Women Become Larger Force in Movie Industry

While many of the women nominated for Oscar’s this year participated in films created by small, independent studios, mainstream Hollywood has also included a variety of women in films and women-oriented films during the past year. In 1994, the “Year of the Woman” in Oscars ironically exposed Hollywood’s tendency to shut women out of executive roles and serious acting roles and showed that most women actresses were left to play girlfriends, wives, sex vixens and prostitutes. This year, however, a variety of women actors and executives have created such films as “Marvin’s Room” (starring Diane Keaton as a cancer patient), “Fargo” (starring Frances McDormand as a pregnant police chief), “The First Wives Club” (an unexpected box-office smash oriented towards a female audience), and “Courage Under Fire” (starring Meg Ryan as a soldier posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor). Movies like “Waiting to Exhale” led to other female audience-oriented movies such as “Set It Off” and “The Preacher’s Wife.”

Most agree that the key to the shift has occurred because women are breaking through the ranks of movie studio executives. Paramount, Columbia-Tristar, Fox 2000, United Artists, and Fine Line Features all include either a female president or prominent board members. At Paramount, for example, 44% of the top creative executives are women, and 35% of 20th Century Fox creative executives are women. Lynda Obst, who is currently producer of “One Fine Day”, and an upcoming movie starring Jodie Foster, commented, “There’s a direct relationship there. That is the beginning of our seeing movies that would not have been made if women were not involved at the critical stage of development.” Cynthia Leverhand, executive director of Women in Film, agrees but also points out that women are still underrepresented, especially in director’s, writer’s and editing roles, “Have we really broadened the base, or are we just more vertically visible? Can you really name more than 10 women directors? My perception is that the quality of women coming forth is so outstanding that you can’t ignore them anymore. And it’s these women who will truly broaden the base.”


The Washington Post - March 4, 1997

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