Where Were the Female Directors at the 2013 Oscars?

Editor’s Note: This blog was written and submitted by Vision 2020 Colorado Delegate Marla Wood.

Marla Wood headshotWho in the film industry does not fantasize about giving an Oscar speech? Add to that the possibility that Michelle Obama might be presenting you the Academy Award for Best Picture with Jack Nicholson, as she did this year (albeit via satellite from the White House), and that’s a career peak few can touch. It was inspiring to hear the First Lady encourage the arts, and specifically the art of film making during the presentation. Yet, I would have liked that encouragement to go a step further: to specifically encourage the industry to open the doors to female filmmakers. Beyond the encouragement to take the leap into film making, we need to ensure that reaching the pinnacle in the industry is a real possibility for women.

This year not a single female director was honored with an Oscar nomination (in fact, only four ever have been). We know that in Hollywood less than twenty percent of directors are women. This speaks to success for women in every sector of the industry because studies show that when women take the helm more women content creators (writers, producers, cinematographers, editors) are behind the camera, too.

What about independent film? This is where women can get ahead without the strictures of the old Hollywood system, right? Well, not according to a recent study, Exploring the Barriers, conducted by the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC, commissioned by the Sundance Institute and Women in Film. Not only have there been no sustained increases for women in American independent film in the last 10 years, but too many women doubt the lack of advancement. According to the study, thirty-percent of the female filmmakers queried believed that women were advancing in the field despite facts proving the opposite. The study recommends three ways to change current conditions; mentoring, improving access to finance and raising awareness.

This is where Vision 2020: Equality in Sight can make a difference. In Colorado, where I serve as a Vision 2020 delegate, that means participating in and championing events like the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival. Film is one of many forms of artistic expression that Coloradans celebrate for not just entertainment, but as a tool for social change. Colorado is home to more than 40 film festivals in small towns and cities in every corner of the state. In fact, it was after attending the Telluride Film Festival, on the western slope, that Donna Guthrie and Jere Martin were inspired to start the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival (on the “other side” of the mountain) in Colorado Springs. The RMWFF highlights films made by women and men that “present the world as women experience it and that inspire curiosity, educate, entertain, and stimulate conversation.” Screenings include documentary, feature, short and animated films. It is through the festival circuit that independent filmmakers can build an audience and access financing and distribution for a film that might otherwise never see the dark of a theatre.

Now in their 25th year, RMWFF organizers say it is the longest continuous-running women’s film festival in North America. The event has a dedicated following garnered not only for their stellar mission and compelling schedule of films every year, but through the work they do in the community year round. They also provide a unique environment for filmmakers.

Gretchen Reist Henderson, of Off the Grid Film Club, who attended the festival in 2012 to interview some of the female content creators present, said she found the environment of RMWFF unique in its opportunities for mentoring, bonding and valuable networking opportunities.

“Festivals often present a very competitive environment,” said Reist Henderson. “But this event has quite an encouraging attitude. There is also a greater sense of camaraderie among attendees. People seemed very comfortable engaging in post-film discussions, which indicated to me a general sense of comfort in involving oneself in the festival.” 

The 2013 RMWFF will take place November 2-3, 2013. The RMWFF deadline for submissions is June 30, 2013.

If you are working in film in Colorado or want to work to help advance women in the film industry, please contact me at marla@newgridcreatives.com.

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About equalityinsight

Vision 2020 is a national coalition of organizations and individuals united in their commitment to achieve women’s economic and social equality. Join Vision 2020 today! http://www2.drexelmed.edu/vision2020giftsonline/Individual.aspx
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One Response to Where Were the Female Directors at the 2013 Oscars?

  1. I hate to be sniggly, but a female director was not only nominated, but won. Brenda Chapman won for “Brave.” I know a lot of people don’t consider animation as “real filmmaking,” but it is, and Chapman made history last night as the first female director to win the “Best Animated Feature” award. Doesn’t change your larger point that female directors are underrepresented in the film industry, but I thought her victory deserved noting.

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