A paucity of talent

From the BBC:

This year, we felt it was time to direct the spotlight away from Hollywood and celebrate the best cinema from around the world. We asked critics to vote for their favourite movies made primarily in a language other than English. The result is BBC Culture’s 100 greatest foreign-language films.

The problem with asking people what they think is they might give troubling answers, as the BBC has discovered:

If there’s anything disappointing about the final list, it’s the paucity of films directed or co-directed by women. There are just four out of 100. But we made sure to contact as many female critics as male ones; of those who responded, 94 (45 per cent) were women.

The obvious conclusion is women don’t make particularly good films, something even women critics agree with. However, the BBC devotes an entire, separate article telling us this isn’t so. So what is? Why, sexism, of course!

This troubling result puts the current conversation about the dearth of women film-makers in a wider context: by being barred from the exercise of their craft in cinema, women run the risk of being excluded from its history.

So women were barred from being directors, eh? Then how come four films directed by women made it onto the list?

“It’s a matter of volume,” says producer Deborah Calla, Chair of the Diversity Committee of the Producers Guild of America, the West Coast Chair of Women’s Impact Network, and advisor to the Geena Davis Institute. “There are fewer films directed by women, and so there are fewer films directed by women winning awards or being picked by festivals. Women directors end up having a smaller footprint.”

I wouldn’t have thought it matters if only ten women were directing films if their output was good enough. Welshmen are not underrepresented in marathon running because not enough of them train.

Scarcity leads to invisibility, and invisibility leads to more scarcity – and thus the history of cinema comes to be written and taught with little or no women in it.

I’ve written about this before and asked why, if sexism prevents women prevailing in the arts, they have been so staggeringly successful in publishing. Are we to believe studios were hotbeds of patriarchal oppression while publishing houses were staffed by woke feminists?

As cinema progressed from novelty to business, however, women were pushed off sets and out of studios.

So despite their talents, women were kicked out of studios because of business interests? Is this a roundabout way of saying their output didn’t sell? After all, our aforementioned booksellers didn’t seem to mind Agatha Christie, did they?

“We are on the cusp of great change, not just in Hollywood and the West, but worldwide,” adds Kelly. “We are half the world and we need to tell at least half the stories because up until now we have been hugely outnumbered. The exclusion is systemic, and the change will not be easy, but it is happening. I look forward to a time when it isn’t an issue and a director doesn’t need the prefix ‘woman’ in front of that title.”

I have a feeling Kelly is going to remain disappointed, unless she’ll be satisfied with watching mediocre female directors being applauded by SJWs as they receive participation trophies for films nobody will watch. For I suspect what’s happening is being a director requires a certain technical ability, obsession with details, risk taking, and stubborn perseverance which are more commonly found in men than women. Simply put, most women aren’t interested in becoming directors and, when they are, they don’t do a particularly good job of it. There are some exceptions – Kathryn Bigelow and Sophia Coppola have made some good films, although it would be hard to deny they’ve benefited from close proximity to male masters of the same craft – but in general women don’t make very good films, and can’t compete with men in the way their sisters who write books can. The BBC may just as well have compiled a list of the 100 best rock drummers and complained only a handful of women were on that.

Share

30 thoughts on “A paucity of talent

  1. “We are half the world and we need to tell at least half the stories”.

    I thought that part referred to men because if there is a woman around, you can’t shut them up and men have a hard time getting a word in edgeways. If there is a coven of cackling females in the same vicinity, forget it.

    You live and learn, eh?

  2. by being barred from the exercise of their craft in cinema, women run the risk of being excluded from its history.

    It’s almost as if they’ve never heard of Leni Riefenstahl.

  3. barred from the exercise of their craft in cinema

    I think I have mentioned this before, but Wes Anderson made the short version of Bottle Rocket in 1994 for $4,000. Not a huge amount of money. It led to a studio backing him and a glittering career.

    Steven Soderbergh made a movie using an iphone as the camera. Nothing stopping a budding female director doing the same.

    And if every millionaire Hollywood actress who moans about the representation of women in film agreed to put $1m into a fund, they could easily hand out grants of $10 or $20k to budding female writers, directors, actors etc. They could fund hundreds of women a year.

