Once the ratio of women to men is more balanced in the film industry, we can drop the term ‘female’ from ‘female directors’ and simply call these brilliant creatives ‘directors’.

4 Female directors who are changing the film industry for the better

Even if you’ve never heard the term ‘manic pixie dream girl’, you’ve definitely seen her in the movies. She’s that female character whose sole purpose seems to be to encourage the male lead to pursue his own journey to happiness – quirky, bubbly, and free-spirited, but with no character arc of her own. 

Remember Margo Roth from John Green’s Paper Towns? Or Deepika Padukone’s Tara in Tamasha? Or many Marylin Monroe and Audrey Hepburn films, for that matter. That’s the problem with most female characters written by men – they usually end up playing romantic sidekick to the male lead. 

Fortunately, more and more women directors and screenwriters are now exploring stories where women are portrayed in a more realistic and wholesome manner. Here’s a list of female directors from Hollywood and Bollywood who are taking the film industry by storm and whom we can learn from.  

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1. Greta Gerwig

If you watched Little Women last year, you’ll know who Greta Gerwig is. Gerwig may have spent about a decade in front of the camera, but with her 2017 directorial debut, Lady Bird, she stepped behind it, changing the way stories about women are written and told. (The movie went on to earn five Academy nominations, no less!)

Lady Bird made Gerwig only the fifth woman ever to be nominated for Best Director ever since the inception of the Academy awards nearly a century ago. This is indeed a remarkable achievement for her, but it also sheds light on the state of the film industry. It was one of the few mainstream movies that deep-dived into the mind of the average American teenage girl and all the issues she battled with. 

In a press interview, Gerwig admitted that she strongly believes in the quote from Little Women, “I believe that writing about something makes it important. And women’s stories are important.” We should be glad that Gerwig plans to continue telling stories about women because she wants people to see that women’s stories are worth making an investment in; that they are not niche but commercial and can reach a large audience. And because men in the industry aren’t quite doing that, women must. 

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2. Patty Jenkins

Patty Jenkins started her career as a photographer and painter in New York City but soon transitioned to film-making. She debuted with Monster in 2003, and directed a few TV shows as well, but she’s best known for writing and directing Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman, which was based on a DC Comics superhero. Wonder Woman’s success can clearly be attributed to two women – Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot who played the title character.

Jenkins managed to create a woman superhero that isn’t one-dimensional. “Credit Patty for not turning her [Wonder Woman] into a ballbuster,” says Gadot. “Wonder Woman can be very charming and warm and have so much compassion and love for the world. She can be soft and naive. At the same time, she just happens to be this demigoddess who can beat the shit out of you and can be a super badass and smart and confident. Ultimately, she’s very relatable.”

The reason people around the world advocate for representation and diversity in movies, TV shows, and other pop culture is because one cannot be what one cannot see. If little girls grow up seeing only male superheroes, they won’t ever think that a woman can be a superhero too, or that she can be strong enough to fight her own battles and save the world.. This is why films like Wonder Woman directed by women are so important. 

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3. Zoya Akhtar 

In 2020, India’s entry for the Oscars was none other than Gully Boy – a film that captured the heart of the nation. Chances are the song ‘Mere Gully Mein’ is playing in your head as you read this, or is it ‘Apna Time Aayega’? It’s not the first time that Akhtar has won us over. Remember Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara? We bet it must have prompted everyone who watched it to plan an ambitious road trip with their best buddies. 

Or how about Dil Dhadakne Do? The thing about Akhtar is that she manages to make films that entertain the audience in a refreshing way. Whether it’s her storytelling or cinematic aesthetics, her films have a charm that only underline her brilliance and uniqueness as a director and screenwriter. 

Akhtar is also a great example of adapting to trends and changing times. Whether it’s Netflix’s Lust Stories and Ghost Stories or Amazon Prime’s Made in Heaven, she has aced her way into the world of online streaming as well. You may argue that she does not always write and direct stories that are women-centric, but she drives home a stronger point – women don’t have to tell stories only about women; they can tell stories. Period. 

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4. Gauri Shinde

Occasionally, Bollywood sees a movie that rises above standard mainstream structure and clichéd plot points, yet manages to find a place in the hearts of most viewers. Director and screenwriter Gauri Shinde has given Bollywood two such gems till date – English Vinglish and Dear Zindagi. While both are very different in their themes and storyline, they have one thing in common – they tackle relevant, important, and relatable issues such as mental health and women as homemakers in an entertaining way. 

Shinde says that her inspiration comes from life, such as an experience, a conversation, or an artwork. In an interview in 2012, she disclosed that her debut outing English Vinglish was more of a long-overdue apology to her mother, who ran a pickle business in Pune and who didn’t speak English very well. 

One striking thing every creative person can learn from Shinde is the way she views creativity. According to her, creativity doesn’t mean being different but being simple – experiencing or observing something and then expressing it and bringing it to life on screen. Wacky, out-of-the-box ideas aren’t what speak to people as much as simple, everyday experiences. 

If you’re tempted to binge-watch everything made by these brilliant directors, you’re not alone. Set up a movie marathon with your bae or family and enjoy these movies in a new light! From showbiz to biz: Here's a list of women celebrities who took the entrepreneurial plunge.