THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Educational, Inspirational, And…Puzzling?
This Changes Everything is a documentary directed by Tom Donahue that examines and reflects upon the gender disparity within the entertainment industry. It includes numerous interviews by female directors, producers, talent, as well as a few interviews by their male counterparts. This Changes Everything educates and inspires. It also leaves me with a question or two.
This Changes Everything takes us back through the history of film to the time when Lois Weber was one of the most important directors – and the highest paid – in the silent era of cinema. With the rise of the studio system – and the realization that film could make money as a business – there was an influx of men to the industry in roles that are still seen as more “masculine” to this day (cinematographer, camera operator, director, producer).
Nearly a hundred years after women held numerous roles in the industry it’s still difficult for women to find work in the industry – whether they have had prior success in the industry or are simply trying to get a foot in the door.
Another important female director to be aware of is Dorothy Arzner. She isn’t mentioned in the documentary (or if she was, it was so quick I couldn’t catch it) but she could have been included as the ONLY WOMAN who made a successful transition from silent films to sound films and had a career in the 1940s. When the industry became more male we had one female holdout who was able to walk the line between creating content that spoke to women and satisfied studio heads.
In This Changes Everything we learn about the “Original Six” – a group of women who were members of the Directors Guild of America. They worked together to analyze data regarding hiring practices and interviewed Hollywood executives in the late-1970s/early-1980s. They gathered enough evidence that the DGA sued Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures. While the case was dismissed, there was a rise in the number of hired female directors until 1995. Those six women are: Nell Cox, Joelle Dobrow, Dolores Ferraro, Vicki Hochberg, Lynne Littman, and Susan Nimoy.
Maria Giese is also discussed as a tireless activist and film director. She had great success in 1996 with When Saturday Comes and though the film was well-received Giese encountered obstacles to finding more directing work – notably among these is being attached to projects and then being replaced by men. She went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to speak about her experiences in 2012 and then went to the ACLU to do the same. The EEOC and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program have on-going investigations into the industry’s gender hiring practices because of Giese.
We cannot leave out the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The organization was created in the early 2000s and has been putting out research since 2008 on gender (and some on race). Geena Davis cites her experience in Thelma & Louise as the realization that there aren’t many roles for women that are empowering and her inspiration for being selective when accepting roles – as well as a motivator for starting the institute.
In reviewing the cast and crew from the IMDB page it is overwhelmingly women which should be expected for a film about the gender disparity in the industry. However, it leaves me wondering why both the director and the cinematographer are male. For a film centering itself on the gender disparity with a particular focus on the Directors Guild of America and female directors, it is ironic – to say the least – to have a male director. This is not to say the documentary is poorly done or that the male gaze is pervasive, however, it may reduce the intended impact this documentary.
To follow the director being male with the cinematographer being male seems careless. It is promising to see women credited as “additional cinematography” and credited in lead roles elsewhere – yet still a surprise to see two of the most prominent production roles going to men. The producing team is full of women with a handful of men which makes this an even more puzzling question to me: what was the approval process like for Tom Donahue or Stefano Ferrari?
This Changes Everything: Conclusion
If you can look past the questions posed above (and can find the film – there’s a 2015 documentary with the same title about climate change that has more Google hits), you’ll find this documentary to be enlightening if you’re previously unfamiliar with the struggles of women in the industry.
If you are familiar you’ll be comforted by learning about the women fighting to help others obtain opportunities and possible success. In light of their efforts thus far, numerous companies are providing training programs and hiring initiatives which is a step in the right direction. The next step is, of course, hiring women.