In 2014, women comprised only seven percent of directors in the top 250 domestic grossing films – this number practically microscopic for women of color.
However, women seem to faring much better in production, reaching 23% for the top 250 domestic grossing films. That is why the Inaugural Greenwich International Film Festival featured women producers on their panel as a way to hear why these women felt these statistics were true and about their experiences on production teams in film.
The panel presented by Intermix and Doheny Designers featured all female producers, some from independent films while others were not, and two women who run Tangerine Entertainment, a production company focused on helping female directors. It was moderated by Anne Kern, PhD. Rachel Winter (Dallas Buyers Club), Amy Hobby/Anne Hubbell (Secretary, What Happened, Miss Simone?), Margot Hand (Meadowland, Tumbledown), and Emily Wachtel (Shepard & Dark, Lucky Them) shared their wisdom.
Generally, the panel felt that women were found mainly in production, rather than directing, for two reasons. One reason was that women are seen as natural producers. Producers have to constantly multitask and handle many different obligations at once. Because of this, men were more accepting of women in these roles rather than the role of director. The other reason is that the women of the panel felt it was much more difficult to get investors as a woman. This explains why female directors are more commonly found in documentary and independent film because of the generally lower budget.
Surprisingly, the women explained that they did not explicitly feel gender discrimination mainly because they did not have time to focus on it. In turn, many said they focused more on not discriminating while hiring as a way to combat gender discrimination. They felt that having more women on a production team brought different experiences to the table than a male-dominated team. One instance, however, was brought up of clear discrimination when one producer suggested something that was brushed off while a man was praised for saying the same thing just minutes after.
Many of these women have started and/or supported female networking groups, similar to Tangerine Entertainment. Groups like Film Fatale bring women together for information sharing and as a way for women who feel they are working in a vacuum to share experiences. Women are constantly pushing to break from the molds of Romantic-Comedies and Melodramas, and these groups help women feel empowered and obtain the networks that will help them break from these clichés so they can start being regarded as merely producers, rather than female producers.
Something that the women on the panel attributed to this push is the diversity in stories that have started to appear in television. Because television has so much more time to fill, there is more opportunity for more shows that push traditional boundaries. People want to see a world that is reflective of what we are living today so more LGBT and people of color are pushing to get on the screen, and it has worked. Though the process is slow, diversity on the screen has begun and this has also helped diversity behind the scenes.
The panel closed with a question asking what the women would tell a younger version of themselves. Statements to stay positive, remember why you’re doing this, and never give up were common among the women. In addition, many women made statements similar to, “Don’t wait until everything is perfect, just do it” and “Believe in what you’re doing so much that you don’t care what happens”. The final statement, however, was much more comical, “If you can throw a good dinner party you can be a film producer.