Initiatives to promote women directors have been increasingly popular in the West. However, coming as coercive directives from head-quoters of global brands, in Asia, and China particularly, they often look like an unnatural implant. A quota-like requirements are a debate minefield! It may look like a good starting point, but it’s definitely not a quick fix. The problem is global. To start, there are just not many female directors- neither in the world, nor in China. The percentage of women directors only rose from 9% in 1998 to 13% in 2019, while the percentage of women cinematographers climbed just 1% in the same period, from 4% to 5%. The big question is, why?
Dame Heather Rabbatts, Chair of Time’s Up UK, a group which was founded in 2018 by some of Hollywood’s most high-profile actresses in response to the #MeToo movement, gives two reasons to that in her interview to BBC Culture. One: “people tend to recruit in their own image,” ie the majority of directors are male, and they hire men. Two: “[directing] has not been a role where women have seen many other women role models. The more that we see women directors coming through, the greater encouragement that will give to other women to believe that they too can do these roles,” she concluded.
Time’s Up（时间到了）是由好莱坞的一些最知名的女演员为了响应#MeToo运动于2018年成立的一个组织， Heather Rabbatts 女爵是英国Time’s Up协会的主席，而她在接受BBC文化频道采访时总结出了两个原因。第一：“人们在招聘时倾向于参考自己的形象，例如大多数董事是男性，他们便会雇用男性。第二：在(导演)这个职业中，缺乏女性的榜样。人们看到的女性导演的成就越多，就会给其他女性更多的鼓励，让她们相信自己也可以扮演这些角色。”
In the previous words of female directors SHP+ has interviewed throughout the years in China, [female directors] “might not be viewed as authoritative or formidable on set, but we use our way to get the performance we want and that’s the most important thing, to get what you want in front of the camera. I think to support female directors is to respect them and trust them”, director Andrea Wang shared back in 2018 in SHP+ article Five Female Chinese Directors You Should Know.
Andrea Wang | 王俞心
This year, and in honor of International Women’s Day, we continue our attempt to give more exposure to women directors based in China. First, we sifted through the credits of all the adverts we selected and published on SHP+ over the past year, and discovered a striking, but again unsurprising fact – among all the spots featured in 2020 only four were directed by women. So we decided to follow up on some recent work of those women whose films caught our attention: Veda, Hou Zuxing, Dingding and Le Shuting.
Shanghai-based director behind the hit ad for Neiwai, a brand name praised in China and abroad for body positivity, didn’t just help the brand to deliver the message once. She repeatedly assumed a multitasker’s role as director, editor, creative, and in 2020, Veda shot a series of documentary style BODY TALKS continuing to unveil the body positivity topic from perspectives of different women.
After shooting Jim Hsiao for Weather Bureau’s ad with a goal to make “a distant and formal government organization more relevant to common people”, Hou apparently worked on more personal projects, other than advertising. Well at least, that’s what she showed on her public account. Last year she updated her Xinpianchang portfolio with a director’s cut of Oppein futuristic campaign, actually shot in 2019, and a Gaokao-centered documentary for Rejoice.
Creating minimalistic worlds with a touch of fantasy to promote smartphones seems to be the area Dingding is comfortable in. We featured her directorial work for Vivo X60 spot, that brought to life a Lego playground with meticulous detail, and a bit of nostalgic, in a festive setup. Her Xinpianchang portfolio also features short, atmospheric commercials for Oppo and Huawei. Dingding’s most recent work in the profile— a touching CNY spot for Budweiser.
Vivo X60 创作的作品，该短片非常有节日气氛，用细致的细节和一点怀旧的氛围将乐高游乐场带到了生活中。她的新片场作品集还包括Oppo和华为的广告短片。而丁丁作品集中最新的一部作品十分感人，是为百威拍摄的春节特别广告。
Last year, while the industry suffered the influence of the COVID virus outbreak, some talented individuals were seizing the opportunity for creativity and promotion. Viral social ads, watched by millions, put the unknown young director Le Shuting on the map. Her short film “Wuhan balconies” was an instant hit, generating over 8 million views on Weibo. The director hasn’t seemed to use the momentum to her further advantage though, as we haven’t seen her credited on any other spots, which admittedly we easily may have missed. So far her Xinpianchang portfolio updates have shown Le continued honing her filmmaking skills in the area of emotional mini-films about Wuhan, working on Hubei Media Group’s “2020 User Manual” and “2020+1”.
Voila! We whole heartedly wish these talented women a happy and fruitful continuation and promise to keep an eye on their upcoming work.
Next, we’ll follow up with a deeper-dive on several other female directors, whom SHP+ interviewed this time in person and had a chance to ask questions on the perspectives and positioning of women filmmakers in the advertising industry in China. Stay tuned!
Five Female Chinese directors you should know | 走近五位中国女导演
Is gender parity a reality in China’s ad industry?| 中国广告业男女平等了吗？