“Girls in the Director’s Chair” is a film program, sponsored by Stayfree®, that gives 20 young women (ages 14-19) the opportunity to learn more about the film industry, while getting the chance to work on a movie set for a week with live actors and equipment. Why? According to the film program, only 17 percent of major jobs behind the camera are done by females, while just seven percent are women directors.
“‘Girls in the Director’s Chair’ has given me the confidence I need to work on some of the greatest films,” says Shauna Fleming, another student in the program who plans to attend Chapman University (Orange, CA) in the fall for public relations and advertising for the entertainment industry. “I got to work behind the camera, assistant direct, work with lighting and sound, and edit part of the film. It was great. I got to see what fits me and what I don’t particularly care for.”
A film program is a great way to learn about something you’re passionate about. Whether it’s being a director, producer, or editor, you’ll get to learn the basics and eventually specialize in what you are interested. Some classes one may take, depending on the school, include history, techniques, sound, and classes about various genres. The goal of the film programs is usually to give a student a good base and knowledge of film and the film industry. The competition for directors is certainly high, as it is one of the more glamorous and sought-after jobs in the film industry. The actual function of the director entails the interpretation of the script and its representation on screen. They are extremely involved in most aspects of the filmmaking process. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that producers and directors made an hourly wage of about $36 for the film industry in May 2004. However, they also say that the salary of directors varies greatly, depending on the project and the industry. A film program at an accredited institution is certain to boost your career in film.
Woman Make Movies was established in 1972 in order to address the misrepresentation and representation of women in the media industry. It is a non-profit, multi racial, multi cultural media arts organization, which facilitates the exhibition distribution promotion and production of independent movies by woman and about women. The aim of the organization is to provide services to users and makers of video programs and films with the emphasis on supporting movies by women of color.
The Women Make Movies is the primary program of the organization and the leading distributor of films in North America. It includes all non-profit organizations and agencies, colleges and universities, galleries, museums, arts centers and more. Their collection of over 500 titles of movies by women includes mixed-genre work, dramatic, animation, experimental and documentary movies by women.
The films all represent diversity of styles, perspectives, and subjects in women’s lives. Over half of the collection of the movies by women directors and producers are of diverse cultures. The collection includes a variety of movies by lesbians and about lesbians, woman with disabilities and older women. The last three years was great for the organization with them turning over $1.5 million over to women producers in royalty payments.
Women Make Movies works with thousands of women’s organization in the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia in the support of new International Women’s Film festivals. They aim to increase the visibility of women in front of the camera as well as behind the camera.
Renowned films in their collections include movies by women directors such as Ulricke Ottinger, Ngozi Onwurah, Pratibha parmar, kim Longinotto, Valie Export, Tracey Moffat. Lourdes Portillo. Minh ha, Sally potter, Julie Dash, Jane Campion and more. Some of the movies by women garnered top prizes at prestigious film festivals such as sundance and Cannes.
Women directors do not have to stand back in the least when it comes to film making in any form. Some movies by women rates among the top movies in the world and does not have to take a back seat when compared to those of male directors. Top producers and top actors are part of the cast of any women directors. Below are just a small list of some top movies by women directors.
• Testament in 1983 by the women director Lynne Littman is a powerful movie on Nuclear war in the U.S. starring Roxanna Zal, Rossie Harris, William Devane and Jane Alexander
• Love Letters by Amy Holden Jones starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Bonnie Bartlett, Matt Clarke and James Keach and one of the most powerful movies by women about obsession and love
• One of the top movies by women is the popular Desperately Seeking Susan which was released in 1985 by the director Susan Seidelman. Great stars like Rosanna Arquette, Madonna, Aidan Quinn and Mark Blum features in it
• Vagabond by the director Agnes Varda with start such as Sandrine Bonnaire, Macha Meril, Stephane Freiss and Setti Ramdane was released in 1985
• Children of a Lesser God by the director Randa Haines with superstars such as William Hurt, Marlee Matlin, Piper Laurie and Philip Bosco was released in 1986
• Blue Steel by the women director Kathryn Bigelow, stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Silwer, Clanncy Brown and Elisabeth Pena. It portrays Jamie Lee Curtis as a female rookie in the police force.
