From directing to cinematography, writing to producing, women in Hollywood are working hard to have an equal voice and share of power in the movies being made … but we have a long way to go. According to the Annual Celluloid Ceiling Report, “In 2017, women comprised 18% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films.”
Here, we present seven women who defy those numbers and stand as role models for generations of women to come. We couldn’t possibly decide which one of these women was more awesome than the next, so we put them in alphabetical order.
- Ava DuVernay was the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at Sundance Film Festival for Middle of Nowhere, and the first to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Selma. Recently, she became the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million — a staggering sum for any director — for Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle in Time.
- Nina Jacobson is a producer who, in her time heading up Disney, brought such films as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Sixth Sense, and the Pirates of the Caribbean to life. After being fired from Disney, she created her own production company, Color Force, which produced the wildly successful Hunger Games movies. She is also openly gay, and has helped to create a more inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community in Hollywood by creating Out There with fellow producer Bruce Cohen.
- Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman, the third highest grossing film of 2017. It gave her the biggest domestic opening for any female director. Before that, Jenkins wrote and directed Monster, another, darker, woman-centric film that garnered critical acclaim and the academy award for its star, Charlize Theron, whom we will meet below…
- Kathleen Kennedy started out her career as Spielberg’s secretary and, as we mentioned in this article celebrating women film producers, rose to become one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. She heads up Lucasfilm, and is hence responsible for the Star Wars franchise and the highest grossing movies of the past few years, including The Last Jedi.
- Reed Morano is a cinematographer, known for Frozen River, Kill Your Darlings” and The Skeleton Twins. More recently, she picked up critical acclaim for directing the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. In 2013, she became the youngest member of the American Society of Cinematographers, and, according to Wikipedia, is one of only 14 women in this prestigious organization of approximately 345 active members.
- Mina Shum is a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker who prefers to be known simply as an independent filmmaker. Her feature films, Double Happiness and Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity, premiered at Sundance. Her most recent film, Meditation Park, starring Grey’s Anatomy’s Sandra Oh, will hit theaters March 2018.
- Charlize Theron is a South African-American who has established her career beyond her acting talent and beauty by founding her own production company, Denver and Delilah, named for her two dogs. Its first production was Monster, and its latest was Atomic Blonde.
For more on the usefulness of turning actor cred into producer cred, check out this article on why so many actors turn to producing, where you’ll find more awesome women like Viola Davis, Salma Hayek and Drew Barrymore, who all started production companies of their own.