Hollywood Sexist? Female Directors Still Missing in Action

Brad Pitt World War Z Marc

In 2013, Hollywood saw big box office hits with Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” Sandra Bullock in “Gravity” and Melissa McCarthy (and Bullock again) in “The Heat.” But none of these girl-power sagas were directed by a woman.

It’s the same old story. Four years after Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the directing Oscar for “The Hurt Locker,” the industry still has a terrible track record on gender equality behind the camera. As we head into awards season, the Oscar buzz is all about the guys (see Alfonso Cuaron, Steven McQueen, David O. Russell, Paul Greengrass, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Spike Jonze, etc.).

Women did not direct any tentpole features in 2013 with the exception of Disney’s animated “Frozen,” made by the duo Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. The most successful movie directed solely by a woman was Kimberly Peirce’s remake of “Carrie,” which ranked No. 77 for the year at the domestic box office with $35.3 million.

Such statistics are always discouraging. In 2011, 5 percent of the top-grossing 250 films were directed by women; in 2012, it was 9 percent, according to a study by San Diego State U.’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. But those numbers, as bad as they are, get worse when you consider big-budget releases. Variety found that in 2013, only two of the top-grossing 100 movies of the year were directed by women.

Here are the 10 most successful titles.

1. “Frozen”
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
$263.1 million
Actual rank: 6

It only took 76 years after “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” for Disney to hire a woman director for one of its animated princess stories, which naturally skew toward female audiences. “What we’re always told in the industry is the audience you want is men, 18 to 25,” Lee told Variety in the fall. But “Frozen,” one of the biggest hits of the holiday season, is proof that’s not always the case.

2. “Carrie”
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
$35.3 million
Actual rank: 77

Peirce made her directorial debut with 1999’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” but her follow-up (2008’s “Stop-Loss”) was a commercial disappointment. At the time of “Carrie’s” fall release, she talked to the New York Times Magazine’s Mary Kaye Schilling about the heartbreaking years she tried–and failed–to get her own ideas turned into movies. She agreed to helm the Stephen King remake starring Chloe Moretz after Sony offered her the project.

3. “Enough Said”
Directed by Nicole Holofcener
$17.5 million
Actual rank: 112

For the last 15 years, Holofcener has been one of the more distinct voices in the indie film world. Her five films—including 2006’s “Friends with Money” and 2002’s “Lovely and Amazing”—have all garnered critical acclaim, but her latest (starring Julia Louis-Drefyus and James Gandolfini) is her most successful picture to date.

4. “Tyler Perry Presents Peeples”
Directed by Tina Gordon Chism
$9.2 million
Actual rank: 128

“Peeples,” which co-starred Kerry Washington, marked the bigscreen directorial debut for Chism, who is now developing a series for HBO. In a year that saw box office successes from Lee Daniels (“The Butler”), Antoine Fuqua (“White House Down”), Tyler Perry (“A Madea Christmas”), Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”), Hollywood still sorely lacks women directors of color.

5. “Black Nativity”
Kasi Lemmons
$7 million
Actual rank: 134

Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”) directed this musical adaptation of a Langston Hughes play that starred Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett. It turned out to be a holiday dud.

6. “The Bling Ring”
Directed by Sofia Coppola
$5.8 million
Actual rank: 139

Coppola’s most successful movie, “Lost in Translation,” earned her an Oscar nomination. But since then, she’s struggled to be a box office draw. Her other recent feature, 2010’s “Somewhere,” grossed only $1.8 million. “The Bling Ring,” with its cameo from Paris Hilton and Emma Watson in her meatiest post-Hermione Granger role, was entertaining enough that it should have done better.

7. “The To-Do List”
Directed by Maggie Carey
$3.5 million
Actual rank: 153

Carey directed and wrote this comedy starring Aubrey Plaza that was marketed as a female version of “American Pie.”

8. “In a World…”
Directed by Lake Bell
$3 million
Actual rank: 159

Bell — along with Natalie Portman and Angelina Jolie — is part of a generation of actresses making the transition to directing. Her Sundance debut, which she also stars in, is about a voiceover artist who wants to work on movie trailers, only Hollywood won’t let her. Says her character’s father: “Let’s face it, the industry does not crave a female sound.”

