Filmmakers at SXSW: Mind the Gender Gap

Latinitas Reports from SXSW 2017

Gender inequality in filmmaking is an all too real issue that needs to be given a platform to create dialogue on and search for change. The female filmmakers on the Future is Female: Parity Now panel are highly aware of that and have already taken action by pursuing their dreams and not taking no for an answer. The purpose of the panel, organized by Film Fatales, was to provide a space to present the unfortunate reality of the gender gap within the filmmaking industry, but above all that it was a chance to discuss solutions.

The speakers were all self-made filmmakers with knowledge of the industry and familiarity with its gender-based challenges. Laura E. Davis, co-writer and director of the film “Inheritance,” started off the panel by going over some startling statistics, such as the lack of women in the director’s chair. Across one thousand films, the total percentage of female directors is a mere four percent. This data is not only shocking but it’s also very disheartening to any young girl looking to get into the film industry.

Nanfu Wang, director of the documentary “I Am Another You,” shared her own experience of enduring racism and sexism on her way to get her documentary distributed. “There were a lot of very unique challenges,” said Wang before listing out her difficulties as an Asian woman with an accent in America. Before her experience within the American film industry, she underwent disparity in China. While she was in China, everyone she knew would tell her to get married instead of pursuing an education. She didn’t have access to any formal education, yet found herself going to the United States to pursue a degree. Once in the United States, she decide to produce a documentary on her own about the hardships in her native land and ended up receiving critical acclaim. She was surprised by the reception since she had zero experience. On top of all this, she claimed that one of the most complicated aspects of filmmaking is getting the film distributed. This is a major part of the issue since most distributors will choose films directed by men rather than those directed by women.

Isabel Sandoval, a self-employed film director from the Philippines, discussed how her country has advocated heavily for female filmmakers and now has women making up an impressive eighty percent of the industry. She claims it is making a positive impact on audiences and overall has diversified the stories told through film. “In a way, I consider myself very lucky to have developed my films and have very female-centric protagonists,” said Sandoval. The Filipino film company mindset is the complete opposite of what Hollywood does in order to stand out from the mainstream.

Finally, Bette Gordon, a film director of many critically acclaimed films, made the claim that panels must also invite the decision makers and executives and hold this dialogue with them, too. The importance of this is to hold someone accountable rather than to blame. Overall, the mission is to achieve diversity and inclusion in an industry that has for too long excluded women, which also excludes potential ideas and stories that could revolutionize cinema for current and future audiences.

About the Writer
Jose Silva Salmerón, also known as Antonio Salmerón, is a Content Producer at Latinitas and a senior at the University of Texas at Austin. He’s pursuing a degree in both Public Relations and Radio-Television-Film with a business foundations certificate. Aside from working and studying, Salmerón enjoys watching films, writing scripts and assisting on various personal and school related film projects. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.