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The University of Southampton
FilmPart of Humanities

Calling the shots. Academics in English and Film win major research grant on women in film

Published: 16 June 2014

Women’s involvement behind the camera in UK film since 2000 will be explored by Dr Shelley Cobb and Professor Linda Ruth Williams over the next four years, thanks to a half million pound grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

 "Women are becoming more prominent in film with directors such as Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia) and Jane Campion (The Piano) but we want to know more about their roles elsewhere in the industry," says Linda.

The researchers will carry out around 50 interviews with women who work as editors, writers, cinematographers, directors, producers and executive producers to record their experiences, aided by a research assistant and two PhD students. They will also consider the impact of the UK Film Council's initiative between 2000 and 2011 to encourage women's career progression in the industry. The projects results will establish the start of a history of women filmmakers in the 21st century.

"Fewer than 20 percent of people who work in key production roles are female," explains Shelley. "Numbers of men and women entering film school are roughly 50/50 but there is some evidence that women's careers stall in their thirties. We want to learn more about why this happens."

The first event will be held in September 2014 with Shetland Arts, as part of a longstanding collaboration with Southampton. Directors Joanna Hogg and Clio Barnard will be speaking at Screenplay, a festival curated by Linda with Mark Kermode.

The fruits of Shelley and Linda's research will be shared with wider communities through books, papers, talks, study days and open lectures and screenings; interviews will also be archived for future researchers. Project partners are the British Film Institute (BFI), Women in Film and TV UK, Birds Eye View, the media and entertainment union BECTU, Harbour Lights cinema (Picture House Cinemas) and Shetland Arts.

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