160 More Feminist Films

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Is it even possible to make a complete list of anything on a first pass? Well, it wasn’t for me. As soon as I published my first list of 250 Feminist Films, I immediately began to remember films I’d forgotten, and kicking myself. Jackie Brown! The Long Kiss Goodnight! Drag Me to Hell! I was missing some really vital, fun films made by and about women. Not to mention all of the stellar suggestions that came pouring in on social media from our followers. Clearly, a revision was in order.

Publishing the revised list this week feels appropriate, as Disney’s live-action Cinderella took in $67 million over its opening weekend, proving once again that female-driven films make money and often do well critically. How many more examples of highly successful female-driven films do we as a movie-going public need before we admit that films about women are absolutely essential?

A huge thanks to everyone who reached out to us on social media and suggested additional films for this list – this further proves that the need for films about diverse women not only exists, but is a highly engaging subject for many film fans. But of course, I’m a completist at heart, so I’d love more suggestions for this list. Let’s see if we can get it to 500 feminist films – how rad would that be? I’d love this list to exist as a comprehensive resource for audiences everywhere to not only identify, but seek out films made by and about women.

Enjoy the updated list, and send us more suggestions!

410 Feminist Films



Financial Success by Genre

We all make broad statements about what we think audiences like and what will do well at the box office. It’s a natural human instinct to categorize and organize into different boxes. It simplifies the world, makes it easier to parse out and digest.

However, how are we arriving at these generalizations? Often, it’s based on what we read, what we see ourselves, and we’ve heard other people say. A couple problems arise when we do this:

  1. Headline bias: big flops and winners tend to give us a lopsided view of actual marketplace.
  2. Time bias: we’re very end point sensitive; the most recent news occupies our headspace.
  3. Experiential bias: we use what we’ve seen personally to make assessments of the larger set.

Genre is, needless to say, one prominent way people divide films up. Everyone wants to know what they’re getting when they go to see a movie: action, comedy, romance. It makes sense that break it up this way.

There seem to be all these notions about which genres do better at the box office, but are they are all founded?

I took about 4,000 titles with budget information and narrowed them down by genre via those listed on IMDB. I then looked at films with budgets over $1 millions (which I generally use) and made after 1/1/2000 and put together my handy “Losers, Winners, Homeruns” chart which I think helps to give a simple, clear picture of the financial success of movies.

Ranked from lowest percentage of losers, we can see which genres have the lowest downside risk (animation, family, fantasy, and horror) and which end up having the highest (western, history, musical, and music).

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I also wanted to rank them according to the highest homerun rate to see which genres have the highest likelihood of hitting big at the box office (regardless of losses). The most homeruns fall into horror, animation, family, and mystery; whereas the fewest homeruns belong to western, history, crime, and thriller.

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But since the number of films released in each genre is far from balanced, I also wanted to look at number of films by success category in each genre to get a sense of where the bread and butter of the box office revenue is.

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Turns out that drama and comedy produce the most number of successful films (despite not having the highest success rates); they’re, after all, two very broad buckets. And while animation and horror have high success rates, there are just not many being released. So there’s probably some success attribution in the lack of competition in the marketplace (though also in the way those movies are made).

It’s also important to note that there are often multiple genres listed per film, which would double count films in the analysis. So an animated film may often also show up in comedy, but not vice versa.

And as a bonus, what types of specs are people writing and their respective successes?

I pulled data from about 4,600 reviews on the Black List site and divided them up by genre. I mimicked the “Losers, Winners, and Homeruns” graph but instead did low scoring, middle scoring, and high scoring scripts. It’s interesting to note how closely the order of the graphs resembles each other when you look at number of scripts being written. So it seems that there’s genre preference early on the development process that dictates the pipeline down the road.

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So I don’t know that this presented any shocking news, but probably confirmed some suspicions we all had. Anyone want to greenlight a western?

 



Interview: Nicole Avenia

For the second interview in our new series, we talked to Nicole Avenia, writer of THE ICE POND and THE KILLING MOON. Nicole participated in the Disney Feature Writers Program last year after being identified and chosen from the site via our Disney partnership. Today, we talk to her about how the past, present, and future have shaped her screenwriting career, and how the Black List helped foster his journey as a writer.

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The Past:

What was the first film that had a major impact on your life?

The first film that impacted my life was THE WIZARD OF OZ. I was three years old and became completely obsessed. I would watch it once or twice a day, dance around my parent’s coffee table and act the entire thing out, having memorized all of the lines for all of the characters. It became a template for my life — small town Midwestern girl goes on big adventure.

