We were grateful for the opportunity to interview the founders of Casting Elite to pick their brains about this fantastic service for the entertainment industry.
The annual Female Eye Film Festival is a competitive event dedicated to highlighting the best of new, emerging, and established female filmmakers from around the globe. Since 2001, this badass fest has showcased high caliber indie flicks made by top female filmmakers. Attendees can enjoy an eclectic selection of features and shorts in all genres directed by women that are not found in mainstream cinema.
The FeFF’s aim is to bridge the gap between the written, visual, and media arts with an eclectic program of film screenings, script readings, an FeFF photo exhibit, as well as an Industry Initiatives Program of panels, workshops, and pitch sessions. All in all it’s the place to be if you’re a budding or established female filmmaker, scriptwriter, or if you’re a film fanatic looking to network with industry professionals.
The Female Eye also holds a Script Development Program – a three tier program comprised of the Good To Go (a pitch session for screenwriters with scripts that are good to go), the Script Reading Series whereby ACTRA members read main scenes from scripts selected, and a script reading in front of a live audience including industry delegates who provide feedback to the writers.
Handcrafted engraved statuettes are presented for the best selected films at the Closing Awards Ceremony, including Best of Show, Best Foreign Feature, Best Canadian Feature, Best Documentary, Best Debut Filmmaker, Best Short Film, Best Animation, and Best Experimental, while Screenplay Awards are presented for Best Screenplay, Best Reserve, Best Low Budget Feature, Best Fresh Voice, and Audience Choice Award.
Choreographer turned filmmaker Leslie-Ann Coles founded the festival, thus creating Canada’s one and only annual competitive international independent female directors’ film festival. As the FeFF’s executive and artistic director, Coles has also mentored young aspiring female filmmakers and Aboriginal youth at risk, producing 42 short experimental films for The Female Eye that have premiered at the festival.
In an interview, Coles noted the fest’s most notable success is that it introduces films directed by women to the general public, industry members, and stakeholders, and by doing this, helps to dispel the myth that women create films for a femme-centric audience. “In other words, we help break the stereotype that women make ‘chick flicks’. Also, although we present films directed by women, our Script Development Program is open to both men and women. Scripts must feature a female protagonist.”
The FeFF is praised for its intimate atmosphere, great programming, and accessibility, which attracts a hodge-podge of film enthusiasts – from emerging and internationally recognized directors to screenwriters, seasoned industry professionals, celebrities, and decision makers in film & TV. Speaking on the event, screenwriter Mark Daniels mused, “My screenplay was selected for this festival. The entire time I spent there was amazing – great films and workshops. Everyone was wonderfully supportive. I cannot recommend this festival strongly enough.” Meanwhile, filmmaker Eva Colmers wrote, “Amazing films, fantastic workshops and panels, and ample opportunities to network with other filmmakers and industry members. It’s one of my absolute favorite festivals.”
It’s been a strong year for the leading ladies of the silver screen, with three of the past year’s most major blockbuster hits – Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Beauty and the Beast – featuring female actresses front and center. However, it’s also been quite a year for women behind the camera too – at least in terms of independent cinema. With some of the best films of the past 18 months having been directed by women, we can’t help but wonder what these magnificent talents could do if given a big budget movie to work with. Here are ten fierce female filmmakers who deserve to be given big-budget films to direct.
Ultimate funny girl and owner of our hearts, Alia Shawkat is having her moment following film festival success with her feature writing debut Duck Butter, about two women (Shawkat’s Naima and Laia Costa’s Sergio) who are dissatisfied with the dishonesty they see in dating and relationships and make a 24-hour sex pact, hoping to find a new way to create intimacy. Having shown her comedy chops in shows such as Arrested Development and Search Party, we would have the utmost confidence were she to helm a satirical feature flick.
Greta Gerwig has warmed our heart cockles and tickled our funny bones for years with her writing, particularly when collaborating with co-writer and director Noah Baumbach for films like Mistress America and Frances Ha. But it was her directorial debut Lady Bird that really blew the world away – a stunningly crafted coming-of-age film starring Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) as a teenager trying to navigate herself through kidulthood in the unglamorous setting of Sacramento, California.
