Greetings from beautiful Park City, UT, where we’ve been incredibly lucky to be experiencing the Sundance Film Festival! We’re on the ground at the fest, scoping out the scene and getting a feel for what it’s like for women filmmakers and audiences in the film industry. We’ll have a full recap when we return to New York later this week, but in the meantime, here is some of the super cool stuff we’ve been getting into!
Interviewing Female Filmmakers
We partnered with Tangerine Entertainment, a new production company and community builder focusing on female directors and strong roles for women, to interview some of the female filmmakers at Sundance 2013! We’ll be posting the interviews over the next week, but for now, you can read them all at Tangerine’s website. Here are some of our favorite excerpts:
“We have our own missions, our own destinies to fulfill, and one way to help accomplish that if you have a propensity towards storytelling is to become a director and tell stories where girls and women are the focus, so that the girls and women that grow up behind you can see themselves in the lead role and assume that that is the normal–that they be the focus of their own lives and not just the helper.” — Francesca Gregorini, director, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes
“Whatever is in the minds of others I can’t control, so I’d say to any woman and any person really, keep focused on what you want to achieve and don’t worry about other people’s agendas. If there is some blatant bias that is bothering you or interfering with the work, call people on it. Bullies don’t like to be outed, so let shame do its job.” — Dawn Porter, director, Gideon’s Army
“Don’t be afraid to make something that sucks.” — Hannah Fidell, director, A Teacher
Women in Film
We were invited to attend Jacki Zehner’s Women at Sundance party on January 21st, where USC Anneberg’s Dr. Stacy Smith was presenting new research about the state of women in film. Some of the findings of her 11 year study:
- In the Top 100 films every year over the past eleven years, there have been only 41 women directors. There have been 625 men.
- Contrary to what people are saying, 2012 was not a good year for women in film–of the Top 100 films, only 3 were directed by women (and one of them, Brave’s Brenda Chapman, was let go halfway through the project).
- Of all top box office films over the past 11 years, only 4.4% were directed by women.
- About 43% of women interviewed for the study named financing as their biggest barrier–investors and financiers are often men.
- Women reported being stereotyped on film sets, facing harassment, and coming up against assumptions that they would be unable to lead. (We published an interview with filmmaker Jan Eliasberg where she addresses all of these experiences.)
- Women hire women! On sets with female directors, 44% of behind-the-camera creative roles (editors, cinematographers, production designers, etc.) were filled by women. On sets with male directors, the average is 23%.
- Sundance makes a difference: although there was no longterm trend showing that women are gaining ground at Sundance (although this year’s gender parity in the narrative competition makes us feel warm and fuzzy!), 41% of top grossing films by women were supported by the Sundance Institute.
- Women have a much larger presence in documentaries than in narrative film: 34.5% for docs, 16.9% for narrative. We’ve been thinking almost obsessively about why this might be–women’s narratives getting rejected as too “niche”? Women being drawn to film as a vehicle for change rather than a vehicle for narrative? Audiences thinking they wouldn’t care about films about women? This seems huge to us!
We have a copy of Dr. Smith’s full report and will be writing it up soon, so stay tuned!
It’s hard to remember sometimes when we’re rubbing shoulders with so many amazing, inspiring, and powerful women, but Sundance is about films! Our favorite so far has been “Best Friends Forever,” a film that screened at Slamdance (a small offshoot of Sundance). Co-written by/starring Brea Grant and Vera Miao & directed by Grant, BFF follows two best friends on an apocalyptic roadtrip. Watch the trailer below:
We’ve been having an absolutely amazing time here, and can’t wait to give you a full report when we get back! Huge thanks to Tangerine, Jacki Zehner, and everyone else who has made it possible for us to be here in 2013. Hopefully this kicks off a trend, and you’ll see SPARK at Sundance every year from here out!