Annotated minutes from focus group

Focus Group – scribe

Orange = effects of the lack of women

Pink = Reasons

Sky Blue = Counter-arguments

Green = Solutions

Advertisements

Focus Group – scribe

As WordPress prevents me from uploading audio files for free, I have posted the minutes from the recording I made on my phone:

Billy: This is to everyone in the group, do you feel that the film industry, as a whole, based on the kind of films that have been released say in the last 5 years, like the big blockbusters, have a suitable amount of women in top roles?

Kitty: No.

Group: [murmuring]

Billy: Do you feel there’s enough female influence?

Group: No


Kitty: ratio wise, you’ll have 5 main guys and 1, maybe 2, women


Billy (to James): Does it feel like there’s a lack of women involved in the filmmaking process as a whole, like it could be lack of female actors?


Milly: It’s not necessarily the amount of women tho, because I think a part of what it is within the films and stuff is that female characters are mostly portrayed as a certain number of archetypes. We’ve done this in english a hundred times and it shows that, because we have to study it, that it’s there. I think that even we, when we’re writing plays or watching plays or whatever, that it’s a part of what our society is. It’s not necessarily about the amount of women, it’s about how men and women are.

Kitty: you don’t have female characters without expecting that they’re gonna hook up with male characters at some point in the film. I’m not super knowledgeable about films but I can only name two female directors, that I know, that’s Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.

James: I only know the one who did Hurt Locker.

Group: Kathryn Bigelow

Billy: all of this is very broad so you can talk about representation of women as well because the stats I’ll show in a sec, it all links together. So it links to the amount of women behind camera and it links to the amount of women on screen as well. Has anyone else got something to say to that. 


Jesse: I think that even if there was a massive number of women involved in the film, they’d all be centered around one man. One man would probably have more power than all of those women in the film. And if they’re seen as making their own decisions or something like that, there’s something bad that’s behind that, rather than it just being normal. It’s not normal for them not to be centered around a man.


Billy: just to say, anyone that can counter anything, if someone wants to debate certain things, it can become a debate, but I don’t want to force anything. It’s a free discussion.

Billy: READS STATS

[…group gives big reaction to fact about salaries of female stars]

Billy: So bearing all of those facts in mind, do anyone of them surprise you? 

Group: No

Kitty: Well they don’t surprise me

James: Well they’re interesting, but I’m not really that surprised, because I expected it to be like that.

Milly: It was like a confirmation of what you already knew anyway.

Jesse: Well yeah you do feel like you already knew but then also when you watch the BAFTAs and Oscars and stuff, the amount of amazing female actors there are, it’s quite surprising that it is that different. Because when you think about female actresses, you think that they’re very successful, but in terms of the proportion to the people behind the screen…

Cameron: I think you gotta take it away from the film and arts industry and bring it back to just normal jobs…women and men….men are paid more, so that will obviously be affected in Hollywood and that, so it’s just taking it, in a way, from the norm of society. It’s not a good thing, it’s a bad thing but yeah, it’s nothing to do with Hollywood

Jesse: Maybe as well its about the stereotype of having a family, that women just can’t dedicate themselves as directors and writers or whatever because when they reach a certain age, still there’s that stereotype of having to, not go back to the home but…basically…men have more freedom

Milly: I’m not disagreeing but that said tho…now, to be honest, I don’t think that any girl in this room, or pretty much any girl that I know, think, like perhaps they would have done 30 years ago, that we will leave here, maybe get a degree, and then get a husband. And I think that actually the family thing, I don’t think has as much of an effect.

Jesse: I don’t think it has as much but I think it’s definitely still there, I’ve spoken to so many girls who are like…

Kitty: I think if I was wanting to go into the film industry behind the screen, then in the forefront in my mind there would always be, that above me there’s a huge majority of men and that it’s very very hard to make your way up the ladder as a woman just because they think, when you’re in that kind of directorial position, you’ve got to have a lot of respect and you gotta have people who are gonna listen to you. But I do think there’s a bit of compromise when you’ve got a woman in charge compared to when a man’s in charge, and she’s gonna need a certain amount of respect and…she’s gotta have a certain amount of prestige, before men will start listening to her, I think.

Josh: Well this goes back to what you were saying about that there’s not enough females playing the main roles in films, because that kinda sums it up really cos, the main role in a film can rinse of the film’s budget completely so if you’re just a supportive member of the cast, you’re just kind of…they can just distribute the money a lot more thinly than if you were the main character…so it kinda just goes back to that in a way. If you’re set in the top 10, female actresses are usually going to be playing the supportive roles of the main character…..when you were saying with a lot of the independent films, a majority of them aren’t going to make a lot of money out of that , so it all goes back to that really

Kitty: I think in general, with male and female actors, quite a lot of male actors have one particular part that they’ll play in a lot of films, whereas female actors have to be able to, in order to get by, have to be able to play anything so that they can fight off all of the other actresses for particular roles

Cameron: But then usually, the female plays, in films for me, usually, in mainstream films, its usually the woman who’s the damsel in distress, or the bloke’s sidekick, or trophy, I don’t wanna go that way but 

Kitty: But it’s like with things like Chick Flicks, you’ll have men who, cos there’s been a massive thing with Matthew McConaughey this year because he’s suddenly he’s got out of the particular role that he’s been playing for years and he’s had the exact same role in so many films, and you wouldn’t have that with a woman where she did the exact same thing, in all these different films

Cameron: But Scarlett Johansson takes a lot of the same roles…Action girl…she does that a lot

Kitty: She also has to be like the super sexy 

Jesse: Yeah you have to be really hot to be able to do that

Kitty: And in all the superhero films there’ll be like one and maybe two 

Josh: He’s still like, even if he’s playing serious roles, he’s still gotta be seen as the hunk in the film. it’s just that it’s more apparent because people will direct their views towards that. McConaughey will still play those sort of roles with a similar vibe, he has to present him self in the same way, but it’s just the way that people approach it. With women, people are a lot more sympathetic towards that. I’m not saying that’s right but because the way society sees things, its just that sort of attitude is then changed towards those two people. So it’s a similar situation but which two different approaches, because there’s a sensitivity sort of barrier between McConaughey and these actresses.

