Let’s start with a simple rhetorical question, when you think of a Hollywood director who comes to mind? Was the first one to come to your mind female, did you even cheat and use the article title yet still struggle to think of female director. This might not be entirely your fault as it’s found that for the Top 250 films of 2016 measured by box office success, only 7% of the bunch have a female director at the mantle. In all aspects of film, females fail to represent even a forth in any position according to this study (Kilday, The Hollywood Reporter). As an advocate that film should be a medium in which anyone and everyone should feel free to express their own narratives, it seemed fitting to shine a spotlight on some recent woman who have not only made fantastic films but are opening doors for more woman to influence the voice of Hollywood.
Fairly a new comer to the scene, Kelly Fremon Craig impressed audiences with her down to earth coming of age comedy, directorial debut Edge of Seventeen. If you’ve heard of the film than you’ve probably heard the overwhelming praise the film has received from critics and movie goers alike. I had the unique opportunity to view the film early and recently re-watched it now that it’s available at Red-box and upon both viewing would say it was enjoyable. The film hosts a cast of characters one can relate to and a unique sense of humor that has clearly resonated with its audience earning a 7.4/10 on IMDb and a 95% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. When it came to Craig presenting her exotic voice she initially struggled to fully express it without the power of the director’s chair. Screenwriters are almost subjected to the same treatment as the author of a book in that with no influence over the production there is nothing stopping the director and producers from completely altering the authorial intent of the screenwriter. The creative process of film-making essentially is a long game of telephone as the screenwriter passes it to the director who passes it to the editors who passes it to the distributors/trailer house etc. and finally to the audience as the final result is not always the final audience interpretation of the product being what the writer had originally attended it. Craig reflected upon her own earlier experience with the process in the film Post Grad, in which she expressed some frustration stating:
“Yeah, yeah. No, that was one of those experiences that I think most writers have where you write something and then it grows legs and runs away and you barely recognize it” – Kelly Fremon Craig
When Craig came up with The Edge of Seventeen, her growing attachment to the project had her hoping to have the chance take charge of the project herself. Craig reflects upon the meeting with one of the producers James L. Brooks in which she was presented with her golden ticket:
“I absolutely knew I wanted to direct it. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to. On the first meeting that I sat down with Jim, I was so ready to make a pitch for myself as a director. When I sat down with him, one of the first things he said was, “I think the voice is so specific to you that I think you’re the only person to direct it”
Feel free to check out the full interview by LRM of Kelly Fremon Craig as it gives great insight on her humble beings and the making of a well-done film. The Edge of Seventeen, certainly did become a flying success and I do agree with the sentiment of Craig’s original voice being heavily responsible for that success. Kelly Fremon Craig appears to place a high value of honest film-making and blending heartful vulnerability with a blunt sense of humor. I would recommend seeing The Edge of Seventeen if you haven’t already and I certainly hope to see more from Craig as both a screenwriter and as a director.
It seems that most woman directors are type-casted into specific genres such as coming of age or romantic comedies but very rarely does a major studio entrust one of their major tent-pole films. Patty Jenkins might have just re-written history in being the first woman to direct a film with an over $100 million. Patty Jenkins of course directed the film that you may have heard of it’s called Wonder Woman. In the Warner Bros. DCEU (Detective Comics Extended Universe) run with production re-shoots of Suicide Squad, the demotion of Zack Snyder, and the hiring of Joss Whedon it certainly does not shout “We trust our creative minds” or “we love taking risks”. With this in mind it is extremely satisfying to hear of Jenkins victory over the higher ups. In one scene that some would consider one of the better scenes in the movie is when Wonder Woman traverses through No Man’s Land. The unorthodox scene was apparently not warmly received by the studio but Jenkins felt passionately enough to fight for its inclusion.
“It’s my favorite scene in the movie and it’s the most important scene in the movie… This is a different scene than that. This is a scene about her becoming Wonder Woman”
Jenkins stood her ground and the fans seem to have enjoyed the scene as a memorable moment. It’s quite possible that Jenkins has open the door for more female directors to take the helm for these large projects. With the number of super hero movies being produced in the upcoming years it could be valuable introducing new voices to the genre in order to keep things from going stale over the years. Jenkins has shown no problem with being an advocate to widen the horizons for women directors commenting that:
“I definitely think there is a missing feminine voice in Hollywood… If women are the biggest audience in the world right now, it would be wise to go after them.”
Wonder Woman is on pace to possibly be crowned this year’s biggest summer blockbuster when all is said and done which is undeniable going to be a tough act to follow. With the Justice League, soon to follow it’s well understood that Wonder Woman is going to be around for a while. With the film’s success, I would be glad to see Jenkins be given a sequel to continue with the character. Jenkins has already proven she has no problem taking on a daunting task so it should be interesting to see how she decides to follow up such a momentous movie.
The name Coppola is one that should not sound too unfamiliar to film buffs. While most quickly know the name of Francis Ford Coppola, his daughter Sofia Coppola also has been building her own impressive resume. The Lost in Translation director recently took home the prize for Best Director for The Beguiled at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. In the 70-year history of the foreign event Coppola is the first American Female to win best director and being only the second female to ever win. Coppola in an interview shares her intent in the film resonating with a certain demographic, she tells:
“I really made this movie for my gay men friends. And for my women friends!”
More of the interview of Sofia Coppola by Kyle Buchanan on Vulture.com
Coppola seems to always keep her audience in mind when conducting her film-making endeavors. Coppola has stated how she enjoys it when people connect with the little things that she enjoys about her work. Coppola has established her own auteur style with films that heavily feature lavish designs and aesthetics. The Beguiled will be released on June 30th for those interested in seeing the Cannes award winning film. Despite her father well respected reputation Sofia has increasingly earned a name for herself and will continue to be a director to watch out for in coming years.
The film industry is busting at the seams with the incredible talent of all sorts of people in all areas of execution. Film essentially is an extension of the art of storytelling, to keep it are stories intriguing and honest there should a diversity in the storytellers. In some sort or another we are all storytellers, even if you don’t consider yourself to be one don’t feel discouraged to express your own thoughts or opinions. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a favorite female director that I didn’t mention above let me know as writing this I am considering possibly doing a follow up to this either highlighting more female directors or some other unsung heroes of the industry.
Thumbnail Credit: from left to right- Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons, Gage Skidmore Via Flickr, and Gordon Correll via Wikimedia Commons
Follow: Kelly Fremon Craig @KFremonCraig and Patty Jenkins @PattyJenks for more amazing social media posts such as the ones used in this article.