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.
Combining their skills as filmmakers with a desire to create positive change around them, the young women on the LAUSD/USC Media Arts and Entertainment team came up with an amazing competition project. The girls chose to become actively involved in volunteering at community outreach programs — then developed, produced, shot, and edited six short documentaries highlighting each program. It’s an incredibly cool project, and hopefully for many of the young women, just the beginning of a long career as filmmakers and trail blazers.
These talented young women are following their dreams to enter an industry that is heavily male. Because the best way to change things is to work hard, create your art, and explode the system from within. As the only woman ever to win an Oscar for best director, Kathryn Bigelow said, “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.” Now a new generation is taking these words to heart, and we’d be fools to doubt them.