Criterion one essay


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Criterion one essay

  1. 1. Criterion OneWhy is directing perceived to be a male pursuit?My artefact will introduce the statistics for female directors and will suggest a linkbetween these statistics and auteur theory. It will demonstrate how auteur theory hasgiven a male-centric view of directing by ether excluding or sidelining femaledirectors in the history of its development. My artefact will propose that thisexclusion is one of the reasons for the small percentage of female directors in themainstream film industry. Over time, inspirational female role models like Alice Guyand Dorothy Arzner have been forgotten and this has resulted in a lack of prominentfemale role models for young women. They need to be able to imagine themselves inthe director’s role. My artefact will demonstrate that it is possible for a woman tobecome a successful director by highlighting important female directors of the pastand featuring Kathryn Bigelow’s significant Oscar win in 2010. Finally the artefactwill challenge the female viewer to take action.In March 2011, an article in the main section of The Observer had the headline,“Where are all the women film directors?” The writer of the article, actress KerryFox, explained, “I think it is a lack of confidence that stops women directing, the needfor a strong sense of self and an innate sense of the right to be a director.” Nicola Leesof Women in Film and Television (WFTV) agrees. She runs a mentoring programmefor women, set up when Skillset research in 2009 revealed 5000 women had left UKmedia industry employment since the recession, compared to just 750 men. Theresearch also confirmed that women were over-qualified, overworked and underpaidin comparison to their male counterparts. Nicola says the number of women leavingthe industry in their early 30s and the shortage of female directors is often attributedto childcare but that’s not always the case. “I have 20 women on the WFTVmentoring scheme. Some have children. Some don’t. It’s about women lackingconfidence. Women need to look at their achievements and experience. Men don’tfeel that they don’t deserve to be there.”Skillset’s UK findings are reflected in the research of Professor Martha Lauzen of SanDiego State University. She carries out an annual “Celluloid Ceiling” study of women
  2. 2. working behind the scenes on the top 250 domestic grossing films. Her 2010 findingsshow 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. Lauzenhas also cited confidence as a reason. She says reporters have told her that, “whenthey talk to the guys, they can’t shut ‘em up. But when they talk to the women, it’slike pulling teeth…. Women have to promote themselves, but when they do, it’s seenas being unfeminine.” (in Cochrane, 2010)The idea that behaviour is either ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ can be linked to howpeople have come to see the role of the director on a film set. The director isconsidered to be the boss and when the boss is male it seems very natural that heshould lead. In her 1992 speech for Women in Film Crystal Awards, BarbaraStreisand made reference to the inequalities in the industry and in particular howlanguage is used to transform traits seen as positive in a male director into negativeswhen displayed by his female counterpart. She says for example a male is“uncompromising” while a female is a “ball breaker”, a man is “assertive” yet afemale is “aggressive” and when a male is said to have demonstrated “greatleadership” (Premier 1993:27)Also consider for example the coverage given to the winner of the Oscar for BestDirector in 2010, Kathyrn Bigelow. It is quite a challenge to find press coveragewhich doesn’t mention her gender yet we don’t hear or read about the ‘male director’because the role of the director is gendered as male. Streisand was presenting theaward for Best Director at the Oscars in 2010 and her first sentence was, “Fromamong the five gifted nominees tonight, the winner could be, for the first time, awoman.” On opening the envelope she announced, “Well the time has come. KathrynBigelow!” Bigelow does not refer to gender in her acceptance speech and insteadsaid, “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 thecomments made by Brad Pitt about Quentin Tarantino as part of his nomination clip.Pitt said, “It’s a director’s medium. It starts with the director and ends with thedirector. The set is church, he is God and no heretics allowed.” ( 21 Nov2011)
