Did you know only five women have ever been nominated for best director at the Academy Awards? Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2010 is the only female director to win the Oscar in the ceremony’s 93-year history.
In 78 years, only eight female directors have been nominated for a Golden Globe, and only two women had ever won in the best director category – Barbra Streisand in 1983 for the film Yentl and now Chloé Zhao in 2021 for Nomadland.
And in the last 10 years, there have been 50 Bafta nominations for Best Director… only two of them have been women – Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 and 2012 for Zero Dark Thirty, and Lynne Ramsay in 2011 for We Need To Talk About Kevin.
A recent skills audit of the UK Film Industry by the Work Foundation for the BFI found that the industry is severely lacking in female talent.
In 2015, just 14.4% of writers involved in UK films and 9.4% of directors were female.
So, where are the women?
We spoke to Rachel Wood, deputy director of London’s MetFilm School, a specialist film school offering degrees, postgraduate qualifications and professional training based at the famous Ealing Studios.
She said: “Our student body is about 50-50 split when it comes to gender, this hasn’t happened by accident and it shouldn’t be exceptional.
“Historically, the film industry could have been considered a bit of a ‘closed’ shop. In that respect, it hasn’t been that far removed professions such as Law or even Medicine.
“At MetFilm School we’ve been trying to change that for a few years and take some real, positive action on addressing the ‘closedness’ of the industry, and help to create a diverse and exciting pipeline of future talent.”
How MetFilm is getting the balance right
Rachel said: “We developed two state-funded degrees through ScreenSpace. Working with the University of West London we have been able to create these degrees that still afford unrivalled access to the industry and its professionals while at the same time removing many of the barriers that have stopped some women and people from an ethnic minority background from coming here, or to schools like ours.
“Funding is a major barrier, but because we’ve developed these two state-funded degrees, coming here now shouldn’t be any costlier than attending any university in England.
“Making ourselves and our expertise accessible to as wide an audience as possible will only serve to benefit the industry.
Opening up opportunities for women in film
“We run a special scholarship: Voices That Matter Scholarship has long been important to MetFilm School since its launch in 2009. The idea was always to open up opportunities to students with something important to say, who would not otherwise be able to access the unique educational experience we offer – whether that’s because of funding, political or personal circumstances, societal prejudice.
“In 2019 we launched our the , supported by MTV Staying Alive Foundation – one scholarship per campus: one in London and one in Berlin. We wanted to open up the school to people who have through no fault of their own a greater barrier than others to overcome. Applications for this year’s award are open until the 30th April 2021.”
The school has also made sure the gender balance is right on its teaching team too: “We have worked hard to increase our tutor gender balance in the past two years particularly in the area of directing. We now have 73 regular or visiting female tutors and 17 of those are directing tutors.”
16 films directed by women
And if you’re interested in film and need some inspiration, MetFilm School recommends:
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Céline Sciamma
- Fish Tank – Andrea Arnold
- Cameraperson – Kirsten Johnson
- 13th – Ava DuVernay
- You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay
- Mustang – Deniz Gamze Erguven
- Animals – Sophie Hyde
- Orlando – Sally Potter
- Cleo from 5 to 7 – Agnes Varda
- Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
- The Piano – Jane Campion
- Frances Ha – Greta Gerwig
- High Life – Claire Denis
- Appropriate Behaviour – Desiree Akhavan
- Selma – Ava DuVernay
- Nomadland – Chloé Zhao