Breaking Through the Hollywood Ceiling

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Is the film industry sexist?

History was made on May 28th, 2017 when Sofia Coppola won the Best Director award for her movie, ‘The Beguiled’ at Cannes Film Festival. While the internet rejoiced and voiced their hope for a more diversified and women integrated workforce, it takes the focus away from the fact that even in the 21st century we still consider a woman winning an award as newsworthy.

Consider the case of Lexi Alexander. She is the women behind movies such Green Street and Lifted. In an interview with The Guardian, Alexander states that there had been numerous instances where she was simply not considered for box office movies and even worse, had to work with pouty actors who refused to be directed by a woman. She goes on to say that Hollywood places very little importance on the need to incorporate female storytellers and that perhaps a quota system should be implemented to ensure that the job-starved female directors have a voice in a male-dominated workforce.

Unfortunately, cases such similar to Miss Alexander’s are not uncommon in Hollywood. Just consider the the data released by The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film in 2014 which shows that in high budget movies, “85% of films had no female directors, 80% had no female writers, 33% had no female producers, 78% had no female editors and 92 percent had no female cinematographers.” Comparatively, “women accounted for 25% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the indie films screened at U.S. festivals in 2015-2016.”

On the other hand, women tend to fare well for independent or indie movies where they are hired in numerous roles starting from directing to being a cinematographer. But lucky for the women in Hollywood, their plight hasn’t gone unnoticed. According to an article from Business Insider, “a government investigation into civil rights abuses against women is underway that could have major implications for the film industry.” (businessinsider.com, 2016).

Perhaps, the issue isn’t just as simple as hiring more female workers but, there may be a need for overhauling the present mindset in the film industry. Ellen Kuras, a successful cinematographer, says that women tend to act demure to be liked and not be perceived as ‘difficult’ by their male colleagues. Moreover, women face this unprecedented pressure to act womanly, yet be forceful enough to be taken seriously in any industry today.

A similar statement was made by the Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence in an essay she wrote regarding the snafu of the leak of Sony emails in 2015. The emails listed clearly that Lawrence had been paid less than her male co-stars. Lawrence talks about how she had felt and that she needed to curb her opinions lest she’s considered to be ‘spoiled’ and asks why she can’t speak her mind without the fear that she might be ‘scaring’ her male colleagues.

While the American industry grapples with the ever rising female voice in the film industry, The Swedish Film Institute has implemented the controversial 50/50 mandate for all Swedish productions. Their CEO, Anna Serner, achieved this not by the dreaded quota system but by a financial commitment to womens’ careers. And you can bet the rest of the world is taking note of this including the British Film Institute, Telefilm Canada and many more.

As the times are changing, Hollywood has two options. It can either continue to limp around with the broken system, or it can warmly embrace the female workforce. Here’s hoping they heed the latter because as they say: if you can’t beat them, join them.

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