9. “Austenland”
Directed by Jerusha Hess
$2.2 million
Actual rank: 174

Hess, who co-wrote “Napoleon Dynamite” with husband Jared, couldn’t make the chick-lit novel adaptation of Jane Austen groupies (headlined by Keri Russell) work on the bigscreen. It received poor reviews and quickly vanished from the summer box office, despite a producing credit from “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer.

10. “Blackfish”
Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
$2.1 million
Actual rank: 176

This riveting documentary about killer whales in captivity does to SeaWorld what “Super Size Me” did to McDonald’s.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 63

Leave a Reply

63 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. WriteChick says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m an optimist, though. I think the conscious and unconscious efforts to marginalize the female perspective and voice will be overcome, but it’s like trudging up a muddy hill with a 50 pound pack. We just gotta keep going.

  2. Voltaire says:

    The reason so many men here can’t understand this is because of male priveledge. Women don’t want to be Directors or they would be directing is just blind male priveledge. Women just aren’t as good as men and that is why they can’t get money for their films….sexism. Gender has little to do with it as many females have proven in every field. Men can’t understand this because in their world all they have to do is work hard and network. Therefore they see women and think of a level playing field. Every man here is sexist and also blinded by their male privilege. It is a fact. Not one has said…maybe there is something wrong here which logically is the only explanation for the numbers and the testimony by females in this industry. God, every step forward is three steps backward because men aren’t particularly insightful or smart.

  3. mattwaldram says:

    I read some statistics from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media that suggested that – at present – only 75 of directors currently working in Hollywood are women (along with 20% of producers and 13% of writers). Shocking stuff.

    I was discussing Gravity recently, and noted that whilst it is – as the author here calls it – a ‘girl-power’ movie, but still the writers decided that – in the end – it would take a man (Clooney) to come and get the woman (Bullock) thinking straight, Okay, so it was in her imagination, but the point remains that, symbolically, she still needed a man to save her. Which is bullshit, really.

    I wrote a blog post about this sort of thing — specifically relating to how it affects Coming-of-Age movies. Apologies for the link, but I think it does form part of this wider conversation: http://mattwaldram.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/its-time-for-coming-of-age-films-to-come-of-well-you-get-the-idea/

  4. ooemzoo says:

    Reblogged this on breakfastclubfilms and commented:
    Interesting! though its a shame, we need more female directors!!

  5. Sally MJ says:

    Why is liberal Hollywood so sexist? They are all liberals. How is that even possible?!

  6. Troy says:

    So…studios need to just hire a woman to direct…just because…why? Maybe there aren’t that many who want to direct film. So, you think Disney just avoided hiring a woman director all these years? What a stupid article. If there aren’t women directors…then there aren’t women directors. Plenty of female lead actors, however. Oh, I’m sorry…that doesn’t count. Gee whiz. Ah well, if I see a movie, it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman behind the cameras…as long as it’s a good film. But, you folks just go right on making issues up where there aren’t.

    • J. Spencer says:

      I think Jane Campion said it best: “I would love to see more women directors because they represent half of the population – and gave birth to the whole world. Without them writing and being directors, the rest of us are not going to know the whole story”.

      • AlwaysRIGHT says:

        J Spencer, I’m almost as speechless as you are clueless! I don’t know where to start. Suggesting I have to go back in time to a time where they used performance, aptitude, and competency as measurements/criteria for who would be awarded jobs? Really? Because today, I should “evolve” as you have, to use gender/race as the criteria so that an equal number of blacks and women will be “awarded” jobs as white males? Are you serious as you appear delusional?

        As much as you appear to “hate” me, all my message is can be boiled down to something very simple – award work/jobs/positions by criteria related to performance. You, as far as I can tell, want to award work/jobs/positions by criteria related to the gender/race? Really?

        I have no problem with women getting all kinds of jobs. I have no problem admitting women to military – provided they outperform everyone who didn’t get the job. I have no problem with women directors – if the producers select them over the other candidates. No one should force producers to hire producers based on what is between their legs! And that, as ludicrous as it sounds, is what I think you would like. That, my friend, is idiotic. I want to live in a world where performance and competence is key. Don’t you?

