Do You Think There is a Glass Ceiling for Women Directors?

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by Melissa Silverstein
March 29, 2012 9:52 AM
4 Comments
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Apparently Columbia University's film school doesn't think so.   They are holding a panel at their 25th anniversary film festival on May 9 entitled: What Glass Ceiling? The Remarkable Success of Columbia’s Women Filmmakers.

Now granted the women on the panel, Lisa Cholodenko (“The Kids Are All Right”) Nicole Holofcener (“Please Give”), Larysa Kondracki (“The Whistleblower”) and Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) are very well known and award winning directors, but that does not mean there is no glass ceiling.  Just look at the statistics.  5% of the top grossing films in 2011 were directed by women.

And you know what all those women included in the panel have all struggled to get their films made especially if those films are about women.   Kim Peirce got $25 million for Stop-Loss and that was because it was about war and not about women.  All the rest made their latest films on very little budgets.  The Kids Are All Right was made for $4 million and Please Give was made for $3 million.  I don't have the figure for The Whistleblower but it was not a big budget flick.  My next question is what have been the budgets of the latest films of some of the male directors who graduated from Columbia?

And let's also remember Lisa Cholodenko did not get nominated for best director for The Kids Are All Right though the film was nominated for best picture and for screenplay.  And The Whistleblower which was a great film couldn't even get into the awards discussion even with another brilliant performance from Rachel Weisz.

I'm all for trying to change the conversation and have more upbeat discussions, but to say there is no glass ceiling is just bullshit.  That is like saying that it is the women's faults for not being successful, but we all know there is systemic sexism built into the system.  

Maybe they entitled the panel to attract female directing students.  To tell them that there is no sexism and no glass ceiling.  But by lying to them you ar enot preparing them for what they will have to go through.  I don't want women directors to give up.  They just need to have all the ammunition for the battle.

The event, is free and public, will be held Wednesday, May 9th at 7pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and will also be streamed live.  More info here.

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4 Comments

  • Brenda Chapman | March 29, 2012 8:37 PMReply

    Ridiculous title. Did the male administration choose it? Yet at the same time, I lived in a glass bubble for many years believing the same thing under Katzenberg's regime at Disney and DreamWorks - he "insisted" that I direct. Guess it just depends on where you are at the time. But to say it doesn't exist is just short-sighted and naïve.

  • Lilli | March 29, 2012 2:25 PMReply

    Of course they're gonna lie. How else could they keep charging their outrageous tuition. I know a number of female directors who graduated Columbia. Very talented, not working. Some of the best up and coming minority directors attended Columbia. They are also not working. Jay is absolutely right, so many talented people are excluded from this business... which seems to reward only family and friends.

  • Carol | March 29, 2012 11:04 AMReply

    While I completely agree with the comment Jay posted, I would just like to mention that I the title of the panel (which indeed is bullshit) is all about women filmmakers, so let's please just stick to that topic for the moment. I hope that the panel will discuss how ridiculous that title is and realize how lucky they are.

  • Jay | March 29, 2012 10:25 AMReply

    "My next question is what have been the budgets of the latest films of some of the male directors who graduated from Columbia?"

    Maybe, a better question would be: "What have been the budgets of the latest films of ANY film school graduates, including Columbia?" Or how about this one: "What has been the budgets of some of the minority directors who graduated from Columbia?" Uh, are there any minority directors (read: not solely African American) in the industry?

    The question of gender is a myopic one; let's get to the real issue: the question of limited, tunnel visioned, largely white studio system-nepotism of the film industry, which loves to recycle and reward their one. It's the White Entertainment Industrial Complex

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