Women and Hollywood, the organisation set up by Melissa Silverstein to ‘educate, advocate and agitate for greater gender diversity in the film industry’, celebrated its 10th anniversary this week with a celebration gala at the Mayfair Hotel. The Women in Hollywood celebration honoured ‘trailblazers’ including producer Elizabeth Karlsen, Clare Stewart of the BFI and director Gurinder Chadha, with awards presented by filmmakers such as Amma Assante.
The following day Melissa came to the NFTS for a talk with Kate Muir, screenwriter and former film critic of The Times, introduced by NFTS Head of Screen Arts and course leader for the MA in Film Studies, Programming and Curation, Sandra Hebron.
Melissa opened the lively discussion by saying “There is a real opportunity for systemic change. We are at a pivotal moment if people in power want to make that change.”
She described how it had been like there was an electric fence – “Women were able to progress so far and then they’d hit this barrier and bounce back. And now there’s a gap in that fence and women are streaming through and we all have to see how we can help them and support them and create opportunities.”
Screening the Women and Hollywood 10th anniversary video, which you can watch here: https://vimeo.com/240859745 , Melissa and Kate talked about ‘busting the myths’ about what cinema audiences watch. Pointing out that the expected 3 top grossing films of 2017 – Wonder Woman, The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast, are women centric, and one of them, Wonder Woman, is directed by a woman.
Discussing with the audience of NFTS students, Melissa raised the issue that as filmmakers, and elsewhere, “women are judged on their experience, men are judged on their potential.” Meaning there is a tendency that female filmmakers have to ‘prove’ themselves with each film, in a way that men do not. Melissa exhorted - “We have to change that. We need to see the potential of women.”
Melissa encouraged the women in the audience of student filmmakers – “Never give up telling your stories. Create your own community, support one another.”