Female directors in TV and film

Women In Directing: Highlighting TV & Film Directors

Women have always played a major role in the world of cinema. Currently in the industry, more women are taking leading roles on the screen and behind the scenes. Storytelling and directing in Hollywood are now getting a taste of female leads. However, statistics from WomenAndHollywood.com show that it’s still not enough. 

Four percent of women were directors of the top 100 grossing films of 2018. In that same top grossing category, fifteen percent were writers and three percent were cinematographers. WIthin some of that four percent of directors are the faces of Olivia Wilde, Elizabeth Banks, and Patty Jenkins. 

Women are no longer just pretty faces used as cash grabs for major movie companies. They want their voices heard and stories told through their own avenues. And the directing hustle does not stop at movies. It goes all the way to directing television shows for companies like HBO and Hulu. 

Who is Joining the Industry? 

In an interview with Variety, Martha Lauzen, the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film at San Diego University, said that she looks forward to the increase of women in the industry even if it is a small start. 

“Over the last 20 years, the percentage of women who direct has fluctuated between 5% and 11% on the top-grossing films. Though most years, the number has been between 6% and 9%.”

Martha Lauzen

While the numbers may not seem big to some, the amount of films led by women has increased and viewers are seeing them take over the big screen more and more. One part of this progress might be the 4% challenge, a vow that popped up during the era of the Me Too movement. The vow was also started by USC Annenberg as an inclusion initiative in the entertainment field.

Leading Faces Directing 

Olivia Wilde 

This actress can now add director to her already extensive resume. From starring in music videos to horror movies, Wilde has done a variety of work in the industry. However, this year she released her first major feature film Booksmart. The quirky film was her first dip in the water for directing a huge project that had two lead female roles. Wilde’s hard work paid off and the film garnered great reviews and praise from viewers. The film’s screenwriter was also a woman, Katie Siberman (Hot Pursuit, Isn’t it Romantic). 

Elizabeth Banks

The Emmy-nominated actress has a history of major films up her sleeves ranging from Hunger Games to Power Rangers. This powerhouse name in the industry has a record of shifting genres with no problem. Going from dramas, animation, and all the way to comedies, Banks has made it easy for herself to expand in the field. Recently, Banks directed and wrote the screenplay for the reboot of Charlie’s Angels. She was able to translate women power to the rest of the production side of the film. The reboot holds Drew Barrymore as one of the producers and Ariana Grande produced the film’s soundtrack. Before this film Banks had directed Pitch Perfect 2 and served as a producer for the film as well as its first installment, both having a main cast consisting of female leads. 

Patty Jenkins

A recent addition to the household names of superhero films, Patty Jenkins made a major impact in the world of directors when she was put in charge of directing Wonder Woman. Previous to this, Jenkins had directed the critically acclaimed feature Monster starring Charlize Theron. Though the world seemed to go against her at the beginning of production for the first Wonder Woman installment, upon its release the film gained worldwide praise and was loved by viewers and got green lit for a sequel, Wonder Women 1984, which will also be directed by Jenkins. This time around Jenkins helped out with the screenplay and the film’s villain will be played by Kristen Wiig

Ava DuVernay 

One of the few women of color directing major films, DuVernay has a vast amount of films under her line of belt. Most of them highlighting struggles the African-American community faces, her films like Selma, 13th, and This is the Life, all tell stories many directors all have yet to bring to the screen. Along with Jenkins, DuVernay will also be adding her name to the list of comic book directors. She is set to direct the film The New Gods, based of the DC comic book series and she is also in charge of writing the screenplay. Her hard work and dedication to the craft led her to win the award for best director in 2012 at the Sundance film festival, she was the first African-American woman to win the award. 

Powerful Women, Powerful Roles 

With women taking charge of the background this leads to women leading on screen too. Jenkins and Gal Gadot have become a comic book movie duo with the Wonder Woman installments. Cathy Yan is getting a chance at sharing the girl power on her film Birds of Prey, starring Margot Robbie and Mary Elizabeth Winsted. 

Anna Boden co-directed Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, who has now made herself a name in the industry. Fellow MCU star Scarlett Johansson will also have female director, Cate Shortland, leading her solo movie for Black Widow. More names for female directors are starting to pop up. And they are ready to be just as familiar as their leading characters. 

Taking over Television 

While moves are being made on the big screen, smaller screens are also being led by females too. Some major shows that have come out this year have been directed and written by women. From Hulu to HBO, networks are letting females take over the world of television and streaming. 

Pen15 has become a hit comedy on Hulu and was created by its lead actresses, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle. The global phenomenon Game of Thrones only had one female director for the entirety of its run. Michelle MacLaren directed two episodes for season three and another two episodes for season four. Director and lead actress Issa Rae created Insecure, another show on HBO. 

Television is giving women longer running starts and more flexibility with creating their own shows and the freedom to star in them too. With room to write their characters as they please and more time to encompass their visions, women are beginning to find their voices to project into smaller projects that create a big impact. 

Conclusion

Women in leading roles have inspired younger generations of women. This major game changer acted as a wake-up call to let women tell their stories and be empowered to speak out. One small girl had the chance to tell a story she wanted and took charge of her ideas. Marsai Martin, star of the show Blackish, starred and executively produced the movie Little. The 2016 reboot of Ghostbuters had a huge crowd of young girls at the premier dressed as the movie heroines. 

The younger generation is starting to feel the power of taking the lead and following the steps of their inspirations. Whether the may be the lead on the screen, the director of the craft, or the writer of what they loved, these girls are ready to take on the world.

Featured image collage credits:

  • Cathy Yan: dccomicsextendeduniverse.fandom.com
  • Olivia Wilde: ChinLin Pan/Geek Gals
  • Ava DuVernay: HipHollywood.com
  • Michelle MacLaren: Syfy.com
  • Elizabeth Banks: Gage Skidmore

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