Some depressing stats have been making the rounds Wednesday: A new study out of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has revealed that the film industry is still overwhelmingly white and male. In 2015, women made up only 31.4 percent of the speaking characters in the top 100 films at the box office; 7.5 percent of directors; 11.8 percent of writers; and 22 percent of producers. (Unsurprisingly, representation is even more dismal if you are a woman of color.) Even Canada isn’t immune, as the Canadian Unions for Equality on Screen also just released an embarrassing report detailing gender inequality within the country’s film and television industry.
Thankfully, there’s a bit of promising news to balance out the bad, as a new strategy to highlight up-and-coming female filmmakers has been launched. As first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, the Alice Initiative shines a light on 30 directors who have yet to direct a studio film—20 women with at least one feature film under their belt and 10 who have worked in television and/or short films. The impressive list—which includes Dee Rees (Pariah), Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), and Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night)—was curated by a group of 40 film executives who prefer to remain anonymous. (According to the Hollywood Reporter, they hope to avoid having agents campaign their clients for future lists.) Along with those 30 women, the site includes a “master list” of many more active filmmakers in the industry.
The initiative is named after Alice Guy-Blaché, generally credited as the first female film director, and will hopefully push inclusion forward behind the cameras. If there’s one common refrain that’s often trotted out from less progressive producers and studio executives, it’s that, supposedly, there are not enough “qualified” or “experienced” women to hire in the first place. The Alice Initiative should (hopefully) make it more difficult for people calling the shots to make such tired excuses.
“To those of you who are in a position to hire a director, or influence someone who is, we urge you to check out our featured directors,” the anonymous group states on its site. “If there’s someone you don't know, set a meeting. When making director lists, use our master list for reference. Make sure you are putting women at the top of your lists.”