This has been a big week for people paying attention to women and the film business. From Ellen DeGeneres pulling in great ratings for the Oscar show to Cate Blanchett using her Oscar win as a bully pulpit encouraging people to seek out films about women, the public is engaged in the conversation.
While we've got the public's attention now is not the time to step back -- it is the time to push the issue even further and build momentum.
Last month I participated in an event at the Berlinale called "Get Yourself Connected" which brought together female filmmakers and funders to talk about how to get more opportunities for female filmmakers. One thing that has happened now that the conversation is heightened and consistent is that the language is also shifting from the blatant "no" to a more subtle response talking about the "quality" of the work of female filmmakers. Quality, to me, is the new sexist buzz word. It means nothing yet is absolutely devastating. As one female filmmaker put it "if it was all about quality, then we would not have bad films, but we do have bad films." Oh yes we do, and many of them are made by men who are never are told that their films don't have the right "quality".
Our culture is too important to have only the white male perspective, so in honor of all the female filmmakers fighting and making films here are some ideas on how to change the world to make it more equitable:
- Seek out and pay to see films directed by women. This is not rocket science and is the most important thing you can do.
- Go and see movies about women. We don't want anyone to be using the word fluke to describe a successful films with female characters (even if they were the number 1 and number 3 films at the box office in 2013.) If you don't know where those movies are playing sign up for Women and Hollywood's weekly email which lists films opening and playing around the US. (sign up on the right hand side of the site.)
- If you live in a country where there is funding for films from taxpayer money ask them to supply the funding statistics for female directed films. If they don't have those statistics push them to get them and keep pushing in every way possible to get those figures. Once you have the figures push for more funding for women because I can pretty much guarantee that it won't be at 50/50.
- Maybe its time to get over the word and push countries to implement a quota system for women directed films.
- Find or start a female filmmakers group. Find out what grants or funding are available. Support each other. The more women are successful the more opportunities it opens for other women. Here's a kick ass one in NYC - Film Fatales.
- Seek out and read female critics and writers. If you town, city, or country doesn't have a female critic or prominent female writer ASK THEM why not.
- Don't stand for sexist conversations about women and film. It's not ok to stand by when someone demeans a woman director or if someone makes fun of a film about women JUST BECAUSE IT HAS WOMEN IN IT.
- Be a role model for the other women and girls and boys in your life. Remind them that you don't need to have a beard or wear a baseball hat to be a director.
- If you are organizing a panel at a film festival or event make sure it is not all white men.
- If you are putting together a jury at a film festival make sure it is not all white men.
- If you are putting together a crew for a film make sure it is not all white men.
- If an agency gives you a list of directors for you to consider for your film and there are no women on it -- ask them for women's names.
- Know your history - learn about the women directors, producers and writers who came before. Honor them. We are doomed to repeat history if we don't learn from it.
The bottom line is that things are not going to change unless we change them. It is up to all of us.