‘Half The Picture’ celebrates women in film but reminds us there is still so much work to do

The opening lines of the documentary “Half the Picture” say it all: “Over the past 17 years, the number of female directors has actually declined. Our study makes it clear, Hollywood is a straight boys club. Research has found that Hollywood directors are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male.” These simple statements sum up a slew of shocking statistics.

Filmmaker Amy Adrion deftly documents the standing of women in Hollywood through a series of compelling interviews with many female filmmakers, industry insiders and academics. Her debut film has played at many of the leading festivals, including Sundance, SXSW and Hot Docs. And it is set to screen on Starz starting in late October.

Hollywood likes to pat itself on the back and always take an opportunity to say ‘look how far we’ve come.’ Like when Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director at the Oscars for “The Hurt Locker” in 2008. The industry saw that as a chance to tell the world that the issue of female representation behind the camera (and indeed in front of the camera, too) was a thing of the past.

Fast forward 10 years and Bigelow remains the only woman to ever win that Oscar. Greta Gerwig is the only female director to even be nominated since then. That was last year, for “Lady Bird.” We actually conducted a five-study entitled ‘The Gender of Awards” that seems to to sit right alongside this issue and this film. Find the first part of that study below.

Oscars and BAFTAs gender gap: There have been more male winners than female nominees

The Oscars take place at the end of the filmmaking journey. But the problem of there not being enough female filmmakers starts right at the beginning. Women are not being encouraged to view filmmaking as something for them. They are not afforded the opportunities in the industry as men and are often outright discriminated against based purely on their sex. “Half the Picture” investigates this important issue thoroughly.

The documentary is filled with interviews with high profile women directors, including Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), Jill Soloway (“Transparent”), Lena Dunham (“Girls”), Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”) and Miranda July (“Me and You and Everyone We Know”). They candidly discuss their early careers, how they transitioned to studio films or television, how they balance having a demanding directing career with family, and the challenges and joys along the way.

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“Half the Picture” also includes interviews with experts about gender inequality in Hollywood. Among these are the ACLU’s Melissa Goodman, Sundance Institute’s Caroline Libresco, Vanity Fair’s Rebecca Keegan, USC’s Dr. Stacy Smith and San Diego State University’s Dr. Martha Lauzen. They establish the magnitude of this employment discrimination issue as women are shut out, across the board, of an industry that systemically denies their expression and point of view.

Reviews for this must-see documentary have been outstanding with Katie Walsh of the Los Angeles Times writing: “With careful craftsmanship, ‘Half the Picture’ is an important piece of testimony in the fight for the civil rights of female directors in Hollywood.” Amy Nicholson of The Guardian highlights the film’s watchability, stating that “it’s not a screed – it’s fun and surprising. And the Metro reviewer Gregory Wakeman notes the irony in the documentary’s inception, which is also further proof of why this film is so direly needed:”‘Half The Picture’s’ director was told not to explore Hollywood’s lack of female filmmakers because sexism no longer existed.  Amy Adrion’s documentary proves that it is obviously still a huge issue.”

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