Screens /// Thoughts x

You can’t be what you can’t see on on the credits reel.

The Academy Awards, an esteemed annual awards spectacle also known as the Oscars, recognizes the best of the best in the Hollywood film industry. Actors, actresses, directors, film composers, designers and just about anyone involved in the moviemaking aspire to ascend to the level of expertise and popularity required to be nominated for an Oscar.

The show has been around since 1929, which makes it almost a century since its initiation. In that time, only five women have ever been nominated in the best director category at the Oscars. Let that sink in.

As the Oscars approach their centennial, you would think that the number of female directors recognized for their work would be greater than the number of fingers on one hand. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women made up only 11 percent of all directors who worked on the 250 top-grossing films in 2017. That unacceptably low number needs to change.

The issue clearly isn’t a lack of talent: nothing prevents a woman from possessing creative and artistic abilities equal to, or even greater than, those of a man. The talent is there — it just isn’t being developed properly.

When aspiring female filmmakers see so few women succeeding in the field, it can be discouraging. This becomes a vicious circle, with little opportunity leading to lack of representation that discourages potential talent from pursuing what opportunities do exist.

The industry needs to change, and it looks like Disney is making moves to initiate that change. Disney just announced a new initiative with an international scope, inviting 21 female filmmakers from around the world to tell the stories of women in various industries that inspire.

To accomplish this, Disney decided to partner with Girl Up, a United Nations initiative that seeks to empower girls to lead the fight for gender equality around the world.

The series will be called #DREAMBIGPRINCESS, referencing Disney’s on-screen princesses that inspire young women. With this project, girls will have the chance to extend the narrative into the real world by capturing the stories of real-life princesses on film.

The young female filmmakers will have the tools and workshop instruction necessary to create their short films. After the series is released, the women will have further support from Disney, Apple and Summerjax (a female-led production company) as they continue their creative endeavors back home.

One of the women to be featured in the series, Jennifer Lee, wrote and directed the widely acclaimed Disney movie “Frozen,” which broke numerous records and netted her the Academy Award for best animated feature. Having a young filmmaker tell Lee’s success story will impact more than just audiences — the filmmaker will see the potential for her own work and be encouraged to continue directing.

By providing more opportunities for women in filmmaking, Disney is helping end the cycle that hinders female directors from breaking into the industry. It is also commendable that Disney chose to give this project a global scope, increasing diversity in another form. The industry still has a ways to go in terms of representation, but empowering young women to be cinematic storytellers is a great step forward.

Writer Profile

Maya Ramani

University of Virginia

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