In April of this year and again in November, the LA Weekly ran a two-part article on the way Hollywood treats women like second-class citizens. The author goes into detail describing the various ways that male studio execs stifle women’s voices. She interviews a number of women, and some men, all of whom confirm that women have a much harder time landing directing gigs, getting scripts produced, and even getting equal pay for work.
It’s pretty depressing, but hardly surprising. Just like every other corporate culture around the globe, Hollywood is dominated by highly-competitive men who see no reason to share power unless they’re forced to. I’d love to see this change, but I doubt that the solutions that are being debated will have any lasting impact. You’re going to shame these guys into sharing power? Good luck. They have no shame. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the endless parade of stupid, empty action films that the studios churn out. Sue the studios? They have lawyers who can drag these things out for years. Even if a settlement offered some concessions, who’s going to enforce them?
So what’s my solution? Let’s take a look at Alice Guy, a pioneering filmmaker who started her career in the nineteenth century. Guy is one of the first people to ever shoot a movie, and after a successful directing career she started her own studio, the Solax Company, in 1910. Acting as a producer and director, Guy made hundreds of films for Solax, and while the studio eventually collapsed, for years Guy was one of the most powerful people in the industry.
I think women filmmakers need to follow Guy’s example. Don’t wait around for the alpha males in Hollywood to change the situation. The change has to come from outside. I realize that building a movie studio takes years, and that there are plenty of roadblocks. Finding financing, getting distribution, putting together a production schedule, all those things are major hurdles. But there are thousands of women in Hollywood who have the intelligence and talent to make it happen, and many of them would probably be willing to give up some compensation for a chance to make movies they believed in.
Hollywood has always been dominated by men, and as long as the billions keep rolling in from the endless rounds of worthless blockbusters, they won’t see any reason to change. The only thing more important to these guys than money is power, and they won’t give anything up unless they have to.
Which is why I say, don’t ask for power. Take it.
If you’re interested in reading the Weekly articles, here are the links.
And if you don’t know about Alice Guy, I urge you to read up on this phenomenal woman. I’m including two links below. There are many gaps in our knowledge of her career, and you’ll find the articles offer conflicting information. What is undisputed is that she was one of the earliest film pioneers, she made one of the first narrative films, and she experimented with sound and color long before Hollywood even existed.