A new film-production fund is looking to rectify gender imbalance in Hollywood by only financing feature narratives directed by women. The straightforwardly named Gamechanger Films has four co-founders, two of whom—Julie Parker Benello and Wendy Ettinger—are also involved in Chicken & Egg Films, which supports female non-fiction filmmakers. The other two co-founders—Dan Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous—are also the co-founders of Impact Partners, whose stated goal is to bring together investors looking for a profit with socially conscious filmmakers, and whose titles include the dolphin-slaughter doc The Cove and the recent The Queen Of Versailles. As Cogan and Dreyfous’ dual bio notes, over more than 60 percent of Impact titles have been directed by women.
That’s a far higher ratio than the one found by a recent study co-conducted by UN Women and the Geena Davis Institute on on Gender in Media, which found that women made up approximately 50 percent of film school graduates but had directed only 7 percent of the top 250 highest-grossing American films of the last few years. (As The Los Angeles Times’ Steven Zeitchik observes, even that 7 percent average named is down from 9 percent in 1998.) A study released by the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism earlier this year crunched the numbers for the top 100-grossing films each year from 2007 to 2010 as well as 2012, finding that women were the directors of 4.1 percent of the films considered in the latter year. It’s worth looking over their figures, which find strong correlations between the presence of female writers or directors and the number of female characters with speaking parts (or lack thereof) and their sexualization.
The company says it’s focusing on feature narratives because women are already better-represented in non-fiction filmmaking. When it comes to making feature narratives, women aren’t even in the running: “When creative executives get in a room and go down the list of possible directors for a movie that’s already financed, they simply don’t see many women to choose from,” said senior advisor Mary Jane Skalski (whose producer credits include Win Win). “If we get more women making movies, there will be more people to consider from that list. On some level it’s simply a numbers game.”
The focus will be on movies with budgets from $1 million to $5 million, and making a profit to convince investors women directors can be profitable. “Hollywood speaks in terms of money, so our goal is to use that same language,” Gamechanger president Mynette Louie said. “There’s an unconscious prejudice in which people just don’t feel confident giving their money to women filmmakers and getting their money back,” Cogan added.
With successful financial returns, the company hopes to change that. Unsolicited submissions aren’t welcome, with Gamechanger looking to dig into established agent/manager relationships to find underutilized talent. Nor will those directors be necessarily expected to make films about women. “We don’t feel that the goal here should be more stories about women, or more stories about women in particular genres,” Skalski said of Gamechanger’s mission. “Would you say ‘Yes, women should be doctors but they should only be gynecologists?’”