Last week I volunteered to help out at the Los Angeles Women’s Film Festival. For the past two years this was a festival at which we screened our films “The Visionary” and “Mattress World”. To be on the other side of the other side of the proverbial velvet rope was eye-opening about some of the facts facing female filmmakers in our contemporary society.
No wonder there aren’t many women directors in Hollywood. Quipped one audience member after the closing night screening of “The Price of Sex”. Women are making films about rape survivors and sex trafficking and Hollywood just keeps making superhero movies over and over again.
The thing about women filmmakers is they want to deal with topics that are meaningful to themselves. This isn’t a new concept. What do women find meaningful? Men? Babies? Getting married? Maybe. Maybe also surviving rape and growing old and dealing with mother issues and not being trapped into life as a prostitute. It’s safe to say that these are not topics that Hollywood likes to put a lot of money behind. Because audiences don’t care.
Or do they?
Let’s take a look at who makes up audiences today. Conventional wisdom tells us that the target audience demographic is males 18-30. Those are the audience members with disposable income. Those are the audience members going to theatres. Those are the audience members who can make or break a film at the box office. Increasingly, however, movies aren’t in theatres anymore. Thanks to the rise in social media it is possible to watch films online. There’s video on demand services like iTunes, monthly subscription services like Netflix, and even advertising sponsored services like Hulu and, increasingly, YouTube. Filmmakers are even creating direct-to-Netflix content, and not just independent filmmakers but commercial professionals as well.
Increasingly audiences can get their entertainment in the comfort of their own homes. Increasingly, audiences are not based on the people who go out to see a movie but the people who stay in to see a movie.
People can watch movies at home, or on mobile devices; so there are a lot more screens to create content for. Pointed out a panelist in a discussion on the Many Roads to Distribution Panel. And women are becoming a huge consumer of digital media: especially moms with little kids who are getting their entertainment from social media.
What does that mean? It means that more women are watching more film. And women audience members are going to want films that deal with topics that are meaningful to women.
So what is keeping women out of film? Nothing, really. The audience is there for films by and about women. Thanks to high quality digital cameras and readily available editing software production costs are down. Digital and online distribution channels are not only available but actively seeking content. The tradition of Hollywood as a good-ol’-boys-club may be just as much of an illusion as the CGI on a commercial action thriller. The prospects for women filmmakers have never been brighter.