A new fund

Mynette Louie, left, Mary Jane Skalski, second from left, Julie Parker Benello, third from left, and Dan Cogan, right, have created a new financial fund for women directors. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / September 20, 2013)

Organizers declined to offer details on the first projects, but Impact chiefs Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous said that production on one film financed by Gamechanger is already underway in Iceland, with two more set to begin shooting in the next several months.

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Science-fiction and horror are expected to be among the genres on the Gamechanger slate. And though Louie cited “Frozen River” and “Winter’s Bone” -- both movies by and from women -- as models for Gamechanger films, stories about or starring women are not a prerequisite. The selection committee -- which includes Louie, Skalski, Cogan, Dreyfous and Chicken and Egg's Julie Parker Benello and Wendy Ettinger -- will give equal weight to scripts focusing on either gender and on any subject.

Unsolicited submissions will not be accepted, Louie said. Instead, Gamechanger is mining relationships in the agent and manager community to find projects. Gamechanger principals will generally not serve as producers on the films.

The actresses Ellen Barkin, Geena Davis and Julia Ormond are among those who will sit on the company's board.

The new fund could draw criticism from some who question whether it amounts to a quota system. But those behind it say that the system needs just such a jolt. The recent 7% female-director figure is actually down from 9% in 1998. Last year, the only woman on the list of the 25 highest-grossing movies was “Brave” co-director Brenda Chapman.

Such small numbers means the films themselves also contain a narrower perspective, say Gamechanger’s founders. “This is good for women directors but it’s also good for the culture,” said Chicken & Egg’s Parker Benello.

Several female filmmakers have seen their stock rise in recent years, including Lisa Cholodenko, whose 2010 dramedy “The Kids Are All Right” grossed $21 million and was nominated for best picture. And the independent-film stalwart Nicole Holofcener is off to a strong box-office start with her latest, “Enough Said.”

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Meanwhile, Kathryn Bigelow saw her bomb-defusing drama “The Hurt Locker” win the best picture Oscar in 2010, while last year her wartime thriller “Zero Dark Thirty” was nominated for best picture and made almost $100 million at the box office -- in a genre  that few women have directed in before.

The 2011 Kristen Wiig vehicle “Bridesmaids” — which grossed $288 million globally — was seen as a breakthrough. But that movie was directed by a man (Paul Feig). Besides, Gamechanger founders say, women should be able to direct movies that aren't simply comedies about getting married.

“We don’t feel that the goal here should be more stories about women, or more stories about women in particular genres,” Skalski said of Gamechanger’s mission.  “Would you say 'Yes, women should be doctors but they should only be gynecologists?’”

[For the Record: An earlier version of this story said that the 7% female-filmmaker figure came from a UN and Geena Davis Institute study; while the number is cited in that study's materials, the figure originated with the Ceulloid Ceiling study conducted out of San Diego State University.]


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