Studio Films Are Directed By White Men

by Melissa Silverstein on August 24, 2009

in Sexism

In a no shit sherlock moment, The NY Times took a look at who has been in the director’s seat for the major studio releases this year.

Of the 85 or so live action films to be released by the big studios in 2009 — Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers –93% are directed by white men with an average age of 45 years.

Though Hollywood’s power structure remains heavily white, it has opened the ranks to far more women in recent years. But that shift does not yet appear to have changed the makeup of the studio directing pool.

The article puts out the point that having a homogenized pool of directors might actually make business sense because box office has been growing (of course they are charging more) so venturing outside of the boys club is too nerve racking cause who knows if women or people of color can deliver a big box office hit.  This is such bunk.

But there is an obvious minus. Directors who are overwhelmingly of the same sex and ethnicity can hardly be expected to tap all of the cinematic potential in a rich and roiling humanity.  Uniformity would seem to shut out potential viewers and revenue. But there is really no way to be sure whether sales would go up or down if the studio directing pool were more diverse.

I really hate the sentence: “there is really no way to be sure whether sales would go up or down if the studio directed pool were more diverse.”  That sentence reeks of discrimination.  Same shit was said before women got the right to vote.  Same shit was said before African Americans got the right to vote.  Same shit was said before we had a women Supreme Court justice.  Sane shit was said before we got an African American president.

The fact that in this business it’s ok to say you know we are making money now with only white guys who cares about the rest of the people with fresh ideas and vision.  Fuck um.  Let’s make another movie about a toy.

It’s time this regressive philosophy got an update.

See Any Similarities in These Directors? (NY Times)

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist August 24, 2009 at 10:41 AM

What a bunch of dicks. Let’s see: Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, Mira Nair, Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee, Mary Harron, Shekhar Kapur, Julie Dash, Sofia Coppola, Jane Campion, etc…

anyone else wanna add more names to the list of great directors who are female or POC?

Debbie August 24, 2009 at 11:12 AM

While I’m glad the New York Times chose to focus on this subject, can they please have Manohla Dargis, or someone with a clue write the story next time.

The corporations making theses films are governed not only by the laws of the United States, but by their own internal anti-discrimination rules. This shit is so illegal, if anybody ever had the balls to sue they’d be in big trouble. And guess what…discrimination can be proved. The fact that film schools graduate men & women in equal numbers, yet women only make up 4-7% of directors in a given year is enough to prove a pattern of discrimination. A list of potential directors and writers is drawn up for each film. If women never make the lists, or if there are “boy” lists and “girl” lists, proving that women are only considered for the lower paid/lower profile projects…that’s discrimination.

My favorite line if the New York Times article is: “Exactly how each of those lucky studio directors got into the club is anybody’s guess…”

Well let me tell you how they get into the club. They are represented by agents and managers who are pushing them as the next hot writer/director. Most agencies won’t even consider representing a female director unless she is very well established, because they know they can’t sell her. Indie film companies often give well represented first time male directors (with little or no directing experience) 6-8 million dollars…because it’s presumed they’re competent. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it’s a disaster. I’ve seen executives walk out of these hot new male director’s screenings ready to vomit, because a film is completely unwatchable and they’ve lost their entire investment. At the lowest levels of entry, women are never given the same opportunity, even if they’re more then qualified to direct their first feature film.

Debbie August 24, 2009 at 1:07 PM

While I’m glad the New York Times chose to focus on this subject, can they please have Manohla Dargis, or someone with a clue write the story next time.

The corporations making theses films are governed not only by the laws of the United States, but by their own internal anti-discrimination rules. This shit is so illegal, if anybody ever had the balls to sue they’d be in big trouble. And guess what…discrimination can be proved. The fact that film schools graduate men & women in equal numbers, yet women only make up 4-7% of directors in a given year is enough to prove a pattern of discrimination. A list of potential directors and writers is drawn up for each film. If women never make the lists, or if there are “boy” lists and “girl” lists, proving that women are only considered for the lower paid/lower profile projects…that’s discrimination.

My favorite line if the New York Times article is: “Exactly how each of those lucky studio directors got into the club is anybody’s guess…”

Well let me tell you how they get into the club. They are represented by agents and managers who are pushing them as the next hot writer/director. Most agencies won’t even consider representing a female director unless she is very well established, because they know they can’t sell her. Indie film companies often give well represented first time male directors (with little or no directing experience) 6-8 million dollars…because it’s presumed they’re competent. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it’s a disaster. I’ve seen executives walk out of these hot new male director’s screenings ready to vomit, because a film is completely unwatchable and they’ve lost their entire investment. At the lowest levels of entry, women are never given the same opportunity, even if they’re more then qualified to direct their first feature film.
OH! You’re my new favorite blogger fyi

lizriz August 24, 2009 at 5:22 PM

Sigh. Melissa, I never know what to say in the face of these statistics floating around my dream. Becoming a director is such a rare combination of time, money, connections, opportunity, talent, encouragement, perseverance, personality, etc. Any discrimination is just another level of impossible on top of already impossible.

For those of us in the muck of it all, well, I personally choose to work my ass off and happily go through what doors I can find to go through with a great attitude and all the talent I can muster. I’m so grateful, however, for yours and other voices in the fray shining your light.

I can promise you that this financially strapped, unconnected, non-writer is going to work my ass off to become a working director until the day I die. I’ve got a branded content web project going out for pitch (I directed 3 spec webisodes for it) next month. Please think good thoughts! If it goes, it will likely be my first paid directing gig, and could potentially, ultimately lead to commercial and/or television directing. Where I could die happy. :)

lizriz August 24, 2009 at 5:24 PM

I should have said, “non-screenwriter,” lol. Obviously, I do a fair bit of writing; I just prefer to direct things someone more talented than I in the writing department has written. :)

nemogbr August 25, 2009 at 3:27 AM

Reasons as to why I keep reading of Hollywood hardly ever having as original idea and keep adapting other works.

C.K. August 25, 2009 at 8:03 AM

So what happens to all those female film school grads? What a sad waste of potential.

nicole August 28, 2009 at 8:31 AM

According to the research team of Bielby&Bielby (UC Santa Barbara)”All Hits Are Flukes”. Hollywood uses an invented rhetoric as the formula for success, which validates the white male system.

The Hollywood predictors are: reputation, repitition, and imitation. This championed, though completely unreliable, and entranched system limits hiring potential outside of the aceepted hallmarks.

The good news, according to the research, is that ANYONE has as much chance of a hit right out of the gate as the championed white, 45 year old male of the Hollywood studio system.

Don’t trust me, read Bielby&Bielby, “All Hits Are Flukes”.

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