Time’s Up for Hollywood Agencies to Sign (and Support) Female Filmmakers (Guest Blog)

As a female director who’s worked in the trenches for three decades, the past few months feel as if the axis of the planet really has budged, Rachel Feldman writes

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To the female filmmakers of Hollywood, the steel-trap doors, brick walls and locked gates of employment feel as if they have finally have cracked open — a little. Of course, it was a confluence of many events, including the brave ongoing activism of so many and the outrageous political turn of the last election, but there is no doubt that it was the brutal sexual degradation of so many women that finally shamed our industry into recognizing itself as a perpetuator and enabler of female oppression.

Then #MeToo and #TimesUp stepped in just as “Wonder Woman,” “Mudbound” and “Lady Bird” hit theaters and “Queen Sugar,” “Jessica Jones” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” lit up smaller screens, illuminating brilliant female talent behind the camera as well as on screen. As a female director who has worked in the trenches of Hollywood for three decades, the past few months feel as if the axis of the planet really has budged.

As the director of a new episodic season, I am in the position to hire a cinematographer and my producers and I want to hire a highly experienced woman with whom to collaborate. Several months ago, before the world shifted, I often encountered my female DP colleagues bemoaning the industry-wide exclusion we all experience. (After all, the statistics for female DPs are even worse than the numbers for women directors.)

But now that I am in the position to hire a DP, many of these same women are suddenly busy! While that’s fantastic news, the down side is that it has proven extremely difficult and time-consuming to do a comprehensive hiring search. My conclusion is that the agencies need to make radical, speedy changes in order to play catch-up and support female talent at this crucial moment in time.

There are many fine agencies who represent DPs but once you scratch below the surface of the highly-employed women, it becomes clear that the talent pool of represented women is thin, requiring a tremendous amount of research to find unrepped talent, time that most producers don’t have. Certainly there are fantastic online resources but without knowing availability, location, rates, and level of experience these lists don’t support immediate production needs.

The key is representation. I urge the agencies to examine their missions and to grow their talent pool, engaging not only the next generation but also women who have been working in obscurity, with no support for too long. It’s tough to understand why the agencies are slow to join this revolution.

We read about agency executives demanding equal pay and equal board seats, which is right, so why not demand gender parity in the literary and “below the line” client pool as well? This is true for directors as well. I know thousands of highly accomplished filmmakers who are not represented. You can find us by searching at Film Fatales or the Alliance of Women Directors. But if the agencies deepened their female director rosters then many more women would be hired and our ranks would swell toward parity. If we truly want to see change, the agencies must act now!

Of course, the downfall of Harvey Weinstein should not be the cause of change. No one should benefit from another’s suffering. But our industry has been operating in tone-deaf complacency for so long that there’s a bitter irony that it took shocking, repeated violence against women to begin a long-awaited awakening.

P.S. To the agents who rep great DPs, thank you — but we found our gal! Sign more!