“We are a community of young female creatives in the field of moving image. If you identify as a female or non-binary filmmaker, join our membership.” Those are the first lines the organization Girls in Film gives to those who visit their website. It is simple, direct and to-the-point — just like its founder.
Girls in Film was founded in 2016 by Nikola Vasakova, a film producer and curator based in London. Her goal was simple: to address the gender bias rampant throughout the filmmaking industry. “I founded Girls In Film to try and redress the inequality in an industry that all-too-often sees female creatives patronised and prevented from realising their potential,” Vasakova says.
And that inequality is a pervasive one. San Diego State University’s Center for Study of Women in Television and Film came out with their annual report in 2019 on the status of female representation in cinematic roles. According to the center’s director, Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, 2019 held a record high for female lead characters in the previous year’s most popular films. A whopping 37% of main characters were women. Let me repeat that. Out of the top 100 grossing films domestically, only 37 of the protagonists — the main characters — were women. Dr. Lauzen notes in the annual report that 37% is a historic high. In 2018, the percentage of main characters came in at 36%.
Yet the key behind-the-scenes roles that provide the critical backbone to any film still lack any noticeable change in gender inclusion. According to Dr. Lauzen’s Celluloid Report, when a larger picture is taken — the top 500 grossing films — men outnumber women four-to-one in these out-of-the-spotlight positions. It’s ironic that so few women are in the process of filmmaking, particularly when given the fact that 51% of filmgoers are women.
It makes complete sense, then, as to why Vasakova decided to create a community centered around the development and support of women in the film industry. Girls in Film not only provides free membership to those who identify as female or nonbinary, the organization offers their platform to filmmakers, bestowing upon these budding creatives a ready-made audience. Girls in Film has a substantial following, just under 5,000 on Facebook, and an impressive 21,700 on Instagram.
The community acts as an international spider web, connecting female-identifying members of the film industry to peers and mentors across the globe. Girls in Film hosts events to aid their members. They recently announced a mentoring partnership with the British Film Institute in which Girls in Film and BFI Network will co-host a Zoom panel on “What Makes a Good BFI Funding Application.”
But more than that, Girls in Film offers to viewers a myriad of films. Containing categories such as “experimental,” “fashion” and “narrative,” the organization’s website is a minefield of short films full of life and beauty. Recently, I watched the film “Natia,” directed by Anna Parcerisas, centering on a Georgian daughter returning home from Spain only to encounter shocking cultural traditions she thought were long dead. The film is brief, running a mere 16 minutes, but lingers long after the credits have rolled. “Natia” won multiple awards, including best short film at the Kinofilm International Short Film Festival in the United Kingdom.
The film industry has been in need of an overhaul for decades. Girls in Film is but one of many organizations fighting for a more inclusive professional field. This resource is not only a network waiting to be used, but an educational platform ripe with creative content ready to be consumed.