×

Beyond Hildur: 5 More Female Composers Competing at the Oscars

Much has been written about “Joker” composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, the Icelandic cellist who may well walk off with the Oscar Sunday night, making her only the third woman to win an Academy Award for best original score.

But she’s not the only woman who has composed scores for Oscar-nominated films. In fact, five others are in contention in the documentary feature, documentary short subject and animated short categories.

Three of the five nominated films in the doc shorts category were scored by women (and one of the other two has no score): Sasha Gordon for “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl),” Amanda Jones for “St. Louis Superman” and Laura Karpman for “Walk Run Cha-Cha.”

Music for the documentary feature “For Sama” was composed by London-based Nainita Desai, and Japanese composer Karen Tanaka scored the nominated animated short film “Sister.”

The number is very likely a record at the Oscars. Last year’s doc shorts and features credited only one female composer (veteran Miriam Cutler for “RBG”).

“There is progress being made,” says Karpman, who is also one of the governors of the Academy music branch. “It’s important to celebrate the fact that all of these inclusion initiatives, at the Academy and with the Alliance [for Women Film Composers] and other women’s advocacy groups, are working. It’s slow, but we are seeing a flowering, especially in the documentary and shorts field. The door is open — we’ve just got to keep our foot firmly kicked inside of it.”

The improved outlook for women composer-arrangers extends to this year’s Oscar ceremony. A woman will conduct at the Oscars for the first time, as Irish-born Eimear Noone is set to baton a medley of this year’s original-score nominees, and, Variety has learned, this year’s team of music arrangers includes more women than ever.

The Academy declined to provide exact figures, but it is believed that the number of arrangers has increased from one (last year, Grammy winner Nan Schwartz) to four or five this year.

Adds Alliance president Starr Parodi: “Things are moving in a very positive direction. There is definitely a shift that I’m seeing and feeling. I just got back from Sundance and it was palpable there as well. It’s fantastic to see more high quality projects with compelling stories and Oscar-worthy production being offered to female composers. However, I feel like we’re at a very critical time. Because there’s more visibility of female composers, it gives the illusion that we are approaching some reasonable form of gender parity, when we are still a long way off from the goal. There still needs to be gender diversity in every conversation and pitch when it comes to scoring.”

According to Parodi, women composers in the Alliance now number between 400 and 500, and a U.K. chapter of the Alliance has just launched.

More Film

  • Extinction

    Coronavirus Causes 85% Crash in Asia Box Office

    Theatrical box office in the Asia-Pacific region tumbled a massive 85% in the first two months of the year. The coronavirus caused cinema closures, audience hesitation, and a halving of the number of film releases. Asia is home to the five of the top ten cinema markets outside North America. According to data from the [...]

  • Lindsay Lindenbaum on 'Tomboy,' Female Drummers,

    How 'Tomboy' Filmmaker Used SXSW Cancellation to Fine-Tune Her Film

    “Tomboy” filmmaker Lindsay Lindenbaum spent five years following four female drummers trying to make it in a male-dominated world. Lindenbaum profiles Bobbye Hall, a drummer who started at Motown Records in the late ’60s and later toured with Bob Dylan. Samantha Maloney, whose obsession with MTV’s “Headbangers Ball” as a teenager led her to fall [...]

  • Wonder Woman 1984

    Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Wipe Out All of Summer Blockbuster Season?

    Say goodbye to blockbuster season — at least for this year. After would-be summer hits from Disney, Warner Bros., and Universal already vacated their release dates, Sony Pictures announced Monday that its comic book adventure “Morbius,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and virtually all of its upcoming tentpoles were being moved into the fall or beyond. It was [...]

  • Dodgers Stadium Empty

    Movie Theaters and Concerts Could See Major Attendance Drop Post-Pandemic (Study)

    After a month of increasing anxiety and self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, audiences in the U.S. are largely not eager to return to public events once the crisis subsides, according to a new study. In a survey of 1,000 consumers in the U.S., 44% of respondents said they would attend fewer large public events, [...]

  • 'Dolphin Reef' Review: A Dazzling Look

    'Dolphin Reef' on Disney Plus: Film Review

    Out of the vast universe of nature documentaries, I don’t think I’m alone in finding films about life under the sea to occupy a special place. The very fact that they exist, of course, is amazing — though when you watch one, part of the wonder is that you’re not thinking about how aquamarine filmmakers [...]

  • CONJURING DAD – In Disney and

    What's Coming to Disney Plus in April 2020

    Disney Plus will continue to expand its library next month, adding older films as well as new episodes of its original programming. Less than a month after its release on March 6, Pixar’s “Onward” is making an early jump to Disney’s streaming platform amid the coronavirus pandemic. With the vast majority of theaters now closed [...]

  • Black AF Netflix

    Everything Coming to Netflix in April

    As everyone continues to self-quarantine and practice social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no better “at-home” activity than catching up on all the new films and shows streaming on Netflix this April. A number of new series are set to premiere on the streaming platform, including “Never Have I Ever,” “#BlackAf,” “OuterBanks,” “The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content