Women in Filmmaking

Over the last couple of years, there has been more of a push for women's representation on the big and little screens. While strides have been made, there's still a ways to go. As of 2019, only 21% of people working in the top 100 grossing films were women. Black women, women of color, trans women, and disabled women are still underrepresented in directing, writing, and other behind the scenes employment in film and television. Countless points of view and stories are left untold.

I remember not paying attention to who the directors, writers, producers, film editors, and other roles were behind the scenes until I was in high school. It wasn't until I watched the movie Lost in Translation, written and directed by Sophia Coppola, that I knew anything about women involved in filmmaking besides acting. I began to read more of the back of DVD boxes to see who wrote, directed, produced and had other behind the scenes involvement. Most of the time I would see men's names listed on the credits. There are, of course, famous female filmmakers, but what about other behind the scenes roles? As I was researching this blog post, I found out that film editor positions are a few female-dominated areas of Hollywood. A few famous film editors include Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, Goodfellas), Joi McMillon (Moonlight), and Sally Menke (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs). The more behind-scenes roles I looked at (sound editing, cinematographers, film composers, animation, etc.), the more I realized how little women were involved in those areas. While it is astonishing, it is also not surprising. There is so much gatekeeping within the creative fields, especially in film and television.

Suppose you are interested in getting into making movies, whether for an audience of a few or many; there are some Lynda courses that are at your fingertips. They have courses ranging from creating a short film to using Adobe Premier. You can access these through our website and by logging into Lynda with your library credentials. When the Sound + Vision studio opens up again, we also have spaces and computers with film editing software such as Adobe Premier, iMovie and Final Cut Pro.

Whether you want to expand your movie-watching horizons or get some inspiration, we have a wide selection of our physical movie collection and streaming capabilities on Kanopy. The next time you select a movie to watch, take a look at who is behind the scenes. It may surprise you. Here are a couple of my favorites and some that are on my to-be watched list.

The Farewell - Written and directed by Lulu Wang. A Chinese- American family finds out their grandmother has terminal cancer. They cannot tell her and decide to throw an elaborate fake party as a way to gather the family. I have not seen this movie yet but it has been on my watchlist for a while.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour. A romantic/vampire/western-inspired movie set in an Iranian ghost town. There is a girl that is able to wander through the streets when she meets a man that has his own personal problems. It is one of my favorite movies in the last ten years. The way it is filmed is so crisp with an absorbing story, you can't help but get caught up in the story.

Cleo from 5 to 7 - Written and directed by Agnes Varda. We follow a French pop singer for a couple hours as she waits to hear if she has cancer. In the meantime, she tries to distract herself from the problem but cannot seem to escape her own thoughts about death and meaning in life. Only recently, I watched this French New Wave classic and I have to say it is a new favorite of mine. I can see how influential Varda's film is on modern filmmakers.

The Virgin Suicides - Written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, the teenage Lisbon sisters have an air of mystery to them that has their Grosse Pointe, Michigan neighbors gossiping. Set to an incredible soundtrack by the duo Air with some great performances from Kirsten Dunst and Kathleen Turner, this was another favorite of mine from my teenage years.

Skate Kitchen - Written by Aslihan Unaldi, Crystal Moselle, and Jennifer Silverman, directed by Crystal Moselle. A girl from Long Island, New York follows a female skate crew called the Skate Kitchen. She longs to skateboard with the gnarly group despite her mother's wishes not to have her skate. You don't have to be a skateboarder to enjoy this movie that explores friendship, dreams, and heartbreak.

Daughters of the Dust - Written and directed by Julie Dash. The story is about a family that lives on an island off the coast of South Carolina during the early 20th century. They contemplate between leaving for the main land, while still holding on to their cultural heritage. It was the first movie written and directed by a black female director to have a wide release. In recent years, the movie continues to inspire such as having influence parts of Beyonce's Lemonade.

-Margaret Burke is a Technology Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.