The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Celluloid's Ceiling

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 19, 2007 7:04PM

2007_1frontceiling.jpgWomen haven't exactly taken over Capitol Hill, but there are now more women in Congress than ever. And at the risk of stating the obvious, Hillary is basically the first-ever serious contender for the White House. But things in the film industry couldn't be more different.

As Anne Thompson points out in a recent article, of the 61 films submitted for the foreign-language Oscar, 12 were directed by women. But how many of the likely Best Picture nominations will be films directed by women? Probably somewhere around ... zero.

Thompson posits some possible explanations for why female filmmakers in the US usually seem to end up screenwriting, or directing second-tier movies or TV projects. The expense of making a movie and our culture's obsession with youth both sound like plausible reasons. We would suggest another: popular mainstream movies seem dominated by popcorn action flicks (cop movies, superhero stuff, fantasy battle pix, horror thrillers and the like) and stupid slobby comedies (take your pick). At the risk of generalizing, neither of these genres are probably all that interesting to a female director.

What is interesting (and some would say unusual) is that the past year seemed to have an unusually large number of strong female roles. Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cate Blanchett and Annette Bening are only a few of the many actresses to land juicy parts. It's an encouraging sign, but behind the scenes (not only in directing but also producing and screenwriting) it's still largely a man's world.

That's why the work of Women in Film/Chicago is so important. In addition to sponsoring mentorships for women trying to break into the industry, they also provide career outreach and conduct a regular Roundtable discussion series. Tomorrow evening at 7 the topic will be "The Business of Screenwriting." The event is open to the public but an RSVP is required, so email roundtable(at)wifchicago(dot)org for details.