×

Dee Rees, Geena Davis Tackle Female, Minority Inclusion on Screen

Director-writer Dee Rees, whose period piece “Mudbound” hits Netflix on Nov. 17, has had to fight for all of her projects to be made and financed.

Speaking at the Women in Entertainment Summit on Wednesday, Rees shared her journey to making her first films “Pariah” in 2011 to “Bessie” in 2015 to now, describing how along the way, she made sure to hire women and expand the pipeline of female and minority filmmakers.

“Pariah,” which began as a film-school thesis, screened as a short film in 2007 and later became a feature-length movie executive produced by Spike Lee. But the road from short film to feature was long and arduous.

“It was still a beast to get it financed,” Rees said. “Nobody wanted to do a lesbian coming-of-age back then.”

The film was semi-autobiographical, loosely based on Rees’ experience coming out as lesbian. The movie, which was received well critically, would be the springboard for her and her filmmaking team. “We all made our way off of ‘Pariah,’” she said.

Thursday’s Women in Entertainment Summit came at a moment when the industry is reeling and assessing how to move forward after being rocked by a still-growing list of sexual harassment and assault scandals.

Gretchen McCourt, co-founder of the summit, made brief mention of the current climate, but the program very quickly unfolded with no further thought to all the allegations of sexual misconduct.

Actress Geena Davis delivered the morning keynote, giving a rundown of the state of female and minority representation on screen. Founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, she shared the conclusions of her organization’s research.

“There are not only far fewer female characters, only 29% in films studied, you’re not seeing them or hearing them as much as male characters, either,” she said.

Using data and deliberate inclusive storytelling, Davis shared her own experience during the making of “Stuart Little” in 1999. In the filming of the boat-race scene, all of the kids holding remote controls to their boats were boys, which Davis noticed. She then proposed making half of the kids girls, which mortified the filmmaker who followed her advice.

“If you don’t put it in a script, it is not happening,” Davis said.

She remained upbeat that with data analysis and inclusive practices, the tide can turn for women and minorities. “Media can be the cure for the problem it’s creating,” Davis said. “I feel very confident in predicting that the percentage of female characters will change dramatically within the next 10 years.”

More Film

  • A woman prays at a makeshift

    Kyoto Animation Suspect is Too Sick to Arrest

    Police in Kyoto, Japan, have obtained an arrest warrant for Shinji Aoba, the man suspected of killing 33 people last week at the Kyoto Animation studio. However, he currently remains too injured for the warrant to be served. Police said that they believe that the bag with multiple knives and a hammer belong to Aoba. [...]

  • Azania Muendane

    Locations Africa Expo Sends Message in Durban: ‘Africa is Ready’

    DURBAN–The first edition of the Locations Africa Expo and Conference was held this week during the Durban FilmMart, with an eye toward identifying and growing the opportunities to lure incoming productions to the continent. “Locations Africa is trying to service a need on the continent to discuss the physical production…on the ground, highlighting film commissions, [...]

  • The Lion King

    China Box Office: 'Looking Up' Is Surprise Weekend Winner Ahead of 'Lion King'

    Actor and comedian Deng Chao underlined his enduring popularity with mainstream Chinese audiences by delivering a surprise No. 1 box-office hit in “Looking Up” over the weekend. It scored $38.6 million in its opening frame, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway, and displaced “The Lion King” from its perch. “Looking Up” is a family [...]

  • Unathi Malonga

    Report Urges South African Media to ‘Step Up’ Against Gender Violence

    DURBAN–In a country with some of the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence in the world, South African media must step up and play a greater role in the fight against gender inequality and gender-based violence. That was the conclusion of a report, “Gender, Diversity and Gender-based Violence in South African TV,” that was [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Cameron Crowe, David Crosby, A.J. Eaton.

    Cameron Crowe on Why He Loved Leaving David Crosby Doc on a CSNY Question Mark

    David Crosby may or may not have stuck a joint in Cameron Crowe’s mouth the first time he ever met the future filmmaker, when Crosby was peaking with Crosby Stills Nash & Young and his interviewer was a precocious 15-year-old Rolling Stone correspondent. As Crowe said to Jimmy Kimmel the other night, “I remember it [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content