The Voice Of A Woman (VOW) celebrated 10 years at Cannes Lions last week on the French Riviera by bringing 33 commercials, branded content, music videos and short films made by women directors internationally to the Debussy Theatre at the Palais des Festival to launch Made By Her.
“We selected from the best works made by women in the past year and the work is some of the most powerful and compelling storytelling you’ll find on the planet. It was great to see such well-crafted communications made by women directors internationally, all completed within the past year, in the Debussy theatre – home to the Cannes Film Festival for the past 60+ years and Cannes Lions for the past 35 years. Our program may have presented more work by women filmmakers in one sitting, than at any other point in Palais des Festival’s history – for both the Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Lions combined,” noted VOW founder, Maureen A. Bryan.
In addition to screening work by women directors, Maureen presented a talk on the status of women in film at Facebook Beach and again for the Cannes Lions' 'See It Be It' program - hosted this year by advertising veteran Madonna Badger. Maureen shared USC Annenberg’s research that of the 1200 mainstream films in the international Box Office last year, 96% were directed by men with only 4% directed by women, 3.9% Black directors and only 1.5% Asian. In the history of the Cannes Film Festival, only one woman has ever received its top award for best film, the same is true for the Academy Awards, that in 91 years only one woman has received an Oscar for best film.
Maureen comments: “The statistics on women directing commercials is just as dire as the statistics for women directing mainstream feature films. It’s really shocking for me when I reach out to production companies, that on a roster of 15 or more directors there may be only one, two or three women directors and in some cases no women represented by some of the top production companies in the world.”
The Voice Of A Woman’s launch of the Made By Her Award last week at Cannes Lions aims to bring greater visibility to the work of women directors, cinematographers and editors of commercials, branded content, music videos and other visual storytelling communications internationally.
So why are women not being selected for the mainstream awards?
“Well, the argument is that there should be no separating women’s work from men’s work, that selections should be blind, on merit alone – no matter the gender or race for that matter of the creator,” comments Maureen. “Yes, in an ideal and equitable world I would agree, but the reality is something else entirely. How does someone whose career has been stunted since leaving film school or entering the field play catch-up when they’ve struggled to build their work over the course of their career? How do you build the same strength when due to unconscious biases you’ve been unable to develop your career at an equal rate to men? If you’re competing for a Lions, an Oscar or Palm d’Or against men who have had years more experience working consistently with big budgets, who have had the years to build their craft with all the support that money can afford, their unique ‘voice’ and the confidence to allow them to stand out - well, how does someone who hasn’t been competing in the same game, at the same rate with the same privileges, compete?”
The Voice of a Woman is driven by its mission to increase the number of women directors and creative leaders in communications. Along with the Made By Her award, The Voice Of A Woman will expand its program that they started in 2013 of mentoring and training for women – particularly the next generation of talent – and is calling on production companies, agencies and brands to work with them to open up opportunities for women to be exposed to large scale productions from development through to delivery.
The organisation founded in 2009 by Maureen A. Bryan launched its first award, The Voice Of A Woman Award, in 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery in London and its most recent awards were held last year at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. This year’s inclusion of the Made By Her award will be a great way to bring visibility to women who historically have not been seen and who’s authentic ‘voices’ have not been heard.
The 2019 Made By Her filmmakers:
From left: Karen Cunningham, Rose Hendry, Laerke Herthoni, Rachel McDonald
Ashley Armitage, Georgia Hudson, Nina Holmgren, Sasha Rainbow
Adi Halfin, Anna Ginsburg, A.V. Rockwell, Charlotte Regan
Dee Rees, Autumn De Wilde, Joanna Nordahl, Jaci Judelson
Michelle Coomber, Lauren Pringle, Siri Bunford, MJ Delaney
Natalia Leite, Lucy Walker, Jenn Nkiru, Alex Prager
You can view a selection of the winning films here.
Main image caption: Director Georgia Hudson's "Stop At Nothing" featuring Paralympic fencer Beatrice Vlo, featured with MADE BY HER in Cannes. Beatrice Vlo's voiceover: "They said it was crazy... But if you stop at nothing, even a crazy dream is possible."