Ask a director: What can men in the film industry do to end underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women on screen and behind the camera?

Date: Thursday, August 8, 2019

About the author

Tom Donahue. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Tom Donahue. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Tom Donahue is the acclaimed director of This Changes Everything, a feature-length documentary releasing on Friday, 9 August, uncovering what is beneath the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women in the entertainment industry. Donahue teamed up with actor and activist Geena Davis, who is the Executive Producer of the film, for a conversation with UN Women.

“Jill Soloway says in the film, This Changes Everything, ‘straight white men have had their hands on the narrative for five thousand years’. As a man, you kind of know that but you don’t necessarily think about it. Nobody is thinking about that as we are going about our daily lives, we are not thinking what kind of messages we are sending to little kids. For me, personally, making that connection was profound, because I hadn’t thought about it [until the making of this film].

I expect, at the very least, the film will make men see that it’s undeniably a problem. The big mission for us is to show the film to studio executives, to people in power in Hollywood, to shift their perspectives and to get them to create policies that will give women opportunity at every level of the industry.

Men need to consciously reach out to find talented women. It’s not hard!

Male directors can look at their crew and say, is my crew gender balanced? Your default setting as a man is to hire someone who is like you. As men do most of the hiring, more men get hired. [When making this film] we found talented women in every key position of the crew. We are producing films all the time, now we think, let’s go for a female director, we can find one that’s just as talented. Sometimes you need a level of affirmative action.”