• FemmeCritic

What's This Whole 4% Challenge Thing?

#TimesUp, the organization that advocates for women in the workplace, laid down a challenge at the #SundanceFilmFestival, asking entertainment-industry bigwigs to do one simple thing -- commit to hiring a female feature-film director in the next 18 months.

Actress Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok, Westworld, Men in Black) made the announcement last week at the famed independent film market in Utah, and Regina King (Beale Street, Southland) also pledged her support as part of her speech when she won the Golden Globe.

She reminded the gathering of this shocking statistic: only 4% of the top 100 studio films released over the last ten years have been directed by a woman.

And of course, female directors were shut out of the Best Director Oscar race again this year, despite several strong entries -- including Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which happened to win acting noms for its two stars), Josie Rourke (Mary Queen of Scots), Karyn Kusama (Destroyer) and Mimi Leder (On the Basis of Sex).

Director Marielle Heller, Melissa McCarthy
Director Marielle Heller, Melissa McCarthy (Variety)

A number of big names immediately fell in line and pledged to meet this challenge, including studios like Universal Pictures, Focus Features, Dreamworks Animation and STX Entertainment, and producers like J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot, Paul Feig, Lucy Fisher and Doug Wick, Dan Carrillo and Moxie 88, among others. In fact, Robert Iger, Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company tweeted: "I’m proud to say 40% of @DisneyStudios’ upcoming movie slate is being directed by women and we are striving for more!"

#TimesUp website explains: "We are supporting women directors from all backgrounds in this challenge, as studies show that women-directed films are more inclusive in terms of girls and women on screen, female characters 40 years of age and older and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. Women directors also hire other women in key behind-the-camera roles. The aim is to humanize production processes so that all groups can thrive at work in safe contexts. This is a step in that direction."

Of course, FemmeCritic supports this initiative wholeheartedly, and only wishes they'd ask the same for female feature-film writers. If we want to see women represented fairly and fully on screen, that's where we need to start.