SchspIN

An Actress's Thoughts

6. April 2022
by SchspIN
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Demand Change (from: The Age Buster)

In December 2021, I was interviewed by Italian journalist, sociologist and author Stefania Medetti. She currently lives in Thailand and runs, among other things, the English-language blog The Age Buster, which focuses on the topics of age, age valuation and ageism / age discrimination. The interview along with Stefania‘s introductory text about her experiences in Germany were published on 13 Jan 22 under the title Demand Change.

With Stefania’s kind permission, I am publishing the German version today. Grazie sincero!

Stefania Medetti

Demand Change

It was all because of my love for cats that on a frosty St. Valentine’s morning I found myself under the high arches of the Milan Central Station. Standing in front of the train that would have taken me to Germany, I looked at the tracks extending outside the building in a foggy, yellow-pale light. I thought about my grandmother who, a fifteen-year old, got on a steam-engine train to come to the city to work as a maid. Two generations later, a bit older then her, I was traveling in the direction she came from (she was born on the border with Austria) to work as an au pair and improve my German. The family wanted a Spanish candidate, but in my introductory letter I mentioned cats and this convinced them I was a good fit anyway. As the train travelled east and then northeast, the plains first and the vineyards later passed in front of my window. When the train reached the Alps, we travelled through a narrow valley between two high walls of mountains and then the names of the railway signs were written in German.

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24. January 2022
by SchspIN
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3-Departments-Check for Twelve German Film Festivals, 2019-21

12 Film Festivals 2019-21: Share of Women Directors, Writers and Cinematographers in Competitions

To start the year, I would like to present a film festival analysis. It deals with the proportions of women in directing, scripts and cinematography – the so-called 3-departments-check – in the main competitions of twelve German film festivals.

I briefly considered evaluating music / composers. But since music, similar to sound, is listed very incompletely (both on film websites and in databases) the research would have been very time-consuming and just beyond the scope of my capacities.

The first table shows the festivals and the number of films in their main competition in the three years examined. The majority were feature films, you’ll find the number of documentaries in brackets:

Evaluation

Method 

Most festivals provide programme notes or film lists on their websites, often in the digital archive, from which at least the film title and often also the director can be seen. More detailed information is often available, including synopses and a short biography of the director, as well as other team positions. In some cases, friendly and helpful staff members have sent me lists or links. (All enquiries were answered promptly!).

I was able to complete the information on the three trades mostly via the IMDB database, the question about the gender of the filmmakers came partly from the short biographies on the festival pages (director), supplemented from IMDB (author and DoP), and some film websites, interviews or through further online research.

Out of a total of 401 competition entries, I only failed to identify a position twice, both times it was the DoP. That is 0.5 % of all (401 x 3) positions. (These are only the feature-length films, i.e. not counting the Oberhausen Short Film Festival, where 153 films were shown in the competitions).

For some documentaries, I could only determine the director and DoP, no matter how thoroughly I searched. In these cases, I took the director’s entries for the script as well.

A gap in the table can be found at the Hof Film Festival. They don’t have a competition in the conventional sense, but: “It has to be the first feature-length film (feature film) by a filmmaker. In accordance with this criterion, the Hof Film Festival sifts through all the films submitted (…)” (information from Sabine Reiter, Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts). Unfortunately, the corresponding lists are not available through the festival office, nor can they be found on the website. I have been promised that I will still receive the information and will then complete this evaluation.

Another gap is due to the fact that there was the Munich Film Festival did not take place in 2020. Other festivals were held online and had smaller competition compared to pre-pandemic years.

Due to the mass of an average of 51 films in competition at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival and the special short film situation, I had to make the decision to only evaluate the position of director from this festival. For some films, screenplay and camera were also available; for example, in 2019, for 26 of the 53 competition films the festival website provided information on scirpt, and 24 films on camera. That’s less than 50% for both. For most films – including those of other years – these items are missing, and they are also not listed on IMDB and other online sources. In the case of short films, the script is often written by the director, who often also films the short, though if this is not explicitly stated anywhere I can’t take it for granted. And I cannot contact 153 filmmakers on these issues.

