Challenging the status quo from the top down

Every year Martha Lauzen, a professor in the School of Communication at San Diego State U., tracks the number of women who worked on the top 250 domestic-grossing films and the top 40 primetime TV shows in her report “The Celluloid Ceiling.” And every year the results are invariably disappointing, or worse.

For example, in 2006, 15% of all the film directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors were women, which happened to be the exact same amount as the year before.

But while Jane Fleming, Women in Film’s newly elected president, finds the numbers “horrifying,” she doesn’t think politicking will lead to more women being hired. Instead, she says, changing the minds of studio and TV execs who do the hiring, and bringing more women into the ranks to be hired, would create more of an impact.

“I think our organization needs to have the leadership of Hollywood to make a difference,” Fleming says. “It’s not about political lobbying, but more about lobbying the studios or powers that be.”

Growing up in a household with four brothers and “a very strong mother,” Fleming — an indie film producer who co-founded Shot in the Dark Entertainment — says her experience was that of being treated as an equal. “Then I got into the real world and there were inequities,” she says.

Which was one of the main reasons Women in Film piqued Fleming’s interest when a friend asked her to join more than seven years ago.

Fleming served on the board for six years and in January she was voted president after Cecilia Holloway resigned for personal reasons.

“Obviously, part of my role now is to be the spokesperson for what we’re doing and get the message out,” Fleming says. “I wanted us to move away from being an organization that just celebrates each other and let people know what we do.”

Part of that message, she says, is introducing the organization to younger women who have an interest in film through mentoring, and providing them with a film finishing fund that helps them get their work out there.

“I believe that the women that started this organization broke down doors for us and our generation needs to reach back and bring up the next,” Fleming says. “If we deepen our bullpen we will have more women available.

“One of my goals is to increase membership because there’s power in numbers and we need more women’s voices,” she added.

While the nonprofit is in the best financial shape it’s ever been in, according to Fleming, she says one of her main responsibilities is to spearhead fund-raising so the coffers are filled even more.

Corporate sponsorships are one way of doing it, such as that of MaxMara and Kodak at the annual fund-raising gala, the Crystal and Lucy Awards, and General Motors has also signed on as a national sponsor. The gala itself raises the majority of the organization’s operating funds, Fleming says, and membership dues and individual donors are financial sources as well.

In the end, all of Fleming’s efforts aim toward one ultimate goal. Her hope for the future of Women in Film, she says, is to “expand its financial and membership base so we can provide more opportunity for women to have their craft be seen.”

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