How Vimeo Plans to Disrupt Hollywood’s Boys Club
The annual Sundance Film Festival kicked off this week, and though the event is known primarily for its independent films, women directors in attendance face many of the same challenges as their peers working for the major studios. Women are outnumbered by men and less likely to land the same distribution deals. In an effort to narrow the playing field, the online video platform Vimeo launched a program to fund, produce, and distribute at least five projects created by female filmmakers.
“It’s extremely unfortunate that the traditional industry has allowed things to be out of balance for so long, in terms of equality of opportunity for men and women, but it’s very exciting that Vimeo can do something to help correct that imbalance,” CEO Kerry Trainor said in a statement announcing the “Share the Screen” initiative from the Park City, Utah, festival.
The company said the program will not only offer financial support to women producing original videos, of both short and feature length, but will also invest in educational workshops and organize media coverage and networking opportunities to help amplify the voices of female filmmakers. The program’s debut film, Darby Forever, a short about a woman who works at a fabric store, was created and produced by SNL actor Aidy Bryant.
Between 2002 and 2014, women directors accounted for just a fourth of the films admitted to the Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. dramatic competition, according to research conducted by the University of Southern California last year. While men and women received theatrical distribution at equal rates, researchers found that movies directed by women were more likely to be distributed by independent companies with less influence and fewer financial resources.
Among films distributed by major companies, those with male directors outnumbered those with female directors by a ratio of six to one. As a film’s budget increases, so does that gender gap. Across more than 1,000 top-grossing films released during the same time period, male directors outnumbered women directors by a factor of 23 to 1.
Those statistics helped spur the Equal Employmnent Opportunities Commission to launch an investigation last year into gender discrimination within Hollywood’s studio system. The investigation was prompted by a highly publicized campaign in which the American Civil Liberties Union collected stories and interviews with women directors across the film and television industry.
“Gender inequality in filmmaking isn’t simply a woman’s problem: it’s everyone’s problem,” the company said in a statement posted by production and community director Andrea Allen. “When diverse voices are given equal consideration and weight, more informed artistic decisions are made, better stories are told—and it’s also the right thing to do as human beings.”