Despite Some Gains, Female Directors Still Face A Bleak Future In Hollywood

By Rebecca Keegan
Los Angeles Times.

As a viewer, I greet the arrival of a new film directed by a woman with anticipation.

I love Nancy Meyers’ intrepid heroines and Kathryn Bigelow’s tense set pieces and Ava DuVernay’s human moments. Would a male director have shown us the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. bagging the kitchen garbage, as DuVernay did in “Selma?” Maybe, but probably not.

Watching a movie directed by a woman, I assume I’ll be spared certain annoyances, long tracking shots of a supermodel’s butt, 20 minutes spent destroying a computer-generated city, rape scenes shot with the emotional consideration of a car chase.

This month, four very different films directed by women arrive in theaters in wide release, Angelina Jolie-Pitt’s period romance “By the Sea,” Catherine Hardwicke’s female friendship drama “Miss You Already,” Jessie Nelson’s Christmas comedy “Love the Coopers” and Patricia Riggen’s survival tale “The 33.”

In an industry where, according to research conducted by The Times, USC and others, only 4 percent of studio films are directed by women, this should be an indicator of a positive counter-trend, a fist-bump-worthy, feminist moment in cinema.

So why instead do I feel so queasy?

Because we’ve had such moments before, and the way previous generations of female directors have fared makes me wary of any premature celebrations.

Women, from silent-film-era trailblazer Lois Weber to 1970s and ’80s comedy auteur Elaine May to Hardwicke herself after she directed the 2008 box office hit “Twilight,” have been subjected to higher standards and lower rewards than their male peers in Hollywood.

Once female directors get the job, the potential roadblocks to career advancement are numerous and varied and include studio expectations, the critical establishment and peer networks.

Consider that when Hardwicke, who made back more than 10 times her production budget on “Twilight,” asked for more time to work on the sequel, she was replaced, while the maker of another wildly profitable fantasy film, “Avatar’s” James Cameron, has been allowed to push back the timeline for his sequels repeatedly.

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