The Sundance Institute Wants To Help Women In Film

There is a lot of attention on women in film right now with the Sundance Film Festival taking placing in Utah right now and film awards season in full swing (the Oscar nominations come out later this morning.) And at Sundance this week it was announced that both the Sundance Institute and Women In Film Los Angeles will collaborate to support independent women filmmakers working in both narrative and documentary feature film. 

Cathy Schulman, President of Women In Film Los Angeles, said during the announcement, “Studies have shown that women make up just 16% of the behind the scenes crew on domestically produced commercial films.   We want to commit our collective Women In Film and Sundance Institute influence and resources to make sure women beginning their filmmaking career at Sundance Institute continue to have a support system all along the way.  We want to encourage long and productive careers for these women, in hopes that they will pave the way to increasing the overall number of films made for and by women into the future.”

Initiatives like this are much needed as only 7% of the top 250 top-grossing films released in 2010 were directed by women, 10% were written by women and 24% were produced by women. Early research shows that when the number of women in behind the camera roles increases, so do the roles for women in front of the camera and so does the content interesting to women and girls worldwide. Only 7% of the 3,879 feature films in both narrative and documentary categories submitted to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival were directed by women. While the number of films made by women as directors and producers is higher in the independent film world, and particularly among documentary films, there remains a marked disparity between the numbers of feature length films completed by male versus female filmmakers.

The initial goals for this collaboration this year are to get people to think about these numbers regarding women’s progress in the film industry;  to follow the 2012 Sundance Institute “class” of female Festival filmmakers, Fund and Lab filmmakers to analyze challenges they may face moving projects forward; and finally to formulate a vision for what can be done by both institutions’ programs. The efforts will focus on supporting opportunities or paths toward sustained careers, inclusivity and parity, and the diversity in the content and backgrounds of women filmmakers. In addition, Women In Film has agreed to co-program a symposium in Los Angeles with Sundance Institute spotlighting the challenges facing independent women filmmakers, and to open up their mentorship and career counseling programs to Sundance Institute supported filmmakers where they will receive guidance, mentoring, and business and creative support services. Hollywood legend Jane Fonda recently said, “Until more women wield the power to decide what movies and TV shows get made, Hollywood culture won’t really yield all the fascinating complexities that are the realities of women’s lives,” she said. “Until then, we’re accepting supporting roles in an industry many of us have devoted our lives to.”

We are also seeing these kinds of declining numbers for women in the television industry. According to a new study the number of women both in front of and behind the camera is on the decline in television. Women comprised 15% of writers on the prime-time dramas, comedies and reality shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW, down from 29% in the 2009-10 season, according to the report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. In the directing ranks, it found, 11% were women, compared with 16% the previous year. “It is my impression that women are still viewed as “riskier hires” and, as a result, are not considered for the big-budget, high-profile films and/or films in genres other than romantic comedy and romantic drama,” Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D and director of the Center of The Study Of Women In Television and Film. said in an interview last year.


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