Indie Movies Aren’t Hiring Women Directors Either, Study Finds

When it comes to the minuscule percentage of women directing films, the numbers are less depressing within the independent film scene.

But a new study shows that little progress was made in 2015, and that a disturbing disparity between men and women directors in the space has continued in the past year.

Women accounted for 28 percent of directors whose films screened at top U.S. film festivals last year, according to the annual study “Women in Independent Film” released on Thursday. While still far from reflecting 50-50 parity, the number is markedly better than the 9 percent of women directors who helmed major-studio films in 2015.

Also Read: 20th Century Fox, Paramount Have No Female Directors Through 2018

Led by Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, the study focuses on women’s representation at 23 U.S. festivals, including AFI Fest, SXSW and the Tribeca Film Festival.

“The findings indicate that while women fare better in independent films, particularly documentaries, than in studio features, they are not close to achieving parity in the independent realm,” Lauzen said in a statement.

Indeed, 35 percent of documentary directors working the festival circuit last year were women. Compare that with the mere 19 percent of women directors who worked on narrative features.

Also Read: DGA's List of 80 Best-Directed Films Includes One Female Filmmaker

When crunching the numbers on directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers as a group, women made up 25 percent of those working on U.S. festival circuit films — a figure that has not changed significantly since 2008-09, when Lauzen’s team began its study.

“Women’s representation on independent films is stagnant,” Lauzen said. “In spite of the increasing dialogue about this issue, the numbers have yet to move. We are not seeing year-to-year growth.”

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Sundance Expands Film Festival to Hollywood This Summer

Sundance is coming to Los Angeles. The Sundance Institute will launch a four-day film festival in Hollywood this summer, an extension of the Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT section.

That section of the Park City, Utah-based festival features films that take risks with visual and narrative style, defined by little more than their audacious filmmakers. It launched in 2010, and has been home to such projects as Craig Zobel's divisive thriller "Compliance," Mike Birbiglia's "Sleepwalk With Me" and Alexandre Moors' unreleased "Blue Caprice."

The new festival will feature unreleased films, panels, a shorts program and the annual ShortsLab: Los Angeles, a short filmmaking workshop. There is no lineup yet for this summer.

Also Read: Beltway Sniper Film ‘Blue Caprice’ at Sundance: ‘Killers Aren’t Born, They’re Made’

Running from Aug. 8 to 11, NEXT Weekend will be headquartered at Sundance’s own Sundance Sunset Cinemas in West Hollywood and will have additional screenings around the city at venues like the Museum of Contemporary Art and Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Sundance has already expanded to London.

“The best part of independent filmmaking is the freedom to tell your stories your own way, to take risks and not be beholden to convention of any kind. At the core of NEXT Weekend are artists that are taking risks and pushing boundaries,” Robert Redford, president & founder of Sundance Institute, said in a statement. “As such, it’s fitting that Sundance Cinemas will be the home for this festival and these films.”

The festivities will begin with an outdoor screening Aug. 8 at the cemetery and end with screenings at venues across the city.

The Los Angeles summer festival lineup grows more and more crowded, as this new event follows June’s Los Angeles Film Festival and July’s Outfest. 

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James Franco Protests Australia’s ‘Really Silly’ Decision to Ban Gay-Themed Film (Video)

James Franco is asking the Australian Classification Board to reconsider its decision to ban "I Want Your Love," a feature film from Franco's "Interior. Leather Bar." co-director, Travis Matthews.

"This just is such a disappointment to me and just seems really silly," Franco says in a video uploaded to Matthews' YouTube channel on Monday. 

Also read: Who Is James Franco? Artist Marina Abramović Wants Her Film to Answer That

Matthews' film –'I Want Your Love" –exploring gay male relationships has been banned from screening at festivals in Australia due to scenes containing explicit sex that the censors don't believe have any narrative context.

Franco disagrees.

"Travis is making this film, including sex because he wants to explore story and character in the nuances that sex contains," the actor says. "Because films have been banned because of sex, sex in films hasn't had a chance to grow and become a sophisticated storytelling device."

"I Want Your Love" was scheduled to be screened twice at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival this month, but organizers have reluctantly replaced the programming and apologized to the audience.

"We're shocked that Classification Australia have taken this path. 'I Want Your Love' has screened to critical acclaim at dozens of festivals around the world. Australia is the first film festival to have it banned," a message on the MQFF's website reads. "We're sorry our audience won't be able to make up its own minds about adult content."

Franco, who returns to the box office this weekend in Sam Raimi's "Oz the Great and Powerful," agrees that adults should "be able to choose" their own viewing. 

"They're not going in blind. I don't know why, in this day and age, something like this — a film that is using sex, not for titillation, but to talk about being human — is being banned," he concludes. "It's just embarrassing."

Watch Franco's plea:

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Shane Acker to Direct Animated Version of ‘Beasts of Burden’ Comic Series

Shane Acker, Oscar nominee for his 2005 short '9,' will direct an adaptation of the Dark Horse Comics series "Beasts of Burden" for Reel FX, the company announced on Wednesday.

Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson created the comics series, which chronicles a group of animals, mostly dogs, that function as the protectors of a town stricken by paranormal events. Darren Lemke, who wrote "Shrek Forever After," will adapt the comics while Reel FX's Aron Warner will produce alongside Dark Horse Entertainment's Mike Richardson and Strange Weather's Andrew Adamson.

Acker made his first feature in 2009 with "9," which was based on his award-winning short and produced by Tim Burton.

“It’s a pleasure to be working with such accomplished producers and filmmakers on this incredible project," Acker said in a statement. "There is a real independent spirit at Reel FX — the studio is full of energy and fresh ideas — which is necessary to bring this unique story to life.”

Reel FX, a Dallas-based design, visual-effects and animation studio, has been ramping up its feature film division over the past few years. It is already at work on the Guillermo Del Toro-produced "The Book of Life," which Fox will release in 2014, and "Turkeys," which Relativity will release before Thanksgiving in 2014.

It recently hired Warner, who produced the "Shrek" franchise, to lead the company's charge into feature animation. Reel FX aims to make mid-budget animated movies for whichever studio offers the best fit, though in the case of "Beasts" no studio has come aboard yet.

“Reel FX is continuing to partner with some of the leading filmmakers in animation," Warner said in a statement. "Shane is an immense talent and will bring his fresh vision and approach to this adaptation of 'Beasts of Burden.'"

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Drafthouse Film Acquires Punk Documentary ‘A Band Called Death’

Drafthouse Films has acquired North American distribution rights to “A Band Called Death,” Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino’s documentary about the titular proto-punk band. Formed in 1971 by a trio of teenage brothers in Detroit, Death was one of the first punk bands, predating the likes of the Clash and The Ramones.

It disbanded after years of struggling to make a living, only to experience a revival as people rediscovered the band’s music 30 years later.

The film, which premiered last year at the Los Angeles Film Festival, will screen at March’s South by Southwest Film Festival. Drafthouse, the film distribution arm of the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain, will release it in theaters and on VOD this summer. 

“Howlett and Covino’s film rewrites punk history and also transforms a better-than-fiction music story into a moving, emotional story,” Evan Husney, Drafthouse's creative director, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be introducing the legacy of Death to audiences around the country.”

Haven Entertainment’s Matthew Perniciaro and Kevin Mann produced, with Jerry Ferrara and OGB Inc.’s Scott Mosier. Cinetic Media’s Linzee Troubh negotiated the deal on behalf of the producers with Drafthouse’s James Emanuel Shapiro.

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