The Blog

Actresses Deserve Much More Than Being 'The Girl'

It is hard to describe just how depressing it is to work in an industry where women are reduced constantly to the sum of their parts and not even named. The worrying thing is that this is a common practice.

In my other life as an actress I have noticed a worrying trend. Well, I say 'trend' but actually it has been going on for years: female parts in films were the character has no name and is called 'The girl'. The girl is usually the only female part in the film and will also have at least one nude scene. Just because it is not humiliating enough to be offered a script where all of the men have names and you don't, you also have to get your tits out. Nameless and objectified: actresses deserve better than this. WOMEN KIND deserves better than this.

It is hard to describe just how depressing it is to work in an industry where women are reduced constantly to the sum of their parts and not even named. The worrying thing is that this is a common practice. Upon complaining about this on my Facebook, prominent film maker and casting director Rory O'Donnell said: "This is incredibly common. I made fun of it when I wrote The Landlady and gave all the female characters first, last and nicknames and called the only male character 'The Boyfriend'....but he did get a name during shooting." If only there were more people like Rory.

But what is to be done? Well we need more female filmmakers for a start. Here are some highlights from an amazing survey done by Stephen Follows on his must-read blog.

  • Between 2009-13, women made up 26.2% of crew members on British films.
  • This compares favourably with top US films over the same period (22.2%)
  • Of all the departments, the Transportation department is the most male, with only 7.7% women.
  • The only departments to have a majority of women are Make-up, Casting, Costume and Production.
  • Visual Effects is the largest department on most major movies and yet only has 16.5% women.
  • 6.4% of composers on UK films were women.
  • 14% of UK films had a female director, compared with 3% of top US films.
  • The percentage of women on British films has barely changed in the past five years.

Read more about his survey here. It was in all of the papers so Stephen is truly doing his part for equality. I often get asked why I don't leave the industry. The truth is I did take a little break. Of course if my agent had called during that period I would have not said no, but it was a quiet period and I took the moment to reflect on my chosen path. One of them anyway. I often think that if I was not also a writer and did not make my own projects I might go slightly mad. Luckily I do and I can fight instead. I made Prose & Cons which had a strong female cast and I am making more films with my filmmaking partner Steve McAleavy.

I am not the only actress that has noticed. The amazing Gemma Arterton told the Evening Standard:

"But there is definitely still inequality in the film and TV industry. There's not as many female directors, people behind the cameras, writers or producers. So that's something I'm interested in changing. My production company's geared towards that. We're using female writers on the first project and maybe a female director. In my mind, that's where the imbalance is -- there just aren't as many parts for women. No one's writing them and no one's saying yes to the scripts that offer them." Arterton, who has set up Rebel Park Productions with two female friends, said she considers herself a feminist, and believes attitudes towards the tag have changed. She said: "There's this whole new wave feminism that's happening which makes it a lot more accessible. I'm proud to be a feminist."

Go Gemma. So inspiring to see women making a difference and taking their career into their own hands. The way forward is not to quit the industry, not to let these men give our breasts the starring role while our actual talent is just a nameless supporting character: the key is to raise awareness and FIGHT. Get men to join the battle and equal the playing field. Women deserve more and we won't stop until we get it. The fightback starts here.

Catherine Balavage is a writer, film director, actress and the owner and editor of Frost Magazine. She is also a published author and wrote the book How To Be a Successful Actor: Becoming an Actorpreneur which has received rave reviews and is a must for actors everywhere. It is also available on Smashwords .

Before You Go