There has been a lot of talk lately regarding the roles available to women in the film industry. The announcement of amazing programs such as Gender Matters has brought this debate to the forefront. Unfortunately, some of this discussion has been negative. An article has been written recently regarding Made in Melbourne Festival. It makes some valid points regarding representation of women and also expresses opinions regarding the management of that representation. As a female filmmaker, I feel there is an opportunity to change the narrative we are creating for ourselves.
Many times I have been asked about being taken seriously as a woman in film. The best advice I can give is set the tone. I walk into any role removing gender from the equation. My largest producing role was for a cast and crew of 150. A large portion of them were male. I never felt like my ability as a Producer was put into question because of my gender. Furthermore, the majority of Heads of Department were women. Don’t get me wrong, I have definitely encountered some sexist people in my time. But fortunately, I have managed to avoid sexist people in the film industry. And if I have encountered some form of discrimination, it is no different to what I would face in my everyday life, in a variety of contexts.
Before I continue, I want to acknowledge the systemic gender bias issues in society that inevitably roll over into the film industry. I could go into all the societal issues that affect why some men perceive women the way they do – but that is a whole other article for a different time.
Roles for women on screen are more often than not told from male perspective. But why is this? It is because they are written by men. Art is an expression of an idea or story you want to tell. So people write what they know and then embellish. There are definitely men out there who are able to write strong female characters. However, I do believe it is an unrealistic expectation that men should comfortably write from a female perspective. So it is understandable that most women characters would be plot points for the male protagonist. If a female was to write a script with a female protagonist, I wonder, would a male just be a plot point for her story? For example, The Dressmaker has definitely shown the film industry that female led casts can be successful. Reflecting on the premise above you could say that Liam Hemsworth’s character is purely there to accompany Kate Winslet’s character arc?
With this in mind, what is the real question? Is it that male writers and directors are not representing women? Or is it that we are not representing ourselves? I firmly believe that the destiny of female film makers is in our hands. The amazing power we hold in the creative industry is that we create the content we want to see. There are a lot of great opportunities coming our way. We just have to take them. The best thing women in the film industry can do is make films. We can’t expect men to always be able to write and direct from a female character or perspective – as they are not females. So I challenge you: if you want to see more female characters on screen, get writing. Direct. Submit your film. I know I will be.
Jessica Pearce is a Producer from Melbourne and Managing Director of production company, Running Panda Films.