What I’ve Learned Thus Far…
This article was originally written by Gemma Pecorini Goodall for her film and TV blog Gemma Reviews.
Traditionally, any pledge that lines up with a year in terms of time is taken at the beginning of a new calendar year. Me being me, I wasn’t able to do that. Although I’d heard of the #52FilmsByWomen pledge prior, I only signed up in August. Starting during the first week of that month, I should currently be on my 22nd film but, alas, I’ve only managed to log seventeen films. Even so, the pledge has taught me a lot about women in film and female directors in particular and, with the closing of this year and the dawn of 2017, I thought I’d take a look back at what taking the pledge has taught me.
Before I jump into all the lessons I’ve learned, I thought I would first explain a bit more about the pledge and the importance of consuming female-led media. The #52FilmsByWomen pledge was created by LA’s Women in Film, a US organisation dedicated to the promotion of equal opportunities for women within the film industry. By agreeing to take the pledge you are basically agreeing to watch one film by a woman every week for a calendar year. The aim of the pledge is to promote content created by women and show production companies that female made films can be every bit as successful as those helmed by men. If you’re interested to know more about female directed content in Hollywood please check out my first blog post which explains why I took the pledge. I will also be writing and releasing a post about why I think the pledge should be taken within the next few days which will offer further information and statistics about women in Hollywood.
On that note, let’s see how taking the #52FilmsByWomen pledge has affected my view of films and the way in which we watch movies.
- PLANNING TO WATCH A CERTAIN FILM EVERY WEEK ISN’T AS EASY AS IT SEEMS
When I began my pledge, I thought the easiest part would be the movie selecting and watching process. I was of the impression that sitting down to watch a film directed by a woman would be incredibly simple, especially with the accessibility of streaming services such as Netflix. I was very wrong. I approach the selection of a pledge film like I do grocery shopping: taking longer to read the ingredients than normal. With most film going experiences, one tends to only look at the cast when deciding which film to watch. This obviously changes if you’re a film buff or have a few directors or producers who you are drawn to but, on average, the creative team isn’t something that most people take into consideration before hitting the cinema. Because of this, it’s hard to identify a female-led film from one directed by a male without a crew list, especially seeing as how small the director’s name can sometimes be written on a movie poster.
- NOT ENOUGH FEMALE-LED PROJECTS ARE AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX
This lesson is very biased as I may have a different definition of ‘enough’ than you do, and I only have access to the UK and Italian Netflix, but I’ve found that there are simply not enough films directed by women available online. This slows down the film watching process as it becomes difficult to find a film to watch quickly. There’s also no category for ‘films directed by women’ on Netflix (the matter being that I am still unsure as to how I feel about that. Is it better that female and male directors aren’t separated or does the absence of a clear female category on streaming services mean that fewer people are aware of films directed by women?)
- NOT ALL WOMEN TELL STORIES ABOUT WOMEN
Granted, this was something I already knew, but I thought I would include it in here for any men who fear that taking the #52FilmsByWomen pledge means just watching romantic comedies and ‘chick-flicks’ (most rom-com giants are men. Just see directors like Paul Feig and Gary Marshall). Sure, many women tell the stories of other women much like male directors tell stories about men. Although I watched films like Mustang and Turn Me On, Goddammit, which each focus on young female protagonists, I’ve also seen films like Wayne’s World and The Hurt Locker which fall into the traditionally masculine genres of stoner comedy and action respectively.
- WOMEN TEND TO FAVOUR CHARACTER DRIVEN NARRATIVES
This statement is limited to my experience and the films I have personally watched, but thus far I can’t help but to have noticed how it seems that female directors prefer narratives that focus on relationships and personal character growth. Films such as Eden and American Honey are very intimate and introspective looks at the films’ protagonists and even ensemble films like The Riot Club and Lords of Dogtown feature well developed characters who appear fully fleshed both individually and within their relationships to one another. One of the major reasons why female directors may seem to favour character driven narratives is that few women are entrusted with large budget films; only a handful of women are given the reins behind films with budgets over $1oo million and therefore must rely on having a strong screenplay as they can’t rely on visual effect driven scenes.
- IT’S 2016 AND THE NUMBER OF WOMEN IN FILM IS STILL ATROCIOUS
When the Golden Globe nominations were announced I was hoping that a female directed or produced film would be nominated. Although the diversity epidemic within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been public knowledge, the Golden Globes have had a track record of being slightly more inclusive (at least in terms of race), acknowledging actors of colour in the years the Oscars failed to do so. However, even with a long list of brilliant films by women in 2016, amongst which is American Honey, there are no nominations for a female director or screenwriter and not one of the ten films nominated for best picture were helmed by a female. While many male directors are being handed large blockbusters despite their relative newcomer status, veteran female directors are still not being entrusted with franchise films. American director Colin Trevorrow had only directed one feature film before being handed the reigns of both Jurassic World and Star Wars Episode IX. Ryan Coogler had similarly only directed one relatively low-budget ($900,000) film before being handed 2015’s Rocky film Creed, as well as being entrusted with Marvel’s upcoming superhero flick Black Panther. The truth is that it’s 2016 and women still only direct 6.4% of films, with only 1.3% being minority female directors, and this is simply not enough.
By Gemma Pecorini Goodall
Gemma Pecorini Goodall is a writer/translator who currently blogs about film at Gemma Reviews, where you can find reviews on old classics and the latest releases as well as thoughts on her journey through film. You can find Gemma at the following links: