The medium of the movies helps to project information, opinions and policy.
I remember attending a film in the Cine Capri in Phoenix on the detention centers for the undocumented.
The Phoenix Film Foundation had presented a variety of films at their film festival and the director of the film came to the stage and presented his views regarding the ethics of filmmaking.
I watched and listened with care regarding how he presented what he saw as the ethics of his film. The explanation and interpretation that he gave showed numerous perceptions in regard to the undocumented. I noticed how the answers were from a male perspective.
At that time, it appeared to me how easy it was to influence viewers and possibly manipulate their opinions. The Phoenix Film Foundation previewed more than 100 films.
How many women were in the film? Did women play a significant role in the films? How many were written, directed or produced by a woman? Did we hear the views or perspectives of women? I’m asking these questions now nearly 10 years after I have seen that film and wondering if anything has changed regarding women in the film industry.
Women may represent half of the global population in real life but film worlds get by with just a third. Studies show that men outnumbered women on screen by a factor of 2 to1. Also, the character portrayals for women tend to revolve around personal life and their relationship status. Male characters were more likely to have work related goals and an identifiable occupation.
Inclusion happens when women are given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. When it comes to speaking characters in a film the males words and voices are heard 64% of the time to women who are around 36% of the time. Not only words speak volumes but as speaking characters what they are saying speak volumes. It is worth saying that the most common scenario is one female lead per film — the token woman.
Only one female director, Jane Campion, has ever won the Palme d’Or, the top film at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The most prestigious of film festivals, which celebrates it’s 71st year in 2022 is showing it has taken criticism on board with a diverse and gender balanced jury of five women and four men..
When it comes to films, though, things don’t look so equal. Three out of 21 directors running for the 2018 Palme d’Or were female. Men outnumber the women six to one. How about other awards? Only one woman has won an Oscar for best director and last year was the first year a woman was ever nominated for a cinematography Oscar.
Women have found that to have a say in what films are made they need to own their own production company. Interestingly, if you want to have your own production company, you need to succeed in being an actress who makes a lot of money. Now pay equity comes into play. When women are paid less than men, even in films, they are at a disadvantage moving ahead with their careers.
Having your own production company allows you to find good stories that have women as the central figures. These stories, when brought to the screen, give women meaning full roles where viewers can see and hear different perspectives.
Women have found that turning towards Indie films gave them more opportunities. The statistical data shows women fare better as writers, directors, producers, editors and cinematographers. Women filled 40% of key behind the scenes roles on documentaries but only 29% on narratives.
As a time traveler, one can see the strides women have made in the past 10 years. The film industry was once a bastion of male dominance. Women did not have the power to make demands in the film industry.
Film is a common entertainment form that connects the audience with the characters and their social world. Let’s hope that in the next 10 years more women will have an opportunity to influence viewers through the medium of movies.
Editor’s note: Sharon Hettick is a member of the Recreation Centers of Sun City West Board of Directors and serves as a board member for Northwest Valley Connect. She wrote this for Women’s Watch.