Moving Backwards In Time

17 06 2008

Only in Hollywood.

The Hollywood Reporter, in an article by Shannon L. Bowen, called “What Women Want,” talks about the organization Women In Film, which is handing out awards this week for… well… great women in filmmaking.

But here was the leading paragraph, excerpted for my sanity:

“Of the 176 nominations for the 80th Annual Academy Awards, 43 (24%) went to women [Norman aside — presumably this includes the Best Ac t… Women In Film celebrated the accomplishments accordingly. [It] threw its first Oscar party in February.

Now, aside from the cliché if Hollywood throwing a party whenever someone sneezes, the truly astounding thing for me about the article is that an organization entitled Women In Film, which I assume represent the 50% of the American population with two X chromosomes, is happy when less than half of that percentage is given awards.

The truly scary thing is a study that accompanied the article, and which you can download from the website of TRACTION — which bills itself as “The magazine for and by women in the ‘industry’.” The study compares the percentage of women in various film professions over the last ten years.  The results are not good.

The chart, which you can see by clicking on its min-version up on the right-hand side of this post, shows that among the six categories — directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers — not a single one showed an increase in the percentage of women receiving credits on films since 1998. At this stage only 2% of cinematographers are women, 6% of directors, 10% writers, 17% editors, and 14% and 22% were executive producers and producers. This is down anywhere from two to four percent per category since 1998.

What the hell is going on here?

I’ve heard so much about the “democratization of the media” but that seems to be only for men, and white men at that.  In the Digital 100 in the Hollywood Reporter a few weeks ago, you had to dig down to number 20 or so before you found a woman.

Perhaps it is the sample that the Reporter uses — mainstream media (the study I mentioned analyzed crew lists from the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2007). And we shouldn’t be surprised that the mainstream is more sexist.

But, as small as the percentage is, it’s the downward trend that freaks me out.

I look around in the editing world and realize that I’m surrounded by mostly white males. Then I look at the student body at the USC film school which is about 40% women.  Where are they all going to do?  I have had hopes that they would begin to push up the employment numbers, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Three weeks ago, I ran a panel at the USC Women in Cinematic Arts on the future of media. One of the panelists mentioned that there are more women in the New York digital world than out here in California. Perhaps that is part of it. We can certainly point to great women editors — Margaret Booth and Dede Allen are legends in the field.  I’ve worked with Lynzee Klingman, an amazingly talented woman who cut HEARTS AND MINDS and a few of Milos Forman’s films. Anne Coates has cut LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and OUT OF SIGHT.  Sally Menke has cut all of Quentin Tarentino’s films, if I remember correctly.

There are a lot of women in television editing (which is not included in the report, consigning television, as well as women in television, to a back room). It doesn’t seem like editing would only have 17% women.  But, obviously, I’m wrong.

How can we move past this, in the political climate today, where people are losing jobs, not making them

I’d like to know.



2 responses

18 06 2008

How could you miss mentioning Thelma Schoonmaker. This Academy Award-winning film editor edited Raging Bull, The Aviator, Goodfellas, The Last Temptation of Christ, The King of Comedy, After Hours, Casino, Gangs of New York and The Departed. (Thanks Wikipedia.)

Okay, the truth is she was the only female editor I could name off the top of my head 😦



18 06 2008

Damn, you are absolutely right. The odd thing is — I had her listed in the notes that I took for the article before I wrote it!

Thelma is an absurdly talented editor who is always extremely generous and innovative (though she always gives the bulk of the credit to her usual collaborator — Martin Scorsese).

Thelma — apologies.

[Though to be honest, I know that there are a number of other woman editors who I was too stupid to include!]

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