If I were a betting woman, I’d make a rather huge wager that the last film you saw was directed by a man. Perhaps as many as the last ten films. Not on purpose, of course, but because the reality is that most movies in the film industry are directed by men. According to San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, just seven percent of the top 250 domestic grossing films last year were directed by women. That’s down by two percent from the previous year.
It’s a depressing statistic, but one that Matthew Waynee, the cinematic arts teacher at LAUSD/USC magnet high school in central Los Angeles, is determined to change. He works to inspire and encourage his students — many of whom are minorities from low-income backgrounds — to create their own content and become leaders in the film industry. And his enthusiasm for his students’ work has caused many of the young women in his class to seriously consider filmmaking as a career.
“If you watch a movie, and you actually sit there and watch the credits, it seems impossible,” 17 year old Somkene Okwuego told Uproxx, “but when I started taking my first film one class, I was like, ‘Oh this is really something that anyone can do’.”
After taking Waynee’s classes, many girls have decided they want to become directors, producers, or editors. Recently, a team of students from LAUSD/USC was accepted to enter this year’s Girls Build L.A. competition. Girls Build LA is a three year initiative that challenges young women from public middle and high schools in LA County to use STEM principles and 21st Century learning skills to effect social change.