Raphy: The way I see it with the whole film industry, in terms of acting and stuff, it kinda reflects the whole atmosphere of today’s social context. You got predominantly men in the police forces, predominantly men in the army, in these kind of glorified roles within society which are reflected in the show business industry, or the film industry. And so you get male actors and its often to do with egos and being sort of, it’s quite pretentious in a way, because it sort of built up stuff based on stuff that’s not really there, sort of like showing off. Then you get these big actor egos, and you get women who are sort of more real. People like Helen Mirren, she’s not someone who’s gonna go on a show and just show off, but someone maybe like Russell Crowe would go on Graham Norton, you’ll get this big bravado thing from him. People kind of respect that, they buy into that, and that’s why I think the whole thing is how it is. 

Kitty: you have guys who are allowed to be like, ‘im the shit’, ‘Im worth this amount of millions of quids’ or whatever and if I’m in this film it’ll be worth this amount of money but if a female actress was like that,everyone would be like ‘oh my god what an up myself bitch’ and no one would like her and no one would sell anything.

Jesse: I agree with that.

Billy: By the way guys, you can also link this to the theatre industry.

Katherine: I’m going to use The Hunger Games as a perfect example here because you’ve got Jennifer Lawrence as this strong, almost soldier-like character, and I saw that film Divergent that just come out the other day and again its got a very strong, soldier-like female lead but then again you got films coming out like Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle where the women are literally playing hookers and receptionists and stuff and that’s fine, because its representing a certain period but Jennifer Lawrence again is play both the housewife and then the strong soldier-like woman. So with actors playing the same roles, that’s the actors choice because the roles are written, whether or not the actor is around. So I definitely think there are strong roles for women out there, the actresses just need to find them.

Milly: You say she’s strong tho, like saying that Katniss Everdeen is a strong character, she is strong but it’s like what Kitty said before is that, she ends up getting with…like the whole romance thing, for me a classic example is Homeland where you have Carrie Mathison who’s so sassy and she knows what she wants. I suppose you can argue it either way in that when she gets distracted by love,she kinda goes off the rails which is kinda like, like I said that could be portrayed as being like that’s what women do or it could be like, look what happens, women are stronger than this. I think quite often its LOOK THIS IS A STRONG WOMAN THEREFORE SHE DOES THIS, there’s no intrinsically strong character that are just strong.

Jesse: Yeah, there has to be something special about them, like critically it would be pointed out more that she is a strong woman, like ‘Oh my God!’ like its not just a normal thing

Kitty: Female characters aren’t allowed to make mistakes, you got male characters who are like ‘the fallen heroes’ who aren’t perfect and still do shit wrong but you still love them, but that doesn’t happen with women if they do something wrong’

Raphy: Well wouldn’t that say something about the audience tho

Group: Yeah

Raphy: We love these male characters, regardless of what they do and yet when you see a woman do it, you start freaking out…that just says something about society

Cameron: Film is like a mirror on society and audiences, it reflects what people think. Films are mostly only made to make money so you have to make a film which normal, ‘Fred and Frieda’ at home, will like. You can’t have something that goes, ‘oo this is a bit interesting’, they gotta go to norm. Men are powerful in the film, good looking girl, good looking girl has problem, men fixes problem, the end.

Milly: do sex, the end

Cameron: do sex, the end.

Zach: Back to what Raphy said earlier, how there’s industries that are dominated by males anyway generally in life, and film is obviously a representation of life in most cases, in a lot of cases it isn’t but, I think film shouldn’t be directly blamed for doing it, it should come back to more of the wider picture, so it shouldn’t be film that gets all the grief from it.

Girls: They don’t

Zach: No no I’m just saying. I also think there’s always a stigma attached to a woman falling in love with a guy in a film. I can understand why there’s a stigma but I think people should look at it a lot lighter in the sense of, men also fall back in love with the woman so men fall in love just like women fall in love in the films. I know a lot of women don’t like it but in my case of watching films, I mean I do watch romances, I’ve just declared that to all of you, I just feel that there shouldn’t be a stigma attached to it because some romances are actually brilliant films. So just because a woman falls in love with a man, I mean, can every woman in this room say that not one of you has had a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Kitty: No but it’s like, if you can’t have a film that has…you hardly ever have a film that has a woman in and there’s no type of romance.

Zach: Yeah but that’s not such a bad thing sometimes. 

Milly: But it’s disproportionate, how many films do you see that star a main guy and perhaps the romance is in a sub-plot with someone else and a woman. I’m trying to think of an example, there’s so many.

Raphy: (…..) He’s normally like a broken, emotionally broken, character, and the woman is normally a sort of person who’s in touch with that side and is able to connect with more than the man is. And that’s what they play him. 

Billy: Q to Girls – before I read those stats, did you already feel quite discouraged to try and get into a n industry like the film industry. I mean some of you might not have any interest in going into the film industry but even as an actress.

Jesse: it encourages you, knowing things like that encourages us to change it. 

Milly: It’s made me want to change it, it’s made me want to prove something.

Jesse: Especially with theatre, like when I’m trying to find monologues for drama school and all of the monologues I can find for my casting are about men and how I’m like in love for a man. It encourages me to write things, like scripts or whatever. 

Billy: And some female directors said that one thing they like about there being a lack is that their work always gets viewed as edgy and expected to be different

Jesse: I’d kinda like that to be diminished, I’d like it to just be normal and for it just to be okay and not to be like  a ‘feminist-crazy’ thing. 

Milly: I see it as more opportunities for women because there’s less of them in the industry, rather than all the spaces are filled up by men, so I don’t think that’s the case. 

Billy: (to the boys) Okay, so one last question, one reason that some give to the fact that there’s less female characters on screen is that male writers feel that they’re not confident enough to write female characters well enough, and so put men as protagonists. Now, would you personally feel that that’s a valid thing to feel.

Zach: Well, I would actually agree with that a little bit because, for me as a writer, writing women is obviously something that…I’m not saying that I don’t understand them because they would just be the most unintelligent thing to say but it’s almost like, I’m more comfortable writing men but that’s just cos of who I am and the gender I am as I am a man so I write about men. But I do believe in a thing called the Bechdel test, I’m guessing you must of heard of it. It’s where you have two or more women in a film but it has to pass every question. Like do you have two or more women in your film, yes or no, and do they speak about anything else, other than a man, and do they share a scene together in which that subject isn’t spoken about? And I believe that that thing if you can try and install that then it does slowly make an industry better for women. 

