Breaking Through the Celluloid Ceiling

Women in Film collaborate with The Sundance Institute

A recent collaboration between The Sundance Institute and Associate Institute Women In Film (LA) was designed to promote female filmmakers by tracking female filmmakers showing their work at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Their intention is to use the data to increase women’s presence in all areas of filmmaking.

Still from the Sundance Film Festival

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. Photo Credits: Stephanie Matthews

On Tuesday, January 24, 2011 a panel discussion titled: Tomorrow Starts Here: Raising Female Voices Through Technology and Creativity, was held featuring distinguished directors and artists.

The aim of the project is to “initiate a real hard look at why this constant lack of parity seems to exist in terms of the amount of women working in film and media and the amount of men,” said Cathy Shulman, president of Women in Film International. “What does it really mean and why is it happening, and instead of talking about it every year as a fact, start to see if we could be part of a solution.”

VWIFF’s press release states: “Today, more than ever, women behind the lens are playing a significant role in the film industry; however, in contrast to their male counter-parts, women still face the challenge to receive recognition for their films. According to Telefilm Canada’s 2010 report on the state of women in the Canadian Feature Film Industry, women professionals report they are disadvantaged with respect to visibility at Canadian film festivals.” 

Telefilm report author Marilyn Burgess concludes: “We have also seen that women may be negatively impacted in their career development by a lack of access to professional networks, fewer opportunities for on-the-job training, lesser visibility at film festivals, that family obligations may play a greater role in the unfolding of women’s careers than men’s, and that social attitudes towards women supported by cultural representations work against them in the workplace, undermining their credibility and making it difficult to attain roles of leadership.”

Burgess also suggests that “Project-based analysis of box office outcomes by gender is interesting in that it may be instrumental in dispelling myths and negative attitudes towards women that keep them out of key creative positions.”

Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute president

“Keri Putnam, president of the Sundance Institute, said the organizations were motivated by statistics that show that only 5 percent of the top 250 films last year were directed by women. That figure hasn’t changed since 1998. Female filmmakers are better represented at Sundance, where 27 percent of the films presented were made by women,” writes AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen. For her full article, click here.

Film producer Susan Cartsonis

WIF Foundation Chair and successful producer Susan Cartsonis writes in Vitamin W that while only 16 per cent of films are made with women audiences in mind, fully half the ticket buying public is female. She states: “Here’s what I know in my bones: Women have a need to hear their stories told in an authentic way. And they’re also interested in the inner lives of men. I know because I’m an audience member as well as a movie-maker and there are too many Friday nights when I feel that there’s nothing I really want to see. Nothing that speaks to me personally. And if a movie is made that speaks to me, my friends and I throw a party and go en masse!”

 Title	Corpo Celeste Year	2012 Program	Sundance Film Festival Category	Spotlight Director	Alice Rohrwacher Credits	Film Movement

Corpo Celeste, from Director Alice Rohrwacher, Photo Credits: Film Movement

Who better to know what women want to see, and how they want it portrayed, than female filmmakers? Cartsonis also states: “There are many reasons why there’s a dearth of movies made for women: it has to do with how women are treated in the business in the boardroom, the pressures and logistics of the business, and “conventional wisdom” as opposed to facts and the reality of the changing audience landscape.”

By tracking the progress and challenges of female filmmakers participating in Sundance programs this year, the Sundance Institute and Women In Film hope to discover the why women filmmakers still face extraordinary challenges competing in the film and television industry, and identify ways to make change happen.

“We’re going to get real-life data,” Shulman said, “and we are going to formulate a vision ultimately to support, within the scope of both institutes, programs this challenge to change these, at this point, boring lack of positive statistics and make a difference.”

For the full press release on the initiative, click here.

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