Female Filmmakers - Sofia Coppola

Female filmmakers: the importance and history of women in film

As female filmmakers continue to be disregarded in events like the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, it almost seems as though they are their own genre. However, this should not be the case.

If we are on the pathway to equality, female filmmakers should not be a spectacle of bravery. French director Celine Sciamma, like many female directors, too often is asked the question:

“What is it like being a woman in filmmaking?”

Yet, as much as it may not think to be/thinks to be progressive, this type of questioning is frankly sexist. If we move towards equality, we need to embrace femininity in film. 

Female filmmakers

Appearing in the 1950s & 1960s, French New Wave became popular thanks to filmmaking pioneer Agnès Varda. Being the only female in the movement, she stated that her approach to shooting a script remained instinctive and feminine.

Unsurprisingly, Varda didn’t achieve as much success as her fellow male filmmakers and was erased from history books. Speaking in 1986 about her struggles, she remembers that with each new film, she had to “fight like a tiger”.

Female filmmakers - Agnes Varda

In regards to ‘La Pointe Courte’ (1955) in 2017, she states that “out of the blue I invented the film, and I succeeded in making very little money, but it was something I wanted to do”. She too notes that she “knows she was a pioneer”. In a remarkably sexist and racist time period, Varda’s apparent unperturbed attitude is sheer inspiration.

Surrounded only by men, she still pushed on purely because”it was something I wanted to do”. This shows us how, even if we doubt ourselves as creatives, the reason we started is what should be the drive, no matter the circumstance. 

Varda is considered a feminist due to her inclusion of female characters and voices yet she has stated that she is “not at all a theoretician of feminism” & that she “did all that – my photos, my craft, my film, my life – on my terms, my own terms, and not to do it like a man”.

Female Filmmakers - Sofia Coppola

In a male-led filmmaking world, women may feel as though they need to adapt ‘masculine’ qualities to succeed, yet filmmakers like Varda show that this is not needed. However much she had to “fight like a tiger”, she too wanted to “not do it like a man”. 

The works of filmmaker Sofia Coppola focus on period pieces and cinematic teen dramas, all laced with recognisable femininity in the costumes and graphics. Coppola herself is a great example of embracing one’s femininity whilst still being in a male-dominated industry.

Sporting fashionable looks herself, along with her character, is something important to follow. As previously mentioned, women may feel they need to drop their supposedly “weak” femininity to be taken seriously in the industry. Yet by embracing one’s womanhood in their art and career, we feel as though we don’t need to change to be successful in film.

Granted, she is the daughter of Francis-Ford Coppola, so it would have been easier for her to get her start in the film industry, but that does not disregard her talents or influence.

Independent filmmakers on the rise like Ana Asensio and Sally Potter, who write, direct and star in their own films, and have a background in theatre, are also of great import. The way to equality for women in film is not to label them as ‘female filmmakers’, but for it to further become normality.

As in the history of the Academy Awards, only one female director has won Best Director, so this may be a long road if women are to be represented well. Yet pioneers and independent filmmakers inspire us to take that journey, despite the struggle.