Dr. Stacy Smith, director of USC’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative, announced tonight that she will be releasing a “ground-breaking” study later this year that she said will “test all the assumptions” that go into making a profitable motion picture. Speaking on a panel at the SAG-AFTRA headquarters on “Film’s Gender Problem,” she hinted that her study will explode many long held beliefs, including the myth that men shy away from movies with female leads, and that black stars don’t generate ticket sales overseas.
“Money is the only thing that will change this town,” said director Paul Feig. “If you want these movies” – films with women directors and diverse casts – “you’ve got to go see them. The only way anything will change is if things make money.” Noting that “things are really bad out there,” he said that he receives constant emails from haters complaining that he’s cast women in the leading roles of his Ghostbusters remake. “I didn’t realize I was stepping on this sacred man-ground,” he laughed. “It wears you down. I’ve aged 10 years.”
Clearly there’s no easy fix for Hollywood’s gender problem, but a good place to start would be for every studio and network head to see Caroline Suh’s documentary The 4%: Film’s Gender Problem, which was aired before the panel discussion. The film features an impressive line-up of industry folk discussing the problem, interspersed with some shocking statistics – including the fact that there was a higher percentage of women film directors in 1929 than there are now.
Actress and activist Maria Bello said that she believes that the industry has reached a “tipping point,” and that the studios and networks are finally aware of the problem and really want to do something about it. “The industry wants to be on the right side of history,” she said.
“Now is the time,” Feig said. “They’re aware and they’re guilty.”
Several panelists suggested that the EEOC’s ongoing investigation of the scarcity of big-budget women film directors – the 4% referred to in the documentary – could be the catalyst to push Hollywood over that tipping point.