    But they’d rather gripe and pretend to have no agency. So fuck ’em.

  4. James Damore was right. Men and women are, on average, relatively better and worse at different things in life. Vive la difference.

    Maybe the thread title should be ‘diversity of talent’.

  5. Have i got this right: Those nasty evil capitalists would rather turn away the opportunity to accrue even more money than give a talented woman the opportunity to make a film?

    More likely those women want to make a film that they want to make and those nasty evil capitalists want directors, of any sex or gender, to make films people will pay good money to watch. Its a play on the old adage of how to become a millionaire: start with a billion and fund a bunch of female directors.

  6. OT, but currently on the BBC is this article:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-45902454

    I’m amazed the BBC have allowed an article that discusses the increasing shift of electorates to the right without a) calling them ‘far right’ and b) calling them all racists and bigots. Its a pretty fair assessment in fact. I think the reason for this is that it was written by someone outside the BBC……….

  7. I recall seeing Salma Hayek making statements about how female directors are so oppressed and calling for ‘something to be done’.

    The same Salma Hayek who is married to a bloke who seems reluctant to spend any of his $30 billion net wealth on any films directed by female directors. Odd that.

  8. “It’s a matter of volume,” says producer Deborah Calla, Chair of the Diversity Committee of the Producers Guild of America, the West Coast Chair of Women’s Impact Network, and advisor to the Geena Davis Institute.”

    Geena Davis has an institute?

    Geena Davis has an institute.

    The Institute is the first and only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence content creators, marketers and audiences about the importance of eliminating unconscious bias, highlighting gender balance, challenging stereotypes, creating role models and scripting a wide variety of strong female characters in entertainment and media that targets and influences children ages 11 and under. The Institute is also the only organization employing the GD-IQ tool to create systemic change in entertainment media content creation.

    Looks like politics, ego-stroke and money-spinner all in one. I poked around the website for a minute: she’s hawking bracelets (to raise money, of course); she has an absurdly lengthy, smoke-blowing bio (“at one time the nation’s 13th-ranked archer”); they don’t publish the financials, you have to e-mail some lady to see them.

    I assume it’s a shakedown operation much like Al Sharpton used to run: find some big company without enough women employees and threaten to make a stink until they make some token hires (especially of friends, relatives and donors) and a generous financial contribution to allow the institute to continue its important work. She’s probably drawing a salary, too, which will be handy since the acting work dried up. Must be a smart cookie. (Indeed she is: she’s “a member of the genius society Mensa”, per her bio.)

    Or perhaps she’s a true believer in this rubbish. I suppose it is comforting to think it’s the patriarchy keeping you down, rather than you’ve (a) aged out of the big paychecks, and (b) burned up all your clout in a failed attempt to become an action star in the nineties.

    And that story bears repeating: she got her husband to cast her in two action movies he was making, both of which bombed so bad that they took out three careers – hers, her husband’s (he’s making movies in China now) and the writer’s (but at least he bounced back) – and an entire studio.

    I’m sorry to have banged on about this, but I just found it quite fantastically stupid that Geena Davis has an institute.

    …if every millionaire Hollywood actress who moans about the representation of women in film agreed to put $1m into a fund, they could easily hand out grants of $10 or $20k to budding female writers, directors, actors etc. They could fund hundreds of women a year.

    But they’d rather gripe and pretend to have no agency.

    Or keep their cash and just nag men into funding women instead. Should we be surprised?

  9. Women dominate porn movies and yet I don’t think that very many women helm them.

  10. “Scarcity leads to invisibility”
    Not true at all. Really really good films are scarce, but they are hugely visible. Everybody wants to see them.

    But it’s not even true in the way that she means it. Unless she is arguing for over-representation.

    “and invisibility leads to more scarcity”
    Not true either. Unless you are suggesting that there is something innately different about female directors that makes their product a completely different product category.

    Even then it’s not true – many of the greatest successes in almost any field you care to mention arise from a truly ground breaking venture, identifying a market that no-one previously knew might even be there at all. Prior to launch the product was invisible – indeed creators go to inordinate lengths to keep things completely secret until they are ready to launch – but a good product doesn’t stay either invisible or scarce for very long.

