Scarlett Curtis | Contributing Writer | Friday, 16 January 2015

'I Love The Film Industry But This Year's Oscar Nominations Have Made Me Question My Devotion'

The Debrief: After growing up in the industry, writer Scarlett Curtis is obsessed with film. But when she heard this year's Oscar nominations, it dawned on her that the industry she loves is far from perfect...

I love film almost as much as I love my family. And following the Oscar race is practically my second Christmas. I’ve seen all the films being considered, followed every blog, made all my predictions and yesterday when the moment came for the nominations to be announced I was practically squealing with excitement.

But as I read through the list of people nominated my anticipation turned to chills. Not one women had been nominated in the best directors, writer or cinematographer category. Not one actor of colour was among the 20 up for awards. And not one of the films in the best picture race told the story of a female character. As I was reading the list I realised it wasn’t exactly a surprise; the films being considered for nomination this year may all have been brilliant however you couldn’t exactly call them diverse.

Like the moment you realise Father Christmas might not be real, seeing that list written out it suddenly dawned on me that the industry I love more than any other is so incredibly far from perfect. 

The white male dominance within the Academy’s choices isn’t exactly a new story. Only four women have ever been nominated for best director, with only one, Katheryn Bigelow, winning in 2009. And while this may be the whitest Oscar race since 1998, the list of black actors who’ve won Oscars in the past is hardly an extravagant one.

It’s easy to blame the ‘academy’ for the lack of diversity in their nominations, but as soon as you start to look into the subject it’s clear that the all white male nominee list is far less the fault of the Oscars themselves and more symptomatic of the film industry as a whole.

Last term at university I took a film class. Every week I would meet with a group of 150 other students, each one filled to the brim with cheap pizza and dreams of becoming directors, writers and cinematographers. 40% of this class were girls. And I doubt the same class 10 years ago would have looked very different. If nothing changes within the next 10 years 99% of these girls will decide to give up their ambitions of one day being nominated for an Oscar. And in an industry seemingly built on freedom of artistic ambition and creativity this baffles me. 

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I think the reason that this years nominations have felt so painful is because we all thought things were getting better. It’s been 6 years since Katerhyn Bigelow won, 14 years since Halle Berry was the first black women to win an Oscar, and while these are incredible achievements for amazing women, their not having the repercussions they should.

It’s not like there aren’t amazing films about women being made, and it’s not like there aren’t hundreds of people within this mysterious ‘industry’ who wouldn’t wholly embrace the idea that there need to be more female directors and writers being acknowledged for their work. There’s just not quite enough progress actually happening.

The last few years have shown amazing things changing within TV for women and women of colour. Most of my heroes work in TV, from Shonda Rhimes to Lena Dunham to Jenji Cohen. And as an impressionable 19 year old seeing these women shine in the way that they do makes me feel if I ever did decide to pursue a career in writing TV would be the place to do it, what we need now, is for the same thing to happen within film. 

So who is it up to if we want to change this? I’ve been debating this all day on Twitter. In many ways it’s up to the studios, to green light more films by unknown female directors and starring black actors.

But it’s also up to the viewers, to be more embracing of less conventional smaller films about women and give them the support they need. And it’s also up to any women who’s ever wanted to make a film, to go out there and actually do it, and to believe that they can do it. As it stands today my three younger brothers have an 100% better chance of winning a best director or writer Oscar in 2015 than I do. And all I can say is that I hope by 2025 this won’t be the case.

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Follow Scarlett On Twitter: @ScarlyCurtis 

Tags: Oscars, Film, Awards Season 2015