Are you a woman and wanting to make movies? Forget a family then, says Manchester film producer

By Josh Nicholls

Women must choose between a career in film or starting a family.

That is the view of female film producer and director Rachel Richardson Jones, who co-owns Manchester film company Not A Number.

Ms Jones was reacting to statistics released last week by the British Film Institute (BFI) which showed that just 11% of the 413 directors involved with British independent films over the last three years were female. 

“It comes down to that very basic thing of having to make a choice about whether are you going to have a family or not,” said Ms Jones.

“It’s very hard to start a family and pursue a career in film because of the feast and famine nature of the industry.

“In film there is no big corporation that is going to take you on while you’re on maternity and pay your wage and film is difficult.”

Ms Jones slammed the British film industry describing it as ‘cottage’ in size compared to its American and French counterparts.

In a film climate where funding is tight Ms Jones also believes the UK industry to be ‘narrow-minded,’ a trait which she believes often transfers to the recruitment of directors.

“In many aspects of film there is still an old boys’ network,” she said.

“There are some great film directors, men and women and some crap ones men and women, I think talent isn’t about your sex but in terms opportunities that is different ball park completely.

“There are so few opportunities and women are the ones that are having to make the sacrifices.

“I’ve talked to few of my girlfriends who are in the film industry about this are we are all of a certain age and all don’t have children and it really comes down to that.”

Despite the BFI’s damning statistics there are prominent female directors around the world.

Kathryn Bigelow famously became the first woman to win best director at the 2010 Oscars for The Hurt Locker, pipping ex-husband James Cameron director of Avatar to the award.

More recently French film-maker Laure Prouvost won the coveted Turner prize, the UK’s most prestigious arts award on December 2.

But Ms Jones, who is also a festival director for Manchester’s Grimm Up North horror movie project, believes such female role models are still too sparse within film.

She is adamant that too many young girls in today’s reality-TV obsessed climate have the wrong role models.

“Reality TV stars are picked to make car-crash TV but they’re not great role models,” Ms Jones said.

A lifelong supporter of women’s rights, Ms Jones recalled with disgust being approached to become a page three model as a 17-year-old, a chance that many young girls these days would undoubtedly jump at.

“I remember being absolutely mortified and horrified and thinking how dare they!” she added.

“I thought it was degrading for women to be in the paper with their tits out.

“But a lot of women now look at Katie Price as a role model and as a strong woman and yet she has built her career just by being naked.”

A scarce number of female role models known for something other than flashing their flesh makes the future seem pretty bleak as far as addressing the recent BFI statistics is concerned.

Even Ms Jones admits that finding a solution to the problem many female directors face is tough.

“I don’t really see a massive solution unless more men actually take more responsibility for having children,” added Ms Jones.

“If women didn’t feel they had to make a choice between their career in film or their family that would make a difference.”

Manchester film-maker Dean Brocklehurst of Rubber Goat Films, who worked with Nike to film the 2012 Homeless World Cup, agreed with Ms Jones.

“As women filmmakers are only recently accepted into the mainstream, many don’t have the body of work to support their applications for film funding and so experience these barriers in order to make it onto the filmmaking ladder,” said Mr Brocklehurst.

“I think this is one of the great disappointments of the UK film industry and unfortunately I don’t see the issue resolving any time soon within the current system.”

Gregg Walker, a colleague of Ms Jones at Grimm Up North is dismayed by the BFI figures and has called on the industry to make a change.

“Whenever I read these statistics from around the world it gets to me,” said Mr Walker.

“I think one off-putting point might be the fact that when women directors become prominent there is an assumption that certain femininity will be put on the screen in comparison to male directors.

“Basically I think we need more female role models in film, a lot of British directors were boosted by UK Film Council funding, so potentially now the BFI is in charge of that money they could start funding the next generation of female directors to create these role models.”

Image courtesy of Cornerhouse, with thanks

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