The Oscars are tonight and once again zero women have been nominated in the best directing category. Only 4 women have ever been nominated for best director and only one woman has ever won. In the entire history of the Oscars, zero women have been nominated in the best cinematography category. There are many initiatives nationally and elsewhere to support women and people with diverse backgrounds to advance in the film industry, but more needs to be done, especially at the local level. So I am organizing an initiative to raise funds for production grants to support women and other people with diverse backgrounds taking advanced filmmaking production classes at UT with a goal of raising $10,000, which would allow for 4-5 grants each semester of up to $250 each for several years. I will post the link to the crowdfunding page in the coming weeks. I am working with Women in Cinema, a student organization at UT, as a sponsor of the initiative.
If you are interested in donating after we launch the page, use the contact form.
I graduated in RTF at The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and I saw first-hand how many of the undergraduate classes still had very few women. For example, during my last semester in fall 2014, there were only two women in two of the classes I took, Cinematography and 16mm production. The Advanced Directing class also only had 2 undergraduate women that semester. It had only one undergrad woman when I took it in fall 2013. In fall 2015, the 16mm class only had one woman. By supporting women students with production grants we can significantly raise the number of women taking the advanced production classes. Perhaps within five years, parity can be reached in those classes.
I asked for statistics from the office of UT Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems on the gender breakdown of every undergraduate RTF course from 2000-2015 to confirm what I had observed with my own eyes and the data I received did confirm it. I also asked for statistics on ethnicity, but was told that was not available at that time. Some classes do better than others on gender, especially the editing and documentary production classes. However, the narrative production classes and cinematography classes consistently have far fewer women than men, as low in some years as only 12 percent women. Usually in a class of 20 there may be 3-6 women.
I was in Kat Candler’s advanced narrative production class at UT. Her feature film “Hellion” starring Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis, played at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. She told me, “over the years the lack of female students in my classes has been incredibly disheartening. In a class of twenty students, three to five might be women. It breaks my heart every semester. Lower-level classes always seem more balanced, but as the students rise through the program, women tend to filter out of the upper level directing and cinematography classes. In 2011, I started Women in Cinema, a student organization to help create mentorships; offer workshops on camera, lighting and sound; and connect female students to professionals in their community. I love the idea to financially incentivize female students to helm more films through grant opportunities.”
For an idea of the national situation, see the table below with figures from September 1st 2014 to August 31st 2015 on 109 motion pictures and 305 broadcast, cable, and digital series. Source: Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment (CARD).