Opportunities open up for women in Hollywood
While women still make just a small sliver of the movies produced in Hollywood, their influence is growing. Through technology and teamwork, women are making their presence felt.
Kathryn Bigelow, a couple of years ago, became the first woman to win an Oscar for directing — with.
It wasn’t quite the tipping point for women many in the industry had hoped for: of the 250 major movies that came out last year in the United States, women directed only 5 percent of them. But when it comes to commercial and critical breakthroughs among independent films, a shift seems to be happening.
Industry observer Anne Thompson says there’s a reason why Lisa Cholodenko ( ), Jennifer Westfeldt ( ), and other women have been successful in the independent scene.
"The new indie model that is emerging is much more collaborative — barter talent, share roles," she said. “All these filmmakers are sort of roaming the country helping each other make films in all these different locations and all these different ranges of experiences and it works. Women are really good at that kind of thing."
Sarah Polley’s new film, Take This Waltz, is populated by characters who feel refreshingly real and particular — unlike most of the romantic comedies and dramas Hollywood is now churning out.
"Women aren’t really trusted with anything else right now," Polley said. "I know female filmmakers who would love to make an action film or a horror film or some kind of thriller and they just don’t get the financing for those kinds of movies. So I think that women aren’t necessarily trusted with [that] subject matter."
Bigelow, Thompson argues, was the rare exception.
"She’s known for being a man’s director," Thompson said. "She puts men in her movies, she does action, she’s not doing female genres. And she’s resolutely not interested in doing them. But what she did was do them independently. And the Bin Laden movie that’s coming up later this year was raised overseas as well. And if women can raise their own funding, then they can get the movies made."
New technology helps filmmakers clear the financing hurdle. Digital cameras allow filmmakers like Lynn Shelton to capture extra-long takes — including 40-minute takes for her film.
That freedom allows her to “pick up a camera, and call (my) friends and say, ‘let’s go make a movie!’” she said. “And if we fail, we’ll just shove it under the rug."
Shelton’s new movie is Your Sister’s Sister.
Hollywood continues to place its chips on guys making movies for guys. But would-be blockbusters likeand prove the risk of big-budget action flicks.
"The studios are stumbling right now," Thompson said. "And they seem to be avoiding the fact that there’s a huge demand for movies that are aimed at women, that have a women’s point of view, and demonstrable statistical evidence that movies likeand do really, really well at the box office. So why don’t the studios pay attention to this?
"It’s because they’re used to doing things the old way and they’re used to hanging on to these old conventional ideas.”
PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart, surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will get stuck in your ear.