Hollywood, like many other industries, is very androcentric. The Center for The Study of Women in Television & Film reported that in 2017 only 18% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing films were female. With the number having not increased in the last 20 years, many are hopeful that movements such as #MeToo, Times Up, and 50/50 by 2020, as well as a newly found interest in the stories of women will put more females in power. With the Academy Awards coming up, I thought it would be interesting to look into the stories of three women who have managed to excel at what they do, and are the only female nominees of their category.
Nomination: Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, Lady Bird
Despite it being Gerwig’s first time solo-directing a film, her autobiography inspired, comedy-drama Lady Bird has been nominated for 5 Oscars – including Best Motion Picture – and bagged her a nomination for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Lady Bird has already won Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes, where she was also nominated for Best Screenplay; and made a gross of $40 million domestically while having a budget of $10 million.
Having grown up in Sacramento, California and spent her teens at a Catholic all-girls high school, she aspired to become a playwright. Going to New York to study English and philosophy at Barnard College (Columbia University), she started to get involved with artsy low-budget films which were labeled ‘mumblecore’. When she didn’t get accepted to playwright MFA programs, Gerwig decided to focus on acting. She became a prominent individual in ‘mumblecore’ movies, where anyone which was in the production, had a hand in every aspect of the production. Having not gone to film school, these years allowed her to learn filmmaking. With the credits of actress, playwright, screenwriter and director, Greta Gerwig made her breakthrough with her acting in the film Frances Ha (2012) – directed by her current boyfriend Noah Baumbach. A film co-written by the both of them, it got Gerwig her first Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Since then she has continued to act, write and now direct.
With women only accounting for 11% of directors, and only 5 having been nominated for an Academy Award over the lifetime of the award – it’s overdue that we have a female nominee for Best Director. Katheryn Bigelow is the only women to have ever actually won the Oscar for directing (for The Hurt Locker), and many – including myself – are routing for Greta to follow in her footsteps.
“And I remember when Kathryn Bigelow won for best director and how it seemed as if possibilities were expanded because of it. I genuinely hope that what this means to women of all ages – young women, women who are well into their careers – is that they look at this and they think, ‘I want to go make my movie.’ Because a diversity of storytellers is incredibly important and also, I want to see their movies. I want to know what they have to say! So, I hope that’s what it does.” – Greta Gerwig for The Guardian
Nomination: Best Cinematography, Mudbound
Rachel Morrison is the first ever female Best Cinematography nominee at the Oscars. Her work on Mudbound, a Netflix film directed by Dee Rees, has allowed her to make history. She studied photography and film at NYU at The Tish School of Arts, and then went onto getting a MFA on cinematography from the American Film Institute. Starting out as a director of photography on the reality show The Hills in 2008, her work on TV shows continued for a while and her work on Ricker’s High, a documentary about the prison system on Ricker’s Island, got recognized with an Emmy Nomination.
In 2013, she worked on Ryan Coogler’s film Fruitvale Station, a big step for her career. Fast-forward 5 years and Morrison has become the first female to be the Director of Photography of a Marvel film, I am of course talking about Black Panther – another Ryan Coogler film.
Being one of the approximately 12 female DPs there are working on major films, Rachel Morrison has had her movies shown in various festivals and gathered various awards. Along with many of her firsts, she has also become the first women to collect an American Society of Cinematographers Award in its feature compartment. She has voiced her concerns about the inequality present in the sector and states that she is waiting for the term “female DP” to go, with just ‘’DP” becoming all inclusive.
Nomination: Best Adapted Screenplay, Mudbound
She is the first black women to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, along with her collaborator Virgil Williams, for a film which she is also the director of: Mudbound. It’s the fourth movie she has directed and her film making abilities on this Netflix Original has led to four Oscar nominations.
However, Dee Rees didn’t start her career with the thought of being nominated for an Academy Award. She went to college at Florida A&M, and went onto doing an MBA as well. Working in the corporate world as a marketing executive, only when she ended up on a TV commercial as part of the job did she get the idea to get into filmmaking. Rees decided to go to NYU’s Tisch School of Arts and take a graduate program on film making, hence starting her journey towards an Oscar. During her time there, she started writing the script for Pariah, which she would go on to shoot first as a short. With her first film playing at 40 festivals around the world, she went onto then working on an HBO movie called Bessie which won the Best TV Movie at the Emmys. With a successful start to her career, she continued to work on various films and TV shows.
As an individual which is now in a position to choose who she works with, Dee Rees gives a lot of importance to inclusivity. By working with women and people of color, she is taking action on the inequality that is apparent in the sector herself.
Written by Sueda