When it comes to the film industry, we can’t help but notice that the number of female film directors is very small compared to male directors.
To get to the bottom of this issue, Georgina Willis, a film director born in Australia and now based in London, shares with us her experience.
When Georgina Willis’s film Watermark was selected for Cannes in 2003, there was only one other film with a female director selected for Cannes that year. “You could see there was a real problem to do with representation of female directors and everyone said ‘we have had Jane Campion here.’ It was like they had ticked a box and showed a film directed by a woman. Done. It was really weird. It was as if there was only one female voice and we have heard it.”
Although the numbers of female directors have increased in the past couple of decades, it is still a very small number. According to recent statistics, women represented 16% of directors working on the 100 highest-grossing films in 2020, while the other 84% were male.
“At the time you could see there was a problem but no one could articulate it. Women have always been the listeners and the recipient of men’s stories. If a man talks, often women begin to just quietly listen. And this happens almost automatically. This is what society has taught us to do. We do the large share of emotional labour. Because of this, we have often been invisible. That is now changing and we have a way of describing it and naming it.”
The main problem here is gender imbalance and the old habits that are still present in modern societies today. The MeToo movement was critical in shining a spotlight on huge problems in the industry. “Harvey Weinstein was at the height of his power when we were in Cannes. He was so powerful that it felt his power would not topple despite all the rumours. All these things fed into a feeling of threat for women in the industry.”
Female directors have so much to offer. It’s a different perspective.
“Watermark was a film about a woman facing mental health issues. It was controversial and it has remained so. It is about a woman who kills their own child. It was completely out there. I think being a female director allowed it to be filmed with a lot of empathy towards the central character. ”
We have to encourage more women to become film directors and to make it well known that they can excel in this job. “We need to have more females and decision makers who are female because the very infrastructure of film, whether its reviewers, sales agents, studio heads… etc, needs to be in balance for female directors to be heard in significant numbers.”
16% is not a bad percentage compared to the old statistics, it is in fact an improvement in the two last decades, but it is nowhere near enough. “It’s gone from single figures but we need to make a lot more progress to get more films directed, produced, written, commissioned, and reviewed by women. The more diverse the voices are behind the camera, the more we have insight into our lives through film.”
Georgina Willis is currently on post production of the feature film Insect O Cide.
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