4 February 2015
Unit 1 Essay
For a young girl, the Oscars are more than magical – the fancy tuxedos, elegant ball gowns, and shimmering trophies all entrance me. I can’t take my eyes of the television screen. I am 13 years old, watching the Academy Awards for the first time. My father and I eagerly await the announcement of the winner for Best Film Editing. I recently began delving in the basics of film editing. I was always fascinated by the way editors could manipulate time and space. My father took notice of my interest and decided it was time I watched the Oscars. We popped two bags of popcorn with movie theater butter.
“And the Oscar for Best Film Editing goes to … Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter for their work on ‘The Social Network!’” The television erupts with applause. Two men saunter on stage and gracefully accepted their Oscar. My father turns to me, “That’s going to be you one day!” I jump onto the coffee table and begin waving at the audience, “I’d like to thank my brother, my mom, my dad and The Academy!” I hold the popcorn bowl up like a trophy. I want nothing more than to hold that golden man in my hands.
Angus and Kirk won two years in a row. The next year it was for their work on, “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” This was the first time I began to doubt the Academy. The Hollywood remake of, “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was a complete letdown compared to the original Swedish version. Thelma Schoonmaker was obviously the better choice. She was nominated for her work on, “Hugo” which was one of the most significant films of the year and revolved around the life of George Mêlées, the father of special effects. It occurred to me that she was the only female candidate nominated. Despite this disappointment, I continued to love the Oscars. The next year, William Goldenberg won for his work on “Argo.” No women were nominated for Best Film Editing. After that, Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger won for their work on, “Gravity.” Yet again, no women were nominated.
Why is it even called, “The Oscars?” Why a man’s name and a statue of a man? It seems like very trophy that filmmakers across the nation strive for represents the male dominance of the field. The M-G-M studio chief Lois B. Mayer founded the Oscars and the Academy. Douglas Fairbanks was the first president. There have been 34 presidents of The Academy – only 3 of them have been women. Bette Davis, the first female president, resigned after two months. I wonder why? Fay Kanin was president for 4 years. I was surprised to learn the current president of the Academy is Cheryl Boone Isaacs. She has been president since 2013.
Does this issue only exist within the Academy? Or does this problem only exist in other industries such as Hollywood? Is Hollywood male dominated? Are male directors and producer not inclined to hire women? A recent study found that there are fewer female protagonists in Hollywood’s top films. Most Hollywood films even tend to objectify and sexualize women. What about in foreign films? Foreign films objectify men as much as they do women. Foreign films are also way more likely to be directed or edited by a woman.
Some women, like Thelma Schoonmaker, have managed to establish themselves in the industry but it seems as if she’s the only one who still matters. Women are innately better equipped to be film editors. Quentin Tarantino actually prefers to have a women edit his films. Sally Menke edited Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, and Inglorious Bastards. He believes that women are more tuned to emotion and therefore better at picking the shots that contain the best emotion for the scene. This has been scientifically proven.
But who cares about the film editor? Isn’t it the director that matters? Not exactly – Editors have more creative control and contribute more to film than many people know. Editors, much like directors, are considered the auteur of the film. It’s the editor’s job to sort through hours of footage and carefully select the shots that work best for the film. They then organize the footage in a fashion that moves the story foreword. Every cut made by an editor is vital. There are 24 frames in each second and the editor must select the perfect frame for the cut to be made. The editor works very closely with the director and producers throughout the entire process. The editor plays a part in telling the story just as much as the director or screenwriter does.
Film editing actually began as a primarily female dominated profession. When film editing was literally cutting and pasting long strips of film together it was considered tedious work. Then film went digital and film editing transformed from a semi-skilled labor into a creative profession. So naturally, as soon as film editors started gaining creative control and credit, men began flocking to the field and it seems they are now dominating the entire industry. So, what ever happened to all the women in the film industry? It seemed they have vanished.
The complete lack of women in the film industry was made even clearer to me on my first day of film school. I walked into class with bright eyes and a hundred questions. Who would my classmates be? What would they look like? Who would I make friends with? The first thing I notice is that there are only 25 students. The second thing I notice is that there are only 8 girls: Arielle, Bailey, Meghan, Monica, Rayna, Tori, Zoë, and myself. At first we all were apprehensive of each other. With only 7 girls it seemed sure competition would arise.
It turned out that all the girls in cinema were amazing in their own very unique ways. I made friends with all of them within a few weeks. Then best friends with most of them in a few months. Unfortunately, Meghan decided to change majors after the first semester. We were down to 7 girls. I soon learned that my class still has the highest numbers of girls than any other cinema class so far. This shocked me. Were they not letting more women into the program or were women just not applying? The 7 of us made a pact to stick together and support each other as female filmmakers. We know it’s the only way any of us will succeed.
The film industry needs to change. Equality in the workplace is something women everywhere should strive for and equality in the film industry is the next step. My father supported my dreams of filmmaking ever since the beginning. He wants to see women respected in films, not objectified. He wants to see his wife and 3 daughters respected by the media. Filmmakers greatly influence their audience through their movies. The message male filmmakers are sending about women is degrading. An industry that has so much influence over the population should represent society as a whole, not just from a man’s perspective. Filmmaking comes with great power and great power comes with great responsibility.