By Ryan Faughnder Los Angeles Times.
It's no secret that Hollywood has a diversity problem when it comes to gender.
According to a study released this month by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media and USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, just 7% of major film directors around the world are women.
Now, with the online revival of the popular "Twilight Saga" franchise, movie studio Lionsgate and the Facebook social network are looking for at least five more.
The companies are teaming with the nonprofit organization Women in Film and the crowd-sourcing company Tongal in a campaign to make a series of short films directed by aspiring female filmmakers and based on characters from the "Twilight" books by Stephenie Meyer.
To bring back the franchise, the studio and its partners are relying on an elaborate online contest and a hoped-for deluge of fan feedback on social media.
A panel including the likes of Meyer and "Twilight" actress Kristen Stewart will choose the five winning short films, which will be financed through advances.
The companies said fans will eventually help choose a final winning filmmaker, who will get money and career opportunities.
In its study of about 5,800 speaking or named characters on screen, the Geena Davis Institute said women accounted for 31% of those roles, and 23% of leads or co-leads.
However, movies with prominent female characters have lately done well at the box office.
Just this summer, there was Disney's Angelina Jolie-fronted "Maleficent" ($240.4 million in domestic ticket sales), Universal Pictures' "Lucy" ($125.5 million) starring Scarlett Johansson and the teen cancer drama "The Fault in our Stars" ($124.8 million) starring Shailene Woodley.
"The female voice is something that has become more and more important to me as I've worked in the film industry," Meyer said in a statement on the short-film project.
She would know about the power of the female voice. Sales of her books, largely driven by female consumers, have totaled 120 million copies, and the five "Twilight Saga" movies have resulted in $3.3 billion in global box office.