Was there a single film that made you want to be a screenwriter? How else did the decision to pursue that career evolve?

The film that made me want to be a screenwriter was BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. I saw an interview with Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana about how they pursued this film, having read and been inspired by Annie Proulx’s short story. It was the first time I realized that screenwriting could be an actual profession. At the time, I was teaching in New York City, going to grad school, and struggling with a novel, plodding through and feeling uninspired, when I decided to try out screenwriting. I bought all of the how-to books, Syd Field and Blake Snyder, and worked incessantly on building structure and plot points and “inciting incidents.” I rewatched all of my favorite films, looking at things through a screenwriter’s perspective. And then I wrote a script (in Microsoft Word, no less — that was FUN to translate into Final Draft!). Of course, like most first scripts, it was awful. But most importantly, I loved the process. I knew immediately that, as a writer, this was my canvas of choice, and so I wrote another script. And another. And a dozen more, plus thousands of pages of discarded or unusable crap. I think Stephen King said that in order to be a writer, you have to read a lot and write a lot, and because those were about the only two things I could indisputably control, I tried to do just that.

Most writers have to have “day jobs” in order to stay afloat. What was the strangest job you ever had before becoming a writer?

I was a middle school English teacher in the Lower East Side, Manhattan for most of my “aspiring-writer” phase. Other odd jobs included being a nanny/tutor to a musician’s children during a summer rock tour, pool cleaner during two summers in Michigan, and singer-songwriter doing covers at a Potbelly’s sandwich spot.

 

The Present:

How do you find ideas and how do you choose which ones to work on?

I don’t know if I find ideas or if I just allow them to find me. Reading and traveling are probably the two main things that provoke ideas for me. Also, zoning out. A lot of times I’ll wake up at 3AM and just lie there for two hours, working out an entire script or story in my head. It sounds a little nuts, but for me, allowing the brain to do its thing without the distraction of iPhones or TVs or social interactions, is important. In terms of what to work on, I juggle. I generally have three or four projects at different phases of the process and a back-burner of ideas that are waiting to be fleshed out. Sometimes an idea just isn’t ready, or I’m not ready to work on it so it sits there until the time is right. One of my BL scripts, THE KILLING MOON, took six years to come to fruition but during those years, I was gathering little pieces here and there, dialogue, themes, character insights. Screenwriting is a lot like puzzle building; you just go one piece at a time and hope that you get an image that makes sense at the end.

Walk us through a normal day of writing for you. Any special habits to keep the muse happy?

I’m not particularly fond of routines, but generally, my one rule is to write something every day. When I’m actually drafting, I commit to 7 pages a day, but other than that I don’t make any other requirements on myself. Sometimes I’ll have a good morning but slow afternoon. Sometimes I’ll wake up at four in the morning and write for two or three hours. Sometimes I’ll fly through pages while other times I’ll stare at a blinking cursor for what feels like an eternity. In terms of keeping the muse happy, for me that generally revolves around either cooking or swimming. Rolling out pasta dough or floating on a surfboard help me connect to the physical world, which can be easy to forget when you spend so much time “in-brain.”

Which films are keeping you inspired at the moment?

FOXCATCHER blew me away. I thought the suspense was so profound yet also so subtle. Pretty much anything that Megan Ellison has a hand in is at the top of my list. And the TV world is magnetic. TRUE DETECTIVE, HOUSE OF CARDS and TOP OF THE LAKE are some of my favorites.

 

The Future:

If you could make one film, with no restrictions in place, what would that film be?

Other than a live action Disney movie? I’d love to do an adaptation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I think there’s so much imagery there, especially in The Inferno, that hasn’t been properly adapted to the big screen yet. That, coupled with the beautiful language of the poem and the tragic love story of Dante and Beatrice, I think could make a great film. And Satan is a three-beaded beast with bat wings who chews on the bodies of sinners — talk about fun movie-monster creation.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

Ideally, running a tiny restaurant/surf shack on the beach somewhere exotic.

Dinner with three of your favorite writers and/or filmmakers, dead or alive. Who’s coming to dinner? Who picks up the check?

