On Women in Filmmaking: Film Critic Dede Crimmins
Who are some of your favorite female filmmakers, and in what ways do you think they have shaped or changed the industry?
As a horror fan and critic, I’ve always admired Debra Hill. She worked closely with John Carpenter, and deserves just as much credit for shaping the slasher subgenre as he gets.
I also have always loved Chantal Akerman and Maya Deren. The impact of these two women on non-narrative and arthouse cinema is tremendous, and film as an art form is much different today than it would be if they never picked up a camera.
Currently, the major genre directors coming up in horror and weird cinema are women. Ana Lily Amirpour, Jennifer Kent, Karyn Kusama, and Julia Ducournau are all doing such exciting things with horror and storytelling, and I am looking forward to what they can bring to the future of film.
Women have of course told some of the most beautiful stories through a camera lens, do you think there are certain topics or stories that are better told by women than men? For example, Sofia Coppola has remade The Beguiled and Ava Duvernay’s telling of Selma was critically acclaimed.
Fundamentally, I think that anyone can tell any story. I want to see men directing large, sweeping historical romances and women doing gritty, exploitative, gory horror. I think that good filmmakers should be able to adapt a slew of stories to their own style. With that said, women directors always seems to do a better job of showing female relationships. Whether it is two sisters or a group of old friends, there is just something about strong female bonds being told by a women who has experienced that herself. For some reason certain men can’t imagine, and convey, a simple conversation that has nothing to do with men.
Women have also had a strong presence in cinema behind the scenes, editing for example. Even with recent honors, do you think women are still overshadowed by male directors?
Simplistically, I’ve always seen the editor-director relationship like a hunter-gatherer one. The men go out and collect the raw material, and the women prepare it for consumption. Besides the rampant, inherent sexism in the film industry (and, unfortunately, in many industries), there is less attention paid to the less glamorous end of production.
Women do hold powerful positions in the film industry as co- founders and presidents of some of the world’s biggest festivals. Even the president of the Academy Awards Cheryl Boone Isaacs is a woman of color. With all of these accomplishments, we are still fighting for a seat at the table. Why do you think that is?
Sexism and misogyny. It is as simple as that. Just look at the 2016 election. Women are held to different standards as men. We are judged more closely than men. And we are seen as overemotional and weak, especially when in positions of power.
Are there any other up-and-coming female filmmakers that have grabbed your attention or we need to watch out for in the years to come?
Yes! In addition to the wonderful filmmakers I mentioned above there are plenty more women doing incredibly exciting things. Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin, Alice Lowe, and Axelle Carolyn are all ones I am absolutely keeping an eye on. There are plenty of amazing female filmmakers who are out there creating kick-ass films, and in today’s information age there is no excuse not to find them and support them.
Do you have any words of wisdom for women who are looking to make our mark in the film industry?
As a film critic, I say just start writing. Look for other female critics and get to know them- we are a supportive bunch- but critics are critical by nature so anyone trying to put you down without offering constructive criticism is just showing off. That says far more about them than it does about you, so just don’t listen to the jerks.