      • J. Spencer says:

        hey ‘always right’ : its a big world out there…and there is plenty of room for black people, white people, red people, all types of people, for men, and yes, even women and their ideas and contributions….! And you know what? We ALL were born on this earth and we all, because of that, have the right to live our lives as we see fit and pursue what we wish. If systems dont reflect/allow this, they must be made to reflect/allow it. And you know what? Things are moving forward. Now…You dont seem to like this idea, so—-maybe invent a time machine and go back to a time you would really enjoy: 1862 or some date before the turn of the last century.

  7. Sebby says:

    This article is, ironically, written for men. “Hire more female directors”. Rather than accusing Hollywood of being sexist, accuse women for not directing more! If Bigelow and Coppola could be considered top-tier directors, so can any other talented female directors. Or, instead of telling men to hire more women, become a producer and hire women yourself!

    While you make a point of female directors being less known, most of the movies above have been seen by a number of people including “Carrie”, “Peeples” and “The To-Do List”. Additionally, “Enough Said”, “Frozen” and “Blackfish” have been considered time and time again for awards (“Enough Said” already winning two; Blackfish winning the WAFCA for Best Documentary), which contradicts your statement that films directed by females are awarded less by ratio of quantity of films released.

    If, however, you stand by your statement concerning awards, then whose fault is that? Are you saying it’s sexist that women make worse films than men? Or are you saying that men don’t like to reward women? Last time I checked, there are a large number of high-caliber female critics that like to reward just as many men-directed films as male critics.

    Maybe, what would make you happier, is for the Best Director award be split into Best Female and Male Directors, just like the Best Actor and Best Actress award. However, in doing so, you yourself are diminishing female directors, as you would honestly believe that women can’t make as good movies (which would be false, as “The Hurt Locker” was a much more deserving winner of Best Picture than “Argo” and “The Artist”, both male-directed films).

    So, in conclusion, if you believe it’s sexist that films like “Peeples”, “Black Nativity” and “Carrie” deserve award recognition, then I don’t recommend you becoming a critic. If female directors, as a whole, believe that they are not given as many advantages as male directors, then stop making terrible movies! If more women followed the paths of Bigelow and Holofcener and made movies worthy of such awards, then more women will in turn become successful directors, giving you the space to continue making terrible Tyler Perry snooze-fests.

    • J. Spencer says:

      Again, women and men BOTH make terrible films, and both make great films. Its not a matter of what gender makes the best films – that is completely ridiculous and silly. I have seen horrible films by both genders. Its a matter of creating a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD for both genders to play on and not allowing special privileges (higher budgets,etc) to men simply because women are relatively new to the game. Regarding your comments about women who are critics who vote primarily for male directors – well, frankly, if all there are are mostly men, percentage wise, well…. Further, some women (along with some men) are conditioned by society – sometimes even unconsciously – to give women higher standards to succeed and to overlook their great films….Which is sad. But true. Its the old ‘herd society’ thing…and it exists. We have to simply change things by hiring more women(re the studio system, and smaller studios), making sure they have decent budgets to work with (on par with men), and allowing them also better distribution, publicity budgets (on par with men) for their films, as that would help level the playing field. Sexism (and racism) exists, unfortunately we havent evolved enough yet –but I think its looking good that we will.

  8. Surely quality is what counts and not what gender you are?

    • J. Spencer says:

      Hi Sebby, no: men and women are equally guilty of knowingly or unknowingly giving better budgets and more jobs to the male gender. But its still conditioned sexism, either way. There are also many female directors, such as Bigalow or Campion, to name a couple of well-known ones – who we know and love need to get bigger budgets and the best jobs as well as male directors we know and love. Men are certainly not the only great directors who exist . Further, if you really study science (re all this pregnancy stuff and women are kinder for home care for children stuff) the fact is: women are more abstract – its been proven that while the male brain works in a more clinical, one-side-of the brain manner, the female brain works – at once – with both sides of the brain and therefore can think more quickly on creative impulses, and multi-tasking – two very essential things needed for great directing. so we can go on and on about which gender should or does receive special treatment: the fact is – BOTH genders should be equally directing films and writing films, gender should not be the ISSUE that gets the bigger budget for your project or gets you the project. Unfortunately, we are not at the place yet where that is so.