Hypothesis

My initial assumption was that the proportion of women directors and screenwriters is highest in competitions with first to third feature films (Saarbrücken, Hof), documentaries (Leipzig, Munich Doku) and short films (Oberhausen). And that the proportion of women cinematographers is higher in documentaries and short films than in long feature films.

I also wanted to check whether the assumption that in cinema the directors always write the scripts as well is true. And thus the tag “a film by” is even more true here than in television, where there are significantly more independent, non-directing authors.

Results

In the diagrammes, I replaced the festival names with the respective cities, I added D (documentary film festival) and F (film festival) to the two Munich festivals and slightly abbreviated Mannheim-Heidelberg.

The following tables show how many of the competition films had no women at all in directing, screenwriting and cinematography, or how many had only women in all three sections. Values above 50 % are highlighted in each case.

You can see that 2019 was the year with the fewest competitions with films involving women in the three departments. However, this does not apply to all festivals, see Berlin for example.

In general, there is a focus on female directors at festivals within the industry and the media, but I cannot say whether this applies to all festivals and wherer it is also a topic within the festival organisation, whether there are even considerations about voluntary commitments or the like. In this respect, my evaluation may be about something that is perhaps not a topic or goal at the festival itself: gender equality. Nor do I know how many films applied to the festivals in each case and what their composition was in the three departments. It is not possible to speculate on whether films by women (= director and screenplay) are favoured or disadvantaged or treated equally in the application process.

In 2021, there were still three festivals where half the films had only men in the the three departments; For Munich Film Festival, this was the case with eight out of ten films. The second table has a lot of zeros, which means: no film in the competition with a female director, writer and cinematographer. Whereas even one participation, a collaboration with men at the head of the deaprtment, would have been enough to qualify. Documentaries in particular often have several DoP’s, and there are also teams in the screenplay section. Nevertheless, zeros en masse, the highest value of 25 %, i.e. every fourth film with women in all three departments, can be found at the goEast Festival of Central and Eastern European Films Wiesbaden 2020. In 2019 it was already 23.5 % (= second highest value), but in 2021 only 5.9 %. Let’s wait and see what it looks like this year.

As I said, there are twelve festivals, three departments and three years each. This is difficult to represent in one figure, so it is divided into nine diagrammes. Each year separately, the three trades separately, and the festivals arranged according to the number of women. (To enlarge and browse, simply click on an image):

The same figures, only separated by festival, are shown in the next eleven charts (Hof is still missing), Cottbus and Munich Film Festival are competing for last place, and even Hamburg doesn’t do as well as I would like as someone from Hamburg.

Directors

(subchapter added Jan 27).

In the total of 554 films in all eleven competitions 2019-21 (Hof is still pending, as mentioned), 254 were directed by women and 365 by men. That’s a total of 619, significantly more than there were films, which is due to the fact that some films – not only documentaries – had directing teams.

The average proportions of women directors through all 11 festival competitions were: 32.1% in 2019, 45.8% in 2020 and 37.9% in 2021.

Phrases like “films by women directors” are problematic as long as it is not clear what exactly is being talked about. Films by one female director? Several women directors? Films with mixed teams of women and men directors?

The average of all festival averages for the proportion of women directors is 37.7 %. But if I only count the films in which one or more female directors directed without a male director, then their share is 32.8 %. Or perhaps to put it in more understandable terms:

In the 11 German film festivals in total, just under a third (32.8 %) of the films screened in the main competitions from 2019 to 2021 were directed exclusively by women.

Auteur films

And finally, the answer to the question about auteur films: yes, it looks quite different from (German) television. In very few films (this is the first value in each series of three) the director is not involved in the script at all. The second value – usually the highest – shows the films in which the directors wrote the screenplay alone or as a directing duo. The third number shows the scripts written by the director in collaboration with other authors.


I hope to receive the titles of the films that qualified for the Hof Gold Award soon. Then I can add them to this analysis, and perhaps also evaluate the first-named cast members of the feature films.

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my sincere thanks to May Ho Ho, Berlin, for gender research assistance with some Chinese filmmakers, and to Aki Sato-Johnson, Toga / Japan, for clarifying a Japanese filmmaker.

