A lot of the things that we loved as kids, are the same kinds of things that influence and inspire us as we evolve into the adult kids we are today. Personally, I grew up with loving TMNT, X-Men, comics in general, and skateboarding. Today I still love those things and thanks to my love of skateboarding and its culture, it’s what got me into graphic design which is what I do for my full time job at an animation studio, and it was my love of comics that allowed me to find and be the writer/commenter/reviewer for Nerd News Social specializing in comic book articles. So for me, not much has changed.
I’m pretty lucky to be making a living doing what love and having fun doing stuff revolving around comic books. But what is luck? I’d say it’s a combination of passion, perseverance, imagination, and networking plus surrounding yourself with like minded and positive people who help each other become stronger. All of these things are important in pursuing what you want to be or what you want to do. Unfortunately, with proof of a few stats which I will list below, it can be incredibly hard for minorities and women to break out beyond that “glass ceiling” or move up to a certain level. As a member of WIA (Women in Animation) and representing Nerd News Social, I was very happy to attend the San Diego Comic Con panel “The Future of Film is Female”.
This panel’s goal is to conduct a new conversation about women working in genre film, the essential movies, the pioneers who paved the way, and the evolving landscape. The participating experts and filmmakers are able to give insights, discuss favorites, and share their own experiences. The panel included Fandango and TCM correspondent Alicia Malone (author, Backwards & In Heels; The Female Gaze) and featured Rachel Morrison (DP, Black Panther), Julia Hart (director, Fast Color), Gale Anne Hurd (producer, Aliens, The Walking Dead) and Jacqueline Coley (editor, Rotten Tomatoes).
I’ll go into a few points of note that were mentioned in the panel, but the number one thing I got from this and from the various talks from WIA, is that showing kids at a young age that the things they love, their TV shows, movies, comics, etc. are made by both men and women of all races and backgrounds, and the only way to keep this going, is to support each other no matter or physical differences.
- Malone opened the panel saying the Women’s Media Center and BBC America looking at Box Office Mojo and IMDB found that of all the superhero and sci-fi films made from January 2009 to December 2018 had only 14% led by women and 97% were directed by men.
- Malone continues saying Fandango did a survey of over 1000 female movie goes and found that 80% are the decision makers in what movies to choose when it comes to their families, 75% find the women roles in superhero movies are stereotypes, and 81% want to see more complex female roles in blockbusters.
- Hurd in response to women working in genre films, being that her first big break was in Terminator in 1984, about the landscape of a female producer, said that she had terrific mentors like Roger Corman and the late great Deborah Hill and organizations like Women in Film. She didn’t realize the landscape working for Corman because from her first film Humanoids from the Deep, there were so many women as writers, art directors and DPs, and she thought that was normal. But only when she left to make major feature films that she realized that there were so few women in these areas. At one point, she was even told by major players in the industry, who were men, in major departments that they would not take orders from a woman. They were shocked to hear her reply, then you will not be working on this film. It was men backing her up that allowed her to say that.
- Hart in response to a question about how she felt about being left out from making superhero movies, was that she felt that most of the stories felt like they were written by men. But thanks to people like Hurd and Morrison, being a woman behind the camera, you can just feel and tell when a story about a women, with women, have women as an involvement in the story telling and behind the camera.
- Malone states another statistic USC Annenberg put out saying that looking at 265 films between 2016 and 2018, only 8 had female cinematographers which is crazy because there is no lack of talented female cinematographers waiting for their shot. Morrison, in response to how she felt about this statistic, replied saying that she feels that woman are inherently good at this medium because they are inherently empathetic, and to her, film making is all about channeling empathy to a character. Also, if anything speaks to what women do really well, plus a lot of multi tasking which is what women also do really well, this would be something a lot of women would be a great asset for. There is no shortage of female DPs. There is a good number at the indy level and at the bigger budgets they drop out. Hopefully that is changing, it feels like it is. For Morrison, it took 8 sundance films to get into the 10M dollar films, and then into Black Panther, which is really because of Ryan (director of Black Panther) working behind the scenes who gave her the chance. She hopes those numbers will change but the numbers never made sense to her in the first place.
- Hurd is asked about the producer perspective and the hiring process and why some of these women might be left behind. She replies that she thinks that people making the higher end decisions tend to want people that they know in their circles who look like them and she has some statistics:
- Martha Lauzen from San Diego State: 2018 the top 100 films, 18% had women producers and executive producers, 15% women writers, 14% women editors, 4% women editors, and 3% women cinematographers.
- In directing, with the top 100 films, the percent of women peaked in 1998 and we have not hit that level since.
- Hurd continues that ReFrame is a partnership between Sundance and Women In Film LA and they award points for women in key positions. You get a logo to put on your film or TV series. And that is when you achieve gender parity and it’s something we should all be looking for.
- Hart, speaking about her film Fast Color, hopes that like this film, that we can have more representative casts without a story explicitly about race. About having a movie about people as individuals and of course have things about their culture and background. Having experiences that people get to tell which are stories bigger than themselves.
- Coley, is asked about the importance and benefits of representation of other genders and races of people as critiques of film reviews. She states that its the level of authenticity that the eyes of these different critiques of color are able to comment on and see. Unfortunately there is a huge amount of infrastructure and gate keeping that needs to die to allow this level of critiques to happen. Having diverse critiques will have a more accurate representation of the critical community to the audience who are able to see it.
There are many ways to help support equality in film, in comics, in just about anything. It can be as easy as talking about it because a lot of people may not realize it. You can write a review about something you watched or read and share these points. You can support these projects by purchasing a ticket, or pre order, so that the financiers know how important these kinds of projects are. You can join a community such as WIF (Women in Film) or WIA (Women in Animation) to help support the cause. Or you can even share this article talking about it. Whatever you do, just know that every little bit helps.