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Sundance Institute And Women In Film Spotlight Challenges Facing Women Filmmakers


Keri Putnam (left) and Cathy Schulman.

Keri Putnam, executive director, Sundance Institute, and Cathy Schulman, president of Women In Film Los Angeles announced that the two organizations will collaborate to support independent women filmmakers working in both narrative and documentary feature film. The announcement was made at a joint event at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival hosted by Putnam, Schulman, Sundance Institute trustee Pat Mitchell, and Women Moving Millions co-chair Jacki Zehner.

“Sundance Institute has long believed in the value of diverse storytellers contributing to a vibrant culture,” said Putnam. “Looking at representation of women filmmakers is an important activity in that context, and we wanted to start our inquiry in our own organization. What we’ve already found is that if statistics tell us a story, the story being told about women filmmakers today needs work.”

Only 16.9% of the 3,879 feature films in both narrative and documentary categories submitted to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival were directed by women. While the number of films made by women as directors and producers is higher in the independent film arena, and particularly among documentary films, there remains a marked disparity between the numbers of feature length films completed by male versus female filmmakers.

Sundance Institute and Women In Film plan to take a fresh look at the issue, and harness the creative programs of both institutions to understand and work toward addressing these challenges.

“Studies have shown that women make up just 16% of the behind-the-scenes crew on domestically produced commercial films,” said Schulman. “We want to commit our collective Women In Film and Sundance Institute influence and resources to make sure women beginning their filmmaking career at Sundance Institute continue to have a support system all along the way. We want to encourage long and productive careers for these women, in hopes that they will pave the way to increasing the overall number of films made for and by women into the future.”

Looking at distribution statistics regarding the 250 top-grossing films released 2010 (compiled by, only 7% were directed by women, 10% written by women and 24% produced by women. Early research shows that when the number of women in behind-the-camera roles increases, so do the roles for women in front of the camera and so does the content interesting to women and girls worldwide.

The initial goals for 2012 are “to invite considered reflection and study on the statistics regarding women filmmakers; to follow the 2012 Sundance Institute’s ‘class’ of female festival filmmakers to analyze challenges they may face moving projects forward; and finally to formulate a vision for what may be possible within the scope of both institutions’ programs.”

In addition, Women In Film has agreed to co-program a symposium in Los Angeles with Sundance Institute spotlighting the challenges facing independent women filmmakers, and to open up their mentorship and career counseling programs to Sundance Institute supported filmmakers where they will receive guidance, mentoring and business and creative support services.

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