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Where are the Women at the Indie Spirit Nominations?

by Melissa Silverstein
November 29, 2011 4:41 PM
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I just got back from a meeting and broke open the list of indie spirit nominees for 2012 and I am utterly dispirited at the lack of female voices throughout the categories. 

I am looking back at the list from last year and two female directed films -- Winter's Bone and The Kids Are All Right -- got multiple nominations. 

This year not so much.

A variety of these lists that will be coming at us over the next months and they will be very male centric.  If people were under the illusion that this was a good year for female voices, this list is an indicator of how much work needs to be done.  This so makes me want to start the female film awards.  Who is in?

This year...

There are NO women directed films in the best feature category.  And NONE of the films are about women.  Last year, Black Swan and Winter's Bone and The Kids Are All Right.

There are NO women directors in the best director category.

There are NO women in the best screenplay category. (Last year there were 3)

There are NO women directors in the best first feature category (there are women producers)

There is ONE woman in the best first screenplay - Brit Marling the co-writer of Another Earth

There is ONE woman director in the best documentary category - Daniele Anastasion as co-director/producer for The Redemption of General Butt Naked.

There are NO women directed films in the best international film category (where the hell is We Need to Talk About Kevin?)

There are NO women in the best cinematography category.

ONE woman -- Sophia Lin producer of Take Shelter -- out of three is nominated for the Piaget Producers Award.

There are NO women nominated in the Someone to Watch category.

Some better news...

Two women directed films -- Circumstance written by Maryam Keshavarz and Pariah written and directed by Dee Rees are nominated for the John Cassavetes Award - which is for films made for under $500,000.

Two women directors are nominated for the Truer Than Fiction Award: Heather Courtney - Where Soldiers Came From and Alma Har’el - Bombay Beach.

Lauren Ambrose surprisingly gets a nod for BEST FEMALE LEAD in Think of Me a film on nobody's radar screen but is of the time (a mom living on the edge of poverty trying to raise her daughter) and ditto for Rachael Harris for Natural Selection. Others nominated are Adepero Oduye - Pariah; Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene; Michelle Williams  - My Week with Marilyn.

Best supporting female:  Jessica Chastain - Take Shelter; Anjelica Huston - 50/50; Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs; Harmony Santana - Gun Hill Road; Shailene Woodley - The Descendants

Full list of nominees

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • F.P. | December 4, 2011 11:11 PMReply

    I HATE when these stories emerge - one, for the fact that they are true, but for two, that we spend time obsessing about it. You know why "Winter's Bone" and "The Kids Are Alright" got nominated? Because they were excellent, Oscar-worthy as well. Why did "The Hurt Locker" and Kathryn win? It (and she) were excellent.

    Are there truly excellent, world-class films from women directors this year? No. Flat out, no. I liked "Pariah." I liked "Circumstance." I think they are deserving of the noms, for the directors and the producers. I'm glad "Another Earth" earned spots as well, as I think Brit Marling wrote a script that plays to her strengths. Are those 3 films in my Top 10 for the year? No. Good is not great and it never will be. 'Sleeping Beauty' was too disappointing for me to take it seriously, though good for Julia Leigh in having a buzz-worthy film.

    It's fair to bring these numbers to light, Michelle, it makes it clear that we have work to be done but I'm with Dani - we need to rep our films as well as our male counterparts do. We need to MAKE our films as well as our male counterparts. It's women like Kathryn Bigelow and Lisa Cholodenko and Maryam Keshavarz and Dee Rees and all of their respective producers that give the rest of us chances to make our films, but I don't want representation in that tent unless my work exhibits true excellence. Asking for anything less allows our films to be lesser than what they should be.

  • vj | December 4, 2011 5:35 PMReply

    Have you heard of Women In

  • vj | December 4, 2011 5:31 PMReply

    I'm a female director, it's ashame that women have to have their own awards like African Americans and other cultures, but let's do this!

  • Vj | December 4, 2011 5:30 PMReply

    Where is Ava Duvernay 'WE WILL FOLLOW' and now 'KINYRWANDA starring Salli Richardson and Omari Hardwick. Ava is someone to watch!

  • Catherine Campbell | December 3, 2011 6:15 PMReply

    Thanks Melissa for your constant watch, we appreciate it more that you know!

  • Gina | December 2, 2011 1:05 PMReply

    Dani, What crack pipe are you smoking? I'm a female director, I go into meetings and they tell me "great script", the problem is you directing. Every single female director/writer I know is having problems getting representation & financing. What would "do something" be in concrete terms? If your agency is actually looking for female writer/directors, please let us know where to submit our work.

  • Dani | December 2, 2011 4:17 PM

    There isn't an agent I know who cares what your gender is. We care about your reel, how you handle yourself in a room, and how good you are with material.

    Talking about "women" as a group is sometimes problematic. But the group of women trying to break in - in total - has to be larger before you're going to see drastically different overall stats.

    This says nothing about your individual chances of succeeding in the business. This is to say that counting up the total number of female directors isn't proof of anything. Show me a successful female director, and ask her if she had a hard time breaking in - she'll say yes. Show me a successful male director, and ask him if breaking in was hard - he'll say yes too. Both will be telling the truth. It's hard.

    No offense, but I don't know who you are, or if you're talented enough to make it. Few women are. Few men are too. Assume roughly the same ratio of talent-to-kidding-themselves for both genders. If way more men are getting up every morning and killing themselves to make it as directors - and I assure you they are - it's not close - then it shouldn't be a surprise to see way more men working as directors.

    I don't like this. I would like more women to try to break in. But the numbers have been stuck for a decade. And while there is absolutely some shitty sexism in this business - no doubt - the biggest reason for the numbers is the ratio of aspiring candidates. Ask anyone at any agency. This is not a secret inside the business.

  • Dani | December 2, 2011 11:25 AMReply

    Don't worry. It'll still be "The Year Of the Woman" come Oscar time. It's trumpeted to be "The Year Of The Woman" every year. And it never really is.

    Women don't try to break into Hollywood in anywhere close to the same numbers as men. That's never written about. But it's true.

    - A female Hollywood agent who is frustrated that more women don't shut and DO something about under-representation

  • Sarah | December 1, 2011 9:13 PMReply

    I am amazed Brit Marling wasn't nominated for Best Actress. She's phenomenal.

  • vikki | December 1, 2011 3:14 PMReply

    Just curious, how are the films juried? What is the gender distribution of the jurying body?

  • Zach S. | November 29, 2011 6:28 PMReply

    GO ALMA HAR'EL!!! She's like 5 women.... in one

  • Caitlin McCarthy | November 29, 2011 5:33 PMReply

    Shame on me. I expected more from the indie world. Should have known better. Film is one big sausage fest.

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