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When Women and Hollywood Came to London

When Women and Hollywood Came to London

I work in script development
in the UK, and am increasingly frustrated, infuriated and worried by the portrayal – or lack thereof – of women in film and TV.

Readers of this site are all
too aware that the female half of the human race is perpetually presented in
limited – and limiting – roles; in a sexualized, trivialized, passive and often
unrecognizable manner. Or just written out of history – or the story – altogether; our experiences denied value. We know that this is a global
problem, and an unquestionably damaging one at that. And we know how it has a
very real impact on the way women and girls are perceived, and our subsequent
status in the real world, and that this affects all of us – women, men, girls
and boys – and our relationships. 

Key to the problem is whose
stories get to be told. The statistics remain pretty much the same, year in,
year out. In 2012, on the top 250 domestic grossing films in the US, women
comprised 9% of directors, and 18% of all directors, executive producers,
producers, writers, cinematographers and editors – the latter statistic
representing no change from 2011 and an increase of 1 percentage point from
1998 (factoids) We may know this. It bears repeating.

Melissa’s trip to London
felt both timely and necessary – coinciding with this article: Sorry, Girls: It will take about 700 years for women to be equal to men in Hollywood films. Reading this, it would be understandable to give up at this point. It is
tiring to have to constantly face and fight this – and, sometimes,
overwhelmingly depressing. But fight we must. And who better to lead the
charge… Cue then, the impassioned Melissa, with three events to refuel the

  • An inspiring
    panel, chaired by Melissa, in celebration of her book, In Her Voice: Women Directors Talk Directing. This was hosted by
    Women in Film and Television (UK) and Birds Eye View and featured filmmakers
    Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like
    Beckham, Bhaji on the Beach
    ), Beadie Finzi (Only When I Dance), Tina
    I Am Nasrine), Shamim
    The House of
    I Can’t Think Straight) and Susanna White (Generation KillNanny
    McPhee Returns
    ). The goal of Melissa’s
    book is to “normalize women’s voices as directors”. It was refreshing and
    encouraging to hear from such a strong and diverse panel of female filmmakers.
    A second volume of the book is in the offing.
  • An illuminating presentation,
    giving an overview of the status of women and Hollywood in 2013,
    covering current statistics, looking at how Hollywood works, and
    interrogating how women do or don’t fit into the current Hollywood construct.
    This was hosted by Women in Film and Television (UK) and Directors UK.
  • A night of networking, which I
    co-organised, and for which we
    had an overwhelming response,
    resulting in a room packed full of talented, international women – and supportive,
    forward-thinking, very welcome men. Connections were forged, that will
    hopefully lead to future creative collaborations. Thank you to everyone who
    joined us. What an incredible night!

There is a definite appetite
here – a desire for change. The industry has become predictable, safe and
ultimately boring. The same old stories are regurgitated, when there are so
many more interesting ones that are left untold. This is a travesty.

This sexism is seemingly now
just accepted – because it was ever thus, because people don’t see the inherent
problem. And because we’re sick of pointing it out, and tired of feeling like
the lone voice. Last week’s Women and Hollywood events felt powerful. As a
gender, we have a collective power we possibly don’t always realize.

We can send huge message by
supporting women-centric films pushing forward with our own projects and staying away from films which
belittle, alienate, offend, mock or airbrush us out of existence. Women buy
HALF of movie tickets sold
 and this is something the industry needs to remember.

Thanks again to Melissa, for
coming to London, setting the wheels in motion and reigniting that fire. The
work of Women and Hollywood is greatly appreciated. Sometimes we need to be reminded
that it is in all of us to effect change. Crucial to this is knowing that other
people feel the same way.

Thanks too for reminding us

  • Our voices. Our stories. Our
    experiences. They matter.

If you are based in London
(or other parts of the UK), and would be interested in future gatherings, I
would love to hear from you. You can email me here:


Hannah Billingham is a
London-based script editor and developer. Projects include Arto Halonen’s
Finnish biopic, PRINCESS (2010), which was a domestic box office smash. She is
co-founder of In Development, a network for professionals developing film and
television drama and comedy.

Photos thanks to Jeremiah

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