Furthermore, many thanks to Angela Heuser, Dramaturg (VeDRA), who confirmed my approach in dealing with unstated script positions in documentaries.

Also many thanks to Dario Becker / Filmfest Hamburg, Sabine Niewalda / Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen and Anne Thomé / DOK.fest München for catalogues, film lists and notes on the competitions on the festival pages. Special thanks to Sebastian Hammer / Film Festival Cologne for film lists and links to all competition films of the three years.

 

My net working time on this study, including the German and English publication, was 63:47 hours.

2. January 2022
by SchspIN
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Looking Forward, Looking Back: Tiger, Cow and Mouse

SchspIN in times of Corona: 23 articles in two years

2022 has just begun, 寅年 (toradoshi), the Year of the Water Tiger. As the Japan Times wrote: “The slow, gentle and hardworking nature of the ox, which manifested the mood of 2021, will be replaced by the speed, strength and power of the tiger in 2022.”

Annual animal as a Japanese mobile phone tag: left for 2010, right for 2022. Photo SchspIN

In a fortnight, on January 16, my blog SchspIN – Thoughts of an Actress will be nine years old. That’s a long time, during which I have published over 150 analyses, comments, articles. – By the way, on 20 January NEROPA will be five years old, but that’s a topic for another day.

In the first three years of SchspIN, I created annual indexes where texts were sorted by topic to make them easier to find. Unfortunately, I did not continue this. But by the 10th anniversary at the latest, there should be a comprehensive index and also some design flaws should be fixed (by that I mean, among other things, that the current theme undermines the comment function).

Anyway, let‘s have a look at my blog’s activities in Corona times: here‘s a compilation of the 11 articles of the last year of the cow / ox and the 12 articles of the year before last of the mouse / rat. Have fun (re-)discovering them!

2020

In the first Corona year, the 4-departments-check – directing, script, camera and music – on German top cop drama TATORT were the biggest group with five articles. They were produced in cooperation with WIFT Germany on the occasion of the “50 years of TATORT” anniversary. In addition, the second text on violence against women in film* appeared in February, followed by thoughts on some incomprehensible German Order of Merit awards in March. In the summer I wrote a text on the Corona situation.

Annual animal as a Japanese mobile phone tag: for 2020. Photo SchspIN

12.2.20: New Campaign: #morethanCorpses

6.3.20: A Commentary on German Public Radio

20.3.20: If I had the German “Order of Merit”…

24.3.20: TV crime dramas – We are the Jury!

12.6.20: Carpe Temporem – Seize the Time!

17.8.20: WIFT Germany & SchspIN on 50th Birthday of Top Cop Drama. Part 1

28.8.20: WIFT Germany & SchspIN on Top Cop Drama. Part 2: Directors

8.9.20: WIFT Germany & SchspIN on Top Cop Drama. Part 3: Writers

5.10.20: WIFT Germany & SchspIN on Top Cop Drama. Part 4: Cinematographers

5.11.20: WIFT Germany & SchspIN on Top Cop Drama. Part 4: Composers

13.12.20: NEROPA-Webinar in Cooperation with WIFT Germany on Dec. 17.

22.12.20: Karin Hanczewski – An Inside-Story

2021

Annual animal as a Japanese mobile phone tag: left for 2009, right for 2021. Photo SchspIN

In the second Corona year I published three investigations in front of and behind the camera: NDR Prime Time Krimis (reprint of an analysis for the Film and Media Office of Lower Saxony), Filmfest München and Deutscher Fernsehpreis. In the last quarter, the trilogy “Old Women. Visibility”. As well as the 3rd text of the “Violence against Women on Television” trilogy.

28.1.21: A Put Two and Two Together: Culture and Vaccinations

21.3.21: Is Germany’s Top Cop Drama Getting into Trouble about Quotas?

16.4.21: Fair Participation: Yes, it is possible.

22.6.21: Rosy times for Men in NDR Prime-Time Cop Dramas

18.7.21: Babylon Testosterone, Generously Funded

26.7.21: Filmfest München 21: New German Cinema & TV Movies

15.9.21: Not bad if you like Men Productions: German TV Awards 21

29.10.21: Old Women. Visibility. Part I

1.11.21: Old Women. Visibility. Part II

29.11.21: Old Women. Visibility. Part III

13.12.21: Strong Woman, Punch her in the Face!

