReply

    Absolutely Lexi! Girl power all the way!

  • Jared | January 15, 2014 3:28 PMReply

    My biggest problem with this article is it does not acknowledge the fact that the ratio of males to females is very skewed towards males in the industry. I'm a male currently in film school, and out of 80 freshman students there are maybe 10-15 girls. Gender shouldn't be taken into account with jobs, skill should. But let's say the industry is only 15% female and 85% male, 15% of movies should be directed by females and 85% by males. That seems fair to me, women shouldn't direct 51% of movies because that's their percentage of the population, it should be the percentage of people applying. There just simply aren't as many females interested in film, as males.

  • veal hatred | January 16, 2014 3:04 PM

    Girls are still conditioned to be princesses, yet they want gender equality? You can't have both. "Princess" denotes a position of both superiority and inferiority. Many of the women that I went to college with were very unassertive and insecure, falling back on the sexual powers that they possess over boys at that age. They're going to have to break free of that before anything changes.

  • Alex | January 15, 2014 7:24 PM

    You're mistaking a symptom of the problem for its cause. The gender bias in the film industry doesn't begin and end at the studio level. As with other male-dominated fields (STEM, for example) women are implicitly and explicitly discouraged from pursuing those careers by professors, peers, parents, etc. from a very young age. The environment the few women who winnow through those circumstances are then faced with tends to be incredibly hostile toward women. Your statement "There just simply aren't as many females interested in film, as males" reveals your own gender bias, which is presumably de rigueur for your film school (and won't end after graduation).

    My related story: I grew up believing I was bad at math and science. I was an English major. I now work at a digital publishing company, where I self-taught myself pattern matching and programming languages. I now combine writing scripts that automate many of my original tasks with traditional editing. I have an inherent skill for the logic and mathematical thinking required for tech roles, so where did this idea that I was bad at math and science come from? This realization has given me a tangible example of the pernicious effects of gender bias in the education system—and I continue to encounter men in the tech world who are shocked to discover I'm interested in programming. "There simply aren't as many females interested in [tech], as males."

  • Mercè | January 15, 2014 4:54 PM

    The problem Jared is the number of films directed by women don't even get close to 15%. The issue is not even about equality ( yes there's more males interested in the movie industry) it probably will never be completly equal but there's a difference between equality and the current grossly missrepresentation of women in the industry.

  • @TheDirectorList | January 15, 2014 3:13 PMReply

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective as a working woman director! Our favorite part is, of course, where you remind people that indeed women directors DO exist. To say otherwise, is just a convenient way to let oneself off the hook for being ignorant about gender dynamics in the industry. It's the reason we started thedirectorlist.com (and @TheDirectorList on Twitter) -- there are many women directors with experience!

  • Tara | January 15, 2014 3:04 PMReply

    As a young woman & aspiring director, I can say this article was the most up-lifting & best thing I've read on the issue of gender inequality in Hollywood. Just being a junior in college I see it everyday in my film courses....and this is just freaking college! NOT EVEN A FILM SCHOOL. I appreciate these words of encouragement and will use them everyday. This article cuts straight through the BS, and that's exactly what needs to happen SOON. The wildcard status, and the faux-femnisits needs to end, and this is just the type of thing I needed to read to carry on in what I can only imagine will become a tougher struggle as I actually make it into the "real world" of movie making...

  • Jon | January 15, 2014 2:17 PMReply

    She can direct my movies any day.

  • CrazyxCrazy | January 15, 2014 2:13 PMReply

    Lexi Alexander making films is a reason to STOP women from making films

  • spasky | January 15, 2014 5:11 PM

    Just a reason to stop her from making films. Yeah.

    I don't think she's doing anyone a favor with this letter, though she may be offering hopeful guidance to future female directors (which can't be a bad thing, right?)