​Let’s Have the Conversation: Why Women Need to Come to Greater Power in Arts and Entertainment, Now

Desireé Duffy  |

When Steven Bannon told journalist Joshua Green, “Women are going to take charge of society, and they couldn’t juxtapose a better villain than Trump. He is the patriarch,” it signified a pivotal moment.

Women are becoming a stronger force; it is undeniable. And the man whose Breitbart website has featured headlines like: The Solution to Online 'Harassment' Is Simple: Women Should Log Off, and Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy, is a barometer of the shift.

Bannon also said, in reference to the 2018 Golden Globes which included Oprah Winfrey’s epic empowerment speech and the solidarity of an audience dressing in all-black, “This is a definitional moment in the culture. It’ll never be the same going forward.”

For once, I agree with Bannon. Hopefully, he is right.

With much of the momentum for the #MeToo movement powered by the Harvey Weinstein allegations, as well as others in Hollywood, it seems appropriate that this is also ground zero for a renaissance in women’s fiction, TV, film, and storytelling. After all, it is through stories—the narratives of our time—that society evolves.

Consider the impact that Wonder Woman had at the box office. At 821.9 million USD, it is the highest-grossing superhero-origin movie of all time, not counting inflation, according to Business Insider. Many see this as proof that when Hollywood produces content with strong female protagonists and themes, consumers respond.

Joel Eisenberg, Partner at Council Tree Productions, says, “Wonder Woman’s success is just the beginning. The shift is here to stay. Female-focused content from studios and production companies will only increase, as will other content of diverse focus. It’s an amazing, rich time to take risks as a content creator.”

In another example, Hulu has exceeded expectations with the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. The award-winning show has garnered accolades from The Golden Globes, Emmys, SAG, AFI, AAFCA, DGA, and many others. With a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes, it is evidence that dystopian literary fiction has a place on today’s collective watch list.

Christina Cigala, author of the novel XXvXY: The Final World War, which poses women against men in a sobering tale about a divided US (that is no longer hard to imagine), says, “The votes are in, and folks want to hear stories from all perspectives. Representation matters and perceiving the stories of other groups fosters empathy and community. Women have taken a seat at the table, and audiences are no longer settling for the same stale perspectives and tropes.”

Cigala, is on the Saturday keynote panel for the Genre LA Creative Writers’ Conference, February 24, 2108. Presented by Black Château, the keynote is titled A Brave New World for Women: Dystopian Worlds Merge with the Times, and it focuses on the messages from science fiction, fantasy, YA, dystopian, and other types of fiction, that society is currently responding to.

An array of writers and content creators, including: Laurel Anne Hill, Leslie Ann Moore, Sean Patrick Traver, Deborah M. Pratt, Chad Stroup, and Diana Giovinazzo Tierney, are also on the panel. The conversation not only addresses women’s empowerment themes and how the times are changing, but also what themes are resonating with today’s entertainment consumers.

Producer, director, and president of 5Rainbow Productions, Tauyna Gren, is currently on the set for a psychological thriller her independent company is producing. It has a 70% female cast, and nearly half the crew is female. She says this film is “Not the genre the studios would tell me should have a female audience. And yet, in the upper echelons of film and content production, the balance is vastly different. Several studies have shown that a film with a woman as the director, producer, writer, or editor makes an average of 25% more money. In the big studios, that data is ignored.”

The entertainment industry, like any other, is a work environment. We’re not only looking at the women-focused content, but at women creators behind the scenes.

Gren says, “A number of the crew and cast on this film have commented that the female-lead films they’ve been on have treated them better, and they honestly look forward to working on female-driven sets.”

What does the future hold for female-focused content? Where will this wave take us?

Bhavani Rao is a producer with Bhavani Entertainment, Co-Chair of the Producer Guild Mentorship Committee, and Founder of the South Asian Women in Entertainment group. She says, “We are just at the beginning of the future of women creating content. Women have been writers for years in literature and many have played large roles in film, TV, and comics but the future will bring so many new and diverse voices to the canvas that is entertainment.” She also predicts there will be “More content—diverse content—from women from all over the world with their own unique voices.”

Will we also see more opportunities for women creatives, directors, producers, writers, and crew?

Rao adds, “More Opportunities to create is just the beginning of where females in entertainment are heading. We have the ability to change not only the content, but also the way we create that content.”

According to Women in Hollywood, 52% of moviegoers are women. Of the top 100-grossing films of 2017, 8% were women directors, 10% were women writers, 2% of the cinematographers were women, 24% of the producers were women, and 14% of the editors were women.

This change is long over-due. Not only are women-focused themes and character-driven stories wanted by the consumer, we need more women and varieties of voices creating that content. Ultimately, if we simply look at the numbers, it makes sense. There is money to be made. How much longer can Hollywood drag its feet when it impacts the bottom line?

Having the conversation and bringing it into focus, is a major step in the right direction. What are your thoughts? Respond in the comments. After all, this is a conversation, and your voice needs to be heard, too.

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