I spent the better half of what would have been an unremarkable day scouring the internet amidst a small backlash of a little subjective blog post on Horror-movies.ca titled, The New Masters of Horror.
Now that a breeze has brought my temperature down about the points missed from those on the defense, I want to address them.
Well, maybe just one.
And that is the fact that we shouldn’t blame or ridicule Herner Klenthur or his list; we need to direct our energy towards the systemic, institutionalized exclusion of female genre filmmakers in the spaces that would propel their work, talent, effort, and skill into the stratosphere of a Ti West or an Eli Roth, two directors whose work I do enjoy.
I spent a good year immersed in this very question to come to some understanding as to how women horror directors are creating their own avenues and marketing platforms to make the smaller and larger entertainment industry take notice. My Masters Thesis took the form of demonstrating the re-conceptualization of horror by women directors and what it will mean for the industry in the future. With spaces like Viscera relentlessly pushing the mission of exposure for the quality work of female genre directors, things can only go up.
But before I celebrated these efforts, I dug deep into why these women struggle to gain exposure and recognition. Let’s begin with an episode of filmmaker Maude Michaud’s inspired documentary, Bloody Breasts: An Exploration of Women, Feminism, and Horror Films. It’s “Episode 5: The Horror Industry”, and about 4 minutes and 30 seconds in where Heidi Honeycutt explains beautifully the real issue I feel folks think is too vague and too complicated and too unquantifyable to really attack:
Really, watch the whole segment. Each woman makes “Amen” statements.
Heidi has not been the only person discussing the network of influential male horror and genre enthusiasts and their questionable acts of exclusion when it comes to up and coming female directors. Filmmaker Elisabeth Fies has noted,
The top tiers are still ignoring us. The comic/thriller/fantasy/horror/action genre world is very strange, because the fans and bloggers love us, and the top tier gatekeepers who have the ability to make a career continue to claim we don’t exist…while I am grateful for the attention indie press has paid these ladies. They are still ignored in any kind of industry situation that would get them an agent, distribution deals, or actually paid.
Further, numbers and stats consider the lack of presence women directors have not only in horror, but the larger film community:
Hollywood and the film industry have had a history of pushing women out of some of its most powerful positions. The current condition of men and women employed in the film industry reflects this historical trend. Dr. Martha Lauzen at San Diego State University conducted a comparison study between 1998 and 2009-2010 on the employment of women in the film industry. Lauzen revealed that “in 2010, women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors” who worked on the top 250 domestic grossing films, down one percent from 1998. Seven percent of the directors working on those top grossing films were women, while the other 93% had no women directors.
Genres tend to be gendered as well: “women were most likely to work in the romantic comedy, documentary, and romantic drama genres. They were least likely to work in the horror, action, and comedy genres”.
And even more recently, Sony studio head Amy Pascal just came out and said boldly, “the whole system is geared for them [women] to fail“.
For those passionate enough about this topic, for those who responded in the comments section of one or each post addressing its genesis for discourse, I use these examples to underline that the problem lies in the inability to take that extra step in dismantling the masters house, even if it begins by unraveling dismissive ideology that stubbornly claims ‘Well, women ain’t doin’ enough…‘ as just one of the many examples.
Of course no women, if any at all, are thought of when creating a new wave Masters of Horror list. I hope I stated the point here why clear enough.
There is a plethora of women horror directors with an impressive filmography under their belt and a budding legion more contacting them on a daily basis asking for advice and mentorship. Some are damn good at their craft and can rival ANY of those men on that list. So if this is the case, we need to be asking ourselves why weren’t they thought of for it instead of making claims that don’t give the women directors in the horror genre any credence.
The true enemy lies in a system of influence that plays possum on the opportunities and professional business transactions that are at important times blocked based on… yeah, gender (and more but that’s for another blog post).
We do ourselves a disservice when we spit passive aggressive venom at each other, myself included. That spirit, once the dust has settled is better directed at the studios and those we consider icons to do the work of letting the films these women produce speak for themselves so they can, in the near future show up effortlessly on a Masters of Horror list.
Snooniat, Mike. “Elisabeth Fies about BleedFest & The Hurdles Female Genre Directors Face.”Allthingshorroronline.net. All Things Horror, 3 Dec. 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.
Lauzen, Martha M. “The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2010.” Celluloid Ceiling. Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, San Diego State U, San Diego, 2011. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.