‘We are a mighty tribe’: Female directors make up ‘Half the Picture’

‘We are a mighty tribe’: Female directors make up ‘Half the Picture’

Amy Adrion’s Half the Picture is an informative, eye-opening documentary about the startling gender imbalance that exists among film and television directors.

With support from statistics, experts on women in film (including Dr. Martha Lauzen - an inspiring force behind FF2 Media’s inception) and prominent directors like Ava DuVernay and Lena Dunham, Adrion’s documentary is a clear and concise look at the seemingly stagnant problem and its potential solutions.

A well-edited, fascinating look at a discrimination issue that is finally gaining momentum in the public eye, Adrion’s documentary is a must-see for anyone who supports this cause - or anyone who still might not understand how much it matters. The diverse body of directors interviewed in the film are proof of just how many stories are being told by women - and how they overcame the overwhelming odds stacked against them, from sexual harassment and unconscious bias to questions about whether they were planning to raise a family. In her statement on the film’s release, Adrion writes, “Half the Picture seeks to document this unique time in our industry where systemic change seems possible and asks the question, unlike previous efforts to address gender inequality in Hollywood, 'Will this time be different?'”

Half the Picture gives voice to women who had to work twice as hard to tell their stories. They each have their own unique struggles and journeys to filmmaking, from independent films to blockbusters like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. (“You are a rare bird if you are a woman director making a studio film,” Los Angeles Times entertainment reporter Rebecca Keegan says in the film.) Their stories are diverse, interesting and drive home the point that their work is worthy of being seen. They tell stories of being patient, being told no and having to do things their own way. 

Amy Adrion (Photo Credit: @ashlycovington)

Women are not only silenced by an outdated system and unconscious bias, but they are also treated differently than their male counterparts even after finding great success.  “Now I read the articles...how guys that make $200,000 with their movie get a big studio movie right after. That’s not the reality for women. That is not the reality for me,” said The 33 director Patricia Riggen. Half the Picture aims the lens at not only overall inequality, but the alarming percentages of women who are excluded from directing genre films in horror and science fiction. “We still have the discussion of whether women can direct action? Like, why is that a gender-based issue?” said prolific television director Lesli Linka Glatter, a proponent of NBC’s Female Forward Initiative to hire more female television directors.

There is economic, cultural and legal evidence to prove that there is a gender imbalance in film and television, all the way across the spectrum to film criticism. Director Jamie Babbit mentions the importance of female critics, another imbalance in the film industry - only 18 percent certified Rotten Tomatoes critics are women.

“I do think that women who review movies tend to be more interested in things that women talk about...and that they’re going to just be generally more interested in the subject matter of the things that I’m making movies about,” Babbit said.

“Directors working behind the camera have a significant impact on the creation of this country’s main export around the world, our media, which give us powerful examples and social clues about who gets to be the hero, who gets to take up space, have a voice, be an active participant in the stories around them - and who does not,” Adrion said. “These images, when repeated throughout media, have ripple effects in the lives of real people around the world.” This central theme of Half the Picture is directly in line with FF2 Media’s founder and Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner’s maxim, “When you change media messages, you change the world.”

“I knew this was a story that needed to be told,” Adrion said. “These are my heroes, women who wouldn't take no for an answer fighting powerful forces, making movies and shows I wanted to see.” They’re our heroes, too.

Read our interview with Half the Picture director Amy Adrion here.

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FF2 Media has been a voice for women in film since 2002, covering films written and directed by women with weekly reviews and features. The work of many directors featured in Half the Picture has been reviewed by our staff of critics:

Jamie Babbit: Addicted to Fresno

Gina Prince-Bythewood: Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights

Ava DuVernay: Middle of Nowhere, Selma, 13th, A Wrinkle in Time

Rachel Feldman: The Genderquake Op-Ed

Lesli Linka Glatter: Now and Then

Maggie Greenwald: Sophie and the Rising Sun

Catherine Hardwicke: Red Riding Hood, Plush, Miss You Already, Thirteen, Twilight

Chris Hegedus: Unlocking the Cage

Karyn Kusama: Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation, Girlfight

Martha Lauzen: Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film

Kasi Lemmons: Black Nativity

Jen McGowan: Kelly & Cal

Leah Meyerhoff: I Believe In Unicorns

Kimberly Peirce: Carrie, Boys Don’t Cry, Stop Loss

Jennifer Phang: Advantageous

Patricia Riggen: The 33, Miracles From Heaven, Under the Same Moon

Lynn Shelton: Your Sister’s Sister, Touchy Feely, Laggies, Outside In

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Fifty Shades of Grey

Lucy Walker: The Crash Reel, Buena Vista Social Club: Adios

Kimberly Peirce