There might be a reason for a lack of female directors

I know nothing about film nor auteurs. I do have at least a vague grasp of markets:

Twenty-five years ago this month, Jane Campion became the first, and so far the only, female director to win the Cannes film festival, with her wild gothic tale of repression and obsession, The Piano. When Campion broke through and was recognised as an auteur by her male peers – with the Palme d’Or and three Oscars in her handbag – feminists assumed that more women artists would follow in her wake. They were wrong.

There was no great bursting of the financial and cultural dam that held back women film-makers. Instead their work filtered through in drips, excluded from directing blockbusters, and excluded from competition at Cannes and other festivals. “I think we got caught in a complicated supplicancy, a very sophisticated supplicancy,” says Campion.

But now, a quarter of a century later, Campion feels that time is up for supplicancy as the #MeToo movement reverberates in the film industry and beyond. “Right now, we’re in a really special moment. I’m so excited about it. It’s like the Berlin wall coming down, like the end of apartheid. I think we have lived in one of the more ferocious patriarchal periods of our time, the 80s, 90s and noughties. Capitalism is such a macho force. I felt run over.”

Dipping croissants into coffee in Soho on a trip from her home in New Zealand to London, Campion seems the last person anyone would dare to run over, with her iron will, silver hair and ready laugh. But even after The Piano’s success, Campion’s journey was never easy, and her insistence on a stubbornly female gaze in her work did not translate into big box office returns.

That last line being fairly important, no? A film takes some multiples of decamillions of dollars to make and show worldwide. A major studio movie does at least. The people who cough up that cash would quite like to have their money back too.

If female directors making feminist films made beaucoup de cash then investors would line up to pay for them. They don’t, apparently, so…….

And, so?

The market – note, not capitalism – gets what the market wants. This is even so if there are some millions of women out there who wish to see a film based upon feminist principles and stories. Market demand rather calling forth its own supply.

32 comments on “There might be a reason for a lack of female directors

  1. I think we have lived in one of the more ferocious patriarchal periods of our time, the 80s, 90s and noughties. Capitalism is such a macho force. I felt run over.

    Yes. Quite. When I see Quentin Tarrantino I think there goes a man equivalent to a 10 on the macho Beaufort Scale.

    Campion’s journey was never easy, and her insistence on a stubbornly female gaze in her work did not translate into big box office returns

    The problem is that middle aged women do not go to see films. They have families to look after. Teenage boys do. Which means that if girls go to see a film, they go to see one their boyfriend likes. By preference, a horror film or the like which can enable everyone to live the fantasy of the boy being strong, male, and protective.

    The female gaze just means a film that not even women want to watch.

    It is time to accept that women just cannot survive in a male workforce and reintroduce a genteel segregation. Women can be nurses and the like. Men can get on with running the world. Pretty much what happens now but with a lot fewer people working in HR.

  2. Jane Campion became the first, and so far the only, female director to win the Cannes film festival, with her wild gothic tale of repression and obsession, The Piano.

    Women are free to make any film they like, but for some reason they keep making the same damn one.

    In fairness I suppose men do too. It is just that The Dirty Dozen starring Clint Eastwood or Arnold or even Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Steve Austin *and* Mickey Rourke is much more entertaining. Unless it is a remake of the Magnificent Seven. Then it sucks.

  3. It would seem that it’s utterly beyond women to build their own production company to make films from a womans point of view, run and financed entirely by women.
    Or are women just trying to guilt men into giving them more money and prizes?

  4. What SMFS says, only teenage boys (and their girlfriends) watch movies at the cinema. There are plenty of TV films aimed at women – the Hallmark channel’s entire output – so the correct metric is how many of those films are directed by women? (Not many, I’ll wager.)

  5. ”The problem is that middle aged women do not go to see films. They have families to look after. Teenage boys do.”

    Not quite – unless you’re telling us it was teenage boys queuing up to watch crap like the 50 shades film?

    Of course this also helps Tim’s point; women seem to prefer dross like 50 shades to Worthy Feminist stuff.

  6. Salma Hayek had a moan about this recently, yet seemed to be incapable of getting anymore female directors in charge of films despite her husband having $25bn or so.

    If she can’t convince her hubby to invest in these films, who the hell else will?

  7. Wes Anderson made Bottle Rocket (the short) for $4,000 and it launched his career. And his films are not exactly mass-market blockbusters.

    If you’ve got talent, you will succeed.

  8. @David Moore – good point. And Hayek must be wealthy in her own right.

    Why can’t the 100 richest women in Tinseltown each chip in $1m and raise the same from their worthiest chums.

    That $200m could be used to back budding directors, producers and writers. Remember they don’t need to fund a blockbuster, they just need to support people and projects until they get studio funding.

    The contributors to the fund could also commit to, say, 40 hours per year of mentoring. A week’s work and $1m to back women in Hollywood.

    Except they won’t. Because the gulf between wealthy women moaning about the plight of their sisters and the help they actually dole out is gigantic.

  9. Look, the woman is obviously a monster, why are we paying any attention? Dipping croissants into coffee, it’s just immoral.

