Fighting for Females in filmmaking

Recently, international and local female filmmakers have taken a stand against gender inequality in the film industry by creating opportunities for female empowerment through female-oriented production companies and films.

Recently, females in the film industry have been taking a stand against the sexism that is inherent in what is evidently a male-dominated field. American actresses such as Patricia Arquette and Jennifer Lawrence have spoken out about wage inequality; while young South African female filmmakers such as Jessie Zinn and Jenna Bass are independently creating genuine films that are currently gaining recognition worldwide. These women are not only calling attention to the under-appreciation of females in filmmaking, they are also demonstrating exactly why they are worthy of our appreciation.

Since Patricia Arquette used her acceptance speech at the 87th Annual Academy Awards in 2015 to campaign for wage equality for women, there has been an increasing focus on how women are treated in the film industry. Despite the controversy that came from a portion of her speech, Arquette drew focus to how, for decades, women have been underrepresented and underpaid in the film industry in comparison to their male counterparts. Co-president of the Women in the Arts and Media Coalition, Shelly Lubin, explained that when it comes to moving up in the film industry “every step of the ladder you go, as projects involve more money and higher prestige…you get fewer and fewer women”.

More opportunities are being created for women to strut their stuff. Television producer, Ryan Murphy has pledged to make half of the directors involved in his projects “American Horror Story”,”American Crime Story” and “Scream Queens”, either women, members of color or members of the LGBT community. Meanwhile Jessica Chastain has started an all-female production company, “Freckle Films”, and sits on the board of a non-profit production company, “We Do It Together”, which aims to empower females in film and T.V.

It seems the best way for women to combat gender inequality, is to make their voices heard. One way this is happening in South Africa is through actual filmmaking. Two women who are making their mark in local and international film circles are Jenna Bass and Jessie Zinn. Bass’ first feature film “Love The One You Love” (2015) and Zinn’s short film “Into Us and Ours” (2015) both touch on the theme of identity and forming relationships in contemporary South Africa. Zinn’s film in particular has been very well received and is being screened in Stockholm at CinemaAfrica Sweden and at the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival.

In an interview with Jessie Zinn, she explained that as a feminist she likes to make films about women and for women. When asked whether she has encountered any obstacles as a female whilst studying film and now working as a free-lance production coordinator, she replied that although she had experienced some slight prejudice at university, she won’t allow people to walk over her. “I’m a strong person,” she said. For Jessie, her films are driven by love; for her deciding to become a filmmaker, “there was never another option.”

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Jessie Zinn as photographed by Michaela Davey

To aspiring female filmmakers she had the advice to “take every opportunity” and to make films which are “honest and true” to who you are. As opportunities arise for South African females in film, one hopes that they will have the freedom and support to be honest and true to themselves, as women and as South Africans.

If you would like to see more women centric films or movies produced and/or directed by women, visit Indiewire for a list of what to watch.

(Featured illustration by Michaela Davey)

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