Friday, January 27, 2006

A Man's Hollywood

If you are reading this blog you are likely someone who has gone to film school, has an English degree, works in the film/entertainment industry or is just plain passionate about film. So I am going to open the Scribosphere up to a debate, if I may be so bold.

First, the backstory...

When browsing through the documentary section in Netflix I stumbled upon a series done by AFI called "The Directors." Over the past decade the American Film Institute has been adding installments to a series called "The Directors". As the name implies, the series profiles well-known directors and their contributions to film. Below is the list of directors that are featured in the series, followed by the number of movies for which they have a director's credit list on IMDb: Adrian Lyne (10) * Barbra Streisand (4) * Barry Levinson (29) * Clint Eastwood (29) * David Cronenberg (36) * Garry Marshall (24) * James Cameron (15) * Joel Schumacher (27) * John Frankenheimer (50) * John McTiernan (12) * Lawrence Kasdan (11) * Martin Scorsese (42) * Michael Mann (19) * Milos Forman (19) * Norman Jewison (37) * Rob Reiner (18) * Robert Altman (85) * Robert Zemeckis (23) * Roger Corman (55) * Ron Howard (28) * Sidney Lumet (64) * Spike Lee (38) * Steven Spielberg (48) * Sydney Pollack (27) * Terry Gilliam (15) * Wes Craven (29) * William Friedkin (30) * Wolfgang Peterson (34)

This list made an impression upon me for two reasons:

The first is the obvious omission of some very notable directors. The first that come to mind are Alfred Hitchcock (66), Stanley Kubrick (16), Mel Brooks (12), Francis Ford Coppola (29), Oliver Stone (23), Peter Jackson (13), Quentin Tarantino (13), M. Night Shyamalan (7) and Steven Soderbergh (24). And then there are the actors turned dirctor: Robert Redford (7), Mel Gibson (5) and Kevin Costner (4). (Author's Note: I know this list is not exhaustive... just bear with me).

The second reason is that of all of the directors listed above, only one of them is a woman. Also, coming up with other female directors is a bit more challenging: Nora Ephron (7), Penny Marshall (10), Kathryn Bigelow (12), Jodie Foster (5) and Sophia Coppola (4). Funny, how none of those women have resumes as lengthy as most of the men.

The question I have is: Why?

I posed this question when I took my week-long intensive course at New York Film Academy (remember, I work full-time and haven't been to film school). The response I got was: "It's a man's world."

Yes. I suppose. And, as a woman, I am very aware of this so-called man's world. I also know I have a lot of opportunities that were not afforded my female ancestors. Thank goodness for suffrage, women's rights and this progressive nation that strives for equality. To be honest, until men are able to get one or more degrees and work full-time PLUS give birth, manage a family, cook dinner, do laundry, pay bills, be a chauffeur and clean the house, will there really be equality? And why is there not an equivalent word for misogyny when expressing feeling towards men? But I digress... That's a topic for another day.

So, my question is: Why is Hollywood and filmmaking so dominated by men? Are men, in fact, the better filmmakers? If so, why? This is not meant to be a battle of the sexes but a provocation. My husband thinks that it is because men dominate the corporate world, that women choose other things over career, that men are workaholics and that women don't want it as badly.

I have my own opinions but I am going to withhold sharing them for a few days... What are your thoughts?


MaryAn Batchellor said...

As many articles, comments, programs, and posts I've read about this, the best answer I can give you is "this is how it is". It's a white man's industry. That doesn't mean there aren't other races and genders, because there most certainly are. But most screenwriters are whtie men. And that's about all I've got to say about that (Forest Gump).

But here's a place to start:

shecanfilmit said...

I did a survey on Zoetrope a couple of years ago. There were 200 screenplays posted. One-fifth by women and four-fifths by men (as best I could tell by the name.) Over the years, I've noticed that's a pretty steady ratio.

