The Academy Awards are about to celebrate their 90th annual show, and the Best Director category is looking a lot more diverse than usual.
Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele are both up for their films, Lady Bird and Get Out. Making it the fifth nomination for a female director and a fifth one for a black director as well.
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 21: Actor Jordan Peele attends the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. 27522_011 (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner Image)
Credit: Business Insider and Huffington Post
Only one female has received the title (Katherine Bigelow for The Hurt Locker) and no black director has ever won that category. Just to put that in perspective, one director, William Wyler, has been nominated 12 times. One white man has been nominated for Best Director more times than any of the female and black directors combined.
This means that a win for Peele or Gerwig will not just be a celebration of the work they have done, but it will have a much wider impact on the world of film around them.
Silver screened ceiling
2017 was a significant year for feminism in Hollywood with the rise of #MeToo and #Time’sUp. Now the award season is here and women are standing up and saying “Time is up”. They are walking the red carpet dressed in black or holding white roses and my favourite moment was when Natalie Portman presented The Golden Globe for Best Director to the five men nominated.
The reason why the conversation about inequality and sexual harassment in Hollywood is being had and heard is because it is an issue in every workplace. Women are not given as many opportunities to gain leadership roles, mostly because employees think women are well represented. This then becomes especially hard for women of colour as companies take a “one-size-fits-all approach to advancing women”.
The women who have been successful in Hollywood are in a position of privilege and so are using this to address this issue. The film industry is a notoriously hard business to get into, but when you look at the statistics it becomes clear how much more difficult it is for women over men.
The Celluloid Ceiling report revealed how many of the top grossing films of 2017 had women working behind the scenes. This was their result.
- 88% had no women directors
- 83% had no women writers
- 45% had no women exec. producers
- 28% had no women producers
- 80% had no women editors
- 96% had no women cinematographers
After considering these numbers, the fact that Greta Gerwig has managed to direct and write a film and then become one out of five nominated for best director is no mean feat. However, even just having her name in the lineup is already having an impact. Gerwig spoke to The Guardian about how previous nominations for women inspired her.
“I remember very well when Sofia Coppola was nominated for best director and won best screenplay [for Lost in Translation in 2004] and what that meant to me, and I remember when Kathryn Bigelow won for best director and how it seemed as if possibilities were expanded because of it. I genuinely hope that what this means to women of all ages – young women, women who are well into their careers – is that they look at this and they think, ‘I want to go make my movie.’” – Gerwig
This shows that representing and awarding women can inspire more women to pursue the same career. Gerwig has been given an opportunity to influence hundreds of young girls around the world to follow in her path. Perhaps in a few years, we can say that women are directing 50% of the world’s top films.
Hollywood so white?
In 2015 The Academy Awards was overshadowed by a boycott and the hashtag #oscarsowhite. This was to protest all 20 acting nominations being given to white actors and the Oscar voters being 94% White, 76% Men, and an Average of 63 Years Old.
This protest gave way to a new way of looking at the awards show and how diverse the nominations and winners were. There has seemed to be a long-held belief in Hollywood that people do not want to see diverse films. This notion has been challenged for years, but Get Out and Black Panther have been two films that, leading up the Oscars have again proved this theory wrong.
Credit: The Atlantic
The data speaks for itself. Get Out made $253.8 million gross sales, or 50.8 times its $5 million production budget, and Black Panther had the fifth biggest opening weekend at the box office in the U.S.
While these are two remarkable films both with black directors, we cannot ignore the issues that people of colour still have in the industry. In a report done by MDSC at USC’s Annenberg, they revealed the race/ethnicity of 407 directors of films and television series/shows in 2014. Out of all these directors, 87% were White, 13% were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups and only two of the directors were Black women.
Although it might appear that little progress is being made for people of colour, there are still reasons to be hopeful. Black Panther and Get Out have had a tremendous success and Jordon Peele talked in an interview with postPerspective about the change being made.
“I think change should have come a long time ago, but at least now we see some real progress, with such directors as Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Gary Gray, Barry Jenkins and Dee Rees. It’s this new class of amazing black directors, and people have worked very hard to get to this point, and it’s thanks to all the work of previous filmmakers. What’s blossoming in the industry now is very beautiful, so I’m very hopeful for the future.”-Peele
Previous filmmakers have paved the way for all minorities in film and Peele is already making change that will help future generations in Hollywood. Awarding him and his film Get Out will make a statement, and will show Hollywood and western society that embracing diversity should be celebrated and not shunned.
And the award goes to…
A win for Gerwig or Peele could have a massive impact in Hollywood. People who are so often underrepresented in media could see that it is possible to succeed in the film industry. At the very least it might interest people to watch their films and to see a story centered around a young woman or a black man.
But whatever the result, whether one of them wins or not, I think it’s about time we think about the wider impact one small statue can have.