    • J. Spencer says:

      Agree with you , Jake – that should be what counts, but unfortunately – it isnt . And overwhelmingly only a certain gender gets to really make films within the system of Hollywood at this time – though I do think it will change and is changing – thanks to articles like this one and other people – men and women – speaking up about it.

  9. Elizabeth O'Brien says:

    Commercial success does not necessarily make for a great film. When will we begin ranking films beyond just gross dollar earned?

  10. AlwaysRIGHT says:

    Apparently there are tons of women who just can’t comprehend that. Whenever a woman applies for a job, they think she should automatically get it. They’re so full of themselves that they cannot even entertain the thought that they may not get the job; or that they may not have what it takes to do the job; or that they may be good, but there’s someone else who is better – and yeah, it might be a man. What they don’t get is that the man also beat out many men to get that job, too.

    I just saw something on TV where women are whining that 55% of the women in military are failing the basic fitness test of having to do 3 pull-ups and the woman was arguing they should train the women, that the test is unfair, that it’s unfair because men have 20% more upper body strength, bla bla. The fact is, if you are in combat and need to be rescued, do you want the person who “has your back” to be a weaker woman (in order to satisfy some diversity initiative) or the strongest person who applied for the job? Same theory can be applied to firefighters, police, and every single job out there. Performance should be the criteria – not gender and race quotas.

  11. Van Iblis says:

    God, I’m so tired of this “sexist” bullshit. Is it sexist that there are more male computer programers than female? Is it sexist that there are more female interior designers than male? Is it sexist that there are more male sanitation workers than female? Not every profession is going to have a 50/50 split, and it doesn’t NEED to be. We don’t NEED more female directors. If a talented female director makes a movie, great. But we don’t NEED them just for the sake of statistics. THAT is the very definition of prejudice.

    • Deborah Brock says:

      Sorry Van Iblis. Every industry should be open and willing to work with all genders and races. As a female director, I can tell you the film industry is not. I can’t believe the things men have openly said to me in the industry, but the covert sexism and racism is even worse. Close to 50% of film students are women, but the statistics (and real like experience) show that the industry is not open to them.

      • Deborah Brock says:

        Re: AlwaysRight below:
        No I’m not assuming anything about the reason women aren’t in these positions. I’m reporting from direct experience.

      • AlwaysRIGHT says:

        Deborah, are there signs that say “no girls allowed” – or are you just assuming the reason women aren’t in these positions because they just simply aren’t impressing the people who hire the directors?

        If I, a white lightweight male, tried out for the NFL or NBA, I would get rejected. And I would look at who was selected for those teams and I would NOT conclude, based on the FACT that there’s a huge percentage of black guys on those teams, that the NFL and NBA discriminated against me because I’m white. That would be ignorant. I didn’t get the job in this hypothetical because I wasn’t seen as being as good as the other applicants. Sometimes, in my example, it’s clearly because I’m not as good as they are! But in your director scenario, it’s not as obvious, but I don’t think it’s just because of sexism. It’s a business, and if a woman can make them the same/more money on a film, direct as well, get along with the actors, and win awards or whatever their judgement for success is, they’d be hiring more women.

        Yet, when women don’t get director jobs, they automatically knee-jerk emotionally react and look at the fact that a man was hired for the position they wanted, that’s sexism. For starters, for every woman who is turned down for a job, probably 5-10 times as many men were turned down for that same position. There’s only one “winner” and yeah, it may not end up being 50/50 split male to female. The position should be going to the best qualified – and not decided by the color of their skin or their gender.

        I wrote a post like this earlier but it’s gone. I don’t know why. What am I saying that is so offensive?

        I pointed out how literally, it was recorded on tape at a Ford Motor Company meeting with all the execs/managers/HR present that they were NOT to hire/promote any white males for a couple years! This was in the 90’s. This was their policy. Imagine being a white guy climbing the corporate ladder and having executive leadership team at your company to implement as a policy that you will not get that promotion? That’s what happened! And it was in the paper and someone was suing but did the lawsuit even go anywhere? No. Because nobody gives a damn when a white guy is screwed over, or when a white guy is knocked out (recently), or white guys are laid off in greater numbers than everyone else.

