Where Are All The British Female Film Directors?

Photo: REX
Film can serve as a cultural filing cabinet for an era. They document our fears, our hopes, and our imaginations at any given time. But are they truly representative of all stories, or of any particular diaspora's ideas of what it is to be human?

Hollywood has long come under fire for its lack of female directors. Summon to the forefront of your mind the most prominent and feted directors of our time. It's likely they include Scorsese, Kubrick, Tarantino, Spielberg and Cameron. Do you see a pattern forming? A new study suggests it's a trope that's not just unique to Hollywood.

A study commissioned by the professional association Directors UK might have some answers as to why that equilibrium remains un-tipped. The report suggests that only 13.6% of film directors working in the UK are women. It's a depressing statistic that has gone relatively unchanged since 2005, when it stood at 11.3%. In January the BBC ran a story that suggested the 9% of female directors who made up Hollywood's highest grossing films was a figure that had gone unchanged since 1998. It's little wonder that the cinematic endeavours of women, racial minorities, and the LGBT community are often described as "art house" and "lo-fi".

Susanna White
, who directed TV adaptations of Bleak House and Jane Eyre, told The Guardian that the results show “hard evidence for a trend that a lot of us have known to be the case for a long time” adding that it was still “shocking to see the extent of this relentless bias laid out in black and white”.
Caroline Norbury MBE, CEO of Creative England, which is one of the UK’s biggest public funders of film, told The Guardian: “Public funding in the cultural and creative industries needs to be representative of the country’s most exciting up and coming talent... we need to mirror the population and give an even footing to both male and female directors who are looking for the next step in this competitive industry.”

Creative England says it backs the introduction of mandatory 50-50 gender equality for film funding that they want to have in place for the year 2020 as well as supporting a motion towards amending film tax relief that would require all UK films to be accountable for diversity.

Sarah Gavron, director of Suffragette starring Meryl Streep said she'd seen little change since she graduated film school in 2000. "It was only when I started seeing films directed by women that I felt I could dare to try to direct," she said. “Role models are key to developing and encouraging the next generation of film makers."

Gavron also spoke of why it's important to make those changes now. “Film of course influences our culture which is why it is vital to have diversity and more gender equality both in front of and behind the camera. We need to work to shift this imbalance, and it seems the only way to do this is to be radical, rather than waiting for something to change.”


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