Film and Feminism
But the dominance of the male structures in the mainstream television and commercial industry meant that those same structures were transferred to the new film industry, which inevitably became driven by men's perception of what was commercially viable. This situation, coupled with the lack of film study courses, meant that there was no real challenge to the existing structures. So, after twenty years, we have a male- dominated mainstream film industry with a growing list of anecdotes about outrageous misogynist practices; 23 percent of women in the industry state that general sexism is the main barrier to their progress.
The situation today is that on one side, there are women who have succeeded at the creative/ideas end of the industry as a result of vocational courses and are helping other women get jobs; on the other side, there is an industry still antagonistic to any form of training and often skeptical about working with women. This is the environment into which women have to insert themselves and make daily compromises.
The extent to which women are conscious that they have to sublimate their own personalities and critical faculties about the content of productions on which they work will often depend on their age and whether they have had any tertiary education. In other words, women who have been exposed to women's studies and feminist theory at university often find working in the industry much more difficult than older women who have never thought to challenge the male culture and have worked hard to be accepted in it. Women who are less willing to compromise their behavior either leave the industry or try to set up alternative ways of working.
Because a national film and television school was part of the agenda to revitalize the film industry, politically aware women had high hopes that it would provide the opportunity to challenge the male hierarchies. But the school has copied the industry's hierarchial practices and has been criticized by some women for not providing enough space for alternative filmmaking practices, nor supporting attempts to change the industry. The school defends itself by saying that it has to operate in an industry environment hostile to training; that it must provide graduates acceptable to the industry if it is to maintain credibility and continue to receive funding.
The positive side is that the school has provided an alternative route for women to enter the film industry, training them in technical jobs which were otherwise impossible for women to get. It has also given women the opportunity to direct film - practically unheard of after the silent film era of the late 1920s-and to produce films other. than educational or children's. The school has trained women to be inserted into the mainstream structure at different levels, relying on their talents and craft skills as a personal lift raft in order to survive.
This process has produced some successful women in the mainstream, the most obvious examples being Jane Campion (Academy Award winner for The Piano), Jocelyn Moorhouse (director of Proof and co-producer of Muriel's Wedding, both of which received acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival), and Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Mrs. Soffel, High Tide, The Last Days of Chez Nous and Little Women), though her basic training was at Swinburne Film and Television School, not the national school. All these women have acknowledged that formal training gave them the confidence as well as the skills to battle it out in the male-dominated industry. They have, in turn, provided opportunities for other women in non- traditional roles.