ON (experimental) FILM


As part of his introductory remarks at a screening of my films in Calgary, Mike Hoolboom made the following comment:"...men outnumber women [avant-garde] filmmakers maybe 4:1 and it has something to do with film as traditionally conceived, that is, by and large for men, a fact reflected in largely male film school environments.


Why are there fewer women experimental filmmakers than men? It seems there could be many factors: 1) the largely male film school environment wherein the faculty are still overwhelmingly male and where the 30% female students in first year dwindles by fourth year. 2) some women experimental filmmakers move towards more 'mainstream' filmic modes because of strong commitment to feminist/political/racial causes; they want/need their films to effect change; they want to have a voice. Working in the margins is, perhaps a luxury only male filmmakers can afford. Like it or not, they do have a central voice to be against or outside of! Perhaps they are able to criticize or distinguish themselves as individual men so long as the power does not shift too far from its patriarchal base. However poor a man might be, he is, just by virtue of his gender, in a more empowered position than the most successful woman. Perhaps, so far, women have felt it incumbent on them, if they get the funds for a film, to spend it making a film with immediately apparent social benefit. Maybe, it seems too 'selfish' to make "personal" films? 3) The time when many more women thought of working in media coincided with the availability to artists of video equipment. Some potential filmmakers may have gone to video for its relative ease of access and the emphasis/hope prevalent in some early video use of mass distribution via the airwaves and so the chance/hope of effecting social/political change. 4) Or is it that the percentages are shifting and it's just too early to tabulate?



This article originally appeared in Cinema Canada, December 1986