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Categories: Features

Guest writer Lisa Fontaine explores how some female filmmakers are subverting the inequality of the film industry by taking to the Internet and creating hit web shows. 

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“Nobody gives you power, you just take it” – Roseanne Barr

With the ratio of men to women working in films being 6:1, this month’s hot topic of women in film couldn’t be more relevant. 

Pop-feminism has boomed over the last year. Be it nipple sticker-clad Miley Cyrus flaunting her breasts on Jimmy Kimmel and calling out double standards in dress expectations, or waves of women posting pictures of their armpit hair on Instagram in protest of the body maintenance expected of women. 

Feminist issues are very much at the forefront of the media, and perhaps nowhere more so than in the film industry. Feminist whistle-blower Jennifer Lawrence has brought our attention to the pay gaps of female and male leads. Emma Stone has shamed the ‘age issue’ plaguing Tinseltown, pointing out how men are still given lead roles way into middle age, unlike the forever twenty-something actresses. 

This month’s issue of Sight & Sound Magazine is leading the way with its retrospect on under-appreciated female directors. Undoubtedly women have to overcome more obstacles when trying to make it in the film industry. We need to stop waiting for equal power- and just take it.

That’s exactly what some aspiring directors are doing. Instead of going through the studio systems, they’re picking up a camera and taking to YouTube. This is a platform that gives them an opportunity to showcase their talents and build a following, often with view a to move onto television or film. The presence of female web series directors is thriving. They’re not waiting for anyone to give them anything, they’re taking on the World Wide Web- and doing quite well. 

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Recent popular web series directed by women boast female driven plots and strong female characters. Ideals of the ‘perfect’ girl are being smashed in preference of real people. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is one such series with soaring ratings. Directed by Issa Rae, the series’ strong lead, J, is everything but that image of the lead darling that dominant cinema sells us. She is an awkward, stumbling, fumbling mess. Rae brings us an original and identifiable character. 

The series has served her well. It premiered on YouTube on the 3rd of February 2011 and in 2012 it earned her a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Entertainment List. Rae is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Broad City, created by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, is another big player. Its most successful episode,”I Heart New York,” posted in 2011, has raked in 170,000 views so far over three years. The highly-anticipated third season is being backed by Comedy Central. 

Many eager minds like Glazer and Jacobson are using the web to get established. Chloe Searcy and Zoë Worth’s Chloe and Zoe has drawn comparisons for its similarities to Broad City, and has been predicted to be as big of a hit.

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Srsly, a comedy series based on two best friends living in New York, is another triumph of female domination in the market. Series creators, Danielle Gibson and Alexandra Fiber decided to make Srsly because they didn’t want to play “”Slutty Waitress #4′ or ‘Bitchy Girlfriend’ on someone else’s project.” Refusing to be in the shadow of these gender typical roles, their show doesn’t pigeonhole women into the narrow character types that we so often see, making it a success with female audiences. 

Catapulting its way onto the web scene this year, Ackee and Saltfish, is yet another show with strong female leads. Brought to us by Cecile Emeke, it follows the lives of London lasses Olivia and Rachel. Emeke doesn’t only have Ackee and Saltfish to her name. Wandelen, Strolling, Flaner: she has a wealth of shorts and series that are both fresh and relevant. 

There’s many, many more noteworthy series: Sunken City, Idiotsitter and Little Horribles, to name a few. Female directors are flourishing on this relatively new media platform. It’s opening doors for them that were once closed, or at least very heavy, on the traditional route to getting into film. More importantly, it’s inspiring many to pick up a camera and demand the power we women are so often denied.

The Spread

The Spread is the official magazine of London-based film community Cinema Jam. We cover everything film, from movie and product reviews, features, editorials, news updates, interviews, and more. Follow @CinemaJam on Twitter for more updates!

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Posted on Oct 5, 2015

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