    Oddly though, the creators might even want to create some scarcity to drive the price up…

  11. What MC said.

    There’s a thing called guerilla filmmaking. You don’t go out and ask a studio for money, you raise the money yourself, probably act as a large part of the crew, rope in friends, young actors, etc.

    Films like Primer, Clerks, El Mariachi were done like this. Robert Rodriguez, the director of El Mariachi even wrote a book on it.

    And the thing is there’s no growth in women doing this., even as it’s got cheaper.

    The thing women generally lack is making and seizing opportunities. They go to film schools and sit at home sending off applications for work or grants. Men will just go find some work. Local company needs a corporate video? They’ll shoot it. Soft porn? They’ll shoot it. Pop videos? Same. Or they’ll just make stuff and put it on YouTube.

  12. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fuck-ton of subsidies available for film / the arts generally. Notable that (AFAIK) there are no subsidies for publishing – and yet women are much more successful there.

    Perhaps it’s time for Sir Les Patterson who – as ‘Minister of the Yarts’ and ‘President of the Australian Fillum Facility’, as well as other things – would be well qualified to nudge women along in this field. He loves women, I believe.

  13. The thing women generally lack is making and seizing opportunities. They go to film schools and sit at home sending off applications for work or grants. Men will just go find some work.

    This is an excellent point: why aren’t women out there doing it?

  14. Bloke on M4,

    “The Evil Dead” is another example of “we have no money, but we want to make a movie” that launched Sam Raimi’s career.

    And who now remembers that Peter Jackson – he of Middle-Earth movies, and King Kong, and so on – started out by making the hilariously awful “Bad Taste” with three mates, a hand-held clockwork camera and zero budget?

    Where’s the female Ed Wood, or William Castle, or Roger Corman, or even (Lord help us!) Uwe Boll?

  15. “I am most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of “Women’s Rights”, with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feelings and propriety. Feminists ought to get a good whipping. Were woman to “unsex” themselves by claiming equality with men, they would become the most hateful, heathen and disgusting of beings and would surely perish without male protection. I love peace and quiet, I hate politics and turmoil. We women are not made for governing, and if we are good women, we must dislike these masculine occupations.”

    Tell it like it is, Queenie, tell it like it is!

  16. Jim 10.29 am

    re the BBC’s “far right” obsession

    This is in the second sentence of the quoted article: “The rapid rise of Brazil’s new far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro . . . ”

    They can’t help themselves

  17. Women should just forget about key roles in spanking movies and focus instead on career growth areas like politics.

    ……………………………………………………………………………………

    The candidates in the midterm elections are among the most diverse set to run in the history of the United States.

    There are more new faces than incumbents in this diverse cohort of candidates. More than a quarter of all the candidates running this year are female, including 84 women of color — a 42 percent increase from just two years ago. There are at least 216 candidates of color and a record 26 openly L.G.B.T. candidates, more than five times the number in 2010.

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/31/us/politics/midterm-election-candidates-diversity.html

  18. “being a director requires a certain technical ability, obsession with details, risk taking, and stubborn perseverance which are more commonly found in men than women.”

    Nailed it… but I think there’s also more to it.

    I think men are the natural storytellers. Why? They have more stories they want to tell. About exploration, discovery, pushing the envelope, going over that next hilltop.

    There are only so many stories that can be told about child-rearing, cuckoldry, bitching and hitting the wall.

  19. Holy shit I clicked on MC’s link to Raindance’s 25 best female-directed films and #1 on the list is Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will(!!)

    God, that’s delicious. I suppose the Nazi’s were simply progressive enough to trust a woman to showcase their glorious Reich!

    she was labeled by many as the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century

    Damn master race, taking the “best of” in the wokest of categories, including “Most Vegan Dictator”.

    Her personal association with Hitler (who actually commissioned this film) ruined her film career after Germany’s defeat in World War II.

    You film one damned Nazi propaganda film and *poof* your career is toast? C’mon! If only Germany had avoided defeat, huh Raindance? The bad luck, amirite?

    Thanks MC. I needed that.

  20. There are only so many stories that can be told about child-rearing, cuckoldry, bitching and hitting the wall.

    My experience has been that men can write female characters, so well that they can get away with it unnoticed. There are a fair number of men writing under female noms des plumes in the romance novel industry with none the wiser.