We were lucky enough to speak to writer-director Natalia Leite about her 2017 revenge horror M.F.A., a film that follows Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) – an art student brutally raped by a potential love interest – who takes justice into her own hands after being failed by the system. Speaking on female directors in the horror genre, Leite explained, “I hope there are a lot more women who feel empowered to go into this genre. It’s a fact that there’s not a lot of us doing these types of films.” We have no doubt Leite would absolutely slay were she to direct a major horror blockbuster.
Another leader in the horror genre, Anna Biller directed The Love Witch, proving her oddball flair with a film about a beautiful young witch on her quest to find the perfect mate. With clear visual panache and styles echoing sexploitation films of the 60s and 70s, we’re hoping to see more kooky characters from this undeniable auteur in the years to come.
Writer for hit comedies such as Master of None and The Chi and an appearance in Steven Spielberg’s recently released Ready Player One, Lena Waithe is absolutely changing the game on screens both big and small. While enjoying her moment in Hollywood, Waithe’s breaking records while she’s at it, having become the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. More of this, please!
Alice Lowe has been making us laugh with her acting roles for years, from Sightseers to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace to Hot Fuzz. But it was all about her writing & directing debut Prevenge, following a pregnant widow who finds herself at the whim of her murderous, demonic unborn child. Imagine Rosemary’s Baby as a comedy, throw in some sharp British humor, and you’re there. Lord only knows what Lowe would come up with were she in charge of a blockbuster budget – we can but dream.
Cathy Yan made her directorial debut Dead Pigs in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, focusing on a feisty salon owner, a sensitive busboy, an ambitious expat architect, and a disenchanted rich girl who collide when thousands of dead pigs float down the river towards a rapidly modernizing Shanghai. It’s a unique and quirky film, but we’re rooting for the director even more since she was pitched as the unexpected director of DC Comics’s unnamed Harley Quinn film. We’re keeping our fingers, toes, and eyes crossed this dream is made a reality!
Dee Rees made Oscar history this year after becoming the first black woman nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for her breakout hit Mudbound. A masterpiece in its own right, the film is an epic story of two families pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape, portraying racial conflict in postwar Mississippi. With other hits such as the 2011 drama Pariah, the outlook is strong for this skilled and determined filmmaker.
Anyone who’s bingewatched the new Brit comedy Fleabag in one sitting will know that writer and actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Solo: A Star Wars Story) is one talented woman. As funny as it is dramatic, the show follows a self-confessed pervert as she comes to terms with her friend’s death while dealing with life in London. Perhaps a feature length writing debut is on the cards in the near future? We sure hope so.
Although she’s best known for her 2014 feature film debut Appropriate Behavior, Desiree Akhavan has been making waves with her coming-of-age drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Highly praised at this year’s Sundance, the narrative centers around a girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is sent to a conversion center after being caught hooking up with the prom queen. As Clare Binns suggested, let’s give Akhavan a blockbuster to direct. You know it makes sense!
In the wake of Hollywood’s sexual misconduct scandal, gender equality remains a central theme within the industry. While female filmmakers like Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig, Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins, and A Wrinkle in Time’s Ava DuVernay may be recognized as some of the greatest talents working today, a study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film suggests Hollywood still has a long way to go.
The study discovered the jaw-dropping statistic that women held just 18% of behind-the-scenes film jobs including directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers in the top grossing movies of the past year. The figures have hardly budged since 1998. Out of the 250 top-grossing domestic films, just 1% employed 10 or more women, while 70% employed 10 or more men. Furthermore, 30% of the titles featured zero or one woman in behind-the-scenes jobs, while none of the films had fewer than one man.
Rather than simply sitting back and despairing at these dismal figures, a series of organizations and initiatives have launched to encourage gender parity both in front of and behind the lens.
Seeking to prove actions speak louder than words are the Film Fatales – a community of female feature film & TV directors who meet regularly to share resources, collaborate on projects, and discuss relevant topics in their careers. Currently there are over 500 members in Los Angeles and New York, and hundreds more across Europe, Australia, and Africa.
Film Fatales Founder Leah Meyerhoff thinks the statistics for female filmmakers are too low. “Half of our society is women. Half of the audiences are women. Half of the creative content needs to be made by women. The more that women and people of color can see reflections of themselves on screen, and the more that straight white men can learn to empathize with other subject positions through watching a variety of stories unfold, the healthier our society will be as a whole.”
