​Professional speaks on underrepresented women in Hollywood


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Photo by Tianfang Yu |

Debra Zimmerman, executive director of Women Make Movies, explains the misrepresentation of women in filmmaking yesterday at the Douglass Student Center.


Women go to see films made by women, and men go to see films made by men, Debra Zimmerman said. If there are no women filmmakers, women are forced to see films by men, which they may not particularly like.

“There were more woman working in Hollywood in 1928 than there are now,” she said.

Zimmerman, the executive director of the nonprofit Women Make Movies, spoke at Trayes Hall in the Douglass Student Center last night about how women are discriminated against in the film industry. 

Women Make Movies was established in 1972 and aims to address the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women in the media, according to its website. It helps women raise funds to produce and distribute their movies.

Zimmerman became interested in WMM after interning there. She loved what they do for underrepresented women.

The film that started the distribution sector of WMM was “Healthcaring,” a film that looks at women’s health care through a woman’s perspective.

Originally, the film’s distributors did not believe an audience would exist for the film, so they did not distribute it. Once they did distribute it, it was successful.

Zimmerman believes that by spreading awareness for WMN’s cause, Hollywood can become a place where an equal number of men and woman can work together. 

“Things are changing slowly, but they definitely are,” she said.

According to The New York Times, women filmmakers created 19 percent of the films coming this fall, Zimmerman said. Though it still isn’t high enough, that number represents a huge spike from previous years.

Zimmerman said the only way to allow more women into Hollywood is to stop the existing discrimination.

Critics who rate films created by female directors write shorter reviews and more often predict the film will fail compared to those directed by men, Zimmerman said.

Samantha Shen, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore, attended the lecture for her class, “Women in Creativity.”

“It’s really important to see women in lead roles so younger girls have able role models to look up to,” Shen said.

Although the number of women filmmakers has increased, the number of women directors nominated for awards has barely changed, Zimmerman said.

Gwendolyn Beetham, senior program coordinator at Douglass Residential College director of the Global Village, said she believes events like Zimmerman’s lecture are extremely important at Rutgers in order to spread awareness about these issues.

Beetham encourages students to take the course “Gender, Culture and Representation,” a course that Zimmerman will teach.

Zimmerman said films should be rated by the Bechdel test, which asks to see if a film features at least two women talking to each other about something other than a man.

Shockingly, Zimmerman said many famous films do not pass the test.

“The Social Network,” the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Avatar” are all famous films that fail the Bechdel test,” she said.

Chelmie Ulysse, a School of Arts and Science sophomore, said she thinks Rutgers should have more events similar to this one, which should also be advertised to those outside of Douglass Residential College.

“Having events like this is definitely important, but the only way that anything is going to change is if everyone is able to learn about [them],” Ulysse said. “We need to have these events in a large scale so even men attend.”


Ankush Raval

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