Woman Up

HE reader Jenny Frankfurt submitted this Cannes-related guest piece yesterday — one that may not endear her to women who’ve complained about the lack of a female-directed film at this just-concluded gathering. She’s basically saying that discrimination is a problem, but that it serves a kind of Darwinian purpose. Frankfurt is with the LA-based High Street Management, a division of Bohemia Entertainment. [Note: I trimmed the original down a bit.]

“There has been some discussion that none of the 18 films chosen for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival were directed by a woman,” Frankfurt begins. “The suggestion was that festival organizers might have deliberately shunned such films. Perhaps, but perhaps there weren’t any female-directed films that were good enough for Cannes.

“Granted, it’s harder to make it as a female director than a male. Studios are less willing to take risks and for anyone, male or female, independent financing is difficult to find. Some have made it through and the road has been long for their films to be recognized by commercial audiences or even to get anything but very limited distribution. Kathryn Bigelow, Nicole Holofcener, Lisa Cholodenko and Debra Granik have made it through, but many more female filmmakers throughout the world are making films that are not getting seen. Why?

“I just have to throw out the idea that perhaps, in this male dominated business of
filmmaking, men make better films. It is still a ‘male sport’ and women are catching up. I know many females who have graduated from film school and haven’t produced anything of great note. It might be worth considering that there is something called ‘positive discrimination.’

“The head of Women in Film and Television has said that the gap between male and female filmmakers is a ‘cultural thing’, and that it will take time for women to catch
up with men for many reasons. One is that women make more short films as calling cards, because ostensibly they are not given the money for a feature or cannot raise it. Can an independent producer not raise money on the back of a talented female director? I hardly think so. I have represented female directors and they have worked. I have represented male directors and they have not.

“Women directed 7% of last year’s 250 top grossing films. The year before that is
was less and the year before that it was less. So as slow as it may be, as in every
industry, it is building. Women started off at the back of the bus and are working
their way forward. It takes time for every minority to catch up.

“It is mostly ardent feminists who call out what they describe as discrimination
of women at Cannes, and while they are not wrong in that there were no female
directed films, I challenge them to find one that should have been there but wasn’t and really should have been there. There is never any point in laying blame; one always has to look within when something is seemingly amiss. One cannot always blame those in charge for having tunnel vision; the creatives have to produce material that is of quality, and because there are more male filmmakers, more men get recognized.

“It must be known as well that this is a worldwide issue. All films this year that won
awards were not from the U.S. so it is not a Hollywood issue but as mentioned, a
cultural one. And yes, it is a problem.

“Hollywood and the rest of the international filmmaking community need to be open to women, but I don’t believe they are closed. I am in it every day and the door is open, it’s just that the talent has to be strong enough to walk through it.”