That’s where Film Fatales comes in. So far the company has programmed over 250 films directed by women at 90 independent theaters and organized over 100 panel discussions, workshops, and networking events in partnership with festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, Toronto, and more. “By expanding the landscape of storytelling to include more underrepresented voices, Film Fatales continues to bring new and exciting films to the big screen.”
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Women Directors offers many programs to benefit its members. Chair of the organization, Jennifer Warren, claims that the non-profit’s primary goal is to achieve parity in the workplace for female directors. “As an organization, we are fighting for change in the hiring practices. One example would be our partnering with the ACLU in identifying discriminatory patterns within the studios.
“In addition, we have outreach to all the film festivals, which provides our members with various perks, including lower entry fees; we have affiliations with many of the professional organizations; we have educational programs and panels with high-visibility directors; and we have different kinds of shadowing programs all aimed at getting our members employment.”
Over in the UK, Women in Media provides networking opportunities and professional development for directors in the film and TV industries. Executive director Tema L. Staig outlined the company’s reason behind the launch of its female-focused IMDB-style list, the so-called WiMCrewList.
“For the longest time, we heard that people just couldn’t find women in the crew. For some reason, even though I knew tons of women, they were invisible to many decision makers. With the WiMCrewList, women can add their IMDB, resume, reels, SoundCloud, mini bio, if they are union / non union, and the rest. Our members can add all their credits, which is necessary when it comes to decision makers vetting new talent.”
The Director List is a hub for finding female directors and their work. As a filmmaker herself, founder and editor Destri Martino sought out the work of seasoned female directors to provide inspiration and guidance for her own projects, but was often disappointed by the low number of women she found.
“While doing research for a masters thesis back in 2005, I realized there were a lot more working directors than mainstream media coverage”. Out of this realization, The Director List was born. Since then, the list of female directors with demonstrable experience in features, TV, and/or large-scale commercials and music videos has jumped to 1,000 members and growing.
In addition to the database, the site provides news, photos, video, and a community focused on the film, TV, and video projects women are actively creating around the world.
Elsewhere, Reel Angels has been breaking boundaries as an agency that represents female technical crews for film, TV, and entertainment events. The company claims to promotes gender equality in technical departments by providing a credible and proven resource of top-end talent.
Lulu Elliott, founder of RA Agency, told Film Daily how the company exists at a time when there has never been a more opportune moment to employ female talent in film and TV. “By representing women, we see ourselves as leaders in the ongoing progress towards full gender parity across the industries.”
These organizations’ efforts haven’t been going unnoticed. Since 2016, Telefilm Canada, the powerful, well-funded film financing arm of the Canadian government, unveiled its ambitious drive to gender equality in the film sector by 2020. It seems the initiative is already having effect, as a 2017 study shows a 27% increase in agency-backed projects directed by women since 2015.
While gender counting in filmmaking crews & casts will undoubtedly remain a hot topic in 2018, it remains to be seen whether a world in which crews maintain 50% representation between genders across the entire industry is actually desirable, or even possible. And what about those who identify as something else entirely? Film Daily recommends the underrepresented feline contingent in entertainment production create a non-profit to promote human-cat parity by 2026.
Earlier this year, trailblazing industry pioneer Dorothy Arzner was paid tribute by Paramount when a dressing room building on the Melrose Avenue lot was dedicated in her name. Paramount Pictures’s CEO and chairman Jim Gianopulos shared a few touching sentiments about the phenomenal late director, stating: “Today we are doing our small part to honor her and to leave our own mark for the next generation rather than be the ones who failed to advance what she gave us.”
Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) was actually a student of Arzner’s when she taught at the UCLA Film School and shared anecdotes about the filmmaker at the special event. Coppola praised the filmmaker’s indelible spirit with some touching anecdotes. “She was salty and sort of tough, but had a heart as big as the world. Every time she came to class, she’d bring a big box of cookies or crackers because she knew we were starving to death. We had no money, but she had stuff so we could eat.”
Not only was Arzner one of the most prolific female directors under the studio era, but she was also an unequivocal badass who helped move the film industry forward. She was an openly queer director in an era when that was simply not the done thing, but she also filled her cinematic canon with independent, female protagonists and was the inventor of the boom mic (although her idea was never patented).
In short, Arzner was an absolute boss who helped to pave the way for future generations of badass women in Hollywood and she joins the ranks of several other badass women who shook up the film industry and helped to move it forward.
Weber was the first female director to make a full-length film. She was so prolific, it’s believed she made as many as 400 movies during her career, of which only 20 survive today. The actor / director / screenwriter / producer pioneered the use of split-screen and full-frontal nudity and also tackled challenging female issues such as abortion and birth control (subsequently banned under the 1930 Hays Production Code).
Asserting her rightful place within the industry, Weber once claimed being a woman was what made her such a great filmmaker. “I like to direct, because I believe a woman, more or less intuitively, brings out many of the emotions that are rarely expressed on the screen. I may miss what some of the men get, but I will get other effects that they never thought of.”
The political activist, writer, and journalist became one of the most revered visionary artists of the French Impressionist movement in the 20s. With her own production company – Delia Film – Dulac began her filmmaking career with melodramas before advancing to the avant-garde. Her 1922 movie, La Souriante Madame Beudet, is considered a groundbreaking film for the representation of women and is frequently labeled the first “feminist” film of all time.
Pickard had a lot of game, having setup the movie studio United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and husband Douglas Fairbanks so she could exert more control over her career and enjoy a bigger cut of the profits.
Within the three years of her silent movie career, Pickard hustled to become a producer on her own films, providing the actor with an uncompromising command over collaborators, scripts, and how movies were edited. Despite once proclaiming, “Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo,” Pickford won her only Oscar in 1930 for the talkie flick, Coquette.
In 1896, at the staggeringly young age of 23, French filmmaker Guy-Blaché made the first narrative film in history and was the first ever female film director. Although Guy-Blaché does not feature heavily in cinematic history, she pioneered the concept of filming on location and was one of the first to utilize closeups in her work. Charmingly, Guy-Blaché made over one thousand movies after falling in love with the medium while working as the secretary of the Gaumont film studio founder, Léon Gaumont.
You may not have heard of Sakane, but you’ll definitely want to know more about her after reading this. As one of the first Japanese female film directors, Sakane worked her way through the stratified Japanese studio system of the 1930s where she reportedly faced repeated harassment for being one of the industry’s few women. Nevertheless, she persisted and made her first and only major movie Hatsu Sugata in 1936.
Sakane also made propaganda films in north-eastern China during Japan’s invasion of Manchuria. However, upon her return to Japan she was subsequently excluded from directing on the grounds she didn’t have a college degree. As such, Sakane was forced to reenter the industry from the bottom of the ladder as an assistant.
Who runs the world? Actually, the less fun answer is a complex web of secretive government bodies, wealthy tycoons, and illuminati shapeshifters. But we here at FutureFemme are all about fun and if we’re talking about the society we consider to be reality, we say it’s run by girls. Yes, women rule the place, including the entertainment industry that’s teaming with wildly talented femmes.
If you’re an aspiring TV writer, film producer, or acting powerhouse, you’ll likely find inspiration in the musings of the industry’s fiercest females and where better to find said musings than on Twitter? The social media platform is a breeding ground for creative thoughts, inspirational stories, and political debate. It’s with this in mind that we’ve decided to provide you with a rundown of the best female creatives to follow on Twitter. Let’s do this!
Issa Rae (@issarae)
Did we mention we’re huge fans of Issa Rae’s? No? Well let us tell you again! Rae has built quite the comedic empire from the ground up, starting out with her Awkward Black Girl web series and launching into the present with the HBO hit Insecure. The TV show creator is outspoken about racial issues in the entertainment industry and her Twitter feed is dedicated to championing actors and filmmakers of color, keeping followers updated on current projects and happenings, and posting truly funny and personable musings.
Gale Anne Hurd (@GunnerGale)
If you thought monsters, zombies, aliens, and everything else that goes bump in the night were boys’ interests, you would be sadly mistaken, as shown by Gale Anne Hurd’s eclectic resume. As producer of such sci-fi classics as Aliens and The Terminator, as well as TV shows like Fear the Walking Dead, Hurd’s passion for such genre beats is reflected in her Twitter account, which provides followers with updates on all of her new projects (between snortworthy memes that we dare you to not chuckle at).
