During the course of Etheria's inaugural event at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre on Saturday, gore poured from the screen. The suspense was intense. The action was, at times, brutal. The films were diverse: a sci-fi tale inspired by Cree lore, a Japanese horror story, an Australian comedy about Jell-O wrestling. Every one was directed by a woman.
Heidi Honeycutt is a film journalist and the director of programming for Etheria Film Night. She has heard plenty of people say that the reason there aren't many women directing big budget studio films is because there aren't that many women directing.
"That's not actually the case," says Honeycutt, who is currently working on a book about female horror film directors. She says that, on a low-budget indie level, the ratio of male to female horror directors is about 50/50. "As you move up on the budget level," she says, "the numbers drop dramatically." That, she says, is pretty similar to what you'll see in the rest of the industry.
"Women tend to not be given the benefit of the doubt the way male directors are," says Honeycutt. "Directors who are male who have one successful low budget film— it goes to Sundance, it goes to Cannes— and gets a lot of attention, will often be offered a very high budget film in Hollywood not too long after," she says, citing the most recent version of Godzilla
as an example. Director Gareth Edwards was picked up after his indie film, Monsters
, made a splash.
That's not the case for female directors. "With women, it's more that they have to prove themselves and it's always considered a 'risk' but nobody really knows why and nobody explains why they think that."
During the event, director Lexi Alexander received the Inspiration Award. Alexander has worked on big Hollywood projects. She directed Punisher: Warzone
, one of several films based on the Marvel comic book character. More recently, she made waves online with a blog post about gender inequality in the film industry. It's a long, forcefully written piece that stresses that the problem isn't a lack of female directors. Instead, she argues, there's "huge lack of people willing to give female directors opportunities."
"It's something that nobody wants to talk about, especially not established directors," says Alexander. "Nobody wants to be the one with the chip on the shoulder." The statistics, though, side with Alexander. The most recent Celluloid Ceiling report, which tracks progress of women in film, indicates that only 6 percent of the directors from last year's 250 top movies were female. It's a sad, and frustrating, reality for women who work in the industry.
See also: Our profile of Jennifer Lee, director of Frozen
The women represented at Etheria Film Night made their films with limited resources and a lot of ingenuity. Job Interview
, a 10-minute psychological thriller from German film student Julia Walter, was shot on her university's campus. She's spending a few weeks in the U.S. to take the short to festivals, including San Diego Comic-Con next week. For The Jelly Wrestler
, director Rebecca Thomson filmed inside her friend's pub. Her movie has already been making rounds on the festival circuit. Sarah Doyle's clever, sci-fi comedy You, Me & Her
came out of the Directing Workshop for Women at AFI, where her budget was capped at $25,000. It's about a woman who learns that 30 parallel universe versions of herself entered her world and they are all her better. This was the film's premiere.
All of the films go beyond the stereotype of films women can make. "A lot of people think women make sappy films, character-driven drama, family drama stuff," says Doyle. "There's a misunderstanding about what women would do."
This small festival, literally located in Hollywood, is trying to send a message to the immense, figurative Hollywood. "We're trying to show people out there that you think there are no women out there who are qualified to direct your action film or your horror film, well, you're wrong," says Honeycutt. "We're going to prove it."
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Etheria Film Night is out to dispel that women don't want to be directors. More importantly, the new film festival exists to address the misconception that women don't direct scenes that bleed, crash and explode.