Shit people say to Women Directors
May 3, 2015 12:34 AM   Subscribe

Shit People say to Women [film] Directors. Tumblr - Exactly as described. The first part of their About page states: SHIT PEOPLE SAY TO WOMEN DIRECTORS is an anonymous open blog for any female-identifying individual to submit personal accounts of absurd, offensive, threatening, or downright fucked-up “shit” people have said to you while working in the film business.

If you Google Best [Film] Directors Google shows you a sea of men.

The second part of the ShitPeoplSayToWomenDirectors About pages states:
This space is designed for catharsis and to raise awareness about the barriers women face in the film industry. Along with directors, we welcome stories from women in all positions including writers, producers, actors, production designers, cinematographers, assistant directors, art directors — you name it — if you’re a female working in film or television and you have a story to share, we want to hear from you!
-Anonymous Women In Film
P.S. Please do not hesitate to send questions or feedback.

Unchallenged sexism and misogyny within the Film industry (behind the camera) isn't often discussed for many reasons. One commenter to the tumblr blog stated:

“I really want to be a TV writer and director and this is kind of killing my spirit.”

The tumblr blog maintainers responded thus:

We will let another woman who wrote to us (with nearly 30 years experience as a director on high profile projects) respond to you:

“Directors don’t often meet each other, so the conversation virtually never happens, and to tell the truth, I never ever want to tell these stories out loud because I believe that it manifests the problem, and people see the chip on your shoulder. So the fact that it’s anonymous is the only reason I’m participating. My hope has always been that I help by making great work which therefore exists and cannot be denied, and then the next generation doesn’t get taught the sexism in the first place. Sexism is taught, not innate.”

Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman director to win an Oscar, and that was for The Hurt Locker in 2008.

Indiewire decided to investigate why women don't seem to be handed the Directors reins on big budget action movies

Indiewire notes that, not only does there seem to be fewer women involved in the control positions of blockbuster movies, but numbers of women directors overall appears to be shrinking.

"Female directors of top-grossing films have decreased in the last 13 years, with female helmers clocking in at just 4.1 percent of directors across the 1,300 top movies in this time frame. This calculates into a gender ratio of 23.3 male directors to every 1 female"

After original choice Michelle MacLaren (who has previously worked on Game Of Thrones and The Leftovers, and Breaking Bad to name only a few projects) left the upcoming DC Wonder Woman live action film project over creative differences, Warner Brothers appeared to struggle to find another woman to replace her in the directors chair.

Zoe Margolis - primarily known now as a sex blogger and journalist - previously worked in the Film industry and outlined in the Guardian newspaper what a toxic working environment film studio environments can be if you are a woman.

The Women Directors In Hollywood blog discusses the problems that women have experienced with the DGA Directors Guild of America.

In January of 2015, Slate Magazine asked "Are Oscars Biased Against Female Directors?". Slate magazine concluded that it's not the Oscars in isolation, but a systematic issue that disadvantages women who work in the film insdustry:

The central problem is that female directors and their work are so disadvantaged across the board in Hollywood, from mentorship to funding to awards.

Metacritic has a (by no means, definitive) list of "Best Woman Directors" (as measured by many different metrics), but it's from 2010 - so currently five years out old.

On a more positive note, here are some resources specifically for, or about female filmakers: Also very recent previously on the same topic ..
posted by Faintdreams (26 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
(That is disingenuous to say that WB "appeared to struggle to find another woman to replace" Michelle MacLaren in WONDER WOMAN's chair - less than a week passed between the press release that MacLaren was leaving and the announcement that Patty Jenkins was taking over. That article is great and has a whole bunch of fascinating details about the tension between studios and filmmakers right now, but the article never says that WB struggled to find Jenkins - because that just isn't true.)
posted by incessant at 1:03 AM on May 3, 2015

That must be some kind of record - the "I have found one tiny fact which isn't exactly and minutely as they state it is therefore the whole thing is bullshit" comment is only the second comment.