    • J. Spencer says:

      No, not every profession should have a clinical 50/50 split . But every profession should be open and willing to work with people regardless of gender or race. Especially a profession like film – which frankly is about voice and vision and we also dont need to keep mainly seeing ONLY a male viewpoint constantly and overriding all other viewpoints. Its tiring and its boring. In entertainment we need variety.
      Further to this, so tired you are tired of hearing sexism, perhaps during the civil rights movement you were tired of hearing racism.
      But these things exist, and they have to be abolished.

      • Van Iblis says:

        Except it doesn’t exist. Whenever articles like these are written, it simply notes the numbers…not proof of active discrimination. Show me ACTUAL PROOF of discrimination. Fun fact: The Nicholl is the most prestigious screenwriting contest in the industry. Only 20% of applicants are women. Maybe, *gasp*, less women are interested in the profession?

  12. Dwight Cenac says:

    The only case Frozen proved was that a film half-directed by a man is still enjoyable. That’s a joke. The film worked because the people who made it were good at what they did.

    Having worked with a few good female directors, it’s no secret they exist. But this article isn’t calling for good female directors. It’s just calling for more female directors. Quantity of Quality is a very vapid, nutritionless demand, one saved for toddlers and people who vomit on the dance floor.

    Memo to Ramin Setoodeh: People didn’t like The Hurt Locker because it was directed by a woman. They liked The Hurt Locker because it was directed well.

    Martin Luther King Jr said “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

    Why should this principle be any different of women? The problem isn’t that women aren’t directing. It’s that many of them don’t usually direct well. And you can often tell. Ramin should be mouthing off less about where Hollywood has gone wrong and start lighting the fire under the collective female director enclave tuckus to do better.

    • gregm91436 says:

      What would meet your standards for ‘proof’? Nobody keeps statistics on how many women apply for directing jobs and get rejected, or who pitch movies that don’t get funded. (Or how invisible networking gives chances and opportunities to men that women don’t get). I’m someone who’s actually worked in the industry, and who’s had multiple talented female directors direct my work (webseries and plays); they should definitely be getting more opportunities.

      It doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch to consider that gender is a factor that impacts women’s chances of directing film and showrunning TV negatively (citing one screenplay competition isn’t evidence otherwise). I’m not sure why you’re so threatened by the idea that a talented female director might not be getting the same opportunities that an equally talented male director is.

    • J. Spencer says:

      Hey Van Iblis, are you actually saying that there is no sexism in the industry because: women dont want to direct (wrong and silly: half of my directing class were women) And its that way in most film schools.
      And…..women arent really any good at directing so the ‘people in power’ (mostly men) dont want to hire them??? Ummm…when I look at films made by women, and the films made by women and men in film school – women’s films absolutely were both as good and as bad as the men in the class – there is no ‘ability’ factor based on gender. ESPECIALLY in the creative fields . Where women normally excel. They didnt just suddenly become less good and the men suddenly became better after they got out of film school. Thats absurd! So, again…thats like saying women who dont drive in saudi, arabia dont drive because they are bad drivers….No, dear: its because they cant get a license due to the cultural sexism. As for the classic: sexism doesnt exist! (hilarious and absurd of you) The numbers, dear, show the sexism in Hollywood. There are as many women who want to direct as there are men, women and men are both good and bad filmmakers – and there are only so many jobs, unless you create them yourself (which many women do re independent film, as we must do films on low budgets because of the blatant discrimination in the actual paying jobs as directors at studios), and the men who get out of the film schools clearly, statistically, get the majority of the paying jobs. It needs to be based on work, not on gender, but it is not. There is no sexism ??? Then why, in the USA, do women always get paid less for their work than men?? And why has there only been one women in 100 years who has won an Oscar, there have been no women Presidents. Let me give you a clue: its not because women arent good enough, which you are lamely promoting in your post. Its because unfortunately there is not yet an equal playing field in the work force for both men and women, who do happen to make up the world together. And women make up 52% of it. I guess there wasnt (and isnt ) racism either, by your standards. Look at the numbers and the facts, dear, and maybe – if you try really hard – you can figure it out.

  13. Dan says:

    There’s an angle to this story that Variety should pursue. Jennifer Lee, Kimberly Peirce and Nicole Holofcener, who directed the top three films on this list, are all graduates of Columbia University’s film school. Is this a coincidence? Kathryn Bigelow, Lisa Cholodenko, Patricia Riggen, and many other women directors are graduates of the same program. Something about Columbia’s program seems to attract and inspire talented women.

