Let’s start with a simple rhetorical question: When you think of a Hollywood director who comes to mind? Was the first one to come to your mind female? Did you even cheat and use the article title yet still struggle to think of female director? This might not be entirely your fault, as of the Top 250 films of 2016 measured by box office success, only 7 percent of the bunch have a female director at the helm.
In all aspects of film, females fail to represent even a fourth in any position according to this study (Kilday, The Hollywood Reporter). As an advocate of the idea that film should be a medium in which anyone and everyone should feel free to express their own narratives, it seemed fitting to shine a spotlight on some recent woman who have not only made fantastic films but are opening doors for more woman to influence the voice of Hollywood.
Kelly Fremon Craig
Fairly a newcomer to the scene, Kelly Fremon Craig impressed audiences with her down-to-earth, coming-of-age comedy, directorial debut, Edge of Seventeen. If you’ve heard of the film then you’ve probably heard the overwhelming praise it has received from critics and moviegoers alike. The film hosts a cast of characters one can relate to and a unique sense of humor that has clearly resonated with its audience, earning a 7.4/10 on IMDb and a 95 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. When it came to Craig presenting her exotic voice, she initially struggled to fully express it without the power of the director’s chair.
Screenwriters are almost subjected to the same treatment as authors in that, with no influence over the production, there is nothing stopping the director and producers from completely altering the authorial intent. The creative process of filmmaking is a long game of telephone, as each section of production goes down the line changing and altering the piece until the original doesn't match the end result. Craig reflected upon her own earlier experience with the process in the film Post Grad, in which she expressed some frustration, stating:
“Yeah, yeah. No, that was one of those experiences that I think most writers have where you write something and then it grows legs and runs away and you barely recognize it”
When Craig came up with The Edge of Seventeen, her growing attachment to the project had her hoping to take charge of the project herself. Craig reflects upon the meeting with one of the producers, James L. Brooks, in which she was presented with her golden ticket:
“I absolutely knew I wanted to direct it. I didn't know if I was going to be able to. On the first meeting that I sat down with Jim, I was so ready to make a pitch for myself as a director. When I sat down with him, one of the first things he said was, "I think the voice is so specific to you that I think you're the only person to direct it”
Feel free to check out the full interview by LRM of Kelly Fremon Craig as it gives great insight on her humble beings and the making of a well-done film. The Edge of Seventeen certainly become a flying success, and I do agree that Craig’s original voice was heavily responsible for that success. Kelly Fremon Craig appears to place a high value of honest filmmaking and blending heartfelt vulnerability with a blunt sense of humor. I would recommend seeing Edge of Seventeen if you haven’t already, and I certainly hope to see more from Craig as both a screenwriter and as a director.
It seems that most female directors are type-casted into specific genres, such as coming-of-age or romantic comedies, but very rarely does a major studio entrust one of their major tent-pole films. Patty Jenkins might have just re-written history in being the first woman to direct a film with a budget of over $100 million. In the Warner Bros. DCEU, production re-shoots of Suicide Squad does not shout “We trust our creative minds” or “We love taking risks."
With this in mind, it is extremely satisfying to hear of Jenkins's victory over the higher ups. The No Man’s Land scene was apparently not warmly received by the studio, but Jenkins felt passionately enough to fight for its inclusion.
“It’s my favorite scene in the movie and it's the most important scene in the movie… This is a different scene than that. This is a scene about her becoming Wonder Woman.”
Jenkins stood her ground, and the fans seem to have enjoyed the scene as a memorable moment. It’s quite possible that Jenkins has open the door for more female directors to take the helm for these large projects. With a number of superhero movies being produced in the upcoming years, it could be valuable to introduce new voices to the genre in order to keep things from going stale. Jenkins has shown no problem with being an advocate to widen the horizons for female directors, commenting that:
“I definitely think there is a missing feminine voice in Hollywood… If women are the biggest audience in the world right now, it would be wise to go after them."
Wonder Woman is on pace to be one of the year’s biggest summer blockbusters, and when all is said and done, it's undeniably going to be a tough act to follow. With the Justice League soon to follow, it’s well understood that Wonder Woman is going to be around for a while. I would be glad to see Jenkins given a sequel to continue with the character. She has already proven she has no problem taking on such a daunting task, so it should be interesting to see how she decides to follow up such a momentous movie.
The name Coppola is one that should not sound too unfamiliar to film buffs. Daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola has been building her own impressive resume. The Lost in Translation director recently took home the prize for Best Director for The Beguiled at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. In the 70-year history of the event, Coppola is the first American Female to win best director, and only the second female to ever win. Coppola in an interview shares her intent in the film resonating with a certain demographic, she tells:
“I really made this movie for my gay men friends. And for my women friends!”
Coppola seems to always keep her audience in mind when approaching filmmaking. Coppola has stated how she enjoys it when people connect with the little things that she enjoys about her work. She has established her own auteur style with films that heavily feature lavish designs and aesthetics. The Beguiled will be released on June 30. Despite her father's well respected reputation, Sofia has increasingly earned a name for herself and will continue to be a director to watch out for in coming years.
Female directors have been a great minority in filmmaking, but not one without impact. These three directors and many others have created interesting and impactful works of cinema. The film industry is full of incredible talents that its a shame some of these unsung heroes remain unfamiliar. Let me know if there are any other female directors or jobs in film that are often overlooked. I would be happy to do a follow-up and shine a spotlight on these great talents.
Who is your favorite female director?