Kate Rees Davies On Being a Woman Director in Hollywood

As far back as I can remember I’ve wanted to be in the movie business!

Maybe it was the glamorous images of the likes of Bette Davies and Lauren Bacall, smoldering across the silver screen on my TV, on a Saturday afternoon as my mum and I would sit and watch the weekend movie, that put those notions into my head. When I got a super 8 mm camera for my fifteenth birthday, I knew I wanted in! Poached by the Drama teacher at my school to join her class, I found my calling. Acting was a way to channel all that hyperactive energy I possessed and also helped my overactive imagination to focus. 
Before long I was planning on which drama schools in London to attend to continue my studies. When it came time to leave school, I decided to take a year out and go traveling. On my return from my travels, I fell into the corporate world of high finance and earning lots of money, which soon extinguished my burning desire of being a poor struggling drama student! After a few years, being a high flying executive had its perks but I needed to explore my adventurous side.
Leaving the fast cars, expense account, and lucrative deals behind, I hung up my briefcase and traded it in for a backpack and started a journey of adventure around the globe. The next ten years were filled with high jinx and a catalog of exotic locations, where I harnessed my skills at surf and snow sports. Odd-jobbing to support myself, the lifestyle was full of fun. But like all good things, they must come to an end. 
I was visiting friends in Australia and one day I sat myself down on their balcony overlooking the harbor bridge and the Sydney Opera House and thought, “wow, this is an amazing life I have but I need to have some structure and a sense of purpose.” So I got out a piece of paper and wrote down “if money were no object what career would I choose?” The answer came immediately. The Movie Business!
9901364_300x300.jpgThat was nine years ago and here I sit in Hollywood with ten shorts and thirteen feature film credits to my name as a director, producer, and actress. I am living my dream right? That’s what all my friends and family think, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I came to this town thinking my very low/no pay independent experience would have the studios breaking my door down to hire me. What I found was a very closed men’s club where directors and producers are handed jobs from the uncle who runs the show or the studio executive who hires the young white guy with no experience, who reminds them of themselves at that age.
The situation is so bad in Hollywood, a female director who couldn’t get hired after having a film at Cannes, decided to take action and report the studio system to the ACLU. This, in turn, led to the EEOC investigation of the studios regarding discrimination against hiring female directors. A study released earlier this year by San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film finds the number of female directors is declining. This is alarming news for the 50% of female filmmakers graduating from Film school this year, along with the experienced female directors who have had box office success and then often don’t get another chance to direct again for on average, seven years. 
After cutting my teeth in the independent world and having several of my films at festivals and a feature I had directed being picked up for distribution, I feel I am ready to move onto bigger budget productions through the studio system. Having applied to all of the studio diversity programs several years in a row and not even getting a chance to even be considered, I decided to seek out my own action. 
Two years ago I joined the Alliance of Women Directors, a nonprofit organization with an amazing group of women directors, for support and guidance. In December 2016, I joined the board and held a few panels on how we can fix the Hollywood unfair hiring situation and how do we get more females into the room to be considered. My committee formed to work towards solving this problem. 
Since the alarming figures of the study were released, the media has helped to highlight the issue and the studios are taking note. Shows like Own’s Queen Sugar and Netflix’s 2nd season of Jessica Jones will all be directed by women. Ryan Murphy set up the Half Foundation last year which mentors females to direct his shows, including episodes of American Horror Story and his latest offering, Feud. 
At this moment a Women’s Summit is being planned in Provincetown on the East Coast and another Women’s summit is planned for Los Angeles later in the year. 2017 seems like it could be a year where we move closer to increasing the numbers of women directors getting hired. This is encouraging, but unacceptable that the Film industry is in this situation. Something has to change or the culture of this country will be a poorer place without a women’s perspective.

Kate Rees Davies, Actor/Director/Writer, Born in the UK, Kate moved to Sydney where she studied drama at the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) before making the move to Los Angeles in 2009. Kate completed her training in directing at UCLA. Her short Film CELL/PHONE played at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and the PSA she directed won a Telly and Independent Film Award. 
Kate’s film The Vanished will be screened at the Women’s Film Festival San Diego on March 25th and she will also be participating in a panel discussion on women representation in film. Festival passes are now on sale
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