Guest post by Brittany D. Friesner, Associate Director of Indiana University Cinema.
This September at IU Cinema, we’re commemorating Woman Director Awareness Month by dedicating our entire programming line-up to the creative work of women filmmakers.
Running the Screen: Directed by Women is a film screening, public conversation, and masterclass series celebrating and affirming the pioneering contributions of women to the art of the moving image. Throughout this month-long series, IU Cinema aims to increase awareness regarding the breadth of films created by women filmmakers by including films and visiting filmmakers from across all genres and from around the globe.
- Visits from filmmakers Crystal Z Campbell, Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich, Ash Mayfair, and Numa Perrier
- The world premiere of Rebel Girls by IU alumnae and student filmmakers
- A selection of short films from some of the first women filmmakers with accompaniment by DJ MADDØG
- The kickoff of series celebrating the pioneering directors Agnès Varda and Dorothy Arzner
September 2019 also marks the fifth anniversary of the founding of the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party, an awareness initiative established in 2015 by Barbara Ann O’Leary, IU Cinema’s founding social media specialist and blog editor.
In the past few years, the film industry and public have increasingly recognized the lack of inclusion and equity behind the camera, especially as it relates to filmmakers who identify as women.
As part of this movement, O’Leary established the #DirectedbyWomen initiative, and IU Cinema participated in the inaugural celebration by committing two weeks of programming. Events included visits from director Penelope Spheeris, director and IU alumna Hannah Fidell, and directors Ja’Tovia Gary and Stefani Saintonge of the New Negress Film Society, as well as film screening collaborations with the Black Film Center/Archive, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, WTIU, and Themester, among others.
Women are making movies, but they are generally not given the same opportunities to helm large studio productions as are men, and thus their visibility is often not as obvious to the greater movie-going public.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reported in its most recent study The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2018:
“In 2018, women comprised 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 18% in 2017. Last year, only 1% of films employed 10 or more women in the above roles. In contrast, 74% of films employed 10 or more men. Women accounted for 8% of directors, down 3 percentage points from 11% in 2017. This is 1 percentage point below the 9% achieved in 1998.”
According to the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division 2017, the world population in 2017 was 7.55 billion individuals, 3.74 billion of which were women. Women comprise nearly half of the world’s inhabitants—yet of the top films released in 2018 only 20% had a woman filmmaker attached to the project?
There have been only five women filmmakers ever nominated for the Best Director at the Academy Awards: Lina Wertmüller (1976, Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (1993, The Piano), Sofia Coppola (2003, Lost in Translation), Kathryn Bigelow (2009, The Hurt Locker), and Greta Gerwig (2018, Lady Bird). In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first—and thus far, only—woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
Since IU Cinema’s first Directed by Women celebration in 2015, 20 more filmmakers have been nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as best director—only one of those has been a woman filmmaker, out of 20. Twenty!
We are thrilled for what we have planned this September, but it’s not the only month IU Cinema will shine a spotlight on women filmmakers. In the 2018–19 programming year, 46.5% percent of films presented at IU Cinema were F-rated—films written and/or directed by a woman. And, in fall 2019, of the 125 planned film programs at IU Cinema, 50.4% of the films to be presented are F-rated.
IU Cinema is committed to providing transformative cinematic experiences for all—which reflect and represent all. This September, we’re dedicated to reflecting the experiences and visions of women who make movies.
Running the Screen: Directed by Women kicks off on Tuesday, September 3, with a 7 pm screening of Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché, which is also a part of IU Cinema’s International Arthouse Series. Running the Screen concludes on Monday, September 30, with a 7 pm screening of Stories We Tell, which is also a part of The Rashōmon Effect series.
The series was curated and programmed by Brittany D. Friesner and Jon Vickers, with support from IU’s Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council; the Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Series; the Black Film Center/Archive; the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design; the College of Arts and Sciences’ Themester 2019: Remembering and Forgetting; Union Board Films; and the Turkish Flagship Program.
Brittany D. Friesner is the IU Cinema’s associate director and a double IU alumna with a bachelor’s in journalism and a master’s in arts administration. Brittany researches and develops film programming, leads IU Cinema’s Creative Collaborations program, and manages the cinema’s marketing and engagement efforts, including donor cultivation and stewardship initiatives. She has also worked in programming, marketing, and theater operations for the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Bloomington PRIDE Film Festival, and the Indy Film Fest.