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Why There Are So Few Female Directors

April 9, 2024

You may have heard a lot about the works of directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese. But how much have you heard about directors like Dorothy Arzner, Alice Guy-Blaché, Charlotte Wells, Chloé Zhao, Ava Duvernay, or Jane Campion? 

Male directors have done incredible things for the film industry—there is no denying that. We have been blessed with some of the most beautiful films ever made because of these incredibly talented visionaries. 

However, the film industry does not look so kindly on women who desire to go into larger filmmaking roles like directors or producers because of the lack of them already in the business. Many studios will look at examples from the past to judge current potential, the majority of which is male. It is much harder for women to find funding to promote their work because of the minimal proof out there that they are capable of success. Simply, Hollywood is a business. What is the goal of a business? To generate a profit. History shows the greatest amount of profit has come through male directors because that is what people are used to. 

Despite the lack of representation of women in film, women have much to offer the industry. Both male and female directors are invaluable because each has a different way of looking at the world and a different approach to storytelling It has been proven that women are capable of telling a compelling story, yet they are continually treated unfairly when it comes to opportunities for growth. 

San Diego State University’s The Celluloid Ceiling has published yearly records regarding women in Hollywood since 1998. Their 2023 report stated that only 16% of the top 250 grossing films were directed by women and only 14% of the top 100. The percentage of women who hold key behind-the-scenes positions has gone down by 1-2% over the past year, but with more and more women stepping up in the industry, I predict the number will steadily rise again. 

Out of the few female directors, Greta Gerwig stood out with the release of her blockbuster movie Barbie. The film was a great accomplishment for females in the movie industry. Gerwig has an incredible talent for storytelling, as seen not only in Barbie (2023) but also in Gerwig’s other films, like Little Women (2019). Gerwig’s work has not received as much recognition as many think it deserves but is absolutely part of the foundation for future female directors to stand on. 

Fans and onlookers were especially unhappy with the results of the Oscars this year. Barbie was nominated for eight awards, and the one award it did win was for best original song, “I’m Just Ken” sung by Ryan Gosling. How Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie were not even nominated for their major roles in the film was shocking to the movie’s fanbase. However, according to an article covering the event, the Academy has been known for its more masculine taste and has not typically based its judgments on cultural popularity. A similar situation happened the year prior when Top Gun: Maverick, the biggest movie of 2022, seemingly got brushed aside by the Academy. 

Inclusion in The Director Chair addressed several possible solutions to the lack of women in film. “While the pipeline continues to fill with talented new voices,” the analysis stated, “it seems the film industry is content to ignore those who have already proven themselves capable.” Bringing on a female director for multiple bigger films would be a great step for improvement. Many of the most famous directors are so well-known today because of their list of films done in their particular style. They were given a chance to grow and become what they are now. Women would be able to achieve that same respect if they were given the opportunity and invested in. 

Judging based on experience and work is also an important area that needs improvement. The quality of a film has never been impacted by gender. Women have proven that they are capable of making incredibly moving, culturally impactful films that defy standards and hold a captive audience. 

It is not an easy thing to do in the Hollywood sphere. Change is not seen as a priority when executives can see a history of success in how things have always been done. However, the culture around us is slowly but surely becoming more aware that many have been without a voice. Because of this shift, I think the number of female filmmakers will escalate in the years to come. 

Both men and women have a place in the industry and can contribute differently in beautiful ways that allow a fuller harmony of voices to be heard. As a female myself whose dream is to become a film director one day, I hope to help contribute to the growth of female filmmakers and pave the way for future generations after me. It inspires me to see the need for these roles and gives me more passion to pursue this career. 

No matter who you are, if you are looking to pursue filmmaking, start with what you have. Experiment with different styles, try new creative techniques and get involved with as many projects as you can. 

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your work or just really like movies, come check out our 5-Minute Film Festival at the LaHaye Event Space featuring student-produced films! The festival runs April 8-11 from 6-9 p.m. with the awards on April 12 at 7 p.m. So come check out this spectacular event, come dressed to the nines, and enjoy the show!

 

Written by Faith Catanzaro

Faith
is a sophomore studying Digital Media & Journalism concentrating in Video Production, and she is also a videographer for Student Activities. She loves watching movies, cooking, blogging on Instagram, graphic design, health, and fitness!