The current production landscape: where are the women at?
There is a storm a brewin’. You may not be able to hear, see or feel it yet but change is coming. This also may be the slowest change in the history of….well, change.
An interesting affirmation occurred the other day in New Hampshire, while filming commercial content for our client, L.L. Bean. I am one of our agency’s film directors and we hired a US-based producer named Rebecca Hynes to assist with the project. She is an incredible talent with deep experience in the production world. I had never worked with her, and as I learned, I was only the second female director she has worked with in the 18 YEARS she has been producing commercial content. No wonder she had reservations about working with me, a female director.
As a female working in film, I’ve long been aware that women are underrepresented in the industry, but meeting and working with Rebecca really cemented that awareness, along with my resolve to elevate this discussion, and, when the opportunity presents itself, to take action. Of course, I’m one person, working at one agency, for a handful of clients in one industry: The truth is, we all need to take part in elevating this discussion and taking action. And by “all,” I don’t mean “all women”; I mean all women, all men, and all non-binary gendered people who care about equality in film.
To provide a little more context, I sat down with Rebecca to discuss the current production landscape. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.
It's important to note:
- Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to EVER win the Academy Award for Best Director.
- In 2018 Rachel Morrison became the first woman ever nominated for the Academy Award for Cinematography.
Origin. What’s the current state of affairs out there in production land?
Rebecca: As an agency producer it’s my job to bring director options to the table. About five years ago I started seeing reels from women and I would bring these women directors to the table. Since the agency creatives go after the best possible reel, those women get shadowed by the other reels from men that are part of the broader systematic engine which is the legacy of men having more opportunity. And with that opportunity comes higher profile work, and then that becomes a stronger reel. And that tees you up for the next job and then it just perpetuates.
On the top 100 grossing films of 2018 in the US, women represented:
- 4% Directors
- 15% Writers
- 3% Cinematographers
- 18% Producers
- 18% Executive Producers
- 14% Editors
Origin: What kind of change are you seeing?
Rebecca: Because the light has been shone on just how disparate the numbers are, I feel like people are just trusting a little bit more and giving women directors more of a chance even if they may not have a reel that goes quite as deep. The other change that is happening is content. You know, there are a lot more doc based stories that are happening. Every other project I’m shooting is a docu-mercial and so part of me wonders if the shift in that has allowed for a broader change.
In the industry, you’ll often hear the excuse that there aren’t any women with the necessary track record to direct. But another DGA study finds that, even among first-time TV episode directors hired the last five seasons, 82% were men and 87% were Caucasian. So we’re talking about people with no previous experience directing episodic TV, and it’s still hugely skewed toward white males. That means the divide is just going to keep getting bigger and bigger with less and less diversity.
Origin: What do you think the impact will be to have more female representation in production roles? Directors and beyond?
Rebecca: There is a culture shift that is happening to have more of a gender balance….less of a boys club thing. I have to say, in all my action sports jobs, it’s still a crew of bros. Those guys are some of the hardest hold outs to get to shift. From my own experience, I can’t globally judge all crews but there is a different kind of energy that women bring to a set. There is something about respect and how women can handle stress and this affects the temperature of a set...and that is the environment that I want to experience.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film stated that on the top 500 films of 2018, movies with at least one female director employed greater percentages of women writers, editors, cinematographers, and composers than films with exclusively male directors.
Origin: What’s in it for brands/agencies to hire female directors?
Rebecca: I think agencies and brands believe that they can operate without a bias on whatever project they are working on or selling. Some of us are better than others at putting the biases aside to just focus on what we’re doing strategically. And honestly, sometimes the job calls for some bias. But ultimately, you have to figure out how to shelve your bias. Or at the very least start being aware of it. There are brands that are selling directly to women and it’s painfully obvious that you need to have women’s perspective and input on those projects. It’s painful to think that it hasn’t been that way. Women in the US are so often the buyers of the household and the more you can speak to women the better. So from the top down, just having that integration (of women) is going to help the whole process.
What’s the take away?
Take a look at who is in the room. This starts when you’re concepting and carries over to your production team in the field. Is there any diversity or a gender balance? If not, question the decision-makers. And if that doesn’t work, start making some decisions of your own.
To learn more about Andrea and her filmmaking journey, read our Inside Origin profile here.