June 19, 2008

Women in Film Celebrates 35 Years

Congratulations to Women in Film on your 35th anniversary. Welcome to middle age. In celebration, the organization gave out its annual Crystal + Lucy awards to some very worthy insiders: Diane English and the women of The Women; Salma Hayek; Sherry Lansing; Ginnifer Goodwin, Mandy Walker and Jeff Katzenberg.

To coincide with the awards, The Hollywood Reporter did its semi-annual roundup talking about women's roles in Hollywood. Being a trade paper it seems to me that they can't really have a realistic assessment on the gravity of the situation, (since they get all their ads from people working in the business.) That was confirmed by the first sentence in the lead story, What Women Want:

Oscar was good to women this year.
What? How can that be true? Does Shannon L. Bowen (the reporter) live in the same universe that I do? I clearly remember around Oscar time reading all these stories about how women were missing from most all the best picture nominees.
Of the 176 nominations for the 80th Annual Academy Awards, 43 (24%) went to women. Three of the films nominated for best picture had female producers: Lianne Halfon ("Juno"), Jennifer Fox ("Michael Clayton") and JoAnne Sellar ("There Will Be Blood"). Four of the 10 writing nominees were women: Diablo Cody ("Juno"), Nancy Oliver ("Lars and the Real Girl"), Tamara Jenkins ("The Savages"), and Sarah Polley ("Away From Her").
I mean, I guess it's better than years past, but 24% is still pathetic. On the other hand its probably a miracle that women even got that many nominations when women comprise a measly "15% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the top 250 domestic-grossing films of 2007." (The Celluloid Ceiling: Dr. Martha Lauzen, San Diego State U).

Iris Grossman ICM agent and president emeritus of Women in Film said: "There are women producers and studio heads and network heads and agents and managers...at the executive level, I think we're doing great."

My question is also about what these women are doing with their power. Are they helping other women? Are they trying to make more movies about women? Are they hiring more women directors? Clearly movies by and about women are not being effected by having more women in powerful positions when in 2007 only 5 of the top 50 grossing films starred women and only 6% of the top grossing 250 films were directed by women. Is there a disconnect here?

Martha Lauzen lays it out as bluntly as possible:
"That the numbers of women working behind the scenes in the film industry are actually on the decline is mind-boggling when you consider that these are the architects of our culture," Lauzen explains. "The people who tell the stories in our culture ultimately control that culture and have a lot of power over how we see groups of people, events, etc. -- and that remains a mostly male activity."
Women in Film celebrates female achievements