Women have been present in the history of cinema from its very beginning. Just look at the shooting taken by Louis Lumière in 1895 where workers exit a factory. Two shifts of men, women and children cross their path at the gate. Alice Guy-Blaché was twenty-two years old at the time and she might have guessed movies were going to be her life work: later on, she shot and produced more than 600 films and even competed with silent movies’ Hollywood legends.
It was not until 1949 that Ida Lupino, known as an actress, stepped in to finish the film se co-produced and co-wrote when director Elmer Clifton suffered a mild heart attack, but she did not take directorial credit out of respect for Clifton. Afterwards she directed another 8 films, including Outrage, a film about rape. She did not stop directing achieving a successful television career throughout the 1960s and ’70s.
Alice Guy-Blaché and Ida Lupino
However, we must accept that she was an exception. Women have never had the same presence as men in culture and in the film industry either then or now.
It is still difficult to find women’s presence on the recording sets and holding the clapperboards. Scripts seldom reflect a woman’s point of view and female actors rarely play roles created by women.
We had to wait till 2010 to see Hollywood Academy awarding a woman the Oscar for Best Director handed to californian Kathryn Bigelow, and till 2018 in Spain when two women won the Spanish Academy Goya Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Outstanding Debut of a Film Director, handed to Isabel Coixet and Carla Simon. It is therefore quite clear that women work daily in a hurt locker, as the title of Bigelow’s award winning film aptly reminds us.
This inequality must be corrected. We need multiple voices and sights from both men and women in all artistic fields. It is necessary to create a space where women, also as creators who interpret reality, can find recognition by the filmmaking industry and the public.
According to Women Make Movies, organization supporting women filmmakers since 1983, in the last 20 years the amount of women directors has not grown more than 3%. Meanwhile, the New York Film Academy reports that women direct only 16.9% of fiction films. If we take into account only the 250 top blockbuster films, figures are even worse since just 9% were directed by women (2012 data).
In all jobs behind the scenes, screenwriting, producing, editing and others, the presence of men is overwhelming: over 75% in each category.
But things aren’t much better in front of the cameras either. Only 28% of all characters are females.
In a 2014 global survey, UN Women examines not only women presence in the industry, but also how films depict women’s reality – certainly not a very flattering picture. Here are some (alarming) data from the sample under scrutiny: 30.9% of characters delivering lines are women, 7% of directors are women, 19.7% of screenwriters are women, and 22.7% of producers are women. Furthermore, sexualization is the norm for female characters around the world.
In Spain the situation is not much better. A study from CIMA, the Association of Women Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media, shows that men direct 92% of films produced in Spain. Female representation in all the other industry jobs, such as photography, production or editing, is also negligible. However, 65% of filmmaking school students are women.
Carlota Álvarez-Basso, Diego Mas Trelles. 2018.
From left to right, top to bottom: directors of the 2018 edition Laura Mora, Hanna Sköld, Pernilla August, Constanza Novick, Katja Wik, Sara Broos, Sophie Fiennes, Francesca Comencini, Nora Twomey and Marcela Said.
Spanish Effective Equality for Men and Women Act
EFA Director Marion Döring’s approach on Gender equality in the Film industry and other articles on the matter
Film researcher Conchita martínez Tejedor’s approach on Women on the other side of the camera: where are the film directors?
It seems that the presence of women in the film direction is a young phenomenon which does not run beyond the second half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, recent historiography is starting to confirm that the presence of women on the other side of the camera is a fact from the very beginning of the cinema, at the end of the 19th century. However, in the literature about this matter there are hardly female names and, when they exist, it is in a marginal way. The aim of the present article is to show some of the outstanding figures together with their principal productions, within their geographical, temporary and, even, social frame. For this it has been used the scarce bibliography existing on the subject, made up of dictionaries on women directors, catalogues of cinema festivals and critical literature on feminism. From all that, we can conclude that women directors have existed all along the History of Cinema, specially in West countries, where their access to professionals media, though restricted, has never been banned. The emergence of women directors in other geographical contexts (Asia, Africa and certain places of Latin America) is a more recent fact, but in unstoppable progression.
CIMA Report 2017. Representativeness of women in the Spanish film sector, by Sara Cuenca Suárez, Social research from a gender perspective