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Women's Media Center Traveled to the 2011 Sundance Film Festival to Shine a Light on the Serious Gender Disparity in the Film Industry

February 15, 2011

New York City -- In January, the Women’s Media Center, along with our team of Progressive Girls Voices journalists, and our co-founder, Gloria Steinem, traveled to the 2011 Sundance Film Festival to shine a light on the serious gender disparity in the film industry, both in front and behind the cameras.  Our goal was to raise awareness as a strategic step to changing the status quo.

You may not be aware of how few women hold decision-making jobs in the film industry.  The Center for the Study of Women in Film at San Diego State University has spent the past decade tracking the employment of women as directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors in the top 250 grossing films of 2010.

Here are some of the statistics the research revealed:

➢ Women comprised only 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors combined
➢ Only 7% of all directors were women
➢ Only 10% of all writers were women
➢ Only 15% of all executive producers were women
➢ Only 24% of all producers were women
➢ Only 18% of all editors were women
➢ Only 2% of all cinematographers were women

Who tells the story is every bit as important as what the story is.  As Gloria told the press at Sundance, “From watching movies, girls and women come to believe we can only be ornaments, not instruments.  Movies shape our dreams, but they are mostly missing the talents of the female half of the country.”

The Women’s Media Center decided it was time to change the story and chose the Sundance Film Festival – the center of leadership and creativity within the industry – as the place to launch our campaign.  Our plan was to let our team of girl journalists ask what message the statistics on women in film send to girls.

The Women’s Media Center’s team of girl journalists blogged, tweeted, and interviewed notable leaders, including Sundance Institute Founder Robert Redford, Academy Award Winning Actor and Advocate Geena Davis, Author and Activist Gloria Steinem, and several film directors including Jennifer Siebel Newsom (Miss Representation), Tiffany Shlain (Connected), Lynn Hershman Leeson, (!Women Art Revolution), David Weissman (We Were Here).  By creating their own media, and by interviewing women who have risen above this male-dominated industry, our Progressive Girls Voices team truly had the chance change the story, and become exposed to the world of powerful female media makers. Their blog posts and video interviews were published on the Women’s Media Center blog, TruthOut, Alternet, Care2, and Feministing.

We also produced a viral video that highlights the gender disparity of women in film and media.  Bob Dylan’s iconic video, Subterranean Homesick Blues provided the inspiration for this intersection of art and news, which we used to tell the story.  Dar Williams gave us permission to use her song, Cool As I Am, whose chorus reads “I will not be afraid of women.”  We have been overwhelmed with the positive response to the video and were pleased to have it screened before every film at New York City’s Athena Film Festival.  In April, it will be featured at the Through Women's Eyes Film Festival, sponsored by the Gulf Coast Chapter of U.N. Women.  You can see it now on our video page or here.

The media has the power to tell the story, but it also has the power to change the story.  By not accurately representing half of the population, women’s stories have not been told completely. With women leading as social media users and influencers, all of us now have the power to change the story.

In the women’s movement of 70’s, Ms. Magazine published a regular column called “Click Moments” that featured women’s stories of the moment they realized sexism still exists.  The stories named sexist incidents and inspired individuals and groups to change the story.

We hope our video is a “click moment” for you and you join with us to change the story and make women powerful and visible in media.

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Julie Burton is President of the Women’s Media Center (WMC). 

The Women’s Media Center was founded in 2005 by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem to positively impact the visibility of women in the media, amplify women’s voices on key issues in the national dialogue, fight sexism and bias against women in the media, and increase professional opportunities for women across all forms of media. Through training, advocacy, and the development of original content, WMC is breaking through the status quo so that media more accurately represents the perspectives, positions, and priorities of women.

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