Can originality be salvaged?

Upon reviewing our research, it has mostly lent itself into supporting our assumed answer that adaptations and sequels are far more likely to be successful and yield a larger return. Considering the continuous restriction of funds invested in the film industry, one would assume that these types of films which require less risk on the distributor’s behalf will continue to thrive whilst original concept films will continue to become more of a niche experience. Originality is surely in strife within the landscape of cinema; yet it is surely worth considering if there is room to increase the bracket of original films being produced. As we mentioned before originality is not only needed to combat adaptations, but within films classified as original as well as genre based pieces continue to borrow from conventions that have been employed again and again. But is it possible to increase the degree of originality that we are producing? We feel strongly that there are many stories that remain untold, and this is after all the biggest issue the film industry is facing in terms of creativity: stale concepts. Yet a large portion of our society and consumer’s voices remain unheard and unrepresented within film. From its inception film has remained an industry completely dominated by the heterosexual Caucasian male, while films created by women, people of colour and the LGBT community remain a niche product in the western market. We feel that with a more robust and inclusive environment of all types of filmmakers, a whole reserve of fresh interpretations and depictions of life experiences within film can be accessed.

In the 87 year long history of the Academy Awards, only four women have ever been nominated for Best Directing: Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (Lina Wertmüller, 1976, Italy), Jane Campion for The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993, Australia, New Zealand & France), Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003, USA & Japan), and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2009, USA). Kathryn Bigelow was the first and only female to win an Academy Award for Best Directing. Out of the 35 films with a budget over 50 million made in 2014, not one had a female director (Gorski 2015). As for people of colour, only three black people have been nominated for Best Directing at the Academy Awards, John Singleton for Boyz n the Hood (John Singleton, 1991, USA), Lee Daniels for Precious (Lee Daniels, 2009, USA) and Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013, USA & UK). No black person has ever won Best Directing at the Academy Awards.

This lack of diversity behind the screen also leads to a lack of diversity with the stories being told on the screen. Earlier this year a study was released titled ‘Inequaity in 700 Popular Films’, where the top grossing films from 2007 to 2014 were analysed in terms of sexuality, gender and race. The report was produced by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The study found out the following:

The movies are white: 73.1 percent of all the speaking or named characters in the top 100 movies were white.

The movies are straight: Only 19 total characters were lesbian, gay or bisexual – none were transgender.

The movies are male: Only 1.9 percent of the movies were directed by women.

According to the report, females, “make up less than a third of all speaking characters on screen and less than a quarter of the leads/co-leads driving the story lines.” While women make up roughly half the population of not only moviegoers, but of the society in which these stories are based, they still remain a, “persistent minority on screen” (Dargis 2015). The same is true of people of colour and different ethnicities. The report also found that 4.9% of all speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing movies of 2014 were Hispanic/Latino. Although the population is a minority, they made up 25% of frequent moviegoers in 2014.

The lack of diversity in Hollywood and the push to create new and diverse content can be best summarised by those experiencing the industry firsthand. At the 2015 Emmy Awards, actress Viola Davis pointed out the lack of diversity in Hollywood in her speech as she became the first African-American to win an Emmy for Best Actress:

“‘In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’

That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.

Davis, went on to state that you, “can not win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” pointing out the fact that it is time for Hollywood to expand their horizons and include a wider range of characters in their films.

Charmed actress Rose McGowan has recently addressed the issue in a speech delivered to Hollywood film producers on how to beat sexism in the industry:

Suggest traditional men’s roles be turned into ones for women. It will instantly make your work more layered. Anyone from the lead to the sidekick to a character with one line – turn them into women. It is imperative that we start seeing women on film in other roles than The Wife or The Sexpot. How boring. Let’s reflect on film what society ACTUALLY looks like: 50% female. Women are in all kinds of jobs and have complex lives, so put that on the screen. I’m curious about the plumber who says two words on film if she’s a woman. What’s her story? How’d she get there? People love relating to other people onscreen. So why aren’t we women allowed to relate to our own lives? Where is our representation? Let’s take action to change these tropes. It is time.”

“Put female writers and directors on the TOP of your lists. Do it every time. If asked why, say why not, smile and walk away. Give them something to think about. It’s about time to see women in films as equals. This is a simple way to start. Remember: Just because it’s been done a certain way doesn’t mean it should still be done that way. The sad fact is, Hollywood is out of date. Let’s bring our town into the modern world. Dwindling ticket sales are a reflection of how largely passé Hollywood films are. Let’s be better, let’s do better.

Rose McGowan urges producers to quit viewing films as merely a product. Instead of focussing on the budget of films and how you can draw in audiences off pre-existing fan bases and sequels, think of films as, “documented history.”

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