James: Well in this case when you’re talking about male writers not feeling confident enough about female characters, it doesn’t necessarily land straight away on politics, but it does. It usually completely lies on whether the writer can write because there’s one writer who did One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest that basically said write what you don’t know and there was another one who said write what you know. So it’s just, its kinda about where the write is at that certain moment in their writing career but yet that lies down in politics because it’s how that writer’s been thinking lately, what he’s been doing, yeah what he’s doing, but it doesn’t solely  rely on politics.

Cameron: I think also maybe that men don’t write females, not because its confidence, maybe because when they’re writing, sometimes many of them might see that when they’re writing, the way they’re writing about a female is not right, it’s their point of view of a male. So maybe sometimes they’re writing and the woman is that Trophy Girl, bla bla bla, they’re stereotypical as a man, that’s why they’re writing.

Jesse: Because that’s what they’re feeling. 

Cameron: Yeah because that’s what they see in life. 

Kitty: I was just gonna say, you get ugly guys in films because they can be the funny best friend and you never have any ugly women.


Cameron: Yeah you do, you get the fat one.

Milly: Or you have like one woman who plays all the ugly characters in every Hollywood film.

James: Or you have the fat one to make the skinny one feel better.

………….

Milly: What we have to remember is that thousands and thousands of films are written in America, if we’re talking about Hollywood yeah, thousands of films are written and I don’t think anyone realises how few get made, and out of all the films that are picked, out of all the so many films get written, so many, and then they pick, however many they make a year, I mean it’s nothing, if you think about how many films that are actually in the cinema within a year, it’s very very few. And out of all those thousands, there’s got to be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them, that represent women equally, there must be but they don’t get chosen. 

Cameron: Well that’s gotta be tricky because you can’t get production companies to proportionally make films that are good with women and good with men. You can’t go, ‘now this year we’re gonna do it 50/50’.

Milly: The stats seem to show that if you employ more female writers and more female directors, there’ll be more female roles. The stats show that.

Cameron: Final point, give it 50 years, and it’ll be better. If you look at films in black and white, 1940s, it was always the guy in the suit lighting the nice pretty girl’s cigarette, and it was all very very sexist in that way, and every 1940s film was like, man is protagonist. And it’s slowly getting there, and it’s got better than the black and white films, so give it another 50 years…

Katherine: But we shouldn’t have to wait another 50 years.

Cameron: I know we shouldn’t and maybe it’ll be quicker now with technology like the internet, I think we’re smarter as humans now these days, it’ll be quicker but still that time because that’s how life goes, that’s how you evolve. It’s not going to be tomorrow, [clicks] all of the films are gonna be very very balanced and it’s all gonna be happy-dandy and we’re gonna skip down the hallways and be happy, you’ve got to give it time. And now we got people like us who’re young like us and thinking like this, when we grow up and we start correcting that, we’re the next generation with that new idea.

Zach: And then it’s going to be the men who’re complaining.

Group: yeah, [laughs]

Sources – Gender Parity in the Film Industry

1. https://www.gov.uk/discrimination-your-rights

2. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jan/31/female-film-makers

3. http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/comment/festivals/where-girls-are-female-filmmakers-london-short-film-festival-2013

4. http://www.directors.uk.com/about-us/news/women-directors-come-together-tackle-industry-issues

5. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/jul/02/helen-mirren-female-film-makers

6. http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/nov/26/how-women-represented-uk-independent-film-industry

7. http://www.indiewire.com/article/andrea-arnold-and-naomi-foner-talk-about-being-female-filmmakers

8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH8_uKh2y9w – what’s difficult about being a woman filmmaker?

9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1A1JjJvRco – Jodie Foster

10. http://www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/gender-inequality-in-film/ – sexism stats

11. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/01/business/hollywoods-glass-ceiling-women/

12. http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/09/business/leading-women-donna-langley

13. http://www.neontommy.com/news/2013/08/Women-In-Film-Industry-On-Rise

14. http://brenda-chapman.com/blog/infographic-highlights-lack-of-women-directors/

Source 1: https://www.gov.uk/discrimination-your-rights
By: the UK Government, last updated 8th November 2013, accessed 12th Feburary 2014. Specific author not stated.

Content: This is the government’s page dedicated to detailing the discrimination rights of every UK citizen. From this page, one can gather the differing types of discrimination, the ways in which you could be discriminated against, how the law protects you from discrimination at work and how you can deal with discrimination. The page also discusses indirect harassment where rules are applied to everyone but manage to disadvantage a particular group of people.

Reliability: This is a very reliable source as it comes directly from the UK parliament, the governing body which determines all of the laws which affect the UK. As a result, the information it gives in dealing with discrimination fits within the law. It also has the authority to state that all employers are subject to these laws. The discrimination rights have also been debated by a number of MPs and have been written onto the site by a number of people, rather than one individual. Reliability would come into question only if the government had an obvious undemocratic stance towards discrimination. Nevertheless, although the site is reliable, discrimination is still very common within society and so, the laws stated on the page are not being strongly enforced.

How found: Searching UK employment rights on Google, first result.

Source 2: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jan/31/female-film-makers
By: The Guardian, published 31st January 2010, accessed 12th Feburary 2014, article written by Kira Cochrane.

Content: In this article, Kira Cochrane first describes the classic image of the male film director before discussing the apparent rise of female directors. Throughout the article, she constantly contrasts this rise with first-hand stories from prominent women within the film industry who each have experienced acts of sexism against them. She also contrasts discrimination against women filmmakers in the US and UK.

Reliability: The reliability of the source comes slightly into question in terms of subjectivity as the article is written by a woman and that the Guardian is well known for having a left wing stance. As a result, Kira Cochrane is able to use argumentative language to make clear her disagreement with the lack of women in the film industry. This argument is made clear in the article’s headline, “Why are there so few female film-makers?” However, Kira Cochrane bases her opinions on hard-hitting evidence such as how, by 2010, only 4 women had received Oscar nominations in the best Director category after there has been 400 best Director nominations since the birth of the Oscars. She also quotes a number of prominent women within the industry who provide very revealing insights into the level of sexism within the industry, particularly in Hollywood.

