Oscar Blues 2012: More Support for Women Filmmakers Needed

The recent batch of Oscar nominations show the absolute necessity for groups like Chicken and Egg Pictures that support women filmmakers with mentorship and grants. The fact that two women-directed films supported by Chicken and Egg received Oscar nominations in the Documentary Short Subjects category is especially meaningful when you consider the otherwise bleak environment.

I have posted the WomenArts annual report on women Oscar nominees compiled by our resident film critic, Jan Lisa Huttner, and here is what she found:
“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences started with a list of more than 600 films released in the US in 2011, including many excellent films written and/or directed by women, but in the end, all 9 films nominated in the Best Picture Category were screenplays written and directed by men.
“Most of those films are also about men with predominantly male casts. In most cases, the women on screen (if any) are relegated to supporting roles (most of which are minor roles, peripheral to the film’s main action). Although two of the nine films were based on novels written by women (Kathryn Stockett’s ‘The Help’ and Kaui Hart Hemmings’ ‘The Descendants’), their stories were shaped for film audiences by male screenwriters and directors.”

“Once again, there are no female candidates in the Best Director category. In the Best Adapted Screenplay category, we have a woman, Bridget O’Connor, nominated as co-writer of a screenplay (‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’) in which there are no lead actresses.”

In the Best Original Screenplay category, there is one film written by two women, Bridesmaids by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig. But an April article from the New York Times Magazine  talks about the male additions to the women’s script. I have added boldface to part of the second paragraph that provides a poignant specific example of the ways women are often pushed to change their scripts to please powerful male producers and directors:
“You can pretty much guess which scenes Apatow and Feig added to Wiig and Mumolo’s script, beginning with the opening shot: a loud, slapsticky sex scene between Wiig and a cad played by Jon Hamm. But for all its broad appeal, the film still has plenty of moments that feel quiet and dramatic. In one memorable scene, Wiig’s character painstakingly constructs an elaborate cupcake and contemplates it, her mouth twisted into a jagged, sad line, before taking a massive bite — an act of self-destructive defeat rather than of indulgence.”
“If Apatow was going to make a movie with Kristen Wiig, he made it clear, he wanted to capture the outrageousness that had made her a television star. “No, we’re not going to sit and talk,” Mumolo remembers Apatow saying about one scene of sedentary dialogue. The two female writers were occasionally wary about some suggestions made by Apatow and Feig — like a scene in which the bride and most of the bridesmaids come down with violent food poisoning. What were Wiig’s reservations? She shot a look. “Just that it was a huge scene about women vomiting” and defecating in their pants. “We wrote the script, and we didn’t really have anything in that tone, and it seemed to be such a big statement,” she says. Apatow assured her that if it did not work, they could cut it. Wiig and Mumolo — a writing partner from her ‘Groundlings’ days — ultimately agreed that it did work.”

Bridesmaids has grossed (no pun intended) $288 million worldwide, and is number 14 in Box Office Mojo’s list of Top Movies in the past 365 days. So millions of people worldwide have seen this film. I wish they could have seen the script the way the women wrote it.