in her words

The Sundance Film Festival has announced the list of films that will appear in its premiere category, so I perused the line-up.

While scanning the group I noticed that of the 17 films in the premier category only two were written by women: The Secret Life of Words by Spanish writer/director Isobel Coixet, and Friends with Money, also written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. As it happens Friends with Money is the opening film of the festival.

Looking through the box office league for 2005 the first film that appears with a woman writer is (unfortunately) Monster-in-Law at number 18 for the year thus far. That should change by the end of the year when King Kong smashes through the box office, since both Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens are part of the writing team with Peter Jackson.

I’m not the only person who’s noticed the dearth of women writers in the film industry. My college hosted a symposium earlier this year called Women in the Picture, which spent two days looking at and discussing women’s role in cinema. It was wonderful to be in the presence of women who work in the industry who help create and shape films.

The reason I raise this subject is at the Screenwriting Expo two weeks ago I noticed a wide ethnic and gender diversity. There were men and women of all racial backgrounds, and from countries all over the world. Yet, the majority of people who write and direct films are white men.

I wonder why this is? It was clear from the Expo that there were a lot of men of women from a variety of backgrounds who have stories to tell. But it is women, and people of colour, who are falling at the hurdles involved in getting their work on the big screen.

Is it an issue of confidence? I find that hard to imagine because the women I spoke to at the Expo were articulate, smart and passionate about their projects. I didn’t notice any wallflowers.

Is it a case that the stories women want to tell are not the stories that Hollywood wants to make? I suspect this is closer to the mark. A lot of women (not all of them) write the kind of films that are hard to market and finance: the intimate personal movie. These are better funded the Indie route anyway, since it’s likely that the studio route would destroy what makes the films interesting in the first place.

A film that is likely to make my top ten list for this year, In Her Shoes, is written by the talented Susannah Grant. This film is probably labelled a “chick flick” by most people, but it’s actually intelligent, funny, and touching without succumbing to the awful dregs of sentimentality. I think that anyone who has siblings – of whatever gender – will appreciate this exploration of inter-family issues.

Personally, I’m more of an action/horror/supernatural thriller kind of chick, which might rate my chances a bit higher (you know, about 1/2 a percent) since these are the kinds of stories that seem to sell well. I’m not saying that I have a solution to the issue, but it would be great if alternative and different voices could be given a place on the big screen.

I love stories, and I want to see as many different ones as possible.

All any of us need is a chance. I hope more women and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds are given that chance in the future.