There have been rumblings about Hollywood’s neglect of women and Persons of Color (here on referred to as “POCs”) for quite some time, slowly getting louder until reaching a pivotal point when the Oscar nominations were very… whitewashed, and lacking of some curves, to say the least. Some have claimed conspiracy, others believe the actors chosen truly did a better job than those snubbed (in front of and behind the camera), and some of us “know better.” We have been watching this whole debacle unfold closely enough to know there’s already one investigation underway for the “erasure” of women from Hollywood, and we’ve been conditioned to think that Hollywood is a “white man’s world” for years, both in front of and behind the camera. It wasn’t always this way, at least not for women… How did we get back to a time where there are more film production teams with all-male staffs (meaning writers, directors, and producers) pumping out films that don’t pass the Bechdel test which statistically earn more money? If this system has been proven to be inefficient and broken, why haven’t we fixed it earlier?
I remember realizing going into the film industry was what I really wanted to do with my life, and as I thought harder about a more specialized career, I figured I’d go with writing, maybe directing. I came across this handy little flow chart to help me decide what job I’d be best suited for, and I managed to land on screenwriter, or indie filmmaker any time I retook the test. It took me a long time to realize I had been effectively banished from being a director because of my gender and my lack of networking; that’s how I kept landing on indie filmmaker. I didn’t think that was a bad life, I’d be making movies that I came up with all the time entering all the festivals. Not a lot of money, but fun. It wasn’t until I read this article and saw the struggles that other indie filmmaker women were facing that I realized the horror that chart foretold; our basic inability to grow a beard and sport a baseball cap to get an already established male director to notice us and saying “[s]he reminds me of me” then drag us onto the set of the movie they’re currently directing and introducing us to everyone, which gets us our first movie deal is what keeps us stuck in the purgatory of indie filmmaking. It has nothing to do with our skill sets, or the quality of the movies we create (on par with the men, for certain). The only other way to get past the indie filmmaker hump is to already be known. Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Bling Ring) is Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter. Drew Barrymore (Whip It, director) and Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, producer) were well known actresses before they went behind the camera.
Even men in the industry don’t seem to take women seriously. When asked for an opinion on the gender division in the industry, a man in Hollywood told Maureen Dowd to “call some chicks.” Jennifer Lawrence had to come out and make a stink about being paid less than her co-stars on American Hustle. The work of females behind the camera (and POCs, regardless of gender) is going unnoticed and under appreciated (case and point, lists like this get published, and you realize you’ve never heard of these films, they probably weren’t played at your local theatre, but man they were fantastic when you found them on Netflix), but thanks to the work of some already in Hollywood that already see what’s going on (like Geena Davis), we’re already investigating the “disappearing of women” in Hollywood. Big names in the industry are realizing this is not how things should be, and things will change.
Most of what’s going to happen in the film and television world for 2016 has already been decided (it’s already more promising than past years), and we know what we’re going to go see in theatres (or on Netflix if we can’t get to the festivals to see some real diversity). The rumblings in Hollywood of those who already see the discrepancies, and those who are just waking up to them probably won’t change the Oscar results, but we can rest assured they’ll start moving along a better path toward equality for all genders, and all races. They’ve already sat down once to discuss the elephant in the room. Hopefully sooner rather than later, we’ll see more women in front of the camera, telling stories about women. Which means it’ll have to pass the Bechdel test.