Mon 10.14.2013

Gamechanger Is Working to Put Women in the Director’s Chair

The gender gap in Hollywood is the town’s worst kept secret.

The most startling—and often-cited—statistic: Women accounted for only 9% of directors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2012, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. But lamenting a problem and addressing a problem are two different things. And that’s where the aptly named Gamechanger Films comes in.

Never before has a for-profit film fund been dedicated solely to financing narrative features directed by women. So when word got out about Gamechanger and its mission: “to shift the gender disparity in the film marketplace by tapping into the enormous but undervalued talent pool of women filmmakers and providing the necessary financing to bring their work to audiences worldwide,” it’s no wonder that the phones started ringing off the hook.

“I’m still overwhelmed by emails and calls since the LA Times article came out,” says Mynette Louie, the president of Gamechanger, who’s been hearing from “women directors, producers, agents, managers, lawyers, film school students…”  A Film Independent Fellow who won the 2013 Piaget Producers Film Independent Spirit Award, Louie was brought in to run the company by Gamechanger’s four founders: Julie Parker Benello and Wendy Ettinger (from Chicken & Egg pictures), and Dan Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous (from Impact Partners.)

Mynette Louie

With a list of 9 feature films under her belt as a producer—she’s got a crime thriller Cold Comes the Night, starring Alice Eve, Logan Marshall-Green and Bryan Cranston, being released by Sony in 2014—Louie has been in the business long enough to have heard stories about discrimination against women and to have experienced a bit of it herself. “I’ve faced subtle sexism. Before the crew knows who I am on set, some of them make the assumption that I’m an assistant or a wardrobe person.  People very rarely assume I am the producer, and when they find out, their attitude does a 180. The film set is very male dominated and as the only female managerial voice in most cases, I sometimes find it difficult to make myself heard, even though the men I work with are more progressive than most. I don’t know, I guess there’s just something about a bunch of guys in a room that makes them immune to the higher frequency of a female voice.”

“I have heard from a lot of women directors who face subtle and not-so-subtle sexism,” continues Louie. There are production companies that make it known that women directors will never end up on their lists of potential directors to hire, she says. “Guys have trouble picturing women at the helm commanding a crew of 50 to 100 people, especially quieter women. Men assume you have to be obviously assertive and commanding in order to lead, but there are other ways to lead effectively.”

The Gamechanger game plan is built on the premise that in Hollywood, money talks. The idea, says Louie, is to fix the systemic problem of women directors having trouble attracting financing, which has been cited by studies as the number one reason for the gender inequity. “The financing structure is male-oriented and controlled by men and it’s a huge hindrance to women getting financing.”

In the coming years, Gamechanger aims to partly finance a slate of narrative feature films—women directors are better represented in the documentary world—with budgets under $5 million. Gamechanger already has one soon-to-be-announced film in production, Louie says, “we’ve been operating in stealth mode for a couple months now.” And a few other projects are in the pipeline. “We’re looking for all different kinds of genres,” says Louie. “We’re looking for films that are commercially and critically viable. We prefer to see films with strong producers attached.” For more info, go to Gamechanger’s FAQ.

The idea is to demonstrate to financiers, studios, and production companies that women directors are capable of making great movies that have the ability to recoup their investment, says Louie. “We need to get more women directors actively working, and showing up on the hire lists of studios and production companies.”

By Pamela Miller / Website & Grants Manager