Tonight, I was fortunate to sit in on a class at USC’s cinema school entitled “Film Symposium.” Each week a new film is screened in the class and guests who worked on the film come in and answer questions about the film. This week, “The Pretty One” was screened and the two guests were director, Jenèe LaMarque and director of photography, Polly Morgan.
The reason why I want to talk about this film this week is not just because the film has a well-developed female protagonist, but that both the director AND director of photography are females. According to IndieWire, of the Sundance directors from 2002-2012, only 29.8% of them were females. When I think about the arts such as theater, film, visual art, writing, etc., I view them as a medium of equality. So the 29.8% can be a bit shocking. But at least among a lot of my film friends, this fact is known and is actually changing. Last year half of the narrative films at Sundance were directed by women, exemplifying a clear upward motion of women in the film industry. So why bring it up now?
Before the film was screened, the professor prefaced the screening and question and answers by saying how great it is to have the two guests (Jenèe LaMarque and Polly Morgan) because they made not only a strong film, but also they were both women, which was something he pointed out wasn’t as common as it should be. And I think what was so great about watching the film and hearing these two filmmakers talk about it was that their gender wasn’t really brought up again when talking about the making of the film. The professor noted their gender at the beginning as a means of introduction and being grateful that they had two key members of the production team, but aside from that, the discussion of the film was about the film itself and not the struggles of women in the film indsutry. And I think that’s actually a really good thing at least in this class setting because when watching the film, it didn’t matter if the person who directed it was male or female. The story itself was what the audience was watching, and even in the students’ questions – that was their main focus.
And I think that’s a great step. I hope that last year’s Sundance trend continues with the male to female break up being 50/50 so that talking about gender roles in the film industry takes a backseat to talking about the stories themselves.