    On the other hand, I’ve never seen a female writer that could write authentic-sounding male characters.

    Women account for half the movie going audience

    This is very surprising. The rule for decades has been that women watch TV, men watch sports and movies (to loop in the earlier observation about publishing, women read fiction, men read non-fiction). Men and women want very different things from their entertainment, so it seems that we’re back to women not wanting entertainment produced by other women either.

  21. Re: “The rapid rise of Brazil’s new far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro . . . ”

    How can he be “Far” Right: winning 52% – a majority – of votes suggests he was supported by centreists.

  22. One of the more interesting things about our sexually dimorphic species is that the males tend to exhibit far more variance in terms of intelligence than the females do, and this tends to express itself in some rather… Mmmm… Shall we say, “interesting” patterns.

    Very few females will obsessively memorize things like baseball statistics and details of railway engines. Those are almost entirely male avocation/obsession subjects. I honestly can’t think of a single “railway enthusiast” that I’ve ever met who was a woman; same with nearly every other thing that men devote massive amounts of time to memorizing the details of and studying in such depth that they can recite hours of data in reference to their chosen obsession. Women may play baseball, they may work as railway engineers, but they rarely, if ever, do that “detail wonkery”. Why is that? They certainly can do the detail stuff–Look at how many can pick out the details of things like what the other women in a group are wearing, and who’s got the fake knock-off Armani or Gucci handbag. But, they rarely do it the way the males tend to go at it–There’s a different quality to it–While they can pick out the knock-off designer bag, they don’t generally go into depth and catalog each and every single variation and subvariety of each producer’s bags like a male with a similar bent might.

    This, I suspect, relates to the reason why female directors and film producers are so damn rare–The average woman just does not have that obsessive bent that the males do, and will not sacrifice herself on the altar of risking it all for her obsession.

    It’s a lot like the old saw about breakfast–The chicken was involved in producing it for you, but the pig was committed. Women will go along for the ride, but they rarely have the passionate obsession to create something on their own at the expense of everything else in their lives. They’re better at maintaining a balance, and not “risking it all” the way males will–Which, I’m afraid, means that they don’t produce great art the way an obsessive and talented male will, simply because there aren’t that many women who are that crazed and obsessive about things in any regard. Women can be crazy and obsessive, it is true, but the object of their passion is not usually some abstract idea like creating a movie or writing a book. And, the ones that are like that? They are pretty damn rare, compared to the number of males.

    The other factor is that women typically chose to have families, which then become the main focus of their lives. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a thing nonetheless, and it explains a lot about why you don’t see too many “great artistic works” by women–Up until lately, there simply wasn’t time in a woman’s life to both have a family, and do the “great art” thing. Hell, it’s pretty much still impossible to do both, with our short lives.

    A lot of the problems we have between the sexes these days boil down to one thing–The girls have been looking over at the boys, and going “Wow, that’s so much better than what I’m doing…”, and then wanting it. It’s truly a case of “the grass being greener on the other side of the fence…”, though, because they’ve been looking solely at the cool stuff, and completely missing the price the males pay for it. And, to make it worse, they’ve worked towards getting all the privileges while studiously ignoring the entire set of obligations and duties attendant thereof, none of which they’ve made any effort to take up.

    This thing with the Hollywood creatives is another perfect example–They want someone to hand them the keys to studio to “do their own thing”, but they aren’t willing to pay the tuition, in terms of getting it done on their own, first. The few that are will likely get swept under the carpet with the rest of the parasites when the big boys grow tired of humoring them, and that will likely come about the time Hollywood goes bankrupt under the weight of all these vanity projects like the latest Star Wars crapfest.

  23. I recall seeing Salma Hayek making statements about how female directors are so oppressed and calling for ‘something to be done’.

    something to be done = feminist speak for ‘others must be forced to do something I call for while I buff my nails.

  24. Daniel Ream, contrast and compare the audience figures/box office receipts for the 50 Shades franchise versus some woke art house dross produced/directed by a woman. Seems like Hollywood producers really do know what women want to watch and it isn’t the latter.

    Sam, I saw the Leni Riefenstahl film about the 1936 Olympics a few years ago at the local cinema. I’m not one for documentary style films, but this was truly excellent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *