We guess for Hollywood insiders Tom Donahue incisive documentary on gender inequality in the movie business is hardly big news, but for those of us outside of the circle his ‘investigation’ highlights issues that we rarely think about. Interestingly enough Donahue started the project before the formation of the whole #MeToo movement which is reflected in his whole approach.
Backed by an impressive range of statistics supported by the evidence provided by a whole wealth of Hollywood stars … .both big and small …. Donahue confirms that although women may make up 50% of the general population, when it comes to the film industry they don’t even get into double digits. What was particularly upsetting to learn is that if one breaks through the ranks and manages to actually write/direct a film that is critically acclaimed. the chances of a male-dominated producing/distributing network actually supporting and promoting it are often less than nil. The industry has too many successful women directors who unlike their male counterparts who never got a second chance.
It took KImberley Peirce nine years to make her 2nd film after her Oscar nominated Boys Don’t Cry, and she recounted that even when she is in the directors chair, the 100% male crew just insist on getting their voices heard. She recounted the ridiculousness of being lectured by male producers on shooting a shower scene in Carrie where actress Chloë Grace Moretz is having a period as they thought that they knew best about menstruation.
Donahue has produced the movie in collaboration with actress-turned-advocate Geena Davis and her Institute on Gender in Media who have done extensive research provides ground breaking data on women and girls in media. Davis like so many of her peers is passionate about the subject and is still reeling from the fact that the 1991 groundbreaking movie Thelma and Louise that she starred in never changed the playing field for women like everyone thought it would.
One of the very many crucial points that Donahue touches on is that women are not fighting to make what their male counterparts patronisingly dismiss as ‘women’s pictures’ but much more importantly stories that portray them authentically in society today. As Reese Witherspoon the ex-child actress and Oscar winner and now powerful producer so succinctly pointed out is that children’s opinions are shaped by the first images that they see on screen, and so that it is imperative that the ones they see of women are not just that ones that only men have created.
Donahue is quick to point that not all men are villains though and when John Landgraf the CEO of the FX Networks saw an daming independent report that highlighted his network as one of the very worst offenders of gender inequality, he insisted that they change their ways and be more pro-active. Not only did they greatly improve the ratio of women behind and in front of the camera, but their ratings actually improved and they started collecting Awards for the quality of their work too.
The Changes Everything is an eye-opener that leaves you reeling when it finally sinks in how widespread and ingrained this problem is. It’s not purely about the directors who insisted that actresses like Sharon Stone sit on their lap to take ‘notes’ but the whole patricahal system that denies women and minorities the right to really be themselves.
The movie may not offer many solutions but by raising the subject in such a detailed manner, it keeps open a dialogue that needs to continue until everything is changed.
P.S. The Changes Everything has been selected for the Opening Night Gala of the Miami Film Festival : a distinct honor rarely given to a documentary film. Executive Director Jaie Laplante told Queerguru : “I selected it for Opening Night because I felt it was important for all of us who appreciate movies to think about these systemic and historical issues with the art form that we love, and to be inspired to consciously seek out and support those in the industry who are working for permanent shifts in the direction of equality and respect for women.”