  14. Bonnie Eaton says:

    Of course Hollywood is sexist. It’s just as difficult for women writers and composers. It’s a reflection of society’s long held fascination with its aggressive masculine side. And it’s peaking in all of these expensive fast action tentpole movies depicting men and women blowing each other up with massive weaponry. To suggest that women aren’t tough enough to handle the challenges and disappointments of the business…That is just so insulting. Women have proven time and time again how tough we are in life, how courageous, and how equipped we are to direct major undertakings of any kind, how creative and collaborative we are inherently. And if I’m not mistaken, women are also superior to men in emotional intelligence, which fuels the dreams and imagination that should be driving Hollywood. What happened to originality? Do we really need another comic book hero? Another remake? Another sequel? It’s time to give women the money, the means, the distribution and the marketing support they deserve. If we are continually blocked, we’ll find other means of telling our stories.

  15. kimannruff says:

    There are several cases you make in this article, but I’m not sure how you want me to think about them once I leave your page. What I mean to say is that I’m glad you brought this to the public’s attention, but are you suggesting there is something that needs to be done to make a change or is this article just an fyi? I ask this because the title of the article implies that Hollywood is discriminating against female directors and at the same time, female directors are missing in action. If female directors are not making movies, then it must be men. And if men are essentially the only gender making movies in Hollywood right now, then I wouldn’t expect to see many women nominated for the Oscars. I would expect to see more men nominated, which according to your article is the case. I’m reacting this way to your thoughtful topic because I feel like you’re trying to make a worthwhile argument or take a worthwhile stand on this topic, but that some of your points are contradictory..

    • S says:

      Hey kimannruff,

      I totally agree with your points. The article seems like it is making an argument but instead it just brings up the issue to attention and gets lost in the argument.

      The article should have gone into more depth about the films and the critical attention they received. Plus, there aren’t many female directors. It is an industry saturated with men and that is disappointing. Lake Bell’s ‘In A World’ got a lot of critical praise but awards circles are not looking at female artists.

      Perhaps it has to do with perception of female artists, the over saturation of men and sometimes (in the case of the ‘Carrie’ remake’) they are not good films.

      It’s difficult to go into depth in a comments section. But to make one more point ‘In A World’, ‘Enough Said’, ‘The To Do List’ and ‘The Bling Ring’ are all good films.

      What we need is more people taking chances with female artists in the film industry and maybe we could see that shift in our life-time.

  16. River says:

    Hollywood Sexist.

  17. There aren’t that many minorities in film to begin with, so don’t expect as many minorities to try their hand at this profession. It’s a tough business where many White males fail. If minorities are entering this field in smaller numbers, the odds aren’t great that many will succeed.

    My advice, forget Hollywood and focus on Internet content.

  18. John Miller says:

    The movie industry is very vicious. It is very cutthroat. I was personally floored at the sheer insanity of it when I went to film school classes in summer 2007. The second I got to a course that was just above beginner level, the students were already clawing at each other to get ahead. It was just amazing!

    I am not surprised by anything that could ever happen in that business. Sexism seems like it would be commonplace. Those in power want to be in power, stay in power, and build their power base. So, men wanting to be where they are and stay where they are should not be a surprise.

    It is going to take very strong women to push through that barrier. It would be best for those who want to see women go forward in the film industry to back their projects. Find those in the advertising and P.R. industries to use their talents to know how to back and promote talented women filmmakers and get their projects in front of audiences.

    • I’m talking about female directors in the U.S. industry, not the world.

      Moreover, show me all the female directors in Europe directing tent pole films.

    • I’m talking about female directors in the U.S. industry, not the world.

      Moreover, show me all the female directors in Europe directing tent pole films.

      • J. Spencer says:

        No men direct them in europe either, James. The budgets are much smaller in europe – and the variety of having as many female as male directors and writers frankly make the films more varied, and entertaining and interesting. I think Hollywood would do well to follow that logic – it will probably lead to more profit.

  19. CM710 says:

    The reason there are less women in the industry begins at a very young age.

