Where are all the women directors? It’s question that has resonated over many media outlets recently. The myth persists that they just don’t exist and that’s why there are so few female directed films. The 2nd Sex and the 7th Art: Women Directors in Film sets out to obliterate that myth by telling the story of the women who have made movies – and following the current advocacy of the ACLU to create change within the industry.
Women have been directing films in the United States since the beginning of film as a storytelling medium. In the nineteen teens Lois Weber was one of the highest paid directors in Hollywood, male or female. However, in mainstream culture much is made of how few female directors there are and little is known of their place in history – and even their triumphs in contemporary culture. Maria Giese first started making movies in the studio system back in the mid-nineties with the feature When Saturday Comes . Maria now fights for the rights of women directors through the DGA’s Women’s Steering Committee and advocates for women in the industry through her blog and other outlets. She has been instrumental in helping to develop the story unfolding with this documentary.
The challenge of fighting gender discrimination in the hallowed halls of Hollywood recently adopted by the ACLU has a long history. It began back in 1979 with Michael Franklin and the “Original Six,” six women who as members of the DGA’s Women’s Steering Committee blew the lid off the discriminatory policies of the studios with a class action suit which led to the numbers of women directing in Hollywood to go from only .05% in 1985 to a whopping 16% in 1995. However, in recent years those numbers have stagnated and even gone down to 6.6% by some accounts. Looking at the statistics only gets us so far. As Lexi Alexander pointed out in her blog article lambasting Hollywood for its shameful treatment of female filmmakers – talking about statistics doesn’t solve the problem! It’s an opening but only an introduction to the full story of what it means to be considered the 2nd Sex in the 7th Art. It’s time for the story to unfold and circumstances to change. Kathryn Bigelow, the one woman to win the Oscar for Best Director, who has tried to distance herself from the label of “woman” director in the past recently acknowledged in a recent article, “Gender discrimination stigmatizes our entire industry. Change is essential. Gender neutral hiring is essential.” Will the ACLU succeed? Do new distribution platforms and cheaper digital filmmaking resources make it possible for more women to direct? Will that lead to more women working as directors? The story unfolds…
Jennifer Dean is a recent graduate of the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center with a Masters in Liberal Studies with a Film Studies emphasis, completing a thesis on women directors in film. As an undergraduate she studied theatre at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and did post-graduate work in Performance Studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. In 2002 in San Francisco she formed La Vache Enragée Productions. Officially incorporating as a Non-Profit in 2005, the company produced a multi-media event of short plays and silent short films accompanied by live originally composed music. After moving to New York, she began her studies at CUNY where she was exposed to the films of early female directors such as Lois Weber and Alice Guy-Blaché. She decided she wanted to further explore women who have taken up a camera to direct their own stories – hence the idea for the documentary was born.
Caron Knauer (producer)
Caron Knauer is a producer, writer, teacher, and literary agent who in 2010 received her master’s degree in film studies from the CUNY Graduate Center. A former Twentieth Century Fox film executive, she served as associate producer of the 1995 hit film Waiting to Exhale, based on Terry McMillan’s bestselling novel. Ms. Knauer reviews films for Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO), and teaches English at La Guardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens. Publishers Weekly referred to her as “scout/producer/editor and chutzpah queen.” She now heads up Caron K Literary Enterprises Unlimited. She, along with producing partners Natasha Herring and Jennifer Dean, is planning a documentary of her thesis, The Depiction of Enslaved African-Americans on Film: From Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903) to Sankofa (1993).