2022

I am currently working on two studies that I will publish here in due course, and also another text is already in the works. So feel free to check back!

And if you’ve always wanted to know how you can support SchspIN: share blog articles you like or are interested in, invite friends or colleagues to stop by or subscribe to the blog, comment on articles, post SchspIN links on your social networks (but mention 1) the source and 2) my handle if I’m also active in the network = Instagram / Twitter: @schspin, Linkedin: Belinde Ruth Stieve).

By the way, this was also a topic at the 2-year anniversary of SchspIN, when there was a register, cake and a link to the blog Spreeblick by Tanja and Johnny Haeusler and the 2015 text “If you want to support blogs” (in German).

Citing sources and including authors should be a matter of course, but unfortunately many people forget this when they post pictures, photos, insights, works and content of others on social media. But now that a new year has just begun, this makes for a good resolution!

And finally: I wish all old and new readers of SchspIN a happy, exciting, insightful, healthy and cheerful new year. Thank you for your interest, your messages, your criticism, your encouragement and your suggestions. (Unfortunately, the comment function is not working properly at the moment, but what you write will get to me, and perhaps I will be able to get it working again in the foreseeable future). Good luck with your projects!

____________

the first part was Taking a Shower on 3.5.17.

13. December 2021
by SchspIN
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Strong Woman, Punch her in the Face!

Making Women Characters suffer on Television

Warning: this text is about, among other things, violence against women portrayed on television.

Warning: some of the photographs used may cause unpleasant feelings.

I recently read the appeal by Liz Tucker, Chair of Women in Film and Television UK, on the issue of violence against women in fictional programs. It began with the question “Why do so many shows feature violence against women?” – which goes with two older texts of mine, one published, one unpublished, which I will present today.

WFTV UK is asking Why?

Liz Tucker published the following on 1 November (You can find the full text on the WFTV UK website and on Broadcast Now, emphasis in the quote by me): 

Every night of the week across a wide range of broadcast platforms, if I so wish, I can watch stories about women being raped, decapitated and murdered in ever more imaginative and gruesome ways. As it happens, I don’t wish, because I think the time has come for all of us working in the broadcast industry to think much more carefully about the message we are sending out when we continually produce TV crime dramas and documentaries that have women as the central victims. Recent years have seen an avalanche in this type of programming and there seems to be a spiralling competition between some writers and directors to escalate the violence and come up with ever more graphic and disturbing ways to portray the murder of women. (…) Would it really be so hard today to come up with imaginative new plots that don’t involve the brutalisation and murder of women?

No. Of course not. It just has to be wanted.

A tick is biting into a human breast. Photo: SchspIN

Part 1 and 2 of the Trilogy

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29. November 2021
by SchspIN
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Old Women. Visibility. Part III

Here is the last episode of my Old Women. Visibility. Trilogy.

Old Women, visible. Made younger.

In Part I from Oct. 29 I mentioned, among other things, that it is not uncommon to rejuvenate characters in film and television through casting, i.e. to have older characters played by younger actors. Since I’ve received several questions about this, I‘d like to talk about this today again, with a bit more detail.

Can they actually do that?

A never-ending discussion revolves around the question whether actors can take on a role that, unlike them, is white / black / brown / Eastern European / Asian / flawless / handicapped / young / old / good-looking / fat / slim / heterosexual / homosexual / transgender / female / male / stable / psychotic / depressed / boring / stubborn / cheerful or has a different nationality and mother tongue. Many deny this, at least in relation to certain characteristics, others say “Yes, because you don’t have to have murdered anyone to....”.

I think it depends.

Regarding age: Is it bad if someone younger is cast for an older role and the older age is simply claimed, or if a role is unceremoniously made younger or older so that the desired casting fits?

I think that also depends.

Dealing with Age/ing

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Old Women. Visibility. Part II

1. November 2021 by SchspIN

From our Society – Older Visible Women

A few days ago I wrote in the text Old Women. Visibility. Part I that I would compile and publish a gallery of “older and old women from real life. You can now view it here, either as a general overview, or click through the portraits individually and read the German explanations under the pictures: Name, age in the photo, profession and photographer:in / Common Licence. This information should also appear when you move your mouse over the pictures (the photos also function as an occupation game, which is why I have added the occupation to the female politicians).

