This year’s Academy Awards nominees included no females in the Best Director category. It’s nothing new.
Since the first Academy Awards in 1929, only five women have been nominated for Best Director and 13 female-directed films have been nominated for Best Picture. From those nominees, only one woman has won Best Director and only one female-directed film has won Best Picture.
Radio-television-film lecturer Jennifer McClearen isn’t surprised by this year’s all-male director nominees. She said it’s an all-too-common occurrence, because female filmmakers face many barriers to success. Some of these barriers include the stereotypes of women not being leaders or not being able to work under pressure, which are common qualities Hollywood looks for in a director.
“It’s a vicious cycle. Hollywood wants directors who have proven themselves and show that they can manage a major film,” McClearen said. “If women don’t get the initial opportunity, then they never have a chance to show that they can succeed at such a major task.”
Despite the lack of women nominees, 2018 saw several women-led and directed films, such as the critically acclaimed “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” the beloved rom-com “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” as well as Sandi Tan’s fascinating documentary “Shirkers.”
While it’s hard for women, it’s even harder for transgender women to receive recognition, radio-television-film senior Ilana Mittleman said. 2017’s “A Fantastic Woman” is the only film with an openly transgender female lead to win an Academy Award. Mittleman says she very rarely sees herself represented on screen, with the exception of last year’s “Assassination Nation” starring Hari Nef, a transgender actress and model.
“It shouldn’t matter if you’re a guy or girl but that you tell a truly good, honest story that speaks to a lot of people,” Mittleman said. “But with that being said, I do hope more women, people of color, trans women in particular, are given the same opportunities that men are. I want to see us on the same playing field.”
One way to combat this is an inclusion rider. An inclusion rider is a contract addition where actors and actresses can require a certain amount of diversity within their project’s cast and crew. McClearen said it’s a great way to diversify Hollywood. She said it gives women and people of color the chance to meet more people and work on big productions.
“Men in power should make a commitment to offering informal opportunities and connections to aspiring women directors as they do to men,” McClearen said. Which is why inclusion riders are important in terms of mentorship and networking, said McClearen.
Radio-television-film Audrey Griffin and Mittleman both agree that while the lack of representation at awards can be discouraging, they’ve found support in their peers and with their personal directing projects. They have hope that things will start to change.
“Hopefully, things change from board members at big production companies to directors,” Griffin said. “Be more inclusive of women, LGBTQ people and people of color because the industry needs to really just become more reflective of the makeup of the world.”