On Women Directors: Vote with Your Financial Influence

So here we are again, February, the month famous for Valentine’s day, Black History Month and, of course, the Oscars. An indulgent glance takes our eye to the evening’s buzz: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Roll and, finally, the Best Dressed Woman among so many nominees in exquisite dresses. But as this year’s Oscars approach, Catalytic Women wants to recognize the women in film, not just for their clothes, but for their contributions to the female voice in the male-dominated film industry. Women buy most movie tickets. It’s refreshing to see a story told with a woman’s influence.

Last fall we hosted a panel discussion at Google on Women, Film and Philanthropy featuring women thought leaders who use film and media for social impact. Our panelists included Susan Cartsonis (Women in Film), Eva Maria Daniels (Impact Emotion Films) and Vivian Kleiman (documentary film consultant and producer). Our blog article about the November event lists a variety of resources for those interested in supporting women and film.

These women also emphasized how each of us can use our personal influence to effect social change right now. We don’t need to sit on the sidelines, waiting for Kathryn Bigelow to nail her next blockbuster.

This theme of financial influence and its connection to film arises in unexpected ways. As the Academy Awards approach, it feels like a veritable tidal wave (nod to writer María Belón in The Impossible) of media on the subject. First we heard mumurs of the great women directors at Sundance. Now those names are displayed next to other great male directors at the Oscars.

And the message doesn’t need to come to us on the big screen. Here are some of our favorite articles by women writers exploring the connection between women, their wealth and financial influence, and media and film:

  1. Susan Cartsonis, in Women Make Good Box Office suggests that women are influential because of their large numbers in the audience and the tickets they buy for their children and others. Her advice is to, “Get out and vote with your dollar. See women’s movies. Women drive over 60% of messaging in social media — talk about the movies you like and encourage your friends to go. If you’re a filmmaker, keep making films and find a way to invest in your own work financially so that you can drive the creative and financial decision-making process. Your voice and your perspective are legit and profound and powerful — and will find an audience.”
  2. Carrie Rickey takes a different approach in Female Directors Grab Helm: More Top Titles of Past Year Shot by Women. It’s not as though women neatly fit into one type of women director. The offerings this year cross nearly every category, from comedy to drama to faith-based to documentaries. According to BoxOfficeMojo, this year “Nine percent of the top 250 movies at the domestic box office last year were made by female directors…higher than the 2011 figure of 5 percent.” But still not anywhere near the over 50% of the population that women represent.
  3. Kimberly Gadette, in Hollywood in 2012 Was Female-Action Packed, encourages us to dig into character analysis and plot development. She describes the significance of not only the women directors, but of the female characters in their films in each genre.

When you tune into the Oscars this year, we hope you will pay special attention to the women directors. Notice what effect they had on us this year and how we were shaped by the images and stories they brought to us in film.

Is a woman’s lens (both literally and figuratively) different? Of the films you saw this year, did you feel differently about them after you found out they were made by women?

The assumption in Hollywood is that women will go see movies with male characters, but men will not see films with women leads. So what do you think of that? How are this year’s Oscar-nominated characters created by women directors telling different stories?

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