(Incessant - struggles can also be brief.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:15 AM on May 3, 2015 [15 favorites]

Hang on EC, incessnt only pointed out that that one of the examples was weak. As for women being shuffled aside or shat on in this artistic arena, well, try film school. Women directors get a choice of working in a collective bubble or do script organizing for their male colleagues. The best 1st AD's I've come across are usually frustrated (should-be) female directors.
It warps everyone involved.
posted by qinn at 6:05 AM on May 3, 2015

I couldn't read much of the top link, that shit is infuriating.
posted by djeo at 6:40 AM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

From the Wonder Woman part:
MacLaren envisioned the DC Comics-based “Wonder Woman” movie as an epic origin tale in the vein of “Braveheart,” whereas Warner wanted a more character-driven story that was less heavy on action.
posted by Etrigan at 6:42 AM on May 3, 2015 [10 favorites]

Fantastic links thank you. It's fresh in my mind from finally seeing Wild, which was well done but the male-gazey soft-porn sex scenes gave it an extremely weird vibe.. I have to agree, Why Was ‘Wild’ — a Story of Female Empowerment — Written and Directed by Men? I kept wondering what it would look like with a female director.

I've had a short film in festivals and had people do giant cartoon double-takes when they meet me, and also spend the whole evening complimenting my (male) producer on the film! Lots I could say on this subject.
posted by Erasmouse at 7:32 AM on May 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

Lots I could say on this subject.

This would be the perfect thread.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:48 AM on May 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

COSMOPOLITAN.CO.UK flip sexist questions on The Avengers Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo

That was actually pretty fun. Scarlett actually seemed to ramble on, like she hadn't expected the turn-about questions.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:55 AM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

A friend works at a local art school in the film department. Recently one of her female students told her about a conversation the student had with the male "head" of the department. He told her that women don't make good directors. They just don't have the skills or abilities to direct. But they can edit! Their dainty fingers are good for handling film. As you can assume the student was pissed.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:00 AM on May 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is something that really gets under my skin. I love movies. I've probably seen way too many movies in my life. I go to director's retrospectives and marathons and I've been tearing through the Criterion collection recently since I got streaming access to it. So I'm not just a multiplex movie person. I've spent a lot of time and effort seeking out movies and learning and reading about film.

And I have a huge, ridiculous lady gap that I'm only now really starting to fill in, and I'm finding things I am genuinely pissed off that I didn't know about before.

If you want to be enraged right now, watch this trailer for the upcoming documentary about Alice Guy, the woman who was responsible for so much of the film language we take for granted now. She wasn't just the first female director of narrative film. She may have been the first director, period. And that wasn't some kind of one-off. This woman was the founding mother of cinema, and I had never heard of her until recently. That is ridiculous, and it's unacceptable.

In the early days of cinema, film was dominated by women. It wasn't until later, when men realized that there was money to be made, that they came in and started erasing them and taking credit for the innovations and advancements that women had made.

It continues to happen, too, in small subtle ways. As a part of my gap filling, I regularly see women using techniques and shots and other film devices that look familiar to me from other, iconic films directed by men. Compare and contrast the overlaid face shots in Agnes Vardas' La Pointe Courte with Igmar Bergman's Persona. You'd think they were an homage to Bergman until you realized that Vardas' shots predate Bergman's by over a decade, so it must be the other way around.

So yeah. When I hear someone talk about how filmmaking is a man's game and women just aren't good at it or interested or whatever, all they're telling me is that they don't know shit about film.

That film department head up in njohnson23's anecdote that just showed up on preview isn't just a sexist boob. He's also bad at his job. He should know better.

PS I finally watched Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman last night, and holy shit is that revelatory. It's tedious and it's over three hours long, but that is absolutely necessary and absolutely worth it, and goddamn, that movie needed to happen.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:24 AM on May 3, 2015 [29 favorites]

But they can edit! Their dainty fingers are good for handling film.

"Wow, you're a double relic. That's impressive."
posted by Etrigan at 9:34 AM on May 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

speaking of gena davis, her film festival is just about to kick off.
posted by nadawi at 9:40 AM on May 3, 2015

Mod note: One comment deleted. Let's focus on the articles rather than continuing a metaconversation about the thread itself?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:07 AM on May 3, 2015

Female Director: "I need to see playback."
Bellowing Male Crew Voice: "No you don't. Moving on."
That's it. Shut it down. Shut it all down!
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:49 AM on May 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

I hate to admit that looking at my Letterboxd log from the last two years, out of the 200+ films that I've watched, only four have been by women: Girlhood, Night Moves, Stories We Tell and Wadjda. I need to work on that.
posted by octothorpe at 12:00 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was an aspiring video editor, and was very good at the tech stuff. There was always a huge amount of surprise when I first started, but thankfully, most of the men (MOST, not all) got over the fact that I was in the machine room after a while, doing everything they did as well--or better--than them.

