Jane Williams is a director, producer and writer. Her work ranges from filming in the garden of Buckingham Palace to going undercover to investigate religious and racial prejudice on the streets of Britain.
Jane is currently making ‘Pilgrim Home’, a documentary about the English origins of the Mayflower Pilgrims who are remembered in the United States at Thanksgiving.
‘WOMEN IN BLACK’
The media industry is hard on everyone, especially women. I’m a ‘doer’ so I rarely stop to reflect on the challenges facing female directors. Weinstein’s exposé last year forced the topic into focus. At this year’s Golden Globes there were no nominations for a female ‘Best Director’ .
In Europe, 4 out of 5 films are made by a man and in England only 1 in 5 of those films have a gender-balanced cast. Fortune Magazine reported that top US female actors make about 40 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. In Britain recently, Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s China editor resigned in protest over the gender pay gap.
This everyday sexism is ironic in an industry considered liberal. Money really does talk. There’s a general industry mistrust in the ability of women to deliver big budget films. Sarah Gavron’s acclaimed ‘Suffragette’ was made on a modest budget of $14 million dollars. Such attitudes help explain why many women directors, like myself, often seek to eke out a living in micro budget documentary filmmaking.
Thankfully change is happening and the $149 ‘Wonder Woman’ saw Hollywood open up its purse strings to director Patty Jenkins. I gingerly went to see ‘Women Woman’ and couldn’t help feel inspired by powerful Amazonians with a mission to save humanity. This week ‘The Critic’s Award’ saw Wonder Woman achieve ‘Best Action Movie’ and Gal Gadot received the special ‘SeeHer’ award for her lead role.
As a woman, and a member of half of the population, it is important that my voice is heard. I am also a storyteller and a truth seeker. I’ve fought hard to retain the idealism of a teenager and want to achieve and see positive change – to be a role model. The actor Geena Davis has long been a campaigner for female role models.
CLIP ON IMAGE TO PLAY
The need for diversity was echoed when I spoke to Lord Holmes of Richmond, MBE. It’s a peerage title he has earned, not inherited, as a lifelong campaigner for equality and inclusion.
Lord Holmes told me “If you don’t see or hear people who sound, who look like you, who come from a similar background as you, why would you possibly think you could do that? Role models are so essential”.
The media might not directly tell us what to think, but by omission it does influence what we think and how we think about it. The balance both on and off screen is currently weighted towards white men.
My own career progression had felt like the feminism of the last century. It was a time when women thought that to succeed they had to ‘act like a man’. I would be found staying out late socialising on film shoots until I was the ‘last woman standing’. This was coupled with a pressure to provide a witty repartee to rival that of a professional comedian.
By the time I was in my late 30s, I began to see there was an alternative route. A better balance was required in my own life. Just being myself was good enough. I began to make different choices. Passion and experience would propel me forward as I walked my own path. Naivety would protect me from the difficult journey that lay ahead.
I want to be assessed and valued for my talent alone and often get hold that talent will wins through. The fact that women directors, and many other people, are so poorly represented proves that there must be barriers.
“I think that people often say that talent will always come through but this is fundamentally flawed. Talent is everywhere; opportunity isn’t, because of structures, systems, institutions and organisations” said Lord Holmes of Richmond, Britains most successful Paralympic swimmer.
CLICK ON IMAGE TO HEAR INTERVIEW
These barriers have to be opened and I’m ready to walk through the door. Does being a woman make me see the world differently? Probably. Do women’s views need to be represented in society? Definitely. Is this a good time to be a woman in the media? Absolutely. We still have everything to play for and our own future to create.
To find out more about my documentary film ‘Pilgrim Home’ visit: http://www.fandangomedia.co.uk/pilgrim-home
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