The filmmaking industry is a tough one to conquer, especially so for women. There has been a long-held archetype in the film industry where men are the predominate directors. Not only are there very few women directors, in nearly a century of Oscar history, only four female filmmakers have been nominated for their directorial achievements: Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker). The only woman actually win an Oscar remains Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, and no woman has been nominated for Best Director in the last six years. Not only do we have an apparent underrepresentation of women in the industry and represented as honorees of the Academy Awards, but female actors are still a minority and underpaid in the industry when compared to male counterparts.
A recent study has discovered that over the past decade, out of all of those individuals who have scored non-acting nominations, only 19% were women.
Great female filmmakers are still being passed over to this day, but their voice is being heard in the industry ever more loudly than before, thanks in large part to television. Thanks to indie filmmaking, and companies like Netflix, HBO, OWN, and FX, the industry is allowing us to see more race and gender diversity in writer’s rooms, behind the cameras, in the director’s chair, and on screen. Along with shows like Atlanta, Broad City, and Transparent, who are putting more women, people of color, and transgendered people into professional positions on screen and behind the scenes, Ava DuVernay’s new drama, Queen Sugar is a prime example of this.
Ava DuVernay is known to be a model to the industry of filmmaking that struggles with diversity. Her new show has quite the buzz for having a cast that is predominantly black, a more diverse writer’s room and having picked an all-female pan of directors for the show’s first season. She has certainly opened a much awaited opportunity for female filmmakers to showcase their directing talents in the small screen.
It was in 2013 when she was working with Selma, her Oscar-nominated film while also directing an episode for the ABC drama, Scandal. Then she made history with her second film, Middle of Nowhere. She became the very first African-American female to ever win a Best Director award at the Sundance Film Festival.
The seven directors slated for the Queen Sugar show include some of the prominent names in the industry such as Neema Barnette, the first African American female to direct a sitcom. Others directors for the forthcoming episodes of the show includes indie filmmakers Tina Mabry, Kat Candler and actress-director Salli Richardson-Whitfield.
The number of women working in film industry is still relatively bleak. There is a slight increase from the previous season in the 2015-2016 television season, but between two of the largest movie studios in Hollywood, 20th Century Fox and Paramount, there are no films at all by female directors coming out between now and 2018. All of the 22 movies being released by Fox and the 25 by Paramount will be directed by men.
When it came to directors of color, there is still a dismal number accounted for. Hopefully in the coming years of women, people of color, and queer/trans artists will be given the opportunity to showcase that they have the skill to bring the best films cinema and television.