Academy Award nominees Jane Lynch (“Wreck-it-Ralph”), Shailene Woodley (“The Descendants”) and Mariel Hemingway (“Manhattan”) celebrated the record number of female filmmakers at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival this year. With 50% the US Dramatic competition Directors being women for the first time ever at Sundance, everyone we interviewed on the red carpet was excited about this milestone. And this stat is even more groundbreaking as we enter the 2013 Oscars week with only 21% of the nominees being female.
Producer/Actress Jane Lynch, who plays the no-nonsense squad leader Calhoun in the Academy Award Best Animated Feature Nominee “Wreck-it-Ralph”, was cheering for her Sundance film director on the red carpet. When we interviewed Jane, she shared, “It’s a really big deal. Women are stepping up so much more. My friend Jill Soloway (Director of ‘Afternoon Delight’) is one of the most creatively confident people I’ve ever known. From the tender age of 24, she was always just picking up the phone and making things happen. She’s been an inspiration for me.”
Female filmmakers were celebrated everywhere at Sundance. Shailene Woodley, Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress for “The Descendants,” was honored at The Creative Coalition Spotlight Initiative Awards, as an artist who’s been in independent films that have social significance. Miles Teller (“Footloose” and Shailene’s co-star in “The Spectacular Now”) presented the award in our VIDEO by saying, “She greets everyone with a hug,… she’s exceptional, she’s going to be around for a long time, and I’m lucky to have her as a friend.”
Academy Award Nominee Mariel Hemingway (Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”) was also at The Creative Coalition dinner to celebrate independent film and honor Shailene Woodley, Jane Lynch and 3-time Academy Award Nominee Alfred Molina for “Hugo”, “Gladiator” and “The Aviator.”
Switching red carpets, Allison Janney (4-time Emmy Award winner for “The West Wing” and 4-time Golden Globe nominee) also recognized her female director, Lynn Shelton, at their “Touchy Feely” premiere. Allison described Lynn this way, “She does work in an unusual way, and still lots of improv and lots of room for play. It’s so amazing because she has a lot of the same crew that works with her over and over again…I think it makes it the best year.”
To support Women In Film in Park City, Producer/Actor Lucy Webb was also recognized at Sundance by my company (Goody Awards, full disclosure) for organizing their annual Directors Panel and female filmmakers brunch for nine years with a Golden Goody Award (aka Oscar for social good.) During this event, Director Francesca Gregorini (“Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes”) reflected on the importance of female voices in film, “Film is such a powerful medium, specifically in this moment of time, it’s the legacy that we leave behind… And I think if there aren’t women writers and directors in Hollywood, I think we’re going to leave behind a very skewed message, and we best be putting some women behind there so the stories that get out are truly our stories.”
Prior to the film festival, the Sundance Institute and Women In Film, did a USC Annenberg study led by Stacy L. Smith, Associate Professor, School of Communications. The study looked at the gender of females associated with 820 narrative and documentary films screened at the Sundance Film Festival between 2002 and 2012, with interesting observations.
Stacy L. Smith spoke at a recent Women In Film Malibu Breakfast, where she discussed the study and results. She explained, “We separated all the individuals into 2 groups, films directed by men and films that were directed by women. Out of all of those people behind the camera, if you have a male directed film and you have a dramatic or narrative feature, only 23% of individuals in those above-the-line roles are women. In documentaries, it’s only 30%, but if you have a female as a director, the percentage of women above-the-line behind the camera jumps exponentially to 44% in narratives and 54% in documentaries. The major finding, who holds the keys, women, women in film, woman above-the-line, and that can have implications for what we see on screen.”
As we approach the 85th Academy Awards, we have 193 Oscar Nominees listed on ABC’s http://oscar.go.com/nominees. Out of these nominees, only 21% are females (41) and 79% are males (152.) For Sound Mixing and Visual Effects, the nominees are all-male and total 45 men. Women are most represented in the Costume Design, Production Design and Documentary Short categories. Changing these numbers will take time, and thanks to the Sundance Institute/WIF Study for providing us with insights on the importance of female directors.