I work in high tech as a designer and engineer. I've noticed the same ratio - one woman to every four men - in Silicon Valley enigneering and professional services departments.

I think screenwriting is very visual and requires the same sort of technical thinking that engineering does, the type of thinking that men are better at. I think it's a simple as that. I don't think it's men trying to hold women down.

writergurl said...

HW is the ultimate "old boys" network. You can't get in without someone championing you and your work. It's VERY hard to get in without knowing someone. Just like corporate America, it's not only what you know, it's who you know. Unfortunately, just like corporate America, the glass ceiling is still firmly in place.

And, Christina, I disagree, I think society grooms boys to go into the sciences, and not girls. So, I don't think there's anything "inantely" predispossing men towards science or the visual. Society (to this day) expects and demands that women play a particular role in life (motherhood, wife, etc.) HW, amply supports all that.

Alicia said...

Christina - it looks like your thought process is quite similar to mine, in that film is a visual medium and men are generally more visual. Men are more visually stimulated and they tend to relate experiences with images as opposed to feelings. Obviously, there is always the anomaly and I'm not trying to pigeonhole either gender.

I know that Old Hollywood was run by men and I also know that people tend to help out their own. Changes are happening but it will probably be a century or so until women really make their mark in Hollywood. The same with politics, IT, science and Corporate America, in general.

Trust me - I can, and intend to, hold my own with the boys. And I don't feel held down or restricted, only challenged. After all, that's what makes it fun and interesting, right?

Writeprocrastinator said...

"Christina - it looks like your thought process is quite similar to mine, in that film is a visual medium and men are generally more visual."

Granted, but that's not to say that women cannot be as visually oriented, Kathryn Bigelow is my favorite female action director off the top of my head. She can hold her own with Richard Donner in terms of shooting pure action. She just cannot pick perfect scripts to save her life.

Check out "Near Dark" or "Point Break" again and tell me honestly that if didn't know beforehand that a woman directed them, you would've thought that a woman *had* directed them.

I believe that women (and some minorities) do not get second chances. They have to not only hit a homerun with their first effort but they have to hit out of the park and in this sense, the old boy network is in full effect.

I loved Darnell Martin's work with "I Like It Like That" but it didn't turn a profit and she was kicked downstairs to television.

Mimi Leder did over $140 million with "Deep Impact," then she didn't get another major studio film and she went from medium ("Pay It Forward") straight to the TV ghetto.

Look these directors up or just about any female director on the IMDB and you will notice that they don't get a second chance. If and when they get that opportunity, they won't get a chance to experiment or follow the human condition because they will be held to expectations that virtually no director could fulfill.

Writeprocrastinator said...


Excuse me, I got caught up in a rant and I want to wish you the best of luck.

Make us proud and hopefully I won't have to rant about your lack of opportunities some five years from now.

Ken Levine said...

I may post something about this on my blog too. Speaking from the sitcom side, as someone who has been a writer, producer, and director -- woman can absolutely do as well or better a job than men. Some of the best sitcom directors today are women -- Pam Fryman, Katy Gerritson, Lee Shallot, etc. It's tough for anyone to break through, especially now with fewer sitcoms, but these women and others have and more will follow.

The biggest hurdle they seem to face (in my experience) is dealing with crews. There the "boys club" still exists for the most part and it's harder for women to gain their respect. But the good ones do.

Ken Levine

oneslackmartian said...

Women, wake up! You outnumber us. There are more of you in college. There are more of you in the fields of math and science (yes, it’s true). There are more of you who are of the age to vote. So UNITE already! Have you seen us lately? We can barely match our own socks.

And really, you cannot EVEN imagine how much I want you to succeed beyond your wildest dreams. If fact, I’m COUNTING ON YOU. And you, and you, and you. All of you.

And you know why? Because I have a bright, witty, funny, inquisitive, kind, beautiful six-year-old daughter. And she needs you, her older sisters, to not back down and not put up with any sh#t!

Uh, that's not to much to ask, is it?