Nina Jacobson (@ninajacobson)
As a former studio exec for Disney, Nina Jacobson’s been involved in films like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Sixth Sense, and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. When she was fired from the media powerhouse, did Jacobson let that get her down? Fuck no! She went on to create her own production company, Color Force, and ended up producing the Hunger Games movies, because that’s the level of badassery we’re dealing with here. As Raindance put it, “Her Twitter is informative (bringing attention to the mistreatment of women, LGBTQ, people of color in both the film industry, and society as a whole) and fun (she was sorted into Ravenclaw by Pottermore).”
Abbi Jacobson (@abbijacobson)
Yas queen!! Making up half of the Broad City duo (the one with that sweet angel ass) is Abbi Jacobson a.k.a. the Val of our hearts. Her Twitter page is an exciting mix of Broad City posts, news on her upcoming projects, political news stories, and TV show updates. Informative and entertaining, all at once!
Indya Moore (@IndyaMoore)
As many have outlined on Twitter and beyond, Ryan Murphy’s 80s ballroom show Pose shows what happens when trans actors are given a foot in the door. With the wildly talented and outrageously beautiful Indya Moore taking the role of the sweet Angel among a cast of five trans actors, her Twitter page is filled with updates on the show, as well as plenty of posts of portraits and artwork. With a face like that, who wouldn’t self-promote?
Ava DuVernay (@ava)
As one of the most influential and important filmmakers in the industry today, Ava DuVernay is the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at Sundance Film Festival (Middle of Nowhere), the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award (Selma), and first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million (A Wrinkle in Time). With so much under her belt and her influence only set to grow, DuVernay’s Twitter page is worth a follow if you’d like to stay updated on her latest projects and news about diversity and political issues in Hollywood.
Shonda Rhimes (@shondarhimes)
If you’re interested in the TV industry in any way, Shonda Rhimes is a great one to follow on Twitter. As the producer & screenwriter responsible for hit shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal, Rhimes is a great one to follow as she keeps everyone updated on all of her projects, while promoting news about people of color in the entertainment industry.
Patty Jenkins (@pattyjenks)
A wonder woman in her own right, director Patty Jenkins helmed one of 2017’s most successful blockbusters – the remake of DC’s Wonder Woman. With the Gal Gadot-starring sequel on the way, you’d be worth following her on Twitter for the updates alone.
Trace Lysette (@tracelysette)
The stunningly talented Trace Lysette has blown us away with her acting talents in such hit shows as Amazon’s Transparent and FX’s recent Pose (which you should totally add to your watchlist if you haven’t already). If you’re looking for updates on the finest LGBTQI talent as well as trans issues in the entertainment industry, Trace Lysette’s Twitter page is a fountain of information. Give her a follow!
It’s been a strong year for the leading ladies of the big screen, with three of the past year’s most major blockbuster hits – Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Beauty and the Beast – seeing female actresses front and center. However, behind the scenes it’s a different story. Although female directors would surely help project female perspectives more strongly in movies, recent statistics show that “so far this year only one film in the top 20 box office grossers worldwide was directed by a woman: Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time.” Another recent study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film discovered women held just 18% of behind-the-scenes film jobs including directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers.
Rather than sitting back and groaning at such dismal figures, there are a number of companies looking to make changes within the industry. In the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, there has been an increased focus on women in film with regards to how they are treated and the roles they are given. During this period of introspection, we’re taking a look at some of the best charities and organizations out there helping female filmmakers to progress and flourish within the film industry.
Women In Film
Women In Film is an organization that advocates for and advances the careers of women working in the screen industries. On its website, you’ll find helpful lists of scholarships and grants that you can apply for along with links to production and writing labs, a mentoring programme, and a film finishing fund.
New York Women in Film and Television
NYWIFT advocates for equality in the moving image industry and supports women in every stage of their careers. Per the NYWIFT website: “As the preeminent entertainment industry association for women in New York, NYWIFT energizes women by illuminating their achievements, presenting training and professional development programs, awarding scholarships and grants, and providing access to a supportive community of peers.” It also has over 15,000 members and produces over 50 innovative programs and special events annually, including the Muse Awards for Vision and Achievement, which honors women in front of and behind the camera, and Designing Women, which recognizes costume designers, makeup artists, and hair stylists in the industry.
