Why Are Only 3 Women Directing Big Budget Movies This Year?
5:00 pm, March 9th | by Meredith Lepore
According to a new report, in 2013 only three women are slated to direct studio-driven, wide-released feature films: Tyler Perry Presents Peeples (May 10), directed by Tina Gordon Chism, Carrie (Oct. 18), directed by Kimberly Pierce, and Disney’s animated feature Frozen (Nov. 27), co-directed by Jennifer Lee alongside Chris Buck. There are slew of other films directed by women also coming out but none are expected to generate as much money as these. Why don’t women get the chance to direct these bigger films?
“In terms of creativity, box office numbers are inconsequential. But in Hollywood, they’re a calling card and a record-setting number like Nelson’s Kung Fu Panda 2 gross goes a long way. Which explains why women filmmakers are climbing uphill to get projects with larger budgets off the ground. Running down the list of the highest-grossing directors of all time (based on BoxOfficeMojo.com’s director filmography totals), we don’t find a woman until No. 60: Lana Wachowski, director of The Matrix trilogy, who first entered the industry as a man. Further down at No. 81 is Betty Thomas, one of the few women to have shaped a career out of directing modest blockbusters. Including The Brady Bunch Movie, Doctor Dolittle, 28 Days, and the recent Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Thomas’ films have collected nearly $563.3 million.”
Actress and indie film director Sarah Polley (Take this Waltz) said in a recent interview, “Women aren’t really trusted with anything else [then women-focused films] right now. I know female filmmakers who would love to make an action film or a horror film or some kind of thriller and they just don’t get the financing for those kinds of movies. So I think that women aren’t necessarily trusted with [that] subject matter.” The exception is Kathryn Bigelow who directs traditionally “male” fare like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. However, Hollywood.com reporter Matt Patches pointed out that people were only upset about Bigelow’s Best Director Oscar snub this past awards season for about a day, while the media practically held a vigil for Ben Affleck’s snub every single day after the nominations were announced.
In a recent opinion piece for The New York Times Academy Award-winning producer Cathy Schulman (Crash, The Illusionist) wrote “Although women are more than 50% of the filmgoing public, predominantly male decision makers focus on making movies for boys and men, while systematically failing to support stories for women and girls. Female executives need to break this pattern by trusting their own judgments and interests.”
On the bright side though, female writers in Hollywood do tend to fare better than female directors. According to a new study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, women account for 15% of the writers working on the top 250 films of 2012. And we are seeing crazy amounts of success from female writers, creators, and showrunners on television.
In the last year there has been a major shift in television to more female-driven shows, especially comedies. Sitcoms that have debuted in the last year include New Girl, Girls, The B In Apartment 23 and Suburgatory. All of these shows were created by and focus on women. This new season we also got The Mindy Project, co-created by Mindy Kaling, as well as Callie Khouri’s Nashville. Shonda Rhimes also added to her television empire with Scandal (which is the first major network show to have an African American female lead in 38 years.)
Meghan Casserly of Forbes, in an article titled “Is Television The Best Place for Women In Hollywood?” wrote:
“From Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers, whose Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice success has been built on the backs of female characters to new girls Lena Dunham and Liz Meriwether, the small screen is increasingly the space for female screenwriters, producers and directors to showcase interesting female plot lines and characters—without being ghettoized by the trappings of chick-flick labels.”