How found: Advertised as a related article on another Guardian article.

Source 3: http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/comment/festivals/where-girls-are-female-filmmakers-london-short-film-festival-2013
By: Sight & Sound magazine, article published 25th January 2013, accessed 12th February 2013, article written by Anna Coatman.

Content: The article identifies the increasing prominence of female directors within the independent film industry, constituting 40%, whilst bearing contrasts to the meagre 5% of female directors found in the mainstream industry. The writer expresses the increase of women in the indie film circuit by referring to film festivals such as the London Short Film Festival.

Reliability: Although Sight & Sound is internationally regarded as a leading film magazine, the article contains subjectivity as it is categorised under Comment, whereby the authors are free to argue whatever they like in an article and won’t be subject to the magazines lead editor, similar to The Guardian. However, Sight & Sound is famed for identifying and discussing the political elements of the film industry, making female exclusion from the industry a very hot topic. Sight & Sound is also published by the BFI, a decades-old Royal Charter organisation which acts as a figurehead for the British film industry whilst holding the National Film Archive. These factors make the BFI a very influential source within the British film industry. As a result, Sight & Sound has established links with prominent film festivals such as the LSFF which is why the author may have chosen to quote them and acquire evidence of women succeeding in the short film circuit.

How found: searching for ‘why are there so few female filmmakers’ on Google.
Source 4: http://www.directors.uk.com/about-us/news/women-directors-come-together-tackle-industry-issues
By: Directors UK, no publishing date given, accessed 12th February 2013, article written by Beryl Richards.

Content: The short article is an update on the first meeting of Directors UK’s female directors group which was held to discuss DUK’s concerns about the lack of female filmmakers. Beryl Richards describes what it was like to be at the meeting whilst adding some facts gathered from other members. She finishes the article by discussing the group’s future research plans, involving a look into the exact number of women in the media and film industries. She also adds that there will be a public meeting on these issues in the near future.

Reliability: As it has derived from the Directors and Producers Rights Society, Directors UK works like a union for UK screen directors. The organisation’s reliability is pretty strong as its purpose is to “ensure that the importance and centrality of directors is recognised, and to give directors a powerful and united voice at the centre of the industry”. This objective makes it understandable why DUK would want to tackle the issue of lacking numbers of women directors in the industry. One of DUK’s main stated aims are to “protect and enhance directors’ creative rights” which includes protecting them from bad working practices, such as sexism. The legitimacy of the organisation is also backed by the fact that their total membership consists of 5,000 directors, ranging from the internationally renowned to student directors. This shows that the organisation is interested in protecting the rights of directors of any status and is not harboured by prejudices. They also act as representatives for directors and directing in general to the UK and European governments as well as broadcasters and regulators.

How found: searching for ‘why are there so few female filmmakers’ on Google.
Source 5:http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/jul/02/helen-mirren-female-film-makers
By: The Guardian, published 2nd July 2012, accessed 12th February 2014, article written by Ben Child.

Content: The article centres on Helen Mirren’s call for more women filmmakers in the film industry at a Czech film festival, mainly by questioning the amount of female filmmakers in the festival itself. The writer then links Mirren’s comments to another prestigious actress, Meryl Streep who focused her criticism on Hollywood by linking the failures of male-dominated blockbusters to the lack of representation of female characters. She then backs this up by referencing the huge success of female dominated films in recent years. The writer finishes the article by mentioning how the French feminist group, Lar Barbe, challenged organisers at the Cannes Film Festival after all 22 competing films for the Palme d’Or were directed by men.

Reliability: The article’s reliability is very credible as it mostly consists of quotations from two of the most successful and prestigious actresses in the film industry. Mirren and Streeps own first-hand experience on-set, as referred to in the piece, makes their opinions on the lack of women on set very reliable. The writer has also done well by using a british and american actress, as well as the fact that Streep targets Hollywood, whilst Mirren questions the industry as a whole, including the independent film industry. To add to the article’s reliability, it is written by a man and so can’t be criticised as subjective from a woman’s point of view.

How found: Advertised as a related article on another Guardian article.

Source 6: (a) – http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/nov/26/how-women-represented-uk-independent-film-industry
(b) – http://www.bfi.org.uk/sites/bfi.org.uk/files/downloads/bfi-report-on-female-writers-and-directors-of-uk-films-2013-11.pdf
6(a) – By The Guardian, published 26th November 2013, accessed 12th February 2014, article written by Ami Sedghi.
6(b) – By the BFI, written 3rd September 2013, accessed 12th February 2014, report written by David Steele from the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit

Content: The article seems to have been written in response to the BFI’s recent statistics which suggest a “breakthrough” for female screenwriters in the UK independent film industry. The article goes on to explain the significance of the statistics, using percentages and notable names, whilst presenting the BFI’s findings in an interactive pie chart. The chart allows you to select options such as the percentage for the top UK indie films or all UK indie films in general. This structure of findings and charts repeats itself two more times as the article shifts from female screenwriters to female directors and then finishing on a bar chart presenting the gender patterns across the main film genres. The article also looks briefly into the proportion of women in director or writer roles on joint UK-USA projects.

Reliability: This article is extremely reliable as it is based entirely on data gathered by the BFI which, as the British Film Institute, has very strong links and influence within the industry and is often regarded as the home of British cinema. As a result, the BFI’s results are probably the most accurate you’re ever likely to find, particularly on UK independent cinema as one of the BFI’s roles is the exhibition and distribution of independent film. Whilst the Guardian have provided the interactive charts, it is still the BFI’s information that is contained in them. The charts are sourced as BFI RSU which links directly to a 15-page document (b) called “Succes de plume? Female Screenwriters and Directors of UK films 2010-2012”. What follows is a very detailed examination into womens’ roles in the UK film industry through stats and tables. The article is even accompanied by a downloadable spreadsheet which largely summarizes the BFI’s findings.

How found: (a) – Advertised as a related article on another Guardian article.
(b) – through a source link used on the Guardian article

Source 7:http://www.indiewire.com/article/andrea-arnold-and-naomi-foner-talk-about-being-female-filmmakers
By: IndieWire, published 5th October 2013, 18th February 2013, article written by Paula Bernstein

Content: This article discusses the responses of two prominent female filmmakers, Andrea Arnold and Naomi Foner, to the challenges of being a female filmmaker.  By discussing the two interpretations one after the other, the writer contrasts the major differences between the two directors’ opinions. Andrea Arnold’s description of the challenges is brief and largely unrevealing whilst Naomi Foner’s long-prohibited journey takes up most of the article. She even tries to pick out the qualities in women which have helped to prevent them from getting deeper into the industry. Foner’s last quote is her wish for the younger generation of women in the industry to tackle gender equality through pure empowerment, rather than struggling to break through for 30 years like she has done.

Reliability: Similarly to Source 5, the article mostly consists of quotations from the two participants and so the reliability on their part is completely based on their first-hand accounts, particularly as the two directors talk mostly about their own personal experiences. They are also a good contrast of personalities from very different backgrounds, Andrea Arnold being British and Naomi Foner being american. Whilst Andrea has been established as a writer-director for over 15 years, Foner, originally a writer and producer, has only recently made her directorial debut. As the writer-director of 3 films and the New York Film Festival’s inaugural Filmmaker-in-Residence, Arnold’s reliability in terms of her experience in the industry can never be questioned, just as Foner has enjoyed a career in film and TV since the late 1970s. IndieWire itself prides itself in being “the leading news, information and networking site for independent-minded filmmakers, the industry and moviegoers alike”. Unlike the mainstream industry, the independent film sector often discusses and debates political and social issues, making gender inequality an issue that fans of indie cinema are likely to find interest in. As a news site for the indie sector, IndieWire is likely to handle this issue with care as it most likely contributes a number of articles to its news and blog posts. Despite being written by a woman, the writer doesn’t expose her stance on the issue, but rather just reports on the event of the NYFF Live series panel and the statements of the two female filmmakers.

How Found: Googling “Andrea Arnold on female filmmakers”

Source 8: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH8_uKh2y9w
By: X-Factor Filmmakers (YouTube Channel), Published on 5th November 2013, accessed 18th February, video created by Writer-Director Lauren Tracy

Content: The source, a 6 minute YouTube video, is the 4th video of the channel’s I’m A Female Filmmaker, Ask Me Anything series, each episode focusing on a user submitted question. This episode is centred around the question: “What’s difficult about being a woman filmmaker?”. Writer-Director Lauren Tracey discusses this question in Vlog style on a webcam.

Reliability: After conducting separate research, I found that Lauren Tracey isn’t a well established writer-director and is still in production on her first feature film, which would make her opinion on gender inequality throughout the industry as a whole quite unreliable. However, she discusses her experiences as a young, up-an-coming independent filmmaker through which she suggests that gender inequality is still present in small-scale film production but that its becoming less and less frequent as it has become so much easier to make short films. Despite the increase, she exposes how she still encounters surprise when she tells people that she’s a filmmaker, on the basis that she is a female filmmaker and that even in the short film industry, women directors are a lot less common. She also expresses some knowledge on the gender inequality within the mainstream industry and draws a link between the decrease in female mainstream directors with the rise in prosperity of the independent sector as an attraction to more female directors. To conclude, although she is not in the position to comment much on why there are so few female filmmakers in the mainstream industry, she has a first-hand perspective on the level of gender inequality in the US independent industry.

How found: searching “women in the film industry” on YouTube.

Source 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1A1JjJvRco
By: SuperPopINTERVIEWS (YouTube Channel), Published on 23rd January 2014, accessed 18th February, Jodie Foster being interviewed at the Beaver Press COnference at the 64th Cannes Film Festival.

Content: The video is a 2 minute interview with Jodie Foster at the the Beaver Press COnference at the 64th Cannes Film Festival. The video mostly consists of her discussing the lack of female directors in mainstream films. She draws attention to the positive rise of female directors in the independent sectors, in Europe particularly, as opposed to the US mainstream industry, despite the recent success of Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman to win an Oscar. Unlike any of the previous sources, she pin-points the issue of the mainstream industry as big-budget executives not willing to take creative risks with woman. She describes this both as a money-saving venture but particularly a psychological issue that has been built up over time.

Reliability: The source is very reliable as it is simply a recording of Jodie Foster giving her opinion on women in the industry at a Festival conference. Foster herself is a very prestigious actress who, now at the age of 51, has been acting on screen since she was 3 years old and has won multiple awards for her performances. She has also directed two feature films.This wealth of experience makes her a valuable insight into the film industry, particularly as she has performed in both the independent and mainstream sectors, and thus a very reliable source.

Source 10: http://www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/gender-inequality-in-film/
By: New York Film Academy, Published 25th November 2013, accessed 18th February, author – Nicholas Zurko.

Content: The article begins with an introduction that sets out the purpose of the investigation, to analyse the advancements, if there have been any, for women in the film industry. It starts off by referencing positive signs of advancement with the female-led Hunger Games sequel and the fact that women constituted 50% of the directors at 2013’s Sundance Film Festival. In order to spark the discussion on how gender inequality can be tackled in the film industry, the article is then led by very professional-looking charts and illustrations which are very accessible and cover a variety of aspects within gender inequality in the film industry such as the portrayal of women in film and the least female-occupied roles.

Reliability: The New York Film Academy is renowned world-wide as a very prestigious Film School, with a campus in both New York and Los Angeles. As a result, it has extremely good links with the US film industry, particularly as it prides itself in teaching a number of children belonging to numerous directors, actors and producers such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Al Pacino. Nevertheless, the investigation’s perspective seems very American-based although it never specifies which countries and which sectors these statistics apply to. Despite the exceptional high quality of the charts and diagrams, it is never mentioned where the information has been sourced from, unlike the guardian article in Source 6. There is also no information on the article’s author, Nicholas Zurko, as to whether he is a student or teacher. Although neither of these options are full-time industry professionals, it is likely that many teachers and speakers at the New York Film Academy are part-time industry professionals. Even a student would have some level of reliability as it is likely they have gathered the information with help from one of the Academy’s teachers or visiting speakers, or have been encouraged to research this information at a professional level.

How Found: Googling “women in the film industry stats”

Source 11: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/01/business/hollywoods-glass-ceiling-women/
By: CNN website, published 1st July 2013, accessed 18th February 2014, written by Melissa Silverstein.

Content: The article examines the theory that Hollywood executives “don’t trust that people want to see [womens’] stories” which has led to mainstream cinema being hijacked by male-dominant stories and genres such as last year’s The Wolverine and The Fast and the Furious. She contrasts this with the success of certain mainstream films about women, such as Bridesmaids, as well as the success of small-scale women directors. However she makes a clear point that without more women both behind and in front of camera, society will be subconsciously taught that women don’t matter as much as men.

Reliability: This article is extremely reliable as it is written by Melissa Silverstein who is the founder and editor of the Women and Hollywood magazine which focuses on issues relating to women in the film industry and some areas of entertainment culture in general. As the magazine argues for “gender parity across the entertainment industry”, it is clear that Silverstein is well informed of the gender inequality suffered by women in Hollywood, the heart of the mainstream film industry. Silverstein is also the co-founder and Artistic Director of the Athena Film Festival, which celebrates stories about women leadership. She is also the author of In Her Voice: Women Directors Talk Directing which holds a collection of stories and experiences from some of the top women in the film industry, including documentary filmmakers. These actions and publications demonstrate how she is devoting her life to the struggle for gender parity within the film industry and the strengthening of the female image within society.
How Found: Googling “Glass ceiling in the film industry”

Source 12: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/09/business/leading-women-donna-langley
By: CNN’s Leading Women, published 9th October 2012, Accessed 18th February 2014, written by Felicia Taylor

Content: The article consists mostly of an interview with Donna Langley, the Co-Chairman of Universal Pictures. After giving a brief overview of her history within the industry, the interview focuses on areas such as the challenges of rising through a male-dominated industry and how she balances her family life. The article is accompanied by a 5 minute video which illustrates most of the article and gives the audience an idea of her work at Universal Pictures.

Reliability: Its difficult to question the reliability of the article as it mostly consists of recordings of Donna Langley herself and her own experiences, nevertheless, you can never tell what has been edited out from a hand-recorded interview. The article is definitely pro-gender parity as it is categorised under CNN’s Leading Women section. However, CNN is owned by Time Warner who, by owning Warner Bros., is one of the most influential corporations in Hollywood and, thus, the mainstream film industry. As a result, it is clear why this article hasn’t questioned the level of gender inequality within Hollywood as it could give off a negative image of Warner Bros. Melissa Silverstein was able towho didn’t target individual studios by name, rather than a full-time CNN employee.

How found: Advertised as a related article on another CNN article.

Source 13: http://www.neontommy.com/news/2013/08/Women-In-Film-Industry-On-Rise
By: Neon Tommy (USC School for Communication and Journalism), published 8th August 2013, Accessed 18th February 2014, written by Elizabeth Cutbirth

Content: the article covers what many of the above sources have mentioned, such as the prominence of female directors like Kathryn Bigelow and top actresses like Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren. However, the source then focuses on a recent study by the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism into female representation within mainstream films. They also link this to the amount of female directors and the tiny 1% increase since 1998. The article finishes with mentioning how, whilst Kathreyn Bigelow has become the first woman to win Best Director at the Academy Awards, a woman has still yet to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. This last point hints at the debate as to whether gender parity being much better in the independent industry.

Reliability: This article is not totally professional as it belongs to a university student website although that university happens to be the prestigious University of Southern California’s School for Communication & Journalism, meaning that student work will be expected to be of a high level. Unlike the New York Film Academy page, the article sources its stats such as The Women’s Media Centre which found that “Women comprised 9% of directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2012”. Whilst The Women’s Media Centre is a very well-informed source, the author also quotes stats from a study carried out by the School of Journalism & Communication itself. Although the School probably deals with research to a professional standard, its hard to tell how reliable the information is, particularly as we are given no idea of their methods. The information would feel more reliable even if the article was quoting a study from a different institution.

How Found: Googling “women in the film industry stats”

Source 14: http://www.fandor.com/infographics/where-are-the-women-directors
By: Fandor, no publishing date given, accessed on 19th March 2014, no author given.

Content: the source is a nicely designed info-graphic which presents statistics concerning female directors in the independent film industry, such as a surprising revelation that female directors in Hollywood have actually been decreasing since 1998.

Reliability: The infographic has been compiled by Fandor, a US site which is a subscription- based streaming service for independent films, as well as short films, art-house rarities and forgotten classics. Unlike the New York Film Academy infographic, Fandor sources its information from The Atlantic, IndieWire, The New York Times, Sundance Institute and Women in Film. This is a great collection of sources as two of them are newspapers/magazines which, in the name of journalism, have access to information like this. The other sources are involved directly with the independent film industry, particularly IndieWire and Sundance Institute. Women in Film is dedicated to the emporwerment, promotion and mentoring of women in the entertainment and media industries. It does this by assisting female independent directors and providing funding programs and educational seminars. These well-connected sources make the information displayed in the info-graphic extremely reliable.

Research task planning

Question: Why is there such a lack of women in major roles within the international film industry?

To what extent is the lack of women purely an issue of sexism?

To what extent have the conditions for women changed over the last few decades?

Is the independent industry more accessible for women than the mainstream industry?

Which roles within the film industry contain the least women? Why might this be?

Is it easier for British or American women to break into the industry?

Are the conditions for women within the film industry comparable to any other creative industries?

Is it easier for younger or more established women?

What are the effects of this lack on aspiring female filmmakers?

How does this lack affect the content of films?

Are there signs of improvement?

 What are the proposed solutions for this lack? 

Possible areas for secondary research:

– female on-screen representation in the industry

– parity in the UK film industry compared to the US film industry

– Bechdel test

– most prominent women within the industry + their backgrounds

Ideas for primary research

Interview with writer/director Andrea Arnold – Arnold is a powerful female voice within the UK independent film industry and is renowned for putting strong female characters at the lead of her films. She is also a family friend which makes organising an interview with her highly achievable.

Focus group with students aged 17-18, to see if they recognise the lack of female influence on the film industry and if they have any reasons for this lack. I already know of suitable people, some with strong feminist views, others with possible counter arguments, who I could use for the focus group. 

