Why every female filmmaker owes a part of their career to these 6 brave women.

Fact: The movie business is run by straight white guys.

It's not just a feeling, it's a well-documented phenomenon.

According to a study released by the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, around 75% of the top executives at film studios are men. And only 3.4% of all film directors and 10.8% of film screenwriters are women. Oh and just in case you forgot, women make up about 50% of the population.


Just a few of the middle-aged white guys making decisions about the movies you see. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon.

And while Hollywood's sexism problem is all over the news these days, many people forget that there are women who've been in this fight for close to 40 years.

In 1979, six women filmmakers put their careers on the line and took on sexism in the industry.

Dubbed, "The Original Six," these directors (Susan Bay Nimoy, Joelle Dobrow, Nell Cox, Dolores Ferraro, Vicki Hochberg, and Lynne Littman) pushed for groundbreaking research on the number of women behind the scenes in filmmaking. Their findings eventually lead to a lawsuit against Warner Brothers and Paramount in 1983.

The suit was dismissed in court in 1985, based on counterclaims from the studios. (The studios said they weren't in charge of all the hiring decisions and couldn't be accused of discrimination.)

Despite the setback, the lawsuit started a conversation — one that's been happening in whispers and screams for decades.

So what do The Original Six have to say about the current state of Hollywood? Plenty.

Four of the women, Dobrow, Cox, Littman, and Hochberg, sat down for an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit. They sifted through dozens of questions (and thousands of comments from redditors who refuse to believe sexism exists) to give their thoughts on the industry.

View post on imgur.com

Whether you're in the biz or you just catch movies on Netflix, the women delivered five truths on equality, Hollywood, and social justice that everyone should hear.

1. The fight for equality may be won in waves, and that's OK.

This isn't as simple as "women directors now, everyone else when the time is right" because it's not just representation behind the camera. Strong characters and role models in film are helping to shift the momentum too.

"Victoria here: I am going to speak about role models in movies. We now have Katniss who courageously defends her people with a weapon, Ray [sic] who can pilot a space ship better than Han Solo, and Furiosa who deliberately goes off track to protect other women. There is no way a young girl watching these films will accept that she can't do something like direct movies. I can't wait to see the current ten year olds when someone tells them that."

A fan poses with a wax figure of "The Hunger Games'" Katniss Everdeen. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds.

2. Don't get mad. Get mad and creative.

Half of film school grads are women but less than 2% of the top-grossing films of 2013 and 2014 were directed by women. That may be a discouraging disconnect, but the tide is shifting toward scrappy, creative producers, directors, and writers.

Take 31-year-old jill-of-all-trades Issa Rae. She developed her own web series, "Awkward Black Girl" in 2011. Her show caught the attention of Pharrell Williams and other influencers. She's now working on a comedy pilot and recently joined forces with HBO on an opportunity to give other traditionally underrepresented creatives an opportunity in the television industry.

"Victoria here: The world has changed. But basic truths remain. Change happens when the haves are forced to share. That is brought about in many different ways: Constant protest, demanding accountability, legal assaults. Entry level positions (episodic tv) are still very bad for women. Make your own film and be your own Hollywood via your cell phone (camera) and computer (editing and distribution). Just remember- you are supported by all woman of good will."

Rae at the 2016 Essence Black Women In Hollywood awards luncheon. Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for Essence.

3. Your cause may be important, but it's not always the most important.

When a redditor asked if women directors should push the UN Commission on the Status of Women to help them achieve 50/50 representation in Hollywood by 2020, Littman effectively said, "pump the brakes." In the scheme of things, this effort is about women finding fulfilling creative work, a drop in the problem-bucket when women are being killed, assaulted, and disenfranchised around the world. It doesn't mean you stop trying, it just means other victories are life and death, so this one may not be a priority for everyone all the time.

"Lynne here: Among Chris Rock's most brilliant comments on the Oscar telecast: 'When your gramma is swinging from a tree, don't worry about who won best cinematographer.... etc.' The UN Commission should be concerned with saving women's lives, ending honor killings, female mutilation and voting rights. AND ... 50/50 by 2020 is Science Fiction."

Demonstrators protest violence against women on International Women's Day. Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images.

4. Hey dudes, you have a part to play in this too.

It's not solely up to women to dismantle systemic sexism. I'll say it again for the good of the group: It's not solely up to women to dismantle systemic sexism. Allies are vital!

One redditor highlighted director/producer J.J. Abrams who said ahead of his next projects, he wants agents to send him lists of directors, writers, and producers that better represent the true makeup of the country.

Not surprisingly, The Original Six are totally on board with Abrams and any other male allies who believe in the cause.

"Lynne here: I think it's GREAT! Doesn't matter how we get there. Creative producers with power eliminate the middle-men — they can hire us directly. Bravo!"

J.J. Abrams speaks at South By Southwest. Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for SXSW.

5. Want to fight for equality? Stir the pot and help other women.

When asked what the most important thing women could do to improve equality, Hochberg said disruption and connection are paramount.

"Victoria here: The most important thing for all of us to do is to NOT accept the status quo. Also, women must help other women. Women who can, must hire other women. Also, push for diversity casting."

A toast among guests at Glamour's Women Rewriting Hollywood Lunch at Sundance. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Glamour.

Though The Original Six are still working as creative professionals and fighting for equality, last year the federal government picked up where they left off.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began interviewing women directors last fall to see what, if any, course of action they should pursue to ensure these large production companies comply with the Civil Rights Act. On paper, it looks like the studios may be breaking Title VII, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, national origin, or religion.

There's more to come in this case, but whether the government intervenes or not, there's a lot we can do to support and encourage women-led projects.

Seek them out. Buy tickets. Share great work. Together, we'll win.

More
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Life for a shelter dog, even if it's a comfortable shelter administered by the ASPCA with as many amenities as can be afforded, is still not the same as having the comfort and safety of a forever home. Professional violinist Martin Agee knows that and that's why he volunteers himself and his instrument to help.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
Macy's