    From my first class in video and film in high school I have faced a gender bias. I was rejected from an all male team entering a regional high school film competition because of my gender. Well, instead of giving up, I made my own team and won the competition, beating over 20 male-dominated teams.

    I think I would have benefitted more if there were more programs that helped younger women realize that directing is an option in the first place. If you are told in high school that you can’t be a part of something, then you miss out on film school and are less likely to go on to pursue the profession on your own.

    The few who make it to film school are pushed into roles considered “girly” like makeup or wardrobe, even if they are studying production. Those who reject those roles have to speak twice as loud to be heard and are often considered “bitchy” or “bossy.” Men need to be taught that taking orders from a girl is not demeaning.

    There isn’t just one reason why Hollywood is sexist and there won’t be just one fix but discussing it openly is a good place to start.

    • jacksprat57 says:

      Hollywood is a relationship business, period. Those who don’t form them won’t get anywhere. Every project, with a very few exceptions, like an Eastwood film, must get “people” on board even to be heard by those with the money. Then, they need to keep them there, or replace them. Some projects are “in development” for years and years, even when backed by bankable principals. Favors are called and traded. Commitments clash. Enthusiasms wane. The careers of backers decline before, during, and after a project has been green-lighted.

      There’s no one to whom one can go and complain that “it’s not fair.” Learn the game. Play the game. Expect to fail, as almost all do. Pressure works when there’s something against which to push. This is a game of hot air, played under an open sky. Anything that actually gets done? It might as well be the weather.

      • CM710 says:

        I agree, but how are women supposed to play the game if they aren’t allowed on the team? Or if they are told to be cheerleaders instead? I agree with you that the last thing hollywood is, is fair, and don’t expect any favors no matter what you look like. We all have to work our asses off regardless and true talent with preserverance has the best chance at success. However, the best way to even out the stats are to get more women interested and let them know that directing is an option from a young age. Then it’s up to them to get to the next level but let’s at least get them on the field.

      • YYYTR says:

        Exactly, right, Jack. Also, how does low boxoffice for female directed films prove “sexism”? Is the audience sexist? Because half of them (or more) are women.

  20. geri031706 says:

    Even your headline is sexist; it should read: Female Directors Still Missing in Action in Sexist Hollywood. This isn’t a debatable subject, the question is to what extent. Shame on Variety for contributing to the problem with misleading headlines.

  21. Jake says:

    I’m kinda surprised that nancy Meyers one of the most successful female directors has trouble getting a movie made

    • jacksprat57 says:

      Who doesn’t? Eastwood. It helps to run your own production company and have a track record that you can literally take to a bank.

  22. This is not news. Hollywood is still the boys’ club as we all know. Not to mention, there’s still racism there as well. The best way for women directors to be to affect change is to pool their resources and build their own studio(s) from which they could produce films. Tyler Perry did it. It’s time to stop whining about the same old issues.

  23. Todd Koerner says:

    This is really getting tired… I’ve been an agent trying to get women directors on major productions, but there is an institutional resistance – even from female executives (or maybe especially from) – that makes it nearly impossible to get them taken seriously.

    But don’t forget people like Penny Marshall, Amy Heckerling and Joan Micklin Silver. All directed popular and entertaining mainstream movies. I think it will take an effort by those in front of the camera instead of those behind it. Once stars are willing to support and seek out the talented women, then we can have progress. Until then, these are all just anecdotes.

  24. Jane says:

    Not much to do with the article per se, but why use WWZ as the photo to talk about no women directors. It is never mentioned in the article. Since you did point Catching Fire and Heat, why not put them up top to illustrate your point. Just seems so random.

  25. Joyce says:

    The boys’ club that’s Hollywood doesn’t trust women with big budget films. It only trusts male directors, who go over budget on a regular basis.

  26. Let’s see, after watching all of those previews…I would have gone to see all of those movies. I think the only one that is still in movie theatres is “Frozen”. I just don’t think that movies stay in theaters long enough because there are so many movies that come out.

  27. Kevin Weindorf says:

    Equal opportunity workplace, like nascar for instance not that many women are interested in participating…There are allot more jobs in Hollywood that could be more appealing to women, anywhere from make-up artist to actress or being a agent, manager or producer. Directing isn’t necessarily precluded be gender but possibly by the human condition..