My three guests are Jane Campion, Jodie Foster and Jenji Kohan, and we’re having lunch in springtime, dining al fresco at one of my favorite restaurants in New York City, Bar Pitti. All three of these women are brilliant powerhouses and most importantly, they all bring something different to the table. Kohan brings the perspective of being a showrunner, TV pro, and creator of one of (if not THE) most unique, compelling and genre-breaking series ever created, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Foster brings the perspective of someone who’s worked extensively in front of and behind the camera and has always been an advocate for strong female characters. Campion is the director auteur, a genius visionary with a catalogue of provocative, influential work. I figure if I can’t learn something from these filmmakers over a bowl of linguini vongole and “a nice glass of Chianti,” there’s probably no hope for me. Oh, and I’m paying obviously.

 

The Black List:

How did you first hear about The Black List?

I don’t recall exactly how I heard about the BL (maybe Twitter?), but I do know that I was one of the first to submit a script. They did a ranking of the first scripts of that month and I remember that the writer with the #1 script signed with CAA. That seemed like a good sign to continue using the site and see what could happen.

Since using The Black List, how has your career been impacted?

The impact has been incredible, yet the journey felt, at times, slow and meticulous. That first year, I had two scripts that did really well on the site — THE ICE POND and THE KILLING MOON. Both also did well in the Nicholl so I was feeling fairly confident. Over the next couple of years, I started meeting people, mostly managers and producers. I was looking to forge relationships that weren’t merely lukewarm, weren’t based on the “what can I sell right now?!” agenda, and were with like-minded people, both creatively and professionally. It took some time, but looking back, I am so grateful that it did. Whether it was, good fortune, good timing or just plain dumb luck, I ended up signing with an incredible agent and agency. From there on out, things started moving very quickly. Shortly after, I was offered the Disney Staff Writers job and here we are.

Any tips for writers interested in the site?                                                                           Focus your expectations on the long run. If you’re using the site with the hope that instant gratification and a swift helicopter ride to the top is in the cards, you will very likely be let down. If you have some talent, an indefatigable work ethic, and no fear of failure, you will eventually get in the door. And then, once you’re in, be gracious, be authentic, and be willing to learn.

Thanks so much Nicole! Look for our next interview in two weeks.



250 Feminist Films

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March is women’s history month, and there’s no better way to celebrate women in film than highlighting some of the very best feminist films. As Terry discussed on Friday, films with women do better at the box office, and often provide a better return on investment, so we should not only be celebrating female-driven films, but promoting and financing them. 

There’s a constant conversation about the need for more diversity in the industry, but the true impact of that sentiment can’t be fully felt until you consider some of the more sobering statistics about female filmmakers. Julie Dash’s 1991 film Daughters of the Dust marked the first time a film directed by a woman of color received theatrical distribution – that’s only 24 years ago!

According to the most recent WGA-W report, female TV writers are outstaffed 2 to 1 by male TV writers. Women account for only 15% of all film screenwriters, and earn 77 cents to the dollar when compared to their male counterparts. Yeah…there’s a major issue happening here.

As a woman who went to film school and was often the lone lady in classrooms full of dudes, I didn’t need these stats to cement what I already knew about the film industry’s gender gap, but they certainly make for great back-up whenever some doofus on social media says “there’s no diversity problem in film!”

I started putting this list together as a way to remind myself of which feminist films I still needed to see, but it quickly blossomed into an overall list of feminist films. So what exactly makes a feminist film? Each film on the list meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • Has a female director;
  • Has a female screenwriter;
  • Has a female lead;
  • Features strong pro-woman themes.

Inevitably, I’ve missed some films for this list, and I’d love to open it up to suggestions from you, dear Black List blog readers. Please send us some additions – I’d love to grow this list, and make it a comprehensive database for female-driven films.

I did consciously avoid “big” movies like The Hunger Games, because quite frankly, I think everyone is already aware of the cultural (and financial) impact that these mega-franchises led by young women have had. There will also likely be debate about some of the titles included on the list (American Psycho was written and directed by women; Stagecoach passes the Bedchel Test in the first ten minutes) which we welcome – please, disagree with us!

It is absolutely vital that we encourage, support, and celebrate diverse female filmmakers and actors. Representation matters, and the more diverse we can make films, the more viewers we can help participate in this shared experience of film we all love so much. Feminism is about inclusion, not exclusion – male filmmakers can and do still make feminist films just as women can direct great films about the male experience. The more we can include all women – women of color, LGBTQ women, disabled women, fat women, older women, etc. – in the world of film, the richer we’ll all be for it.

Without further adieu, here’s the list!

250 Feminist Films

Special thanks to Carl Garcia for helping me fill out the last 25 or so titles on the list, and for his extensive knowledge of international cinema.