Score one — but only one — for women in Hollywood.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored female filmmakers at its 11th annual Governors Awards celebration. Italian director and screenwriter Lina Wertmüller — who was the first woman ever to be nominated for a Best Director award — was lauded for her significant achievements in film.
Actress Geena Davis, meanwhile, received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work to improve women’s representation in all tiers of Hollywood. Much of that work has been accomplished through her namesake Institute on Gender in Media.
Representation for women on-screen remains elusive — as Davis’ own organization can attest. Among the top 100 movies in 2017 and 2018, just 31 percent of all speaking or named characters were women, and only 9 percent of those films had gender-balanced casts.
In accepting her award, Davis offered a simple idea for how to make change happen, at least on screen: Producers and writers should look at the script before them and swap the male characters for female ones. “With one stroke, you have created some non-stereotyped characters that could turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had their gender swapped,” Davis added.
More women are needed on the other side of the camera, too — Davis’ Institute discovered that, behind the scenes, just 7 percent of directors, 13 percent of writers and 20 percent of producers are women.
But Davis points out that representation on both sides of the lens matters. While talking about her starring role in the movie “Thelma and Louise,” Davis credited the film with changing her life “because it made me realize, in a very powerful way, how few opportunities we give women to come out of a movie feeling excited and empowered by the female characters.”
She continued, “This led me to have a very profound interest in the way girls and women are depicted in the world.” When she researched the issue, she says she found that “the message we are sending is that men and boys are far more valuable to us than women and girls.”
That message also comes from beyond the film world, she says, as “nearly every sector of our society has a huge gender disparity problem.” So when it comes to boosting representation for women on screen — and in other industries — her mandate is simple: “Let’s do this.”