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Products for grant HB-281863-22

How Female-Driven Films Are Valued From Pitch to Premiere
Courtney Donoghue, University of North Texas

Grant details:

The Value Gap: Female-Driven Films from Pitch to Premiere (Book)
Title: The Value Gap: Female-Driven Films from Pitch to Premiere
Author: Courtney Brannon Donoghue
Abstract: Conversations about gender equity in the workplace accelerated in the 2010s, with debates inside Hollywood specifically pointing to broader systemic problems of employment disparities and exploitative labor practices. Compounded by the devastating #MeToo revelations, these problems led to a wide-scale call for change. The Value Gap traces female-driven filmmaking across development, financing, production, film festivals, marketing, and distribution, examining the realities facing women working in the industry during this transformative moment. Drawing from five years of extensive interviews with female producers, writers, and directors at different stages of their careers, Courtney Brannon Donoghue examines how Hollywood business cultures “value" female-driven projects as risky or not bankable. Industry claims that “movies targeting female audiences don't make money" or “women can't direct big-budget blockbusters" have long circulated to rationalize systemic gender inequities and have served to normalize studios prioritizing the white male–driven status quo. Through a critical media industry studies lens, The Value Gap challenges this pervasive logic with firsthand accounts of women actively navigating the male-dominated and conglomerate-owned industrial landscape.
Year: 2023
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: UT Press book page
Access Model: Print/digital copies
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Type: Single author monograph
Copy sent to NEH?: No

Black Widow Takes on Disney: The Sacrifice of Female-Driven Tentpoles in the Streaming Wars (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Black Widow Takes on Disney: The Sacrifice of Female-Driven Tentpoles in the Streaming Wars
Author: Courtney Brannon Donoghue
Abstract: News of Scarlett Johansson suing Disney over Black Widow in August 2021 shocked the film industry. As the first female-driven Avengers spin-off, the A-list actress who plays Natasha Romanoff in nine franchise installments has been integral to Disney’s crown jewel, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Johansson claimed the new day-and-date strategy broke her original contractual agreement for an exclusive theatrical release and expectations of profit participation from global box office gross. Under the helm of new chairman Bob Chapek, Disney responded by dismissing the lawsuit as a “callous disregard” for the global pandemic in what feminist advocate groups criticized as a “gendered character attack.” In rushing to restructure traditional distribution windows amidst the struggling pandemic theatrical business and to prop up the Disney+ streaming platform in lieu of maintaining talent relationships, who loses out? Under increased scrutiny in the late 2010s for not hiring women to helm big budget tentpole projects, the Mouse House and peer studios slowly began to exploit existing IP as a way to develop female-directed and female-led projects. This paper examines how Disney’s first significant slate of female-driven tentpoles—Mulan, Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella, Black Widow—went from highly celebrated gender parity “wins” for female filmmakers to being sacrificed in the Covid era distribution shuffle to fuel Disney+ subscribers. First, I look at how Disney executives and talent responded in trade interviews and social media to widespread criticism about gender disparities behind the camera in 2018 and 2019. Second, based on personal interviews and trade press discourse, I consider how Disney’s move away from traditional distribution windowing to a day-and-date theatrical and Disney+ Premium VOD releasing in 2020 impacted above-the-line female creatives of Mulan (2020, dir. Niki Caro) and Black Widow (2021, dir. Cate Shortland). Again and again, in the years following #
Date: 3/31/2022
Conference Name: Society for Cinema & Media Studies

Female-Driven Filmmaking, Gendered Value, and the International Festival Marketplace, Global Media Industry Speaker Series (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Female-Driven Filmmaking, Gendered Value, and the International Festival Marketplace, Global Media Industry Speaker Series
Abstract: From launching world premieres to negotiating distribution deals, major international film festivals like Toronto, Cannes, and Venice play a vital role in the global marketplace. With the emergence of the #metoo and Time’s Up movements, these annual events are under increased scrutiny for contributing to widespread gender inequities within a historically male-dominated industry. This presentation explores the powerful role of festivals as industry gatekeepers through a feminist media industry studies lens. First, I briefly outline common barriers women face in applying to and participating in major North American and European festivals. From historical disparities in acceptance rates for female-driven films to the lack of diversity in attending critics, women filmmakers do not gain access to the same career opportunities and advantages as male peers. Second, although more festivals are committing to gender parity pledges like 5050x2020, how individual festivals address gender inequity still varies widely. I examine two case studies—Cannes and Toronto—and the industrial, cultural, and economic factors impacting how each festival approaches this systemic issue. Even as the Cannes film market witnessed increased sales and distribution deals for female-driven projects, programming for official screenings remains male-dominated. In contrast, Toronto has emerged as an industry leader in equity and inclusion initiatives through female-driven programming, conference panels, and initiatives like Share Her Journey. Based on industry interviews, festival participant observation, and trade press coverage between 2013 and 2018, this presentation offers an on-the-ground look at the developing impact of #metoo and Time’s Up on the international film festival business.
Author: Courtney Brannon Donoghue
Date: 2/17/2022
Location: University of Texas at Austin