No Women Nominated for DGA Awards

by Melissa Silverstein on January 11, 2011

in Awards,Women Directors

My screen saver is a picture of Kathryn Bigelow holding her two Oscars.  Each day when my computer boots up that is the first image I see.  I never expected a woman to win best director and best picture last year (though I was hopeful), and I sure don’t expect it this year (because I am a realist), but it is an image that I hold onto because it shows what it possible.

Last year the DGA nominated Kathryn Bigelow for their annual prize — and she won for the first time EVER.

This year NO women nominees.  Back to reality.  Back to women being left out.

I don’t think that I am going to far to say that two women — Debra Granik and Lisa Cholodenko — were contenders.  Both their films are in the top ten of the year on many people’s lists, and both might get best picture nominations, but the reality is, that this year we most probably will not see a woman nominated for best director again.

This brings us back to the conversation about what types of films women direct (some and not all women) and how seriously or not these films are taken by Hollywood.   Remember, a lot of the conversation about Kathryn Bigelow last year was about how she was different from most female directors because she typically directs movies about guys where things blow up.  That’s why she was really the ideal female to break the glass ceiling.  A woman who make guys comfortable.

But look at the brilliant movies by Cholodenko and Granik.  Not a lot of things in those pictures to make guys comfortable.  A lesbian comedy about a family in crisis, and a rural poor girl looking for her meth dealing dad to turn him over to the police so that she can keep a roof over her two younger siblings heads.  No worlds colliding in your dreams like Inception or the founding of Facebook, or a ballet dancer going crazy and spouting black wings.  You know what I mean.

Even though both women (and the many others who made great films last year) didn’t make the cut at the DGA, and probably also won’t make the cut at the Oscars, these movies have made a difference.  First, they were both financially successful.  Second, they made people take notice.  And third, the stories resonated and each potentially is looking at a writing nomination.

So while it is bitter pill to swallow after last year and this time no woman will probably get to the finish line as a director, looking at the big picture, and the fact that both these women’s films are in the year end hunt in a big way means that we still are having some forward motion.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

ann January 11, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Debra Granik’s film was made for 2 million dollars and shot on the red. I went to a small screening and she was present for the Q&A. She said the production companies would hand back the script with the note “poor people” underlined. There are hardly any films about poor people in the US, only rich people. Rather than look at who gets support and attention once the film is done, we need to consider what gets financed.

I have an action screenplay. I’m repeatedly told, it’s a great script potentially worth a lot of money, the problem is you directing. But Joseph Kosinski had no problem getting 170 million dollars for his first film based on his experience of directing a few car commercials.

Now let’s flip the script. If I had a screenplay that was considered more of a “female” genre, I would be told there’s no audience for you. They are not willing to fund women directors and if they do greenlight a screenplay/film about women, it’s usually a stereotype.

If you do get the money, they’ll hand you a measly 1-2 million dollars to compete against “Inception”. The Hurt Locker was a 12 million dollar film, that should have cost 30-50 million dollars. The only reason Bigelow was able to brilliantly pull it off with no money is because she had so much experience and knew where to cut corners.

You need to be on an equal financial playing field to compete for Best Director and Best Picture or at least in the same budget universe. Women directors have had such a hard time getting their films made, it makes them less willing to compromise or make commercial crap. It’s partially because they’re not considered for big budget films, but also their experience of being shut out make them feel like outsiders.

chris January 11, 2011 at 11:04 AM

As baffling as the DGA snubs to Granik and Lisa are there is the possibility that the Oscars could still make room for either one or both of them. Russell, even thought the Fighter is a likely BP nominee, isn’t a total lock at this point.

David January 11, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Out of Fincher, Hooper, Nolan, Russell, and Aronofsky, who should’ve been booted to make room for Cholodenko/Granik? Sorry, but the five directors who were nominated this year deserve their spots.

Eileen January 11, 2011 at 11:52 PM

David, any one of those five could be booted in favor of Granik. I did not see a film this year that was better than Winter’s Bone.

ann January 13, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Winter’s Bone is an excellent film. The storytelling and performances are near perfect, the production values are as good as they can be on a 2 million dollar budget.

My question is why is it taking women years and years to get their first feature made, and then years to get their second feature made at only a slightly higher budget. Take a look at Christopher Nolan’s career path.

1998 The Following $30,000
2000 Momento $5 million
2002 Insomnia $46 million
2005 Batman Begins $150 million ( Jackpot franchise!)
2006 The Prestige $40,000
2008 The Dark Knight $185 million
2010 Inception $160,000

For women to be able to compete for awards, we need to be making films every few years at consistently higher budgets…just like the guys. It all goes back to the financing and who gets support. I’d like to add that the penis is not directing the film…the person is directing. Considering the dropping box office receipts, Hollywood would be smart to hire/finance the most qualified person and reach as wide an audience as possible (which includes women).

Womens Voices January 24, 2011 at 11:18 AM

When talking about the DGA nominations, WVFC contributor Alexandra MacAaron was a huge advocate for Winter’s Bone – http://womensvoicesforchange.org/the-dga-awards-still-a-thick-glass-ceiling-over-that-hollywood-sign.htm – and she traces the problem back to the same place as everyone here: opportunities and budget.

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