As I said, there are many female politicians, on the one hand quite banal, because they are so easy to find as a larger group of older women in Wikipedia, with public domain photos. But there are also other women, I have, for example, looked through the lists of the Order of Merit Ribbon Awards – which are mostly made up of men, but a few women have also been awarded. Most of them have an entry in Wikipedia, but many without a picture. And women scientists, writers and a few actresses and a few under 40 are there too.

What I haven’t done is to make a percentage distribution of all possible population groups. But I think the pictures are already much more diverse in terms of older women than those who populate German fictional TV.

As a reminder: “Since they are mostly official photos or photos of professional appearances, the women were of course also made up and the pictures were certainly also edited, which is perfectly okay.” Nevertheless, they look different from PR photos of older actresses.

We Should be seeing Women like These on Fictional TV Programmes

This gallery contains 0 photos

29. October 2021
by SchspIN
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Old Women. Visibility. Part I

Yesterday I was standing at the checkout in an organic supermarket. The cashier asked the customer in front of me if she had a student card – that must have given her a discount. The woman went completely berserk with pleasure for having been mistaken for a student. She was wearing a mask of course and a beanie, but from her eyes, among other things, I would have guessed she was easily in her late 30s or early 40s. Anyway. She was beaming all over, “This is the most beautiful thing I’m going to experience today!” It was 10:45 a.m.. What a prospect.

Hardly anyone wants to be old, people are turning 60 years young, old has become a dirty word. Actually, not always, in German. There‘s the phrase „Was geht ab, Alter?“ / “What’s up, dude?” – originally from youth language. Alter (dude) literally translates to old man. I’ve never heard the word “Alte” (old woman) in a similar context. Have you?

Old Women, visible. In Film and Television.

Being thought of as younger is enormously important for many people. Not only for women, by the way, but especially for them, because youth mania with everything that goes with it, partly presented by society, partly by the media, leaves its mark. The Hamburg-based initiative Pink Stinks (“Magazine, campaign office and an educational organisation against sexism.”) has been addressing the connection between a format like GERMANY’S NEXT TOP MODEL and slimness mania up to bulimia among young female viewers for years.

Age and eternal youth are also topics in the film and television industry. If a – famous – actress is over 50 or 60 or 70, it is always emphasised that she looks at least ten, if not twenty years younger. Famous older actresses play much younger roles (e.g. still a pregnant woman at 53), which – if you didn’t know their age – they could often pass as, because they work on their appearance and / or have it worked on and look tremendous. When older actresses like Iris Berben, Senta Berger or Hannelore Elsner once showed a grey hair in a role, it was highlighted as a special achievement. Continue Reading →

15. September 2021
by SchspIN
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Not bad if you like Men Productions: German TV Awards 21

The German Television Awards 21 – Nominations, Fictional Formats

Last week, a colleague from Cologne drew my attention to this year’s nominations for the German Television Prize, which will be awarded tomorrow, September 16, in Cologne. In response, I looked at the nominated fictional productions and television creators through light blue and pink coloured glasses and made an analysis.

There are four categories for films and series in this award: Best Television Film, Best Multi-part Features, Best Drama Series and Best Comedy Series, for each of which three productions were nominated. In addition, there are the individual awards for Directing, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing and Music, with three productions nominated in each category. For the set design nominations, production design, costume design and, for two of three productions, make-up design were combined. In addition, there are the awards for Best Actress and Best Actor with five nominees each, partly for two productions.

6-Divisions-Check of all Productions with Nomination/s

A total of 22 productions appear in all fictional television awards, 7 television films and 15 serial formats. Once again, many crime dramas, but interestingly no TATORTs (“crime scene“, Germany‘s top cop drama)

The first figure shows the proportion of women and men for the six departments directing, screenwriting, cinematography, sound, editing and music (6-divisions-check). Yes, there is no television award for sound, I wonder why (cue sound and vision), but since the sound engineers are usually in my 6-divisions-checks, I’m also including them here:

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