Women in Film – The Stories We Tell


Ingrid Bergman is the face of Cannes this year. Perhaps she is the heart of it, too, as the role of women in film/TV continues to be a hot topic at the French festival (see this Observer article and an MSN video). There is also a string of US media activity spurred by some high profile faces.

So what is all the fuss about, you might ask. If you must ask, then you are why there is this fuss. You are probably a victim of exclusionary film. 

Inclusion Not Exclusion

Telling a good story is a film maker’s goal, where my definition of film maker includes the key people involved (such as the scriptwriter, director, producer, and actors etc.) and film includes TV and streaming video production (such as Netflix content).

As with all diversity-related topics, it is not just about exclusion but inclusion. How women are still included in film is a core issue — from being a topless piece of arm candy to a one-line girlfriend who willingly accepts everything her man tells her. It shapes how people perceive the role of women in the world. We are all susceptible to this and there is little time to analyse our experiences. It just goes in and swirls in the brain until it comes out the other side in the form of how we behave.

What goes in through our eyes and ears affect how our children interpret the world, how we interact and respond to situations, how your colleagues treat you at work, how a boss becomes a boss, what people talk about over coffee and at parties, anything you can imagine is impacted by the stories we tell. That is all it is about.

Hot Topic Media Coverage

My project research about #womeninpictures coincides with a couple of US-based initiatives and global media coverage about Cannes, although in an internet world the origin of the war cry does not really matter:

  • In March, during the Oscars and in honour of Women’s History Month, some enterprising women (including Catrin Cooper) used the hashtag #FilmHerStory to remind the world about the goldmine of worthwhile stories about women, not men, that remain untold.
  • In April, Meryl Streep filled the airwaves by pointing out the dearth of female scriptwriters in the Hollywood universe so she sponsors a scriptwriting lab for women over 40.
  • On May 12 the ACLU of Southern California timed their initiative just before Cannes and asked “state and federal civil rights agencies” to investigate whether there are violations in hiring practices for female directors in Hollywood. You can read the letters here and search #FilmEquality on Twitter.
  • Other articles this week: Amy Poehler in the Hollywood Reporter, Cate Blanchett in Variety and Charlize Theron in the Guardian.

What’s Next?

Check out my Twitter feed @clearlywriting where I am sharing and commenting. I am also in the process of finding women scriptwriters/filmmakers to interview and get their perspective. I will also keep exploring this from a more academic view point in future posts.

Update June 11, 2015

Four interviews done, two pending….

Update July 1, 2015

The industry analysis is published: Why are there fewer female scriptwriters in the film industry? and Erica Tremblay’s interview.

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