Guest Col­umn

Be­ing left out of nom­i­na­tions re­duces the vis­i­bil­ity of women di­rec­tors — and de­nies them their due

Variety - - Contents - Martha M. Lauzen

It’s time for women di­rec­tors to get their due, writes Martha M. Lauzen

In the 90-year his­tory of the Os­cars, the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences has failed to nom­i­nate even a sin­gle woman in the best direc­tor cat­e­gory 85 times. The Academy is not alone. The Hol­ly­wood For­eign Press Assn. has ex­cluded women from this cat­e­gory in 69 of its 76 years of award­ing Golden Globes, and did not nom­i­nate a sin­gle woman in 2018. We are squarely mired in an­other year of #Gold­en­globesso­male and may be on the brink of yet an­other year of #Os­cars­so­male.

When ques­tioned about their ex­clu­sively male choices in years past, spokes­peo­ple for these groups have typ­i­cally noted that the nom­i­na­tions are a re­flec­tion, not a cause, of the wildly skewed gen­der ra­tios in the main­stream film in­dus­try. This re­sponse is only par­tially ac­cu­rate.

While women do re­main un­der­em­ployed, ac­count­ing for just 11% of all di­rec­tors work­ing on the 250 top gross­ing films of 2017, and 18% of those work­ing on the 500 top films, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Cel­lu­loid Ceil­ing re­port by the Cen­ter for the Study of Women in Tele­vi­sion and Film, the fact is that awards sea­son pro­vides an avalanche of in­tense pub­lic­ity for the nom­i­nees. If or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the HFPA and the Academy fail to nom­i­nate the wor­thy con­tri­bu­tions of women, their choices add to the sup­pres­sion of women’s vis­i­bil­ity within and out­side the in­dus­try.

In the com­ing weeks, the en­ter­tain­ment trades and pop­u­lar press will high­light the ac­com­plish­ments of the nom­i­nees, trans­form­ing es­tab­lished di­rec­tors into brand names and new di­rec­tors into bank­able com­modi­ties. Re­porters will talk at length about the helmers’ fil­mo­gra­phies, de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­al­ize a vi­sion and mas­tery of film­mak­ing tech­niques.

When film writ­ers de­tail a direc­tor’s fil­mog­ra­phy, they con­nect the dots in the nom­i­nee’s films, iden­ti­fy­ing themes and stylis­tic pref­er­ences. This year, we will hear about how Adam Mckay’s films, such as “The Big Short” and “Vice,” fo­cus on mas­ter ma­nip­u­la­tors of largely in­vis­i­ble sys­tems of in­flu­ence and power. Be­cause Karyn Kusama was over­looked by the HFPA, we are less likely to hear about her com­mand of the thriller and hor­ror gen­res in films such as “Jen­nifer’s Body,” “the In­vi­ta­tion” and “De­stroyer.”

Re­porters will also ef­fuse about a direc­tor’s re­solve, re­count­ing the un­ex­pected chal­lenges that were over­come in mak­ing the film. This year, we will hear about how Al­fonso Cuarón’s “Roma” came to be re­garded as one of 2018’s best films, de­spite its cast of un­known ac­tors and use of black-and­white pho­tog­ra­phy. Be­cause Lynne Ram­say was not nom­i­nated for a Golden Globe, we are less likely to hear how she jug­gled Joaquin Phoenix’s busy sched­ule and a loom­ing pre­miere date at Cannes when shoot­ing her tense thriller, “You Were Never Re­ally Here,” in just eight short weeks.

Fi­nally, me­dia ac­counts will elab­o­rate on a nom­i­nated direc­tor’s mas­tery of film­mak­ing tech­niques, dis­cussing the wis­dom and el­e­gance of the choice of lenses, light­ing, shots and cam­era move­ments. We will read about how Damien Chazelle cap­tured the look of NASA footage from the 1960s in “First Man,” but are less likely to learn how Chloé Zhao cre­ated the nat­u­ral­is­tic style achieved in “The Rider,” the dev­as­tat­ing tale of how a rodeo cow­boy copes with life af­ter suf­fer­ing a head in­jury.

We don’t no­tice ev­ery awards slight and snub of a de­serv­ing direc­tor who hap­pens to be fe­male, at least in part be­cause the his­tory of these awards has so­cial­ized us to as­sume that great di­rec­tors come in only one sex. The awards pro­mote and main­tain the make-be­lieve mer­i­toc­racy that is Hol­ly­wood.

Re­cently, New York Times film critic Manohla Dar­gis mused, “Maybe it’s time for women to burn down the old movie in­dus­try, then build a new one.” Part of that rein­ven­tion would in­clude a close ex­am­i­na­tion of the myth­mak­ing ma­chin­ery that has in­stalled men at the top of the di­rect­ing hi­er­ar­chy for decades. Just as many film fes­ti­vals are now reeval­u­at­ing the gen­der makeup of their se­lec­tion com­mit­tees and cri­te­ria, it makes sense for award-grant­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions to un­dergo a sim­i­lar re­assess­ment. An­other part of the re­con­fig­u­ra­tion would in­volve call­ing out these in­sti­tu­tions when they con­tin­u­ally fail to rec­og­nize women’s wor­thy con­tri­bu­tions, as Natalie Port­man did at last year’s Globes when she point­edly noted the “all-male nom­i­nees” in the di­rect­ing cat­e­gory. It’s time to rec­og­nize that be­ing left out of the nom­i­na­tions means un­der­cut­ting women’s vis­i­bil­ity as film di­rec­tors, and ul­ti­mately short- chang­ing their ca­reers.

Dr. Martha M. Lauzen is the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­ter for the Study of Women in Tele­vi­sion and Film and a pro­fes­sor at San Diego State Univer­sity.

We don’t no­tice ev­ery awards slight of a de­serv­ing direc­tor who is fe­male, in part be­cause his­tory has so­cial­ized us to as­sume that great di­rec­tors come in only one sex.”

… And Out Direc­tor Karyn Kusama, here con­fer­ring with “De­stroyer” star Nicole Kid­man, was over­looked by the HFPA. In­side ... Adam Mckay di­rects Sam Rock­well and Chris­tian Bale on the set of “Vice,” which nabbed six Golden Globe nom­i­na­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.