"The excuses are always 'oh, it was a time constraint,' or 'we really needed this person at the last minute and that's what he would take,'" she says. "I don't understand that at all."
**Read more: How Sweden Conquered *Film* Industry Sexism**
Last year, Butler was honoured with an award for her many action hero turns at the Artemis Women In Action Film Festival. Melanie Wise started this event in 2015 to showcase the diverse range of women in action roles, from stuntwomen to the true stories of female airforce pilots in WW2. "There has never been a film festival dedicated to women in action. We've had action heroines on screen for more than 30 years and nobody celebrates them," Wise explains.There is a shocking lack of movies with a woman in the leading role. "When a film with a woman in the lead does well, it's kind of seen as a fluke in the box office world. Films that star men, when they fail they go, 'Ah!' and they just go on and make another one. They've never really given women that opportunity to have a failure. Once one of those failures occurs, like when Charlize Theron did Aeon Flux, they said women in action were box office poison. They're not. That movie sadly just didn't stