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Hollywood’s female-director gap sparked calls for change on Monday at the Toronto Film Festival.
“We’re looking at it as a human rights issue … This is a civil liberties problem. This isn’t just a problem for Hollywood. This is a real issue that we need to dig in on,” Stacey Offman, senior vp development and production at Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions and Morgan Spurlock’s former producing partner, told a panel about the film industry’s gender gap.
“It’s controversial, but whatever it takes, there needs to be programs and quotas, because it’s a crisis,” she added. Offman’s comments followed a screening of the docuseries 4%: Film’s Gender Problem, from Jigsaw Productions, with director Caroline Suh and fellow executive producer Laura Michalchyshyn also on the TIFF panel.
The film series, which explores the issues around the current gender gap in Hollywood through contributions from industry players like Judd Apatow, Jill Soloway and Kristen Wiig, is based on research by USC Annenberg’s Dr. Stacy L. Smith. Her findings concluded that, among around 1,300 top-grossing Hollywood movies from 2002 to 2014, only 4.1 percent of all directors were female.
Smith, also in Toronto for the industry panel, urged the major studios to overhaul how they greenlight and finance movies to close the industry’s gender gap. “It’s top to bottom. There has been no change in the top-100 blockbusters, at least since 2007, onscreen dating back half a century,” she said.
As an example, Smith recommended producers add five speaking parts for female characters per movie over three years, and then repeat, to get to gender parity. “It would cost around $5,000 per film, according to SAG/AFTRA numbers. And it wouldn’t take jobs from men,” she added.
The Toronto Film Festival runs to Sept. 18.
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