  28. Michael Hsu says:

    Who needs women directors if the “male” directors think like women?

  29. Wyatt Weed says:

    I mean, until she directed Zero Dark Thirty. Sorry, Katherine!

  30. Wyatt Weed says:

    Do that many women want to be directors? I know some who do, but by and large, it seems that I don’t meet as many women who aspire to direct versus men. That said, do women want to direct tentpoles? Has anyone done a formal survey of this? Is this a true problem? I feel like women gravitate toward producing. As for history, we got some big films from Mimi Leder, especially The Peacemaker and Deep Impact. She has also done prodigious and excellent TV work, a medium many males are turning to now. Let’s also not forget Katherine Bigelow, who had about 4 or 5 cracks at big studio films with only moderate success or less. Like anything in this industry, I think if a few more women can direct a big, successful tentpole, more women will direct overall, because you KNOW Hollywood will follow the money path. But I also think progress IS being made. Like African-Americans breaking through, I think women are still on the rise and will continue to see their options expand. They are certainly seeing success on the female-THEMED movie front, and that’s some progress at least. During my time in Hollywood, I met plenty of women in charge, and plenty of them knew what they were doing. I don’t know if we can force women into directing positions. They will just have to keep showing the world what they can do, and eventually the tide will turn.

  31. E.V. says:

    Oh God, not this crap! There are plenty of female directors in Hollywood, they just all prefer to work on indies and television, away from all the recycled garbage we have flowing through our multiplexes

  32. Jason Cool says:

    This is the dumbest article I have ever read on Variety! What is happening to our society! So women aren’t generally the best directors, they’re not the best plumbers either, get over it!

  33. Free will means different directors work on different things, if they don’t like something, they can walk. Different directors, men and women work on different films of all kinds, the movies that get all the attention and buzz don’t get it because of who directs them, they get them because of marketing and because of backwards thinking that likes to give art a set definition. Some people like action movies, others like animated ones, some like indies and others like horror, everyone is different and different people like different things for different reasons. You don’t get to claim sexism just cause movies you thought deserved more attention, didn’t get it.

  34. Jacob F Keller says:

    The questions that I am finding myself asking when I see/hear stuff like is: 1) Are women being ignored or passed over by studios? 2) Are women seeking out these jobs/opportunities? 3) Are there not enough women directors rising through the ranks? 4) What can be done? 5) Is the “boys club” mentality a symptom of a larger problem or just a tragic consequence of how the industry emerged back in the 20s and 30s and was built in the 50s and 60s?

    So many questions.

  35. mercycroft says:

    Don’t forget Anne Fontaine for “Adore,” which flopped commercially, yet every woman who went to see it found it fascinating (male critics, unsurprisingly, bordered on hysterical with their negativity), and Sarah Polley’s documentary “Stories We Tell,” which received no press but was very good. There are MANY women making movies out there, they just aren’t making superhero explosion video game schlock.

    • J. Spencer says:

      It took a long time for the brilliant painter Suzanne Valadon to get her paintings shown in the Louvre. It took a long time for many writers to be read who were brilliant – who happened to be women. There are many, many women filmmakers – yes, directors who want to direct big budget films and are probably going to be heard from in the next 10 years because this IS becomming an important issue in Hollywood – its not good to have 52% of the population unable to get their ideas and voices out there. I frankly think tent pole films are so bad because they cater to teenage boys and are put together and directed by men. I wonder what women would do with these films? Lets find out . might do really well – get some fresh ideas out there, time for that I think. Audiences are getting bored . There are brilliant male directors and there are brilliant female directors – the problem is: old Hollywood hangs on to the outdated and sexist idea that men somehow can keep the budget in and the interest there – well, I think not. They go over budget, they screw up, as much as women probably do and will – but ALL people, regardless of gender or color – should be able to get ideas out into the world and be SUPPORTED by the industry to do so – not held back because of their gender. That, is called bigotry.

  36. Steven Gaydos says:

    After that, the world needs some good news. Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch announced in December put women in 5 of the 10 slots: http://variety.com/2013/film/news/variety-announces-this-years-10-directors-to-watch-1200910433/# We’ll celebrate their achievements and promise in Palm Springs at the Fest this Sunday.

More Biz News from Variety

Loading