In director Amy Adrionâs documentary âHalf the Picture,â LA Times journalist Rebecca Keegan shakes her head as she states on camera that she has written the same article about the lack of gender parity in Hollywood at least nine or ten times.
Keegan is quietly incredulous, and if youâve been paying attention to the ways in which the industry shuts out women creators, you likely feel similarly tired as Keegan is about pushing this question: Why are so many films still directed by straight, white men?
âHalf the Picture,â then â for the tired among us â seems on the surface like a pill we really donât need to swallow. (How many other ways can it be said that things arenât fair?) But Adrionâs selection of interview subjects make the issue personal. They demonstrate through storytelling not just this rote message weâve heard before but also the catastrophic domino effect sex discrimination has had on careers, even the careers of seemingly powerful women like Ava DuVernay and Miranda July.
July relays her story of a film class she took at UC Santa Cruz, where she was the only woman and eventually dropped out after never seeing eye-to-eye with her male peers and instructor. For her, it was a long road of self-discovery, where she built her own community via the female film anthology series âJoanie 4 Jackieâ in the era of zines and DIY.
Every filmmaker interviewed gives a specific reason for why things are so dismal for women directors, which also potentially provides an opening for people in the industry to look at the ways in which itâs failing and to restructure, rather than hiding behind the problemâs systemic nature and throwing up its hands, as if to say âI guess things will always be terrible!â
Adrion also attacks all the myths: In one segment, Sundance festival programmer Caroline Libresco states that a survey among female filmmakers proved that at least 50 percent of them would love to make a genre film, debunking the insinuation that women are too delicate for action or horror. How anyone would think that no women would have interest in media thatâs been dominating the culture â through superhero films, crime dramas and other blockbusters â is ludicrous anyway, but itâs one of multiple messages that just needs to be said and moved on from, so itâs nice that Adrion doesnât linger too long on this obvious section.
Even though so much of what this film has to say is so ingrained in me already, I still found myself being surprised, like in another section where Adrion shares gossip items about the subjectsâ work to get their comments on it. The gossip focused specifically on rumors that the director couldnât handle the job, giving credit to their collaborators for a filmâs success. Conversely, when a film bombed, the gossip blamed the women directors for being too inexperienced, too demanding, etc.
When Adrion reads to Catherine Hardwicke that the DP of âTwilightâ was responsible for the filmâs âsumptuous lookâ and that the editor had to âsave the film,â Hardwicke appears genuinely shocked and hurt. As she states, it was she who was there, bringing together crew and guiding them to her vision. The film could have lingered on that reaction for more emotional resonance, but Adrionâs got a lot of ground to cover, and some of that ground covers Adrion herself.
Adrion doesnât insert her own voice into the story until she cites that gossip, but her presence escalates slowly and artfully as the film goes on, with the director incrementally shifting the focus from the interview subjects themselves to the interview subjectsâ relationship to the crew shooting this very documentary.
At almost the exact halfway point in the film, during an interview with Jill Soloway, Adrion tosses in a wide shot; we see Soloway in her chair, but also the lights, mics, cords, camera, and a micro-crew, which is conspicuously heavy on women. That first invasion behind the scenes is only a single shot, but we gradually see that crew more and more, and the result is that I found myself thinking about what it means to actually see a woman directing or a woman running camera.
Itâs difficult not to get emotional about the subject matter of this film or the ways in which women have been thwarted time and again; one of the most infuriating moments was Latina director Patricia Riggen sharing that her producers arranged the shooting schedule of âThe 33â to accommodate the white male assistant director, whose footage turned out to be completely unusable. âHalf the Pictureâ is maddening and enlightening and, most of all, necessary, as much as I wish it werenât.
Read original story âHalf the Pictureâ Film Review: Women Directors Tell All in Illuminating, Infuriating Doc At TheWrap