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Women in Film Fight For Power

Viola Davis

The Crystal + Lucy Awards spotlight 10 women who buck the Hollywood odds stacked against them.

We're in a business that's incredibly male-dominant," says Chloe Grace Moretz, the 15-year-old star of Hugo, Kick-Ass and Kimberly Peirce's upcoming horror remake Carrie. "You know, 'This is a man's club, a he-man, woman-hater club!' " That's why she's glad to be one of 10 winners of Women in Film's Crystal + Lucy Awards on June 12 at the Beverly Hilton. "Events like this put women in the spotlight, where we can be more powerful," says Moretz. "It's very important."

The 2012 awards come at a moment when women in TV and film have hit a celluloid ceiling -- hard. More than 3,600 people petitioned the Cannes Film Festival in May to protest the absence of female directors in competition, and women's participation in a wide range of TV and film jobs is shrinking, on- and offscreen. Women directed 5 percent of the 250 top-grossing movies of 2011 compared with 9 percent in 1998. The percentage of female broadcast TV writers fell by nearly half in a single season, from 29 percent in 2009-10 to 15 percent in 2010-11. Female protagonists in hit films have dropped from 16 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2011.

"The astounding fact is we've had almost no growth in jobs and opportunities since 1998," says Women in Film president Cathy Schulman. "An inside source told me no women were interviewed to direct the second Hunger Games. But Martha Lauzen's studies show that movie grosses depend on the budget, not the sex of the director."

Says Lauzen, director of San Diego State's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film: "I don't think there's any grand conspiracy of men in a smoke-filled room. It's just human nature to hire people like yourself."

It's also executives' nature to hire people with relevant experience. "Female directors tend to do more personal kinds of movies as opposed to commercial, standard studio fare," says Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler, one of five Fox execs honored at C + L 2012. "Male directors have more experience with these big, effects-driven tentpole films that are easier to make now. We would offer Kathryn Bigelow anything we have, but she has really specific ideas of what she wants to do."

When women do help run the show, the show changes. "Not only do you get more female characters onscreen, you get different kinds of characters who use more powerful language, give more advice to other characters and get the first and last word in conversations at higher rates," says Lauzen.

Women working behind the scenes change the drama, too. "There's a noticeable grouping of really intelligent, powerful women at Fox, one of the only studios where the divisions don't fight over material," says Schulman. "They say: 'This isn't for us. Give it to our sister -- that's got to be Fox Searchlight because of their output deals.' I see it as collective power."

Agrees Gabler: "I'm very collaborative, especially with Searchlight and the animation division. I'd love to do a movie together with them." Schulman thinks this tendency to collaborate is a specifically feminine trait. "Discipline, focus, multitasking, teamwork are good female characteristics," she says.

Moretz says it feels different to work for women: "Kimberly Peirce brings a more maternal, female aspect of the character, whereas a male may not get exactly the touch of what I'm going for because he's a man." Even so, she's eager to begin work on Kick-Ass 2, probably by year's end, for probable director Jeff Wadlow.

But even when she works for men, doesn't the example of power women like Meryl Streep inspire her to kick ass? Says Moretz, "Definitely."

WOMEN IN FILM WINNERS

  • Crystal Award, Excellence in Film: Viola Davis
  • Lucy Award, Excellence in TV: Bonnie Hammer
  • MaxMara Face of the Future: Chloe Moretz
  • Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award: Christina Applegate
  • Kodak Vision Award: Anette Haellmigk
  • Special Recognition for Professional Excellence: Elizabeth Gabler, Claudia Lewis, Vanessa Morrison Murchison, Nancy Utley, Emma Watts

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HOW AN AWARD GAVE A DESIGNER ETERNAL YOUTH: MaxMara found it easier to face the future by hitching its star to those of Women in Film

Getty Images

The Women in Film Maxmara Face of the Future Award was instituted in 2006, after the Italian megabrand already had become a sponsor of the Crystal + Lucy Awards. "From the initial relationship with MaxMara," says ICM's Iris Grossman, former president and now president emeritus and vp fund-raising at Women in Film, "we said, 'How can we make the relationship grow?' MaxMara's brand is women; our brand is women. And we came up with the Face of the Future Award. It was never about age -- the first recipient was Maria Bello. Not everybody peaks at the same time. All the women we've chosen together since -- Emily Blunt, Ginnifer Goodwin, Elizabeth Banks, Zoe Saldana and Katie Holmes -- had an impact on the future, not just of film, but of style and philanthropy. The two companies mesh very well." How has this benefited MaxMara? In terms of worldwide visibility, immensely. A brand without a designer face, it morphed into a Hollywood insider label after the FOTF winners wore it. Since 2011, Emma Stone, Malin Akerman, Courteney Cox, Brooklyn Decker and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley have been photographed in MaxMara, making the brand appear more chic -- and significantly younger, culminating in this year's Face of the Future, Chloe Grace Moretz, turning up at its February 2012 Milan spring fashion show in head-to-toe MM. "I think they do an amazing job," Moretz tells THR. "I think there's something to be said about a very classical cut that can still be young and be edgy and fun, you know? Cool patterns and cool textures." And that can translate into cold, hard cash. -- Merle Ginsberg