  10. Most women don’t like feminist marx-shite. Tough for the bag.

    Here’s an idea. Drop the leftist cockrot and make a harrowing film about the millions of women and children murdered by socialism so far. A matter that should indeed come under the “female gaze”.

    That won’t get her an award from CM scum. But when the time comes she could go to meet her ancestors without feeling ashamed.

  11. ‘Campion feels that time is up for supplicancy as the #MeToo movement reverberates in the film industry and beyond. “Right now, we’re in a really special moment.’

    No. It’s completely pretend. No one else cares.

    BWTM.

    A movie director has to tell people they sound like shit. “Do it again.”

    “Once more, WITH FEELING!”

    I don’t know many women who could do it.

  12. Hector Drummond, Vile Novelist – “And guess what — there are bucketloads of female authors, far more than male ones.”

    And women, by and large, write garbage that is read only by other women. J. K. Rowling being a partial exception. Some, like Jane Austen, write very good garbage but again the description of Jane Campion’s works “her wild gothic tale of repression and obsession” covers pretty much 90% of what women write.

    There is a market for it. Just as there is a market for novels about women taken prisoner and raped by dinosaurs. But no one is ever going to remember much written by a woman.

  13. @MrEcks:

    “.. make a harrowing film about the millions of women and children murdered by socialism so far.”

    How about a film depicting the suffering of the thousands of English girls whose lives have been ‘enriched’ by diversity? That could legitimately be from an exclusively female PoV.

    I wonder if Ms Campion would be interested?

  14. The quote was that she had a “female gaze,” not a “feminist gaze.” I saw The Piano and found it a bore. Well, it had beautiful photography, but doesn’t everything, going back to before when it came out?. But it didn’t even occur to me that it might be presenting a feminist view. I don’t think it does.

  15. P.S. The film won 3 academy awards as well as Cannes and many others, and I believe it was a commercial success. This would seem to belie your conclusion.

    From Wikipedia: “In July 2013, Campion revealed that she originally intended for the main character to drown in the sea after going overboard after her piano.”

    I probably would have liked the film better had she been able to keep her original ending. Darker, and, you know, less romantic. More or less feminist? I really don’t know. But usually, darker is better.

    Maybe the problem is just that there aren’t enough chicks like her. 🙂

  16. And women, by and large, write garbage that is read only by other women. J. K. Rowling being a partial exception.

    I presume you mean Rowling writes garbage that is also read by some blokes.

  17. You go to a bank with a high-risk investment….
    Even if they take more thana cursory look at it, the answer will most likely be between “no” and “hell no!”.

    Shouting “but I’m a Wommaaaaannnn!!” wil get you how far, exactly?

  18. SMFS
    ” But no one is ever going to remember much written by a woman.”
    Mary Shelly?

  19. Mohave Greenie – “Mary Shelly?”

    I don’t think that women are stupid. I don’t think they are genetically inferior. I just think that being a good author is a fairly hard road with a lot of rejection – and being a good female author does not get you laid. Look at Jane Austen. So what is the point? It does get geeky men laid so they do it. Look at Lord Byron.

    So it is not a surprise that a woman who hung out with a bunch of sexual freaks should have come as close as anyone. At least most people have *heard* of her book.

    Although you would expect more nuns to have written.

  20. Being a film director (and the vast majority are not famous/wealthy) almost always entails for at least long stretches of a working life:

    – massive financial insecurity; literally not knowing when/if the next pay cheque will arrive this year, next year, never
    – a need to obsessively carry on, despite constant, often brutal, rejection
    – work which is exceedingly tough, physically and mentally, if you are doing it right
    – having zero social life, at least for months on end during production
    – being away from home, often in unpleasant surroundings, for months/years on end
    – being constantly badgered to make decisions every second of every day any one of which could have a price tag of thousands
    – being hated by upwards of a hundred people at a time on a set when you are asking people to work longer/harder to achieve what might seem to them a trivial difference but makes all the difference in the cinema
    – having the end result of years of hard work being held up for public examination/derision
    – then having to pick yourself up and go through it all again

    I could go on.

    I’ll leave it to the judgement of readers which sex, on average, is more likely to put up with this as a life.

    PS there have been accomplished female film directors throughout film history – Alice Guy, Dorothy Arzner, Wendy Toye, Ida Lupino, Leni Riefenstahl…. ooops, there’s one who may not make it as a feminist icon.

  21. It seems, and research seems to bear this out, that the single- and bloody-mindedness necessary to carry major projects singularly likely to fail through to a successful conclusion is a praticularly male trait.

    I would love to be a successful Brad Pitt or Leo Messi, but I ain’t got it and I ain’t prepared to try, but you should give me the money anyway because….

    I have often thought like MC. Do it your bloody selves, you lazy XXXXXX. Gang up together. The sisterhood can do anything they set their minds to……

  22. Parents tell girls, “Don’t be movie directors. You’ll end up like Jane Champion.”

  23. She made a TV show called Top of the lake where all the women characters were feisty and marvellous and all the men were stupid, criminal and or rapists. Classic Kiwi/Aussie feminist TV that gets commissioned by Feminists working with state money (BBC in this instance). As you say, it’s how ,arrest work. (Also why black panther will almost certainly not do well in China)

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.