Data analysis of all the key information I gather from my secondary research to allow for easy digestion of the information which I can then cross-reference for my final report

How will you cross-reference your findings?
I plan to use a method of data collection that I have applied during other research projects in the past. This includes taking notes of the key information from each source, both secondary and primary, and then assigning each piece of a data with a category. So instead  of making my own categories, I will use the ones I discover from the sources. I can then go through each category in order to find segments of different sources discussing the same issue. This would provide me with an easy way of collecting data, as well as a possible structure for my report.

Task 10 – reliability of websites

Wikipedia
Wikipedia, as the 6th most used website in the world, has evolved into both a base for intellectual articles as well as a pool for easy-access general information. However, many of the 32,134,065 articles can be written and then edited by anyone, allowing people with a range of qualifications and political stances to write about a subject. This puts both the reliability and the quality of the articles into question. Nevertheless, most articles are written in depth by individuals who are passionate enough to take the time to write it. Wikipedia also encourages authors to reference sources using footnotes and a bibliography. Articles that are obviously subjective, lacking in sources or just badly written are often exposed by Wikipedia and the accountable errors are mentioned at the beginning of the article. Pages belonging to certain organisations can have anti-edit protection locks whilst IP addresses belonging to certain institutions, mostly schools, can be blocked from editing any articles if continual vandalism persists.

Popbitch
Popbitch is a UK-based commercial website focused on celebrity gossip and pop music culture. The site’s reliability immediately comes into question because it needs people visit the site so that they can be paid by the advertisers using the site. This explains why popbitch has gained a reputation satire and crude humour in order to entice readers. It has also received considerable criticism in the past for publishing false allegations against celebrities which have sometimes ended up in court cases. On the website, the news stories are often given quite ambiguous, quirky names which already suggests that the article won’t take itself seriously. The writing styles are also very informal as if the writer is simply dishing out their opinion on a matter. Some items are simply youtube videos posted by admins which portray celebrities in a negative light, such as the Nigella Lawson mash-up which makes it appear as if shes’s rolling a joint rather than cooking. All of these factors prove that popbitch is a totally subjective website.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4
As the BBC’s ‘free’ internet TV & Radio service, the reliability of the site’s radio division can only reflect the reliability of the BBC, a publicly funded broadcaster which has the responsibility of creating a wide range of shows that cater to the needs of the population. As a result, their shows must reflect both mainstream and niche audiences. The BBC also states that it must remain “independent, impartial and honest” which, thus, prevents it from being subjective whilst the public funding prevents it from using its produce for corporate gain. As a result of all this, the BBC is a very reliable source, particularly as it is over 90 years old, has considerable experience in acquiring information and has to be impartial in its broadcasts. The BBC’s radio iPlayer site must then maintain this representation of the population by ensuring that the programs both for niche and mainstream audiences are available and made equally accessible.

The Daily Mail online
Although the Mail online is the world’s most popular news site, it is notorious for its right wing bias as a keen supporter of the Conservative party. This is apparent in its attack on certain left-wing institutions and a belief that the BBC has a left-wing bias. A recent example of this is the paper’s attack on Sherlock and its writer Steven Moffat for supposedly having left-wing bias because the villain was a newspaper baron. They also bare very opinionated headlines on their home page such as, “And the gold medal for the most vile thing at Sochi goes to…? (Clue: it’s not Putin)”. The site also has an odd sense of assessing the importance of a news story as the entire right-hand column of the home page is dedicated to celebrity gossip stories. In conclusion, the Daily Mail site’s reliability is damaged by its right-wing bias and overtly opinionated articles.

Task 9 – Other forms of research

Experiments

Whilst experiments can offer a detailed insight into how humans behave under certain situations (e.g. how young people react to sexual content in the media), a lot of care must be applied to each factor of the experiment. You must ensure that the way in which the information is organised, measured and presented must be exact, otherwise the experiment becomes pointless. As a level of detail is required, experiments can also be very time-consuming. To ensure the best results, you may also require a ‘control group’: a group of subjects who, unlike the group your experimenting with, are kept external to the experiment so that they aren’t affected by the independent variable (e.g. the choice of different types of sexual media content which you show to the experiment group). Despite already being rather time-costly, experiments are needed to be repeated in order to achieve concrete results, otherwise, you’re acting off the assumptions of one experiment without any previous results to judge its validity.

One-to-one interviews

During a one-to-one interview, you can record the interviewee’s answers so that you have a clear source to go back to and clarify. It is also lilely that your interviewee has been selected because they are an expert or suite the particular group your researching into, e.g. teenagers aged 15-18. However, one-to-one interviews are limited to one perspective, therefore, if you required a substantial number of interviewees, in order to achieve diverse results, one-to-one interviews would also be a very time-consuming research method.

Surveys/questionnares

Phsyical surveys are able to reach a wide demographic of people, particularly if they are sent via the post. Usually, they are quite easy to fill out and not very time consuming. However, it is costly to publish the surveys and then send them out with free post return. It can also take a lot of time, depending on the amount of completed surveys, to sort and process the information pyshically. This whole process is very difficult without a team behind it.

Social Media

Social media offers a much less costly, much less time-consuming alternative to physical surveys. An individual can design a quick questionnaire using software or certain survey sites, post it on thier social media pages and recieve results within minutes. The information is also recorded digitally and so, therefore, you can easily translate the results into graphs and statistic charts. However, as completing surveys online is more effortless and anonymous, some people will provide exagerrated or false information simply because they don’t take it seriously. Some methods of social media research are also quit intrusive, for example, Behavioral Data uses the cookies embedded within users’ browsers to manipulate the content of page-side adverts on websites, tailoured to what is percived as the user’s interests.

Documentary
Documentaries can often provide very detailed insights into particular subjects, often exposing information that can only be discovered after a thorough investigation or intimate interview. All of the footage can provide great sources to refer back to when consolidating your results. As the information is all recorded ‘on a whim’, documentaries provide concrete evidence towards your research. However, many documentaries, depending on the genre, follow the political stance and opinions of the presenter or filmmakers, a prime example being John Pilger, who purposefully makes documentaries with a left wing perspective. By presenting an issue subjectively, a researcher may have to source out another piece of information as their counter argument, in order to keep the research objective. As the documentary has been created with a particular purpose and time limit, it is likely that it will not cover all of the aspects of the subject you are researching.

