Tuesday, January 14, 2014

'Celluloid Ceiling' survey results released

The industry news of the day is a far cry from the delights of watching the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler-hosted Golden Globes ceremony on Sunday. The telecast enjoyed its best ratings in seven years, thanks, in large part, to Fey and Poehler. But the realities of working females in Hollywood is nothing to smile about, so say the results of the annual “Celluloid Ceiling” survey released earlier today.

The employment survey focused on the top 250 domestic movies of 2013. According to the analysis, just 16 percent of the year’s 2,938 filmmakers were women, a figure that is down 2% from 2012. One of its unsurprising findings included a breakdown of employment by genre: women were most likely to be found working on drama, comedy and documentary films, and least likely to be found contributing to animation, horror and sci-fi projects.

Two major roles, those of director and writer, saw a decrease in women participants. The number of women directors currently stands at 6 percent, a downturn of 3 percent from 2012, while women make up 10 percent of working writers in Hollywood, down 5 percent.

As disheartening as it is to read a litany of these statistics, the female talent that is currently breaking through the ranks, bumping into that “celluloid ceiling” until it gives, is top-rate. There have been many articles written about the untapped wealth of women filmmakers, and they have inspired us to contribute our own small share of the positivity. The below list names just a few of the successful women working behind-the-scenes today, in roles that are indispensable to their lauded projects.

And for a great, thorough breakdown of female influence in Hollywood, take a read through indiewire’s “A to Z” list of women in film here.

Director: Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said
The pack of talented directors whose 2013 films have been raking in award nominations and box-office receipts is undoubtedly one of the strongest in years. Steve McQueen, David O. Russell, Alfonso Cuaron… they have produced important, fun work all. But the acknowledgment of their talent doesn’t make it any less of a shame that an innovative, albeit unshowy director like Nicole Holofcener should get widely overlooked when it comes time to tip our hats to the best films of the year. Enough Said is small, quiet, awkward, funny, sad, awkward-funny, awkward-sad, and pretty darn true to life. We love that star Julia Louis-Dreyfus has received some well-deserved attention, but Holofcener should be running the awards circuit alongside her. We do have confidence, however, that someone with such a resonant voice can’t be marginalized forever, and Hollywood at large will eventually catch up.



Writers: Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, Saving Mr. Banks
It seems only natural that one of the best female roles of the year, the difficult and complex Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, should have been written by two women. Saving Mr. Banks is a tough story to tell, as so much of the present action between Travers and Walt Disney is dependent upon an understanding of Travers’ past. Although some, like our critic David Noh, found the Banks script a little thin, Marcel and Smith succeeded in fully fleshing out the most important part of the film, Travers herself. It helped that they had feminist firebrand Emma Thompson to bring their character to life, too. Marcel will next tackle the hyped 50 Shades of Grey script. If that choice gives some female advocates pause, no one can say Marcel hasn’t landed one of the most hotly anticipated, and therefore most competitive, films of 2015.


Producer: Megan Ellison, American Hustle
Ellison is a fascinating story, one which may warrant a film in its own right someday. The daughter of the third-richest man in America, software company Oracle Co-Founder Larry Ellison, 28-year-old Megan’s brief list of producing credits thus far is, frankly, ridiculous. True Grit, The Master, Spring Breakers, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, and, of course, American Hustle (you might have noticed her up on stage with the rest of the cast when Hustle won for Best Musical or Comedy at the Globes Sunday night), to name just a few. As a 2013 story in Vanity Fair recounts, when Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal were seeking financing for Zero Dark Thirty, trying to find backers for their film outside of the major studios, Ellison offered to write a check for the movie’s entire budget herself. Lest you think Ellison is one who simply likes to swing her weight about with the help of Daddy’s hefty checkbook, however, the aforementioned list of projects testifies to the fact that she has a nose for this kind of thing. She’s currently working on the new Terminator reboot series, and the Seth Rogen-penned animated comedy, Sausage Party. Starting off with money helps, of course, but clearly Ellison knows how to make her own.


Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker, The Wolf of Wall Street
Behind every successful man is a woman, and behind every successful director is an editor. You’ve got both in the person of Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese’s longtime collaborator. The 73-year-old Schoonmaker is the recipient of three Oscars herself, for Raging Bull, The Aviator, and The Departed, accolades that only underscore the fact that without her, there would be no heralded Scorsese oeuvre. More recently, there would be no Wolf of Wall Street if Schoonmaker hadn’t worked tirelessly to cut the film down to its current runtime of 179 minutes. In an interview with Variety, Schoonmaker admitted the final stretch of cutting Wolf was “particularly horrendous.” But does she mind not being front-and-center alongside Scorsese, mind never having directed a picture herself? “I think if I was working on disappointing films, well maybe” she would direct, she muses. “But I get this wonderful treasure trove. How many editors can say that?”


Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison, Fruitvale Station
Young film student and director Ryan Coogler may be the hot topic of conversation surrounding Fruitvale Station, but, like Schoonmaker, without Morrison’s expertise, there would have been no Fruitvale Station, and no breakout for Coogler. Morrison has been carving out her niche in one of the industry’s most male-dominated roles (which is saying something), cinematography, since 2002. She’s worked on kitschy TV series “Room Raiders” and “The Hills,” and, more recently, on the Alan Cumming indie Any Day Now. But it was her collaboration with Coogler that brought her work to a broader audience, a coup that will hopefully land her more of the same interesting, progressive projects in the future.


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