“When you see the same kinds of stories over and over from the same perspective, it’s not representative of people living in society; women’s voices are certainly marginalized and women of colour are basically erased.” – Amy Adrion
Half The Picture (2018), directed by Amy Adrion, comes at a pivotal moment for gender equality in Hollywood. Successful women directors tell the stories of their art, lives, and careers in a film that doesn’t pull any punches about what the realities are for women in the industry, specifically in Hollywood. Nevertheless, it still manages to offer an inspiring sense of fight and hope and the first glimpse of a future that values women directors’ voices equally to those of men.
Amy Adrion’s documentary feature began life being funded solely on credit cards, similar to many of us starting our projects, and gathered momentum as more interviews were conducted and finances were confirmed, and as #MeToo unfolded. Half The Picture presents facts and anecdotes from women directors that work across a range of films and documentaries all the way from the indie market up to and including big budget studio films. The women discuss the realities of getting films financed, dealing with male colleagues challenging their authority and their experience, and also the demands of the job – working in film as a mother often means leaving young children behind while being on location weeks on end.
The statistics that the film shows are as expected, but are particularly awful if you are a director from a BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnicity) background. Female BAME existence in the film world borders on invisibility: 0.006% of directors working in Hollywood are from BAME backgrounds. There is also a correlation between lower budget documentary/narrative films and the number of female directors who are working in this space. Then, conversely, as the budgets grow, the number of women securing directing roles begins to decline there – save, of course, some rare successes.
Adrion is quick to debunk the myth that if your work is good enough you’ll succeed no matter what your gender, saying: ‘That’s exactly what’s been happening for the past 100 years. Only white men have been considered for every job in Hollywood forever; they have been favoured over everybody else. So it’s frustrating because a lot of white male directors will say “it’s a tough time to be a white male director, they’re only looking for women” and you’re like, maybe they’re looking for women a little bit, but it’s not like women are now directing 96 percent of movies’.
Over the last year, we have seen some groundbreaking moments, from the release of Wonder Woman, with Patty Jenkins back to direct the next installment; to Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird which led to an Oscar nomination for her; to Ava DuVernay’s much-awaited A Wrinkle In Time, which had production and marketing budgets of around US$200 million and US$250 million respectively, making her the first African-American woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of that size, and which has also now exceeded the US$100 million mark at the box office.
All three films have done well and so their impact will continue to be felt in more female-led films both behind and in front of the camera. Half The Picture should be required viewing for anyone in the industry regardless of gender, as it is the gatekeepers who we need to continue to lobby for change.
This Article was written by Zam Naqvi.
Zam Naqvi, is a film writer & director living and working in London, UK. A version of this article originally appeared on: zam-naqvi.com.