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Notes from the DGA Women's Summit: Navigating the Hollywood Boys' Club

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! April 25, 2013 at 3:46PM

The Directors Guild of America's Women's Steering Committee hosted last month a full day of panels and conversations that sought to bolster support for female voices in cinema (a presence, yet again, lacking at this year's Cannes Film Festival).
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Members of the DGA Women's Steering Committee
Members of the DGA Women's Steering Committee

The Directors Guild of America's Women's Steering Committee hosted last month a full day of panels and conversations that sought to bolster support for female voices in cinema (a presence, yet again, lacking at this year's Cannes Film Festival).

The 2013 Women of Action Summit in LA featured a keynote presentation by actress Geena Davis, who spoke about the stagnant number of women seen not just in front of the camera -- a meager 17% relative to men -- but behind the camera as well. "The most powerful agents of change are the women in this room," Davis said at the discussion.

Three panels rounded out the summit. Moderated by Martha Coolidge, "Employment Equity Matters" brought together directors Debbie Allen, Catherine Hardwicke, Nancy Meyers and Nia Vardalos, among others, to discuss discrimination of female directors and producers within the industry. Meyers said that women in film need to "make noise wherever [they] can," while Allen suggested "holding out, starting a movement, a revolution" perhaps in the form of a committee.

Moderated by Penelope Spheeris, the next panel was "Making the Choice for Change," a look into the future for women in the industry that envisioned a "paradigm shift" in equality. Panelists included "Little Miss Sunshine" co-director Valerie Faris, Keri Putnam of Sundance and Cathy Schulman from Women in Film. The general consensus of the panel was that the discrimination of women in the industry is tantamount to the overall economic alienation of women, and that some of the DGA's policies regarding female voices in film have been "patently unfair." Audience members suggested creating a publicity and marketing committee, much like the WGA's, devoted to solely promoting women's work in film.

The final panel, "Creating Opportunities for Women in Film and TV," was moderated by BET's Loretha Jones and featured "Mad Men" showrunner Matthew Weiner and TV directors Lesli Linka Glatter and Betsy Thomas, among others. Weiner was optimistic about the institutional bias toward women improving with the next generation, noting little bits of progress by suggesting that female directors ought to pursue script work in TV with an eye on eventually directing. Panelists were keen to note the need for more female showrunners in television.

Visit Women Directors for more notes on the panel.

This article is related to: Directors Guild


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.