Last year, the Sundance Institute released an important study confirming what every female filmmaker already knew: If you want to direct a Hollywood film, don’t be a woman.
The odds are slightly better for women who want to direct indie films. A second installment of the study, released this week, shows that 35 percent of American-made documentaries screened at the Sundance Film Festival from 2002-13 were directed by women, in comparison to 17 percent of U.S. narrative films at the festival that were directed by women.
That’s a marked contrast to Hollywood, where about 4.4 percent of the 100 top-grossing Hollywood films during the same 12-year period were directed by women.
“Indie film is doing a lot better, but we have a long way to go,” says Caroline Libresco, senior programmer and director of special programs for the Sundance Institute.
Doing better, but still: There’s been “no meaningful change over time” of the number of female directors and producers leading Sundance films, according to the report, commissioned by Sundance and Women in Film Los Angeles, and conducted by a team led by Stacy L. Smith at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
‘Having this conversation constantly’ » “The statistics are a scandal,” said director Lucy Walker, at Sundance to promote her short documentary “The Lion’s Mouth Opens,” speaking at a panel spotlighting female filmmakers.
“Until we get to an equal playing field, we’ve got to keep doing panels like this,” agreed panelmate Rory Kennedy, at the festival to promote “Last Days in Vietnam,” which she directed and produced.
The film world is changing, “simply by the fact we’re all having this conversation constantly,” said Jill Soloway, who won the best director award for her 2013 Sundance film “Afternoon Delight.” It was, at first, difficult to find a distributor for her sexually bold film — the movie played in 25 American cities in August and September, and currently is available on iTunes — and she grew tired of hearing there wasn’t an audience for female-centered films about women over 35.
Why does the number of female directors matter? Supporting female directors and storytellers will help viewers see a full range of authentic and original stories in the media, said Utah filmmaker Geralyn Dreyfous, the Salt Lake City-based film producer who founded the Utah Film Center.
Dreyfous is a partner in Impact Partners, which has funded more than 45 documentary films in the past six years, including Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s 2011 Sundance documentary “Miss Representation.” “You can’t be what you can’t see,” says Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, as the documentary reveals how female characters on TV or in movies are most often represented as wives or girlfriends, looking for love.
—Next Page »