Awards season is alive and well – and so are the calls for more diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry.
For advocacy organization Women in Film (WIF), that means pointing out the multitudes ofwomen behind the camera who participated in awards-caliber films this year. The group created a #VoteforWomen ballot for the second year in a row, featuring more than 500 women worthy of accolades.
The ballot shuts down the dated theory that there’s not enough good work by women to nominate them. “Imagine a ballot that recognizes all of the women whose work behind the camera made the film landscape of 2020 possible,” a tweet from WIF read earlier this month. “This awards season, #VoteForWomen.” No votes will actually be tallied; the ballot is symbolic.
From higher-profile names like “Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao and “The Forty-Year-Old Version” director Radha Blank to many editors, producers, screenwriters,production and costume designers, the ballot shows a plethora of women who could make their way onto awards season ballots if voters choose to recognize them.
Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of the almost 50-year-old WIF, says the idea stemmed from the same-old nominations each awards season – i.e., no women nominated for director nor cinematographer.
“The staff sits around the conference table and is like, ‘Oh, my God, here we go, again,'” she tells USA TODAY.
Once Schaffer became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2018, she started receiving physical screeners of movies to review. They often include the categories the film is campaigning for, and she noticed that more and more women were popping up on these lists. But they weren’t being nominated. That’s where the ballot comes in.
“Look at all these women who have worked on these extraordinary films, who should be getting nominated in these categories,” she says.
The ballot intends to help both Academy voters and the general public make sure they watch movies that include women behind the camera.
About those Golden Globe nominations:Milestones for film with Golden Globes nominations, but TV nods show stunning lack of diversity
Gender nonconforming people are included as part of the ballot if their identities are public or if they request a spot on the list. The organization doesn’t currently track women of color, but with the advent of new databases like Array Crew, Shaffer says, that could be possible going forward.
Array Crew aims to help studios hire crew members from marginalized communities, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and Deadline.
“Then we can get to a place where we can call out how many women of color or differently abled people are on the ballot,” Schaffer says. “So hopefully by next year, we’ll be able to do that.”
Beyond the ballot, WIF helps individual women advance their careers through mentoring and screenwriting labs, as well as works to create systemic change. It runs a sexual harassment help line and works with women to figure out if they need legal and/or mental health support.
WIF usually hosts an Oscar nominees party and invites all women who have been nominated; this year it will be held virtually.
Oscars 2021:Who’s up, who’s down, and where you can watch this year’s contenders
The Golden Globe Awards, airing Sunday, have three women up for best director: Zhao (“Nomadland”), Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) and Regina King (“One Night in Miami”) after years of the Globes shutting women out of the category (and famously getting called out onstage by Natalie Portman).
It’s a first, though not a clear sign of a meaningful shift given the strange pandemic awards cycle which pushed films like Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” and Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” to 2021 and led to a smaller field of contenders.
“I hope the trend of women getting nominated continues this year and next,” Schaffer says.
At least one pipeline in the film industry looks promising in terms of diversity and inclusion.Of the 72 feature films selected for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival slate, 47% were directed by one or more women; 3% were directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 43% were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as BIPOC; 8% by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+.
Contributing: Andrea Mandell