Historical research
Historical research is similar in use to that of documentaries. Historical literature, whilst often written by experienced historians or academics, can provide an extremely detailed historical account of a particular subject and so a fantastic source of research. Historical photos and films can also provide concrete evidence towards an investigation. However, like with documentaries, historical literature can be very much influenced by the stance of the historian, for example: Revisionist, Orthodox, ect. Whilst these historians can provide provable facts as evidence for their arguments, you are still consuming their interpretation of events and factors.

Participant observation
Participant observation involves a researcher immersing themselves within a cultural group over a considerable amount of time in order to better understand the community and its cultural practices. For example, a number of participant observations have occurred amongst indigenous tribes in Africa and Southern America. Whilst this method of research can provide one of the most in-depth ways of analysing cultures and their social relationships, the very presence of the researcher(s) may prevent the group from acting as normal and, thus, distort the results. Participant observation would also require the consent of every member of the group who is to be analysed and a long investigation, perhaps spanning over 3 months, would be quite costly and time consuming.

Comparative analysis
Comparative analysis involves identifying and analysing similarities and differences between societies and cultures, usually between different countries. The major problem with this research method is that it requires cross-national cooperation, managing and funding. This would prove particularly difficult across continents, for example, a comparative analysis project between Germany and China. Social and political barriers may cause problems with cooperation. One country may also define certain categories differently to the other country, such as how they define urban and rural citizens. Nevertheless, once these obstacles have been considered, comparative analysis can truly provide a better understanding of the cultural differences between countries and regions.

AB testing
AB testing can entail surveys whereby yes/no questions are asked as well as when two versions of an object (e.g. a poster design) are asked to be compared by the user. These two simple purposes can provide quick and easily-processable means of collecting opinions on a matter or object. AB testing can also be used for as the format for internet surveys which is essential for users only willing to give a minute to answering simple questions. However, as largely a yes/no format, there is no space for depth in the answers which affects the overall quality of the research and limits the subject matter, for example, you couldn’t easily measure individual reasons why people enjoy artwork using AB testing because there would be a large range of opinions.

Secondary research
Secondary research involves using research that has been collected in the past by someone else towards your investigation, instead of researching the matter yourself, which is classed as primary research. Whilst using secondary research is both very cost and time effective (except when actually searching for the research itself) the reliability of the group responsible for collecting the research must be taken into account. Just like with documentary and historical research, the observer’s stance must be recognised to see if their findings are too subjective. A trusted organisation is more likely to achieve more reliable research results than that of an individual student. The other disadvantage of secondary research is that it is always slightly out of date. Whereas primary research is current with your investigation, the secondary research you find may have been collected a year or more beforehand. For example, the percentage of male students within a school will probably have changed by the following year.

Task 8 – Using Questionnaires

The BAD QUESTIONNAIRE example found in the x-drive is littered with flaws. Firstly, the subject is asked to provide their name as the answer to the first question. Although some questionnaires do require a name, it is pointless to include this as the first question as names won’t convey much information that will be of use to the final results, particularly one concerning audience research. Whilst most of the questions aren’t worded well, the second and third only list Music, Games and Film as media forms without even providing the “other” option. You could also argue that question 4 doesn’t serve much use as it asks the participant where do they store their downloads. Downloads already implies digital storage, so most people would say they use their computers, any other storage device wouldn’t say much about audiences anyway.

Questions 5 & 6 are awkward questions to answer as they request that you expose your illegal download activities. This is even more incriminating as the questionnaire asks you to give your name. Question 7 then asks if the participant feels guilty about downloading material without paying for it. Firstly, the question is wrong to assume that all participants illegally download material. Secondly, the fact that a participant feels guilty is probably not very useable information for an audience research investigation. Question 8 asks the participant to supply the names of music streaming sites it uses, however, it only applies writing space for one site, whereas a participant may have numerous sites to mention.

The GOOD QUESTIONNAIRE is a whole class above the bad questionnaire. Firstly, it introduces the questionnaire with a short paragraph which explains how one should go about answering the questionnaire. It then finishes the paragraph with a kind “thank you”. Even the questionnaire’s title is a massive improvement. Whilst the bad questionnaire vaguely called itself an audience research questionnaire, the second identifies itself clearly as a Television Household questionnaire. The manner in which the questionnaire is written feels very warm and clear so that the participant is encouraged and can easily understand each question. Unlike the previous questionnaire, it also supplies sufficient space for answering questions. The spaces in which to answer also differ depending on the nature of the question, for example, one question may ask for the number of particular items to be given, whilst other more closed questions use simple Yes/No tick boxes.

For participants who haven’t got much time to spare, the questionnaire allows them to skip to certain questions if they have answered “No” previously. When the questions move onto a new subject, this is marked clearing in the question, for example, “Next we’d like to ask about some leisure or recreational activities…”. For the questions where spaces are given to answer, the questionnaire also provides answer alternatives for those who don’t “spend any time on these activities.” In order to get the best answers, the questions are very detailed and often have key elements underlined, for example, “In the past seven days, approximately how much time per day would you say you spent reading…”

On pages 4 – 7, the use and interaction with tables and coloured icons makes the questionnaire more engaging than one simply with questions and options. The number of pages used (17) allows a large number of subjects to be covered so that the surveyors gain very detailed knowledge about TV watching patterns in American homes. After question 37, the survey takes 2 pages to ask for opinions on participating in research activities such as surveys. These answers will provide feedback that will influence the surveyor’s next survey and how they interact with potential participants. The next 2 pages identify the participant as a member of the Nielsen People Meter Panel and so asks for feedback on that experience, perhaps as a competitor or allied company.

Finally, the last 5 pages feature questions which aim to provide statistics about certain households, whilst keeping personal information completely confidential These will give the surveyor an even clearer idea of the target focus group as well as the members of the Nielsen People Meter Panel. The final question gives a number of options for annual income, showing that the survey is open to participants of varied financial backgrounds. The survey ends with a sufficient comments/recommendations section which allows participants to give any feedback that could improver the surveyor’s next questionnaire. The survey ends with a final thank you as well as a reminder to return the questionnaire within 3 weeks. This is a clear instruction and it also shows how the surveyor is wanting the participants to take as much time as they need to answer this hefty 17 page questionnaire.