A brief overview of the film 'This Changes Everything'
This Changes Everything is new in theatres and should be required viewing for all women, girls, and anyone in the entertainment industry. Tom Donahue's discussion of the lack of female representation behind the camera is well-structured, compelling, clear, and concise. Though it doesn't necessarily tell us anything we haven't been hearing for years, it’s (hopefully) still enough to get people listening. It reiterates that men outnumber women in film in almost every department and, while the Me Too movement has pulled many peoples' heads out of their asses, we still have a long way to go before the representation on a film set matches the demographics that represent our society.
With all of that said, there was something that struck me, something I hadn't heard before. The film traces female involvement in film to the beginning of cinema. I've taken numerous film history courses and only remember two women that we discussed in-depth: the Gish twins. Only thing is, the Gish sisters were actors. They weren't necessarily behind the camera.
What Donahue’s film reveals is that, during the silent era, there were more female directors than men. In fact, the highest paid director of the era was a woman: Lois Weber.
Then, with the advent of talkies and the need for much higher budgets, financiers (rich, white, presumably straight and male) decided that male-driven projects were a safer investment, and women were pushed out of their positions of power. Films became products to be consumed and men became hip to the fact that they could make good money creating them.
I found this ironic. During the SILENT era, making films where characters were seen but not heard, women prevailed and flourished. The minute characters were given voices and were able to speak their minds, the minute we were able to actually HEAR their voices and connect with them on an intimate level, women were shunned. Does that not correlate directly to the way women are still silenced in society today? For years before the whistle was blown on perverse Hollywood execs, women were often paid hush money to sit down, shut up and act like the horrors they faced had never happened.
In a more spiritual sense (and I’m aware that I may lose some of you here), the silencing of women has become apparent in the ailments prevalent in female bodies today. According to the US Office on Women’s Health, one in eight women will develop a thyroid problem in their lifetime. If you’re looking at that from a yogic sense, the thyroid is exactly where the throat chakra is situated. When the throat chakra is blocked, disease becomes present. And what blocks the throat chakra? Not speaking your truth, staying silent when you should say something, and believing the untrue stories that others tell about you. Of course, the prevalence of thyroid disorders in women in this day and age could be due to our toxic environments, diets lacking in nutrients and high-stress lifestyles, but I’d like to think that they may also be physical manifestations of a more psychic wound.
So, what’s the solution? In the same way that Donahue’s film doesn’t really offer a solution (aside from the obvious, bring more women in—which FX did with flying colours apparently, so kudos to them!), I don’t have a solution either. As a woman in film myself, the only thing I know to do is continue pushing ahead and trying to find work wherever they will take me. By focusing on the people who will support your career and believe in you, you’ll be given the opportunities you want and deserve. And then, when a woman comes to you for support in the industry, you can do the same. We need to tell our stories, and those of the women around us. If we do, they can’t continue to silence us or talk over us.
To my female friends (and those who identify as such): stop being so polite in an effort to make others feel more comfortable. Speak up at injustices. If others don't listen, don't stop until they do. Honour your voice and everything you have to say and don't stop telling the stories of those who have been silenced—that's the only way we can help them become visible again.