Women who run with Oscars

(Emerald Fennell, Chloé Zhao)

To say that women have been kept out of the spotlight when it comes to being behind the lens in film would be the understatement of the century.

There is no dramatic flare in this statement; the Academy Awards in 2021 marking its 93rd ceremony, only two women have won Best Director, nine women have won Best Screenplay, and only two female-directed films have won Best Picture.

The second female best director and female best picture only became contenders just last night. In nearly 100 years, only seven women have ever been nominated for Best Director: Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Katherine Bigelow (the first woman to ever win an Academy Award in 2010), Greta Gerwig, Chloé Zhao ( the second woman and first woman of color to win an Academy Award in 2021) and Emerald Fennell (winner of Best Original Screenplay in 2021).

As far as females behind the keyboard,  after 79 years female screenwriters only had 11 wins,  and even more shockingly after 2007 out of the 22 Oscars  given, all 22 have been taken home by men. 

These numbers are only a glimpse into not only female recognition, but female job opportunity behind the camera. The percentage of female directors, writers, executive producers, producers, cinematographers on staff of top-grossing films was 21% in 2019, up from 17% in 1998.

The percentage of women directors only rose from 9% in 1998 to 13% in 2019, while the percentage of female cinematographers ticked up just 1% in the same period, from 4% to 5%.

There has yet to be two consecutive years of increases in the percentage of female directors. If women or not granted opportunity to work behind the camera and jobs that have primarily been held by men, the ability to be recognized is that much more scarce.

Fast forward to Oscar night 2021, a night where Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay golden statues were all taken home by women. A night where it feels like a change is blowing in the wind in favor of women behind the camera. While last night was an overdue adoration of women in film, it’s bittersweet.

When the nearly century long bar has been set so low for recognition of women behind the camera, it almost feels devaluing to celebrate an iota of what opportunities and accolades are given to men so freely. 

The 93rd Academy Awards was only the beginning for women to take the drivers seat in telling stories behind the camera. When it comes to our stories in the words of wisdom of Clarissa Pinkola Estés  advises in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, “ I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories…. water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

This year after much blood sweat and tears, we are blooming and more importantly, women are running with Oscars…

Contributor Megan Penn has a passion for stories in which women are in the drivers seat, along with a bad case of retrophilia.