By Cleo Bergman
When I try to think of movie producers, the only names that directly come to mind are Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee. With the help of Google, I was able to find other recognizable names such as George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, and Walt Disney from the top of the search engine. Unfortunately, neither Google nor I could immediately come up with the name of a single female film producer. Granted, neither Google nor I are experts in film, but it is still rather embarrassing that only through my very particular Google search of female film producers do I realize that many recognizable films have been produced or co-produced by women (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, produced by Kathleen Kennedy and The Dark Knight, produced by Emma Thomas, to name just a few).
Film producer Emma Thomas. Photo courtesy of sbclick.
So how come Google can only produce the names of male producers unless I specifically type in “female” before “producer”? More importantly, as a young woman, why wasn’t I already aware of the presence of women in film production? Turns out, in Hollywood alone, only 23 percent of film producers are female. This statistic is rather stunning considering that females have been producing films since the silent film era. It’s hard to believe that women make up such a low statistic in film production, but what the audience sees on screen is very different from what happens behind the scenes (even though women make up only one third of all on-screen characters).
The role of the producer is essentially to arrange the entire project and bring it to life. From hiring the director to editing scenes, the producer is responsible for ensuring that every production role is filled and performed. Despite the fact that gender should not affect the performance of a producer, there are some differences not only in the way that female producers work, but in the outcomes of their works as well. For example, studies show that if the producer and other leading roles of a project are women, the way that characters are depicted and the story is told can come out very differently compared to a movie run by a male-dominated staff (more specifically, if a woman is in charge, more women would be working in the film production.) Some economical differences include a study back in 2007, when 78 percent of the top-grossing films had at least one female producer on the team.
Despite the fact that the number of female producers is depressingly low, the community of women in the film industry is tightly knit enough to reach out to other aspiring filmmakers on an individual level to get access into the industry and grow in population. Since the film industry can be dauntingly large and particularly masculine, it should be taken as a blessing in disguise as well as an opportunity for aspiring female producers that the number of women representing the film industry is so low. Although it has been almost a century since the birth of film and the ratio of male to females in the industry is still not 50-50, with the strength and success of these female producers and other behind the scene roles, the number of women involved in the industry can only go up.