International Women’s Day - missing when they shout ‘Action!’

This International Women’s Day (Monday, March 8), cast your mind towards the screen.

It’s not just science where we’re missing female talent.

With the growth of streaming services more films to watch at your fingertips than ever before - how many of your favourite films are actually made by women?

Only five women have ever been nominated for best director at the Academy Awards. Kathryn Bigelow for the The Hurt Locker in 2010 is the only female director to win the Oscar in the ceremony’s 93-year history.

In 78 years, only eight female directors have been nominated for a Golden Globe, and only two woman had ever won in the best director category - Barbra Streisand in 1983 for the film Yentl and now Chloé Zhao in 2021 for Nomadland.

In the last 10 years there have been 50 Bafta nominations for Best Director - only two of them have been women - Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 and 2012 for Zero Dark Thirthy, and Lynne Ramsay in 2011 for We Need To Talk About Kevin.

MetFilm School at the famous Ealing Studios recommends: 16 films directed by women

• Portrait of a Lady on Fire - Céline Sciamma

• Fish Tank – Andrea Arnold

• Cameraperson – Kirsten Johnson

• 13th – Ava DuVernay

• You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay

• Mustang – Deniz Gamze Erguven

• Animals – Sophie Hyde

• Orlando – Sally Potter

• Cleo from 5 to 7 – Agnes Varda

• Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

• The Piano – Jane Campion

• Frances Ha – Greta Gerwig

• High Life - Claire Denis

• Appropriate Behaviour - Desiree Akhavan

• Selma – Ava DuVernay

• Nomadland - Chloé Zhao

Are the screen industries male and stale?

A recent skills audit of the UK Film Industry by the Work Foundation for the BFI found that the industry is severely lacking in female talent.

Lack of diversity is regarded as the biggest challenge facing the film and screen industries.

Ethnic minorities, women and particularly those with caring responsibilities, those with disabilities and people from less advantaged backgrounds, face the biggest challenges in entering and progressing in the industry.

In 2015, just 14.4% of writers involved in UK films and 9.4% of directors were female.

This research also shows that films with female writers and producers consistently outperform male-driven projects but receive far less financing.

Despite high return on investment figures, on average films directed by women receive 63% less distribution than those directed by men.

We’ve been ‘bellyaching’ about this for years, what are we actually doing about it?

On the face of it, there’s never been a better time to consider a career in the screen industry – the creative industries in the UK is officially booming !

Official figures for 2020 show a £2.84 billion spend in the UK for film and high-end TV production, despite months of suspended filming due to Covid-19. This figure shows a drop of just 21% on the 2019 high, despite disrupted production schedules over five to six months.

The industry showed a strong recovery in the final quarter of 2020 generating a healthy £1.19 billion spend for film and high-end TV, the third highest 3-month spend on record.

Inward investment and co-production spend on film and high-end TV in the UK reached £2.36 billion, which represents 83% of the entire production spend, underlining the UK’s global reputation as the world-leading centre for film and TV production.

So, where are the women?

We spoke to Rachel Wood, Deputy Director of London’s MetFilm School. A specialist film school offering degrees, postgraduate qualifications and professional training based at the famous Ealing Studios.

“Our student body is about 50-50 split when it comes to gender, this hasn’t happened by accident and it shouldn’t be exceptional.

“Historically, the film industry could have been considered a bit of a ‘closed’ shop. In that respect it hasn’t been that far removed professions such as Law or even Medicine.

“At MetFilm School we’ve been trying to change that for a few years and take some real, positive action on addressing the ‘closedness’ of the industry, and help to create a diverse and exciting pipeline of future talent.”

OK, what have you done?

1 “We developed two state-funded degrees through ScreenSpace. Working with the University of West London we have been able to create these degrees that still afford unrivalled access to the industry and its professionals while at the same time removing many of the barriers that have stopped some women and people from an ethnic minority background from coming here, or to schools like ours.

“Funding is a major barrier, but because we’ve developed these two state-funded degrees, coming here now shouldn’t be any costlier than attending any university in England.

“Making ourselves and our expertise accessible to as wide an audience as possible will only serve to benefit the industry.

2 “We run a special scholarship: Voices That Matter Scholarship has long been important to MetFilm School since its launch in 2009. The idea was always to open up opportunities to students with something important to say, who would not otherwise be able to access the unique educational experience we offer - whether that’s because of funding, political or personal circumstances, societal prejudice.

In 2019 we launched our the Voices That Matter Scholarship: Women in the Screen Industries, supported by MTV Staying Alive Foundation – one scholarship per campus: one in London and one in Berlin. We wanted to open up the school to people who have through no fault of their own a greater barrier than others to overcome. Applications for this year’s award are open until the 30th April 2021.

3. “Our tutors: We have worked hard to increase our tutor gender balance in the past two years particularly in the area of directing. We now have 73 regular or visiting female tutors and 17 of those are directing tutors.”