So Where Are All the Women in Film? At the Film Festivals

Part II: Women in Film

By Samantha Ladwig

Last week we saw Cate Blanchet giving her Best Actress speech at the Oscars, which sparked my article on breaking the habit of failing to support women in the film industry. I knew my next piece would be on how we as a community of moviegoers could better support women, so when I received a comment back about there simply not being enough women in the industry, I thought it would be a perfect inclusion and introduction for this article, “So Where Are All the Women?”

It’s true, there simply aren’t an equal or greater amount of women in the industry, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t include them, or make an effort to support them as they create and distribute their work. Especially for all the women working alongside men in film schools. Success comes from support, encouragement, feedback, and collaboration, whether it’s from mentors, friends, communities, or families. Of course there are the occasional stories of someone rising above independently, but the majority of the time that’s not the case. How can we support women within the industry? By actively seeking them out. So here’s a list of women to seek out and support.

Megan Griffiths 
A Seattle based writer, director, and producer, her career includes the “The Off Hours,” “Eden,” and her newest movie screened at 2013’s Toronto Film Festival “Lucky Them.” I had the pleasure of hearing Megan speak at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum last fall, where she talked about her career, how she got where she is, and challenges she’s been presented with working as an independent filmmaker. While she discussed working on a small budget and tricks to attaining the perfect color schemes, gender was never brought up. Clearly it hasn’t disrupted her passion for creating movies.

Lynn Shelton 
Another Seattle based director, editor, actor, and writer. Known for her work on “New Girl” and her movie “My Sister’s Sister,” Shelton has also had small parts in “Safety Not Guaranteed” and Megan Griffiths’ “The Off Hours.” During her adolescence, she claimed she lost her confidence in creativity. Utilizing this experience, Shelton worked through that setback and eventually made a movie titled, “We Go Way Back,” talking about that particular experience. Lynn is starring in Megan Griffiths film “Lucky Them” that will be out this year.

Brit Marling 
I saw her in “Arbitrage,” but along with acting she’s a writer, director, and producer. After graduating from Georgetown with a degree in economics, she decided she preferred a more artistic career and made it happen. In 2004 she wrote and directed a the documentary “Boxers and Ballerinas.” She’ll be starring in two movies coming out this year, “Posthumous” and “The Keeping Room,” so keep an eye out for those.

Brie Larson 
You’ve probably seen her in “21 Jump Street,” but she’s phenomenal in “Short Term 12.” She’s also been in “The Spectacular Now,” “Don Jon,” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Along with acting, Brie is also a poet, musician, and a writer and director of short films. Her career is fairly extensive, but it’s within the last year that she’s been taking on larger, lead roles. She’ll be in a handful of movies coming out over the next two years so be sure to seen them.

Celia Rowlson-Hall
You’ll find a lot of her work on Vimeo. She’s worked for the show “Girls,” Vanity Fair, Kate Spade, and the band Sleigh Bells. As a writer, choreographer, and short film director she’s on a mission at this very moment to direct a feature length film about a virgin mother making her way to Las Vegas to give birth to Jesus. Sounds super strange, but with film we all need to go into it with the motto of “not judging a book by its cover.” Thanks to @matthewwoj for the wonderful suggestion.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), Lake Bell (“In a World”), Jane Campion (“The Piano”), Amy Heckerling, Shailene Woodley (“The Spectacular Now”), Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde”), Clair Denis (“White Material”), Ellen Kuras (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Diablo Cody (“Juno”), Alexis Krasilovsky (“Women Behind the Camera”), or Sofia Coppola (“Lost In Translation”). I simply felt like naming a few less publicized women in the industry whom I enjoy. Also, this isn’t an article to encourage people to like the films created by women; it’s more of an article motivating people to critique them as they would any other film. It’s an article encouraging us to seek out films that are being created by women. Like I wrote before, the audience shifts the focus within the industry.

These women, and other upcoming female filmmakers can all be found at film festivals. There are higher percentages of female contributions to film at festivals than films being advertised to us via commercials and award shows like the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Women make up almost 50% of documentary films in festivals, and they make up 30 percent of people working behind the cameras. A small number, but still larger than the numbers we see in commercial movie trailers on TV at home or previews in corporate theaters. The nice thing about film festivals is that they post movies that they’ve shown so you as a viewer can easily scan the list and view films made by women or starring a female lead. Sundance Film Festival (they have a whole program called Women Filmmakers Initiative), Telluride Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, and more. Also, there are the local film festivals that come out of smaller theaters around your cities. The Northwest Film Forum here in Seattle, and the Pickford Film Center in Bellingham have programs for student film festivals, documentary, local sightings, etc. There are a lot more girls and women creating films at lower levels looking for encouragement as they work their way up the industry. Instead of seeing that movie at a traditional, corporate theater, look into local theaters that are screening less publicized films coming out of festivals. You’ll find more women, and more unique stories that are being told.

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About Samantha

samanthaI spend my days surrounded by film archives through my job at the University of Washington and my graduate program at Western Washington University. I make it a priority to watch a movie at least every other day despite exhaustion. Outside of the archives and film, I enjoy comic books, baking, writing, walking, conversing, “The Twilight Zone,” my significant other, and of course breakfast.

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