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4 Ways Film Schools Can Do More for Female Students

“You can’t just admit marginalized students to your program and call it a day.”

1. Prepare them for workplace sexual harassment.

I’m starting here because ignoring this issue, or assuming that students will pick this knowledge up elsewhere, can have serious repercussions for them. As so many #MeToo stories have made clear, sexual harassment is a real plague on this industry. It’s also serious enough that it’s causing women to leave it. That should freak all of us out, but it should be particularly concerning for film schools, who theoretically are supposed to set students up for successful (read: long) careers in media.

2. Make sure you’re teaching films by women.

This one sounds obvious (and like the bare minimum, if you ask me), but it’s still not the norm, even among more “progressive” film schools. I took a course during my own program called “Women and Film” that — no joke — centred mostly on films directed by men. To be fair, much of the course dealt with issues of representation for women in front of the camera — the male gaze, female agency, Laura Mulvey, and so on — but there was a glaring lack of women-directed films in my program overall. As a result, many of my classmates couldn’t name more than two or three female directors at the end of it.

3. Don’t let harmful tropes and lazy writing past the screenplay stage.

The most commonly cited complaint among the women I spoke with was that they didn’t always feel like instructors had their backs when they chose to shake the proverbial tree, especially when they did so in class. Difficult conversations are supposed to transpire in classroom settings, especially since film schools are where aspiring filmmakers study things like tropes, agency, and representation — including what can happen when you get those things wrong.

4. Take a good look at your faculty.

Do your instructors come from a diverse set of backgrounds and lived experiences? Are your core classes mostly taught by male professors, with the women handling the electives? Do you have any women teaching production classes? These things sound insignificant, but they have more of an impact on students than you might expect.

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