Josephine Decker on Lack of Female Oscar Nominees: “That’s Devastating”

     February 3, 2020

Greta Gerwig and Lulu Wang were both considered strong contenders for Best Director nominations this year, but the Academy Award nods wound up going to Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Bong Joon-ho, Sam Mendes and Todd Phillips; yet another year with no female directors in the mix. It was a disappointment to say the least, especially with such phenomenal films like Little Woman and The Farewell vying for some awards season love, but so it goes for 2019 and now sights must be set on how we can broaden the scope for future Oscar ceremonies.

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Image via Sony Pictures

With that in mind, while at Sundance 2020, we opted to ask all of the filmmakers who visited the Collider Studio at the Kia Supper Suite in Park City what category they’d most like to see added to the Academy Awards line-up. When Josephine Decker swung by for her new film Shirley starring Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg, she opted out of picking a new category and instead focused on the lack of female directing nominees:

“I wish that there were more female directors in the directing category. And I feel like Greta Gerwig and Lulu Wang should have been nominated. They made stunning movies that are feats of directing … It frustrates me; it seems often to be nominated for director, you have to kill people. That’s devastating, and that rules out most films. I think woman are deeply interested in a different kind of storytelling that’s much more character driven and I think that kind of storytelling, to make that rocket out of the theater, take so much subtle and nuance and so much insight as a director, and I saw that in many films by woman this year but I think especially Lulu Wang and Greta Gerwig. I just wish that they had been nominated.”

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Image via Sundance

Decker actually joined the Academy this year and experienced voting for the nominees for the very first time. When asked what she thinks we can do to change this situation, whether it be adding more nominations to the category or figuring out how to get female-directed films in front of more eyes, she said:

“Voting was such a pleasure but it also made me realize – and I don’t know the exact numbers of how many Academy Members there are but I realized that so many of my female director friends are working and they’re mothers, and it was actually a job to try to see all of the movies to get nominated and it takes a long time.”

In fact, Decker herself became a mother this fall and found it difficult to find time to watch all of the films:

“It was really hard for me to make the time to try to see, you know, a small percentage of the movies that were shortlisted. And I think, in some ways it’s so funny because what’s great is more female director friends I have are working now than ever before which is like, ‘Thank god for that!’ That’s awesome. And thanks for all the really awesome studio executives who are hiring these women to direct films.”

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Image via Sundance Institute

However, her experience voting for the nominations did make her consider something else that could play a big part in determining which films wind up with the most nominations:

“But I also think that I was like, ‘Who are the people sitting at home able to watch 45 movies in two weeks?’ And I was like, it’s the people probably who are older, maybe are retired. And I think still it’s gonna take us a minute for the Academy membership to catch up to our time and I think they’re working so hard to integrate and to have way more woman, way more people of color in the Academy, but I think I guess I saw, when the nominations came out, I felt like, ‘Oh, there’s a certain kind of person who is still the majority of the voter in the Academy,’ and I think it maybe just takes a few more years of this very thoughtful work that the Academy’s been doing to bring way more woman and people of color in. But also, the more films that are getting out there by woman, by people of color, I think the more opportunities we’ll have to nominate those films, and the bigger budgets those directors get.”

If you want to hear more on this topic, click here for an episode of Collider FYC where we discuss the lack of female directing nominees further. And do keep an eye out for our full chat with Decker and Stuhlbarg on their movie Shirley.

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