Hollywood has long had a reputation as a boys’ club. According to a report from the Celluloid Ceiling, women accounted for only 16 percent of all directors, producers, writers, editors and cinematographers in 2013. The television landscape isn’t any better: The Director’s Guild of America notes that just 14 percent of TV episodes were directed by a woman in the 2012-2013 season. The sci-fi epic “Jupiter Ascending” would have been a big boon for 2014, with Lana Wachowski as co-director (along with her brother Andy) for what could be a major box office draw.
But now, with “Jupiter Ascending” pushed back from its July 18 release date to February 2015, this year will be yet another poor one for women directors.
Only five upcoming films have female directors, the biggest of which is Trish Sie’s “Step Up: All In,” the fifth entry in a fading franchise. Other summer films directed by women are independent films like Gillian Robespierre’s “Obvious Child,” Naomi Foner’s “Very Good Girls,” Kat Candler’s “Hellion,” and Martha Stephens’ “Land Ho!” (co-directed by Aaron Kat), all of which will receive limited releases.
It's getting a little more difficult to cling to old Hollywood assumptions that audiences aren’t interested in female-centric fare. “Frozen” -- co-directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, with female co-protagonists -- was 2013’s third-biggest film of the year. Then again, Disney renamed the film and marketed it in a way that downplayed its female-driven storyline.
Smaller films and documentaries are generally friendlier to female directors. And while directors like Sofia Coppola are valued members of the industry, none of 2014’s 30 highest grossing films were directed by a woman.
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Male directors are often offered big-budget directing jobs based on their work in indie films, television and even commercials. “Godzilla” director Gareth Edwards earned a shot at the $160 million tentpole feature almost immediately after his first feature, the $500,000 “Monsters.” Joseph Kosinski had never directed a full-length film before Disney handed him $170 million to make “Tron: Legacy.” Colin Treverrow was offered the upcoming Jurassic Park sequel “Jurassic World” based on his $750,000 “Safety Not Guaranteed.”
The prior two films were financial successes, and it’s likely that “Jurassic World” will be too. After all, these preexisting franchises mostly sell themselves. But this kind of high-profile gig isn't being offered to women. And with so many women working in television and independent film, it’s safe to say that at least one of them would jump at the opportunity to direct a “Godzilla.”
One of the most notable women working in Hollywood today is Michelle MacLaren. She's directed stand-out episodes of the mega popular series “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” and has served as co-executive producer on “Breaking Bad” and “The X-Files.” “First of His Name,” MacLaren’s most recent episode of “Game of Thrones,” broke series records with 7 million viewers and received rave reviews.
Clearly, MacLaren is producing well-regarded work that resonates with audiences, but she hasn’t moved on to features. Hey, Marvel, you were looking for a director for “Ant-Man”? We have a great candidate.