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Categories: Features

Avery T. Phillips breaks down the role, and importance, of the female filmmaker in the modern film industry and all across the world.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Of the top 250 films in 2014, female filmmakers made up only 7 percent of directors. On the bright side, these astonishingly low numbers increased slightly to 13 percent when research includes lower budgeted productions.

Why are female filmmakers important? We often don’t get mainstream movies and TV shows that accurately represent female perspectives and roles. Female filmmakers do a great job of creating stories that fill this void.

If all society sees in the media is the male perspective and female roles that come second to the star male role, then we start to feel that this is the only way to do things. Generally, this is how things have been going.

Women are usually portrayed as stereotypes and their characters aren’t strong enough to stand on their own without the male counterpart. Not only are female characters under represented, they are grossly misrepresented.

The importance of female filmmakers is about encouraging diversity in our cinemas so that not only will women create the kind of films that more accurately portray female characters, but so will everyone else. The number of women in businesses like filmmaking is growing and we need to encourage those numbers to keep growing.

Here are a few of the best recent examples of female filmmakers and the stories they’ve created.

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

You might have heard that Lady Bird broke the Rotten Tomatoes record previously held by Toy Story 2 for the most consecutive fresh reviews and absolutely no rotten tomatoes. This film deserves the honour.

The coming of age story set in post 9/11 Sacramento, California, is Greta Gerwig’s breakout directorial debut. Lady Bird isn’t the only strong female character. Her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf, is a strong-willed yet unconditionally loving woman and hard-working nurse. She’s the mother everyone deserves but never gets the appreciation she deserves.

Finally, a coming of age story made for young women that everyone can enjoy.

Lake Bell – In a World…

In a world… where cinema is predominantly ruled by men, there was a film by Lake Bell and it broke the mold. Looking for a refreshing female voice? You’ve found it in the indie comedy, In a World… starring and directed by Bell.

The star character, Carol, is a talented woman struggling to make it in voiceover acting, where men, including her own father, own the industry. Sound familiar?

We need more films that bring light to this all too common issue.


While you’re more likely to see popular films directed by men, documentary films seem to be where women are finding more opportunities and acceptance. Why? Perhaps a culture of equality is more common in these circles. Diversity is more accepted and encouraged.

Maybe it has to do with the gatekeepers of feature films making it harder for female filmmakers to break through? This idea is strengthened by the statistics showing low budget films employ a higher percentage of women.

Next, a documentary by Alexandria Bombach.

Alexandria Bombach – Frame by Frame

Frame by Frame was originally funded by Alexandria selling her car and draining her bank account. How’s that for tackling the monetary obstacles many female filmmakers face?

Can you imagine a world without photography? Under Taliban rule, taking a photo in Afghanistan was a punishable crime. But when the Taliban were overthrown in 2001, photography was restored. Not only were journalists now able to use photography, families could again photograph their children and special events.

Alexandria Bombach and fellow female filmmaker, Mo Scarpelli shot 200 hours of footage to document the life of a photojournalist in Afghanistan. Four photojournalists, actually.

This may not be a film about women exclusively. But it does a great job of representing the people of Afghanistan more accurately than a lot of western media does. Much like the way women are often misrepresented in film.

Female filmmakers and diverse films are important to society’s worldview. If all we see in our films, television, books, and other media is the perspective of one side of the table then we never see the full picture. We should all be advocates for diversity and equality and celebrate it whenever we can.


Posted on Mar 16, 2018

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