• Awakenings which was released in 1990 by the director Penny Marshall has great stars such as Robert De Niro, Ruth Nelson, Julie Kavnner and Robin Williams.
• Orlando which was released in 1990 by the director Sally Potter has great stars such as Tilda Twinton, Billy Zane, Quinton Crisp and John Bott.
• Crystal Nights released in 1992 by the director Tonia Marketaki has actors such as Katerina Baka, Tania Tripi, Michel Valley and Francois Delaive
There are some great movies by women directors and below is a list of some of the best films by women directors.
• The Virgin Suicides which was released in 1999 from one of the top women directors, Sofia Coppola and has some top actors such as Kathleen Turner, James Woods, Josh Hartnett and Kristen Dunst
• Marie Antoinette was released in 2006, also from Sofia Coppola with superstars such as Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Jason Schwartzman and Kirsten Dunst
• Lost in Translation in 2003 is also by women director Sofia Coppola and portrays actors such as Anna Fans, Giovanni Ribisi, Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray
• Doctor Glas is from the director Mai Zetterling in 1968 and actors include; Bente Dessau, Ulf Palme, Lone Hertz, Per Oscarsson
• Nattlek which was released in 1966 is also by Mai Zetterling and portrays Lena Brundin, Jorgen Lindstrom, Keve Hjelm and Ingred Thulin
• Loving Couples was released in 1964 and from Mia Zetterling with actors such as Anita Bjork, Gio Petre, Gunnel Lindblom and Harriet Andersson
• Bewitched is from the women director Nora Ephron and released in 2005 with great names like Michael Cane, Shirley MacLaine, Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman playing the lead roles
• Big which was released in 1988 by Penny Marshall has great stars such as John Heard, Robert Loggia, Elizabeth Perkins and Tom Hanks
• Blood Diner was released in 1987 from female director Jackie Kong with stars such as LaNette La France, Roger Dauer, Carl Crew and Rick Burks
• American Psycho which was release in 2000 bt Mary Harron features actors such as Bill Sage, Josh Lucas, Justin Theroux and Christian Bale
• Thirteen was released in 2003 and directed by Catherine Hardwicke with actors such as Vanessa Hudgens, Nikki Reed, Holly Hunter, and Evan Rachel Wood
• Mamma Mia is from women director Phyllida Lloyd and stars Stellan Skarsgard, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep
It’s only in the year 2010 that for the first time in the film history did a woman win and took home the prestigious accolade of the best director in that years Academy Awards, the female filmmakers still are not getting the same opportunities or recognition that they deserve as compared to their male counterparts (male directors).
When the female director, Kathryn Bigelow went to the dais to collect her Oscar earlier that year, she did so having been the only fourth woman to ever be nominated in the prestigious Academy Awards in the director category. Well we can’t say that the Academy panel certainly overlooks the female directors; however it is also a bad coincidence that only Kathryn Bigelow as a female director has ever won the prominent DGA and BAFTA awards as the top director, while Barbra Streisand happens to be the only female director to have ever won the outstanding Golden Globe as a winning director. Also the Cannes Film Festival has very poor records in recognizing the achievements of the women directors in the film world, and every year the film festival always comes under fire when very few or no films directed by the female gets selected for the main honors of the competition accolades.
Lack of female recognition doesn’t stem from the lack of quality movies. While the “Inception” by Christopher Nolan was getting the entire buzz, the two of the most celebrated American films with the best reviews that summer was directed by female: Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik) and The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko), only Toy Story 3 had a higher Meta score. As we shall see in a while, these are far from being the only critically acclaimed film titles from the female movie directors.
For decades, the women have always been directing in different genres ranging from the comic (Real Genius by Martha Coolidge, Wayne’s World by Penelope Spheeris, Big by Penny Marshall) and horrific films (Pet Sematary by Mary Lambert) to animation (Shrek by Vicky Jenson) and sports (Bend It Like Beckham by Gurinder Chadha). The female directors have also made a mark in the box office-flop category (Ishtar by Elaine May). However, not all genres have always been open to the female directors; for instance, few women other than Mimi Leder of Deep Impact or Kathryn Bigelow have ever had the occasion to direct an all action film.