  3. 3. Pitt’s comments reflect the idea of the director as ‘author’ of a film. Film is one of thefew art forms which is not the work of a single author but the result of thecollaborative efforts of a very large team. As the main collaborators, the scriptwriter,producer and the director of photography are often given some credit in Oscaracceptance speeches and during a film’s promotion but it is the director to whomauthorship is attributed. This idea of director as author can be traced back to theFrench film critics of the late 1940s and 50s and their debates in French and laterBritish and American magazines about the artistic value of cinema. Critic PeterGraham suggests that an article by Alexandre Astruc, ‘The birth of a new avant-garde: La caméra-stylo’ (Écran Français 144, 1948), is the first to suggest that thedirector should be the author and the artist. Astruc writes, “Direction is no longer ameans of illustrating or presenting a scene, but a true act of writing. The film-maker/author writes with his camera and as a writer writes with his pen.” (Graham(ed), The New Wave, 1968:15)This idea was taken up by the young French film critics writing for the magazineCahiers du Cinema as a way to revive French mainstream cinema which they felt hadbecome stale and uncinematic. They enjoyed the films of Alfred Hitchcock, HowardHawks and John Ford and used these directors as examples of artists who couldachieve a distinct personal style while working within the constraints of a studiosystem. The idea was first referred to as a theory by American film critic AndrewSarris in 1962. In his article, “Notes on the Auteur Theory”, he sets down the criteriafor the auteur. A director had to possess a certain degree of technical competence, apersonal style and what Sarris termed an interior meaning or ‘subtext’ to qualify as anauteur. (in Mast (ed) 1962: 585)These criteria laid the foundations for what would beone of the most debated theories in the academic study of film for the next fewdecades. The issue for young women now is that female directors were excluded fromthese 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; theywere hardly discussed at all.This presents a problem in 2011 because young women seem to have no females inthe history of film to look to for inspiration. They seem to accept that directing is a
  4. 4. job for men and personally I’ve never heard a female student say, “I want to be adirector.” They are influenced by the statistics because they see the industry as maledominated and as Lees and Lauzen stated, they lack the confidence to visualisethemselves in that role and buck the trend. They need role models and they need toknow they have the qualities and the skills needed to make it as a director. As KateKinninmont of WFTV says, “Films should be made about people and the best personshould be doing the job whether a man or a woman. It doesn’t make sense that only afraction of women are good enough to be at the top – look at school and collegeresults.”My artefact aims to be a conversation starter for students and while primarily aimed ata female audience I believe young females will also benefit from male students beingpart of the audience because as the title of this essay suggests, it is all aboutperception. They need to see women as equals when it comes to leadership roles inthe industry. This is also why I’ve chosen to feature the Oscar win of KathrynBigelow in the film. She is only one of a number of great female directors but she willstand out for students because she has directed successful films in the action genre asopposed to drama or romantic comedy. While equality can only really ever beachieved when female directors are no longer referred to as female directors, it’sfairly impossible to make a shift in the perception of young people without anexploration of the past. That is what this artefact sets out to do.
  5. 5. BibliographyCochrane, K. (Sunday 31 January 2010). Why are there so few female film directors?.Available: Lastaccessed 06 December 2011.Graham, P J (1968). The New Wave. Secker and Warburg. p 15.Fox, K. (Sunday 20 March 2011). Where are all the women film directors? Available: Last accessed 11 December 2011.Lauzen, M. (2010). The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind the scenes Employment of Womenon the Top 250 Grossing Films. Available: Last accessed 11December 2011.Mast, Gerald, Marshall Cohen and Leo Braudy, eds. (1992) Film Theory andCriticism: Introductory Readings. 4th ed. London: Oxford University Press. p 585Premier Women in Hollywood Special, (1993) We are the Girlz in the Hood, p 27Sarris, A (1996). The American Cinema, Directions and Directions 1929 -1968. USA:1st Da Capo Press, Inc. 39-278.Skillset. (2009). 2009 Employment Census. Available: Last accessed 11 December2011.Kathryn Bigelow Winning the Oscar® for Directing - YouTube. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.<>.* Kate Kinninmont and Nicola Lees interviewed by K Ward on 02 November 2011