Criterion one essay

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Criterion one essay

  1. 1. Criterion OneWhy is directing perceived to be a male pursuit?In March 2011, an article in the main section of the Observer had the headline, “Where are all the women filmdirectors?” The writer of the article, actress Kerry Fox, explained, “I think it is a lack of confidence that stopswomen directing, the need for a strong sense of self and an innate sense of the right to be a director.” NicolaLees of Women in Film and Television (WFTV) agrees. She runs a mentoring programme for women, set upwhen Skillset research in 2009revealed5000 women had left UK media industry employment since therecession, compared to just 750 men. The research also confirmed that women were over-qualified,overworked and underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts. Nicola says the number of womenleaving the industry in their early 30s and the shortage of female directors is often attributed to childcarebut that‟s not always the case. “I have 20 women on the WFTV mentoring scheme. Some have children. Somedon‟t. It‟s about women lacking confidence. Women need to look at their achievements and experience. Mendon‟t feel that they don‟t deserve to be there.”Skillset‟s UK findings are reflected in the research of Professor Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University.She carries out an annual “Celluloid Ceiling” study of women working behind the scenes on the top 250domestic grossing films. Her 2010 findings show women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers,producers, writers, cinematographers and editors. Women accounted for just 7% of directors in 2010, thesame percentage as in 2009 and a decline of two percentage points from 1998. Lauzen has also citedconfidence as a reason. She says reporters have told her that, “when they talk to the guys, they can‟t shut„em up. But when they talk to the women, it‟s like pulling teeth…. Women have to promote themselves, butwhen they do, it‟s seen as being unfeminine.” (quoted in KiraCohrane article)The idea that behaviour is either „feminine‟ or „masculine‟ can be linked to how people have come to see therole of the director on a film set. The director is considered to be the boss and when the boss is male itseems very natural that he should lead. In her 1992 speech for Women in Film Crystal Awards, BarbaraStreisand made reference to the inequalities in the industry and in particular how language is used totransform traits seen as positive in a male director into negatives when displayed by his female counterpart.She says for example a male is “uncompromising” while a femaleis a “ball breaker”, a man is “assertive” yeta female is “aggressive” and when a male is said to have demonstrated “great leadership” a female will bedescribed as “controlling.” (We are the Girlz in the Hood, Premier…..1993)
  2. 2. Also consider for example the coverage given to the winner of the Oscar for Best Director in 2010, KathyrnBigelow. It is quite a challenge to find press coverage whichdoesn‟t mention her gender yet we don‟t hear orread about the „male director‟ because the role of the director is gendered as male. Streisand waspresenting the award for Best Director at the Oscars in 2010 and her first sentence was, “From among thefive gifted nominees tonight, the winner could be, for the first time, a woman.” On opening the envelope sheannounced, “Well the time has come. Kathryn Bigelow!” Bigelow does not refer to gender in her acceptancespeech and instead said, “I think the secret to directing is collaborating and I had truly an extraordinarygroup of collaborators.” This comment is of particular interest when compared to the comments made byBrad Pitt about Quentin Tarantino as part of his nomination clip. Pitt said, “It‟s a director‟s medium. It startswith the director and ends with the director. The set is church, he is God and no heretics allowed.”Pitt‟s comments reflect the idea of the director as „author‟ of a film. Film is one of the few art forms which isnot the work of a single author but the result of the collaborative efforts of a very large team. As the maincollaborators, the scriptwriter, producer and the director of photography are often given some credit inOscar acceptance speeches and during a film‟s promotion but it is the director to whom authorship isattributed. This idea of director as author can be traced back to the French film critics of the late 1940s and50s and their debates in French and later British and American magazines about the artistic value of cinema.Critic Peter Graham suggests that an article by AlexandreAstruc, „The birth of a new avant- garde: Lacaméra-stylo‟ (ÉcranFrançais 144, 1948), is the first to suggest that the director should be the author and theartist. Astruc writes, “Direction is no longer a means of illustrating or presenting a scene, but a true act ofwriting. The film-maker/author writes with his camera and as a writer writes with his pen.” (Graham (ed),The New Wave, p.15.)This idea was taken up by the young French film critics writing for the magazine Cahiers du Cinema as a wayto revive French mainstream cinema which they felt had become stale and uncinematic. They enjoyed thefilms of Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks and John Ford and used these directors as examples of artists whocould achieve a distinct personal style while working within the constraints of a studio system. The idea wasfirst referred to as a theory by American film critic Andrew Sarris in 1962. In his article, “Notes on theAuteur Theory”, he sets down the criteria for the auteur. A director had to possess a certain degree oftechnical competence, a personal style and what Sarris termed an interior meaning or „subtext‟ to qualify asan auteur. These criteria laid the foundations for what would be one of the most debated theories in theacademic study of film for the next few decades. The issue for young women now is that female directors
  3. 3. were excluded from these debates. They were not discussed as auteurs and as a result of not being part ofthe most debated theory as film studies as an academic discipline developed; they were hardly discussed atall.This presents a problem in 2011 because young women seem to have no femalesin the history of film to look tofor inspiration. They seem to accept that directing is a job for men and personally I‟ve never heard a femalestudent say, “I want to be a director.” They are influenced by the statistics because they see the industry asmale dominated and as Lees and Lauzen stated, they lack the confidence to visualise themselves in that roleand buck the trend. They need roles models and they need to know they have the qualities and the skillsneeded to make it as a director. As Kate Kinninmont of WFTV says, “Films should be made about people andthe best person should be doing the job whether a man or a woman. It doesn‟t make sense that only a fractionof women are good enough to be at the top – look at school and college results.”The artefact I produce will introduce the statistics for female directors and will suggest a link between thesestatistics and auteur theory. The main point I want them to take away is that there have been and there arefemale film directors, they just don‟t know about them. I also want them to see the connection between theexclusion of females in the development of auteur theory and the perception of directing as a job for men.The artefact must be limited to making this one point even though the topic is vast and has many possibilitiesfor exploration. This artefact aims to be a conversation starter for students and while primarily aimed at afemale audience I believe young females will also benefit from male students being part of the audiencebecause as the title of this essay suggests, it is all about perception. They need to see women as equals whenit comes to leadership roles in the industry. This is also why I‟ve chosen to feature the Oscar win of KathrynBigeow in the film. She is only one of a number of great female directors but she will stand out for studentsbecause she has directed successful films in the action genre as opposed to drama or romantic comedy.While equality can only really ever be achieved when female directors are no longer referred to as femaledirectors, it‟s fairly impossible to make a shift in the perception of young people without an exploration of thepast. That is what this artefact sets out to do.References here……

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