Hollywood studio focuses on putting more female directors in the picture

Guardian (UK) |

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Hollywood studio 21st Century Fox is to set up a mentoring programme to boost the numbers of women behind the camera in the film industry. The paucity of female directors in Hollywood has come in for increasing criticism in recent years, despite the Oscar-winning success of notable exceptions such as Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker, and Jane Campion, director of The Piano. Last year, the Sundance Institute published a report showing that between 2002 and 2012 only 4.4\% of the 100 top-grossing US films were directed by women, with 41.5\% of these coming through programmes organised by the institute itself. The report found that female film-makers were more likely than male directors to employ other women on productions. Under the new programme, 20 participants will take part in a five-week directors' lab before five finalists are chosen to enter a 10-month programme leading to funding and support from Fox for a short film released under the studio brand. The programme is being spearheaded by Nicole Bernard, executive vice president of Fox Audience Strategy. "The cross-divisional enthusiasm to launch this initiative speaks to our commitment to drive industry change, and we hope that stellar creative arts organisations across the globe will be equally excited to join us," she told Variety. Fox Broadcasting Company chief operating officer Joe Earley added: "To connect with viewers today, we need stories that represent the amazing range of experiences and voices in the real world. "Along with writers, the vision of directors is key as they obviously bring those stories to life through their own lens." In May, Campion, as head of the Cannes film festival, called the scarcity of female directors undemocratic. Speaking out against sexism in the business, Campion, the only woman to have ever won the festival's prestigious Palme d'Or prize, said: "I think you'd have to say there's some inherent sexism in the industry. It does feel very undemocratic and women do notice. Time and time again, we don't get our share of representation." This year's Cannes film festival featured a majority female jury for the first time, with French actor Carole Bouquet, US director Sofia Coppola, South Korean actor Jeon Do-yeon and Iranian actor Leila Hatami joining Campion. But of 18 films, only two by female directors were in the running for the Palme d'Or: Le Meraviglie (The Wonders) by Italian director Alice Rohrwacher and Futatsume No Mado (Still the Water) by Japan's Naomi Kawase. In 2012, Le Monde published an open letter signed by female directors and actors accusing the industry of double standards. "At Cannes, women show their breasts, men show their films," the letter said. Actors Kristen Wiig and Ellen Page both recently announced that they are set to join the ranks of female film-makers on projects in the next couple of years. Jane Campion, above Captions: Director Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker in 2010 Photograph: Ed Prouser/Reuters/Corbis

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