Chicken and Egg Pictures
Chicken & Egg Pictures supports female nonfiction filmmakers whose artful and innovative storytelling catalyzes social change. Per the company’s website, “We envision a world in which women filmmakers, representing a range of experiences and backgrounds, are fully supported to realize their artistic goals, build sustainable careers, and achieve parity in all areas of the film industry.” Since 2005, Chicken & Egg Pictures has awarded $6.2 million in grants and thousands of hours of creative mentorship to 285 filmmakers. Films supported by Chicken & Egg Pictures have won numerous awards, including Academy and Emmy Awards.
Women Make Movies
According to the Women Make Movies team, “From cutting-edge documentaries that give depth to today’s headlines to smart, stunning films that push artistic and intellectual boundaries in all genres, Women Make Movies – a non-profit feminist social enterprise based in New York – is the world’s leading distributor of independent films by and about women.” Its Production Assistance Program assists female directors with their productions from concept through completion with fiscal sponsorship, consultations, and other technical assistance.
The Director List
The Director List is a centralized hub for finding female directors and their work. At the heart of the company is its database, where executives and agents search through a list of over 1,000 female directors with demonstrable experience in film, TV, commercials, and music videos. In addition, the site offers news, multimedia, and a community section for holding fundraisers and campaigns in an aim to raise awareness about female talent. In short, this company wants to cut out the middleman and offer women a space to promote their capabilities and experience.
Fed up with an industry where less than 5% of the top box office films are directed by women, a group of female directors & writers formed in order to find new ways to bring women to the screen. In addition to its monthly meetups where women can share resources and advice, Film Fatales organizes a range of events, panels, and workshops, often partnering with other institutions. Previous collaborations include Film Independent, the Film Fatales annual Sundance party, as well as networking events for directors and producers in collaboration with Gamechanger Films and Women Make Movies. Organizations such as the Tribeca Film Institute, IFP, AFI Directing Workshop for Women, and NBC Universal have partnered with Film Fatales too, to connect industry figures with female film & TV directors.
An earlier version of this article was published at Film Daily.
Marvel is apparently moving forward with its Black Widow film and Deadline has reported an update on the female directors who are being considered to make it. According to the publication, Cate Shortland (Lore) is reportedly the favorite to direct the film, with Kimberly Pierce, Amma Asante (Belle), and Maggie Betts (Novitate) also in the running.
These directors were apparently whittled down from a list of 49, with Shortland, Assante, and Betts reportedly even meeting star Scarlett Johansson (Lucy) and Marvel’s Kevin Feige recently. While we can see the appeal of all four directors handling the material, there are seven specific female directors who we think could land a knockout with the Black Widow movie if given a chance. Here’s our ranking of the seven female filmmakers we’d most like to see direct the Black Widow movie.
7. Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Ergüven’s 2015 breakthrough coming-of-age movie Mustang proved her to be a talent on the rise, while her 2017 Halle Berry (X-Men) and Daniel Craig (Spectre) led movie Kings suggested she can masterfully maintain tension. A big budget superhero movie could give the filmmaker an opportunity to refine her style for a wider audience.
6. Drew Barrymore
We realize Barrymore is a far-fetched choice considering she hasn’t directed a movie since 2009’s Whip It, but god damn we love that film and continue to believe she could do great things with a Black Widow movie if given the opportunity. Barrymore could really bring out the dry, acerbic wit of the character while providing bombastic, fun action scenes.
5. Chloe Zhao
Zhao was speculated to be one of the filmmakers being considered by Disney for the Black Widow movie back in April. The filmmaker would be an interesting choice as her style is more understated and thoughtful than the average superhero movie seems to feature. But having garnered critical acclaim for her two feature dramas Songs My Brothers Taught Me & The Rider, the director could surprise us all with her versatility by going big for her next feature with Black Widow.
4. Dee Rees
The Oscar-nominated filmmaker does wondrous things with stories centered around female leads as seen in her debut feature Pariah. Her Netflix Originals hit Mudbound further highlights Rees as a director who can handle the demands of an ensemble cast and a big story without sacrificing her rich visual palette. Just imagine a Black Widow movie from this woman! We can and it’s stupendous.
