Bert is one half of the UK-based directing duo Bert & Bertie, who recently participated in the Fox Directors Initiative.

Bert and Bernie

There is currently no shortage of articles being published about the ‘Struggle of the Female Director’ or ‘Sexism in Hollywood’, etc. It’s important that this conversation is taking place but already the industry is growing weary of it. So what if we, the ‘poor suffering female directors’, changed the conversation to something more empowering. 

In a world where everyone is looking for the next big thing or the life-changing experience that looks awesome on Instagram, it’s just a matter of time before the film industry realises that the next big thing in storytelling and the largest untapped pool of talent is right there in front of them every time a female director walks through the door. We are pushing story, taking risks, delving deeper into character and multi-tasking like relentless motherfuckers to get our films made.  

The industry is at that eerie stage just before a large wave hits when all the water is sucked back from the shore and animals flee to higher ground. The difference is that our wave is made up of female talent and when it hits, it will elevate the industry to a higher ground. The landscape will be changed forever, for the better. 

How do we know this? Well, we are one of these creatives surfing the wave and from our point of view we can finally see the shore. And I say we, because I am one half of the award winning, writing-directing duo Bert&Bertie. Don’t let the men’s names fool you, we are most definitely women… and talented too!  

At the end of last year, we were selected for the Fox Directors Initiative headed up by two kickass women, Nicole Bernard and Gina Reyes. Twenty directors from around the world attended the six-week intensive aimed at getting us inside the haloed Fox Studio walls. All 20 just happened to be fiercely talented women. My fear was that Fox were going to pin that dreaded ‘diversity’ label on us and parade us around; fortunately I couldn’t have been more wrong.  

Instead they empowered us. Because of their approach I believe we took a large step forward in changing perceptions of the executives, producers and showrunners - whether they realise it or not. In the third week we were working with Liz Merriweather (showrunner of New Girl) and Lee Daniels (showrunner of Empire) and about 30mins into meeting us Daniels blurted out “Wait… you’re all women.  Awesome!” Nicole and her team hadn’t sold it as a female initiative; the creative came first. 

And that is the key to fixing the “female dilemma” that the media love to talk about: execs and producers should consider the creative work first and foremost, before the person behind it?

Bertie and I have experienced the potential of this shift in attitude first hand. Our names lead people to believe that we are a male duo like the Coen Brothers, so they consider our work as that of men. When they eventually meet us, they are pleasantly surprised to find we’re women - this has happened too many times to keep count.  

So, imagine we shifted the focus of this discussion about our ‘struggle’ to something more positive? Let’s celebrate the existing talent that’s kicking ass in the independent film world, after all 36% of the 2015 Sundance slate was made up of films directed by women! 

If Marc Webb can go from directing his first film 500 Days of Summer to his second film The Amazing Spider-Man, then surely Ava DuVernay or Lena Dunham should be directing next superhero franchise? This hangover from past injustices is an albatross around the industry’s neck; it’s holding us back as filmmakers. Surely the best way to make great films is to be supported to do precisely that? 

From the articles that are currently being published, I fear that young female directors might start believing that the entire industry is against them, in which case they may as well give up before they’ve even begun. And if we subscribe to the shocking statistics about how underrepresented we are, then everything we have accomplished thus far might be lost. 

What we need is more key people within the industry stepping forward and supporting good creative work regardless of gender; only then will the conversation evolve from a negative one about sexism, to a positive one about creativity.