How many of your favourite films are actually made by women?

CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN: With extra time on your hands and, with the growth of streaming services more films to watch at your fingertips than ever before – how many of your favourite films are actually made by women?

Only five women have ever been nominated for best director at the Academy Awards. Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) is the only female director to win the award in the ceremony’s 92-year history.

In the last 10 years there have been 50 Bafta nominations for Best Director… only two of them are women – Kathryn Bigelow in 2013, and Lynne Ramsay in 2012.

The Golden Globes, Oscar, Bafta – all three organisations have been slammed for their lack gender representation.
 
Are the screen industries male and stale? 

Possibly…

A recent skills audit of the UK Film Industry by the Work Foundation for the BFI found that the industry is severely lacking in female talent.

Lack of diversity is regarded as the biggest challenge facing the film and screen industries. Ethnic minorities, women and particularly those with caring responsibilities, those with disabilities and people from less advantaged backgrounds, face the biggest challenges in entering and progressing in the industry.

In 2015, just 14.4% of writers involved in UK films and 9.4% of directors were female.

This research also shows that films with female writers and producers consistently outperform male-driven projects but receive far less financing. Despite high return on investment figures, on average films directed by women receive 63% less distribution than those directed by men.

We’ve been ‘bellyaching’ about this for years, what are we actually doing about it?

On the face of it, there’s never been a better time to consider a career in the screen industry – The creative industries in the UK is officially booming

According to government figures, the industry made a record contribution to the economy in 2017, smashing through the £100 billion mark. Its value has grown at nearly twice the rate of the economy since 2010 and it employs over 2 million people – 75 per cent of them outside London!

The UK’s creative industries are developing new jobs faster than other sectors despite record employment in the UK economy as a whole. Film, TV, advertising and digital creative industries are all part of this thriving sector.

So, where are the women?

We spoke to Jonny Persey the Director of London’s MetFilm School. A specialist school offering degrees, post graduate qualifications and professional training based at the famous Ealing Studios. MetFilm has been encouraging women, and ethnic minorities into the industry for some time.

“Our student body is about 50-50 split when it comes to gender, this hasn’t happened by accident and it shouldn’t be exceptional

“Historically, the film industry has, I guess been a bit of a ‘closed’ shop. A close-knit community of friends, families and colleagues who have either been in the industry for years, or know someone who knows someone who can open the door and help find a way in. In that respect it hasn’t been that far removed professions such as Law or even medicine.

“At MetFilm we’ve been trying to change that for a few years and take some real, positive action on addressing the ‘closedness’ of the industry, and help to create a diverse and exciting pipeline of future talent.

OK, what have you done?

1 “We developed two state-funded degrees.  Working with the University of West London we have been able to create these degrees that still afford unrivalled access to the industry and its professionals while at the same time removing many of the barriers that have stopped some women and people from an ethnic minority background from coming here, or to schools like ours.

“Funding is a major barrier, but because we’ve developed these two state-funded degrees, coming here now shouldn’t be any costlier than attending any university in England.

2 “We’ve also partnered with the British Urban Film Festival, MetFilm hosts 3 days of film and scriptwriting workshop labs plus the annual Live BUFF Script Readings which has previously been staged at Channel 4 and the BT Tower.

“Making ourselves and our expertise accessible to as wide an audience as possible will only serve to benefit the industry.

3 “And, we run a special scholarship for women only. The Voices That Matter Scholarship has long been important to MetFilm School since its launch in 2009. The idea was always to open up opportunities to students with something important to say, who would not otherwise be able to access the unique educational experience we offer – whether that’s because of funding, political or personal circumstances, societal prejudice. We wanted to open up the school to people who have through no fault of their own a greater barrier than others to overcome. Applications for this year’s award are open until the 30th April.

“We have focused the scholarship towards a female audience, in order to give a proper focus to the shocking gender imbalance that exists in the commercial film industry. This year’s award has just opened up for entries.

“All of this is MetFilm School saying there’s a problem here, in this industry and we’re doing something to make a difference. Yes, we’re following others and we hope that others will follow our lead, too.

“We’re saying that we value women in this industry, we value what they can offer and what they have to say – their voices genuinely matter. We’re saying that we should challenge every single thing that challenges diversity, because holding back diversity only serves to hold back the industry.”

Megan O’Connell is a student at MetFilm School

Megan O’Connell

Gender bias is close to MetFilm student Megan’s heart, she’s very aware that there aren’t enough female directors.

She said: “I hate that the film industry is not an equal split between genders, but it’s changing.

“Strong women have always worked in the industry, and many have paved the way for the likes of me – now’s the time that I feel we’re getting a proper foothold, I’m at a school where I’m pretty sure the gender split is 50/50.

“I look at directors like Andrea Arnold and Angelina Jolie and I think they’re so inspirational they are my role models and I want to do similar work.

“I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do when I leave here, I may decide to do an MA in directing or I might jump straight into the industry – all I know at this point is that I definitely want to be a director.”

MetFilm School at the famous Ealing Studios recommends:

15 recommended films directed by women

  1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Céline Sciamma
  2. Fish Tank – Andrea Arnold
  3. Cameraperson – Kirsten Johnson
  4. 13th – Ava DuVernay
  5. You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay
  6. Mustang – Deniz Gamze Erguven
  7. Animals – Sophie Hyde
  8. Orlando – Sally Potter
  9. Cleo from 5 to 7 – Agnes Varda
  10.  Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
  11.  The Piano – Jane Campion
  12.  Frances Ha – Greta Gerwig
  13.  High Life – Claire Denis
  14.  Appropriate Behaviour – Desiree Akhavan
  15.  Selma – Ava DuVernay