This Woman’s Work

A round-up of websites celebrating women in the film industry

BY Jennifer Higgie in Culture Digest | 11 MAY 16

As it’s the 69th Cannes Film Festival this week, we’re celebrating the achievement of women filmmakers. Here’s a round-up of just some of the websites that were created in order to support them, and to document the history of women in film (behind as well as in front of the camera), and the inequality inherent in the industry.

Agnès Varda directing La Pointe courte (1955)

Women in Film (WIF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equal opportunities for women in the industry, encouraging creative projects by women, and expanding and enhancing portrayals of women in all forms of global media. Given that women comprise 50 percent of the population, WIF’s ultimate goal is to see the same gender parity reflected on- and off screen. Founded in 1973, WIF focuses on advocacy and education – provides scholarships, grants, and film finishing funds – and works to preserve the legacies of all women working in the entertainment industries.

Here’s a brief history of women in film and television published by the British Film Institute.

Another good round-up from the BFI focuses on Sight & Sound’s piece, ‘The Female Gaze: 100 underrated films directed by women’, the important role of female film editors and animators, and more. 

Women in Film and Television International is ‘a global network dedicated to advancing professional development and achievement for women working in all areas of film, video, and other screen-based media. WIFTI continues to be a voice for women in the Industry worldwide’.

Women and Film History International is ‘a network of affiliated scholars, researchers, archivists, and film programmers, all dedicated to the study of women’s film history’.  

Hollywood star and director Ida Lupino

Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film ‘generates a number of large annual studies documenting women’s representation and portrayals, as well as substantial investigations of the business environment surrounding women in film and television. Every year, The Celluloid Ceiling tracks the employment of women working as directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and editors on the top 250 grossing films. Now in its 18th year, this study has considered more than 47,000 behind-the-scenes credits on over 4,000 films.’

Women & Film Project: Women & Film, the first-ever feminist film magazine, was published in California during the early 1970s. It was founded by two women, Siew-Hwa Beh and Saundra Salyer, both young, aspiring filmmakers who had been involved in the radical political movements of the previous decade, including the anti-war movement and women’s liberation. This is an attempt to retrace the story of the magazine’s founding, development and demise against the tumultuous backdrop of late 1960s and early ’70s America, specifically US film culture and the women’s movement.

OK, there are a lot more sites out there, of course – this is just a sample. But remember, next time you’re watching a film, don’t forget to ask if it passes the Bechdel Test: are there at least two women in it who talk to each other about something other than a man?

And finally: never assume. Did you know that Wayne’s World and American Psycho were directed by women? (I didn’t.)

Jennifer Higgie is a writer who lives in London. Her book The Mirror and the Palette – Rebellion, Revolution and Resilience: 500 Years of Women’s Self-Portraits is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, and she is currently working on another – about women, art and the spirit world.