The problem, I hate to say, came when I moved to another company with the team that I worked with in the first outfit. They actively recruited me to be one of their first employees, and because I had worked with them intimately they knew I had the chops.

But what was originally a great honor became a badge of shame because while I was doing all of the tech stuff, and doing graphics, what they really wanted me for was to be the office manager and get everyone lunch. It was completely demoralizing, and I left in a depressed state, never to return to video post--despite my skills.

What I couldn't tell them, in part because I couldn't quite believe it, was that they were being sexist. They knew me, knew my skills, knew my great qualities as a tech, hired me because of all these qualities, and then, probably without even recognizing what they were doing, relegated me to the "female" job.

After I left, two people had to replace me: one for the office position, and one for the graphic design and assistant editor position.

They never once asked the newbie graphics dude to get lunch.
posted by readymade at 12:22 PM on May 3, 2015 [18 favorites]

My wife and I are both directors. She's a full time editor right now, after fighting for years to get there. She's also producing and directing music videos when she's not getting paid to edit other people's stuff. Here's the thing that pissed her off the most:

We ran into someone we used to work with while we were struggling in the restaurants. She asked my wife, "Oh, is [vibrotronica] still making his little movie things?"
posted by vibrotronica at 12:45 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, are you?
posted by readymade at 12:47 PM on May 3, 2015

Comment from the tumblr: I can’t live in this world where everyone is a fucking victim. It’s counterproductive in the workplace, period. Most of these are cherry picked without context. So she’s not paid as much as the male animators—what’s her job? If it’s a lower position, she should be paid less. “No one will ever want to work with you. You’re too bossy. You should learn to be nicer.” Well that’s a fact, not misogyny. Some of you have clearly been wronged and deserve justice, but the rest of you are just whiners.

Wow, it's a clown car of all the most obvious male-outragey misogynist clichés in the world in one paragraph.
posted by blucevalo at 12:55 PM on May 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

Female Director: "I need to see playback."
Bellowing Male Crew Voice: "No you don't. Moving on."

That's it. Shut it down. Shut it all down!

In this interview, Kelly Reichardt says: "People talk about sexism in the movie business, and that’s nowhere more prevalent than actually behind the camera. With Chris, I tell him where to put the camera, and he does it." Which seems to imply that it's pretty common for crew members to not actually do what they're told if it's a woman that's doing the telling.
posted by dng at 1:36 PM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wow, it's a clown car of all the most obvious male-outragey misogynist clichés in the world in one paragraph.

Yeah, that struck me as a little bit too convenient a comment. On the one hand I can completely imagine someone thinking all those things (because, like, look at all that other shit) but to have it all so tidily packaged in one graf was a bit facile.
posted by axiom at 2:16 PM on May 3, 2015

Yeah, that struck me as a little bit too convenient a comment.

Please. That shit even happens here. I can only imagine how many emails exactly like that one they get in a day.

See also Yo, Is This Racist, which gets shit like this by the truckload.
posted by Etrigan at 2:57 PM on May 3, 2015 [12 favorites]

That's the thing, I can't tell if it's a troll or reality, because it's simultaneously totally believable but also could just be a well-crafted bait line. An optimist would hope for the latter, but I'm not an optimist so I kind of think it's real, which is both infuriating and depressing.

I have a friend who works in the movie business, and though she's never related any stories involving this level of misogyny to me, she works in hair and make-up which is probably viewed as women's work anyhow, and thus probably doesn't get the kind of push-back a female director has to put up with.
posted by axiom at 4:10 PM on May 3, 2015

Why would it be a good thing for someone to be baiting women in a space intended to provide them a sense of community and support? We come back to Poe's law, and the corrosive effect of "satire" that punches down - the intention of the author just doesn't matter.
posted by gingerest at 5:33 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not that it's a good thing so much as the lesser of two evils. Trolling, while definitely a bad thing, would in my mind be preferable to someone actually thinking and then reaching out to express that load of horseshit. I'm saying I'd rather live in a world where only someone specifically attempting to craft a message for maximum troll impact would say that, than live in a world containing people who actually do think and say those things. Unfortunately, it's even worse than either of those; we live in a world with both.
posted by axiom at 7:50 PM on May 3, 2015

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