I caught the last 4 minutes or so of the Oscars, and turned on just in time to see what was (for me) the only significant part of the show. Kathryn Bigelow was mid-acceptance speech for Best Director for her work on The Hurt Locker. The awards ended and my girlfriend turned to me and said she didn't get the point of awards. And then I got to thinking... What does Bigelow's win, the first ever for a female director in 82 years of Oscars, mean for the future of filmmaking?
Other than what it will do for Bigelow and her future projects, my hope is that it does something far better for Hollywood. Namely, tear down gender barriers. By no means am I sexist or misogynist, but every time I've heard about a project being put together and the producers are looking to bring on creators because they're a certain sex, my first reaction is to roll my eyes. Then I sigh, grunt, or make some other awkward noise. I can't help it, but it's followed by composing myself, apologizing, and asking the person I'm talking to to continue.
Bigelow's award is significant for all the reasons people are saying, but it's even more significant because of the kind of movie she made. She didn't make a "women's film." She made a war movie, traditionally the ultimate battleground for manly directors. She made an action movie that hit harder than most tough guy films this year. She delivered, and it had nothing to do with her being a woman. Kathryn Bigelow is a tremendously talented director who took a very good script and brought it to life in the best way possible.
Now the ball is in the court of producers and studios to see her work, and this award, and stop exclusively hiring female writers to write stories about female characters. By the same token, those same producers should also be hiring talented females to direct typically masculine fare. In some cases a man or a woman may be better suited to the material, but these decisions should be made by evaluating talent and material together, not by other factors that don't affect the creative endeavor at the end of the day.
Talent is king. And maybe there's some merit to using a hypothetical marketing tag line such as, "from an all-female cast and crew," but it should never stand in the way of quality. The best ingredients make for the best food; it's the same for filmmaking and other creative pursuits. It's time to hire and assemble teams based on merit and skill, and nothing else.
Tear down the walls and let talent be your guide.