Alyssa Lemon

Disparity of Women in Film, Variety Article

I read the Variety article by Dave McNary reporting on the disparity of women film directors. I recently completed my first feature film and would like to share my thoughts.


In the article, Mrs. Rooney was quoted saying, “The numbers paint a grim outlook for diverse film directors – women in particular,” after stating a correlation to box office success in attachment to gender. But what percentage of films directed by male directors make more than 10 million in the box office in the first place? If only 6.4% of films are even directed by women, how can their box office figures ever compete when the statistical pool is thus far lacking? A blanket statement saying that films directed by women don’t perform at the box office paints an unfair comparison that is based off of a huge statistical discrepancy. Further, to even make a comparison to male box office receipts is further hindering women directors, by giving an excuse to Studios and Producers to not greenlight female directed films.


Continually the powers that be state that they are drawing attention to the issue. You’re putting together plans. But why aren’t you just hiring women to direct films? Why aren’t large studios and distribution houses offering large box office campaigns in equal proportion to their male counterparts? And if it’s the lack of content, why aren’t you seeking out and developing content?


How many women have actually had a full box office and theatrical campaign? From my observations, you have to be a famous actress or established writer or director for the studios to even consider it. Marketing budgets are everything when it comes to a successful box office run. And if you’re not famous or a decade into your career, the perception is your only option is to hit it big in festivals.


Sundance selected five films directed by women as part of their 16 film drama competition for 2016. This category emphasizes “a first look at groundbreaking new voices in the industry.” However, each of those women are already established within the industry and/or worked on multiple films with the exception of Elizabeth Wood, who co-directed a feature documentary: Meera Menon (Director of Farrah Goes Bang which won the Nora Ephron Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival and editor at Larry King Now), Clea DuVall (Actress from Argo, winner of a SAG award), So Yong Kim (Won Gotham Award for Breakout Director in 2006, Directed For Ellen, Official Selection of Sundance Film Festival 2012), and Sian Heder (Writer of Orange is the New Black since 2013).


If any of these women had received the respect and attention they deserved they wouldn’t be considered “new voices”. How many of these women can expect a legitimate box office run, despite the fact that each of them are established and technically proven in the industry? I really hope that they do get the support they deserve. But I don’t expect it. And this isn’t even scratching the surface on the obstacles facing truly independent women filmmakers.


You also mentioned what we are missing as film lovers and as a culture in general “when such a disproportionate percentage of films are directed by one gender or one ethnicity.” This is absolutely true. We’re not just missing these voices, we are deteriorating as a culture because they are not available. And you’re also missing out on a huge Box Office market. Ever wonder why 18-25 year old males make up the biggest demographic? You think women don’t enjoy movies? Or is it that movies don’t represent them.


Lois Weber was one of the greatest and most successful film directors of the silent era. She was praised by film historian Anthony Slide as “cinema’s first genuine auteur”. Not only did she tackle controversial issues ranging from birth control to the hypocrisy of religion and marriage in the early 1900’s but she was also Universal Studios highest paid director with 10 feature length films released under their name. So why a hundred years later are we still arguing as to whether women and women’s voices have a place in cinema? Or insinuating that women’s films cannot be Box Office hits? Maybe it’s time we stop making plans, calling attention to the disparity and hire some women, not to be women directors, but directors.  




Alyssa Lemon




Works Cited:


Dave McNary. “Female Directors Helming Only 6.4% of Movies: DGA

Report.” Variety., 9 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015


“Sundance Institute Announces Films in Competition and Next for 2016

Sundance Film Festival.”  Sundance Institute. Sundance, 2

December 2015. Web. 10 December 2015.


“Elizabeth Wood” IMDb. IMDb,. Web. 10 December 2015.


“Meera Menon” IMDb. IMDb,. Web. 10 December 2015.


“Clea DuVall” IMDb. IMDb,. Web. 10 December 2015.


“So Yong Kim” IMDb. IMDb,. Web. 10 December 2015.


“Sian Heder” IMDb. IMDb,. Web. 10 December 2015.


Slide, Anthony. The Silent Feminists: America’s First Women Directors.

Lanham: Scarecrow Press, INC, 1996. Print.


Seger, Linda, When Women Call the Shots: The Developing Power and

Influence of Women in Television and Film. New York City:  Henry

Holt and Company, 1996. Print. 

The opinions expressed in these articles are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Apocalypse Pictures.

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