The opportunities for the women directors in all genres are as always relatively rare. The San Diego State University’s Center for the Women Study in Film and Television regularly reports the trends in this industry, and the findings always confirm a very major disparity: only an average of 7% to 9% of the 250 top grossing films are directed by the women for the last 25 years. The gender disparity is always extending, though not quite severe, to the film goers and the film critics.
Right now we are not exploring the main possible reasons as to why such a huge gap of disparity exists; instead, we are cerebrating the female movie directors and also put our focus on the good work that they have done for the past 30 years in our film industry.
The women directors are awarded and recognised are various festivals like Cannes or Oscars. Celebrities across the world look forward to this award and they plan for their travel ahead. The flight tickets, visitor insurance, hotels, travel agencies, cabs are generally flooded with business during these festivals. When groups or family travel risks can be covered by travelers insurance; student travelers can avail rates and plans for students.
Almost all the well known directors are male. Just name it: Hitchcock, Welles, Spielberg, Kubrick. It’s no great mystery that the contribution of women to film directing is often overlooked by fans. Although small in number, their contributions of female directors to the industry is huge. One of the contemporary acclaimed female directors is Sofia Coppola, of the Coppola family fame (his father, Francis, directed the Godfather trilogy). She has had an illustrious career despite her young age: the 2003 film Lost in Translation remains one of her crowning achievement. Her film Somewhere (2010) won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
Claire Denis directed Chocolat (1998), a French film which was nominated for the Academy Award best picture. Jane Campion directed the poignant film The Piano (1993), which won the top award at the Cannes and three Academy Awards. Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2008) won the Oscar for Best Picture and bagged her the Best Director award. Women have been known as great filmmaker in the past too: the great German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl was the favorite choice of Hitler to do his propaganda work. She directed Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), a Nazi propaganda piece that have been critically praised for its cinematic brilliance.
Doing research? Need Statistics on women in the entertainment industry? This section contains much of the information that might be helpful to those of you doing research, but please also check our Statistics section for amazing information and also our Databank.
Hey YOU! We’re seeking any students writing thesis or term papers on women in Hollywood. We’d like to publish your work on our site. We believe that your work can help many others doing the same research. Let’s help each other out and learn more about this topic. Send us an email to let us know more.
The Women Behind the Camera in Early Hollywood :: by Cari Beauchamp. This article is our flagship piece about historical women filmmakers. This is a don’t miss article. Also, listen to the companion audio podcast of Cari Beauchamp speaking in more detail on this topic.
- Julie Delpy: Interview about 2 Days in Paris (August 2007) :: by Heidi Martinuzzi
- Katja von Garnier: Interview about Blood and Chocolate (October 2006):: by Heidi Martinuzzi.
- Anya Camilleri: Interview about Incubus (October 2006):: by Heidi Martinuzzi.
- Directing Gender Buzz (Los Angeles Times, Feb 19th 2007) :: by Josh Friedman.
- In Hollywood, Perception of Equality Doesn’t Make It Real :: by Melissa Silverstein.
- Nothing Like Hollywood :: by Erin Trahan.
- Close Encounters with Laurel Chiten :: by Erin Trahan.
Growing Up – Filmmaker Lorna Lowe Streeter reflects on how “Shelter” her first documentary came to be and how asking and answering tough questions about a fractured mother-daughter relationship helped her transition into adulthood :: by Erin Trahan
Welcome to the premier website about movies directed by women.
This site includes information on historical women directors, statistics on women directors, and also includes Director interviews. We are a grassroots collective that has grown out of the passions of women directors who are working towards increasing the awareness of women’s contributions to film and television history. Our website is
done on a volunteer basis.
US based playwright Jennifer Haley has been awarded the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the most prestigious award for female playwrights for her play The Nether. She prevailed over 9 other finalists. Actress Imogene Stubbs handed out the $20,000 prize on behalf of the international jury.
The 41st New Directors/ New Film which partners the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art will open on March 21st with Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now which I caught last September at the Toronto Film Festival. The festival will end on April 1 with a surprise screening that will not be revealed untiil that evening. Here are the other female directed films at the festival.