3. Amma Asante
The actor-turned-filmmaker has been rumored as a top choice for the film since April and has a bold eye for presenting emotionally charged, complex narratives. Asante recently wowed critics with her interracial marriage story A United Kingdom, but she truly made herself a name to look out for with the period drama Belle – a rare movie that interrogates the racial tensions of 18th century aristocratic England. If chosen to direct Black Widow, Asante could assuredly peel back the layers on Natasha Romanoff’s cool exteriors to reveal the complexity of the character.
2. Karyn Kusama
One of the most versatile independent filmmakers today, Kusama has made a name for herself as a confident risk-taker with an eye for genre storytelling. Her 2000 breakthrough movie Girlfight proved her prowess for action scenes with an emotional core to them while Jennifer’s Body showcased her grasp of both horror and comedy. However, it’s her 2015 film The Invitation that remains the most impressive, revealing Kusama to be the sort of taut storyteller who could infuse the Black Widow movie with tension but also lashings of wit and action to maintain Black Widow’s vibe.
1. Lexi Alexander
We don’t care what anyone says – Punisher: War Zone remains one of the greatest R-rated superhero movies ever made. Alexander utilizes the most cartoonish displays of violence and explosions possible to really bring the comic books to life and it absolutely works. The film was foolishly maligned upon release, but it has rightfully become a cult classic – arguably the filmmaker was way ahead of her time. Since then, Alexander has continued to work as a genre director on superhero shows like Arrow and Supergirl, which suggests she’s more than ready to approach another big budget superhero movie and we think the Black Widow movie should be it.
Aside from your raw talent, one of the most essential components of filmmaking is finding funding. It’s also one of the most difficult parts of the process – after all, what struggling filmmaker has tens of thousands of dollars lying around? Luckily there are numerous initiatives out there offering funding for female filmmakers, and as the industry turns its focus towards getting more women behind the camera, the number of initiatives is growing. Here’s a collection of the best grants for women looking to fund their on-screen projects.
The Queen Collective
With a name like The Queen Collective, you know you’ve come to the right place. At this year’s Cannes where there was a notable focus on women in film as the festival entered the post-Weinstein era, Queen Latifah (Chicago) announced a partnership with P&G for the launch of this initiative designed to promote racial and gender equality behind the camera by funding films from female directors. The Queen Collective aims to fund and distribute the work of female filmmakers in TV, film, and commercials and will work with brands like HP and Smirnoff and companies including United Talent Agency Marketing and Tribeca Studios to raise funding for these projects. The only downside is it’s early days, meaning there are no specifics at the time of writing. However, with the talents of Latifah and such big-name brands on board, no doubt The Queen Collective will be taking on a slew of female talent in no time at all – watch this space!
Women in Film Finishing Fund
The Women In Film Finishing Fund gives grants to filmmakers working in both short and long formats in all genres — narrative, documentary, animated, and experimental. All you need to do to apply for the Finishing Fund is to have completed 90% of the principal photography of your film and have a rough cut at the time of application. The project is funded by Stella Artois, which will provide four $25,000 grants for fiction and documentary films that inspire social change. If this sounds like a bit of you, apply today, and if you’re film’s not ready for the 2018 cut off, there’s always next year!
Chicken & Egg Accelerator Lab
Unfortunately, the submission deadline for the 2019 Chicken & Egg Pictures Accelerator Lab is closed. However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t be an early bird with your application for the next round and we thought the initiative’s worth a mention as it’s a fantastic program. The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying and supporting female nonfiction directors working on their first or second feature-length documentary. This year it is selecting ten directors who will receive $35,000 in grant funding for the production of their film, monthly mentorship with members of Chicken & Egg Pictures’s senior creative team, three creative retreats focused on career sustainability and creative development, industry meetings at a major documentary film festival, and peer support from the Accelerator Lab cohort. So if you’re a budding or established female doc filmmaker, get to planning and be sure to apply for the next round!
Female Film Force
For female filmmakers across the pond, Bumble recently announced the launch of its Female Film Force – a new grant scheme for aspiring female filmmakers. In partnership with Women in Film & TV, the initiative will give five applicants in the UK and Ireland a £20,000 grant to make their own shorts, each focused on female empowerment, equality, and kindness. In addition to the funding, the selected filmmakers will receive guidance and bespoke mentoring over the production period. To apply, go to the Bumble Bizz or Bumble BFF app and match with the in-app card which will link you through to an online application where you will be prompted to outline who you are. Detail any relevant experience and provide a summary of concept for your female focused film and cross those damn fingers in the hope that your movie gets selected. Good luck!
Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund
In association with the Tribeca Film Institute, the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund provides finishing funds to feature-length documentaries which highlight and humanize issues of social importance from around the world. According to No Film School, the fund supports four to ten feature-length documentaries with between $10,000 to $25,000. This year, several additional grants will be provided for docs about extraordinary women.
Women’s Fund for Film and Theatre
Back in April, the New York City Mayor’s Office and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment revealed a new $5 million grant program for film and theater projects by, for, or about women with an aim to target the underrepresentation of women in the entertainment industries. “It’s incredibly discouraging that while women comprise 52% of the city’s population, less than 10% of the top grossing films are directed by women,” declared MOME Commissioner Julie Menin. “I hope that our efforts pave the way for others to follow suit, and look forward to seeing these initiatives make a substantive impact on filmed entertainment in New York City.” Although submission dates for the grants have not yet been announced, any of you talented gals who are interested can sign up for information updates at the MOME website.
Artist Emergency Fund
American Documentary (AmDoc) has announced the launch of an innovative new program called the Artist Emergency Fund, “aimed at providing emergency financial assistance to filmmakers facing unexpected and substantial personal, health, or property needs or losses including those caused by accidents or natural disasters.” So if you live in America, you’re lumped with an unexpected medical, and you have produced and / or directed at least one nonfiction project that has been publicly exhibited, you can apply for a one-time award of up to $1,000. Justine Nagan – executive producer and executive director of AmDoc – announced, “Our aim is to make AmDoc as supportive to filmmakers as possible, while also helping build a more inclusive industry that supports the most vulnerable among us . . . This is a first step towards greater sustainability for professional filmmakers.”
If you’re a woman who has often considered venturing into the realm of movie criticism, we urge you to step up and get involved – the industry needs you! A new USC study released Monday from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has confirmed movie critics are largely white and male. According to the study, white critics wrote around 82% of all film reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for the top 100 grossing films of 2017, while male critics also outnumbered female ones by 3.5 to 1.
Titled “Critics Choice?”, the study is the first of its kind to have analyzed the gender, race, and ethnicity of reviewers and took the findings from 19,559 reviews listed on Rotten Tomatoes. The results showed that 77.8% of these reviews were written by men and 63.9% of the reviews were also written by white men compared with 4.1% of reviews being penned by women of color. White writers overall made up 82% of the reviews, with white women writing more (18.1%) than men of color (13.8%).
However, when looking at the reviews by top critics listed on the site, the numbers did improve, particularly with female driven movies. More than half of those who reviewed A Bad Moms Christmas, Everything, Everything, Girls Trip, and My Little Pony: The Movie were women. When looking at critic representation per film, the study discovered not one of the 100 movies analyzed was critiqued by an equal number of men and women.
It’s important to point out with such a statistic that equality can be difficult to strive for and measure in such an industry – are we going to hire some independent film critic adjudicator forcefully ensuring that every film be reviewed equally? That said, the study does appear to suggest that more diversity is needed in order to represent a wider spectrum of voices. In a statement shared by the Los Angeles Times, the study’s lead author Marc Choueiti commented on the importance of remolding the spaces of movie journalism. “Even among top critics, the words of white and male critics fill a greater share of the conversation than females and people of color. Re-examining the definition of a top critic or simply casting a wider net can be the opportunity to open up and diversify the voices heard in the critic space.”
Meanwhile, fellow study author Stacy L. Smith highlighted that the results of the analysis reflect the “the under- and misrepresentation of females onscreen and behind the camera” and reflected on what sort of impact such underrepresentation could have and how it needs to change. “We have seen the ramifications of an industry in which the content sold to audiences is created and reviewed by individuals who are primarily white men . . . The publicity, marketing, and distribution teams in moviemaking have an opportunity to change this quickly by increasing the access and opportunities given to women of color as film reviewers.”
The findings will hopefully encourage the film industry and the publications who cover it to widen their net in providing access and opportunities to a more diverse spectrum of writers. Hopefully, it also makes women of color interested in getting involved in film journalism, as the gap in the industry is calling for their talents. Start writing those reviews, ladies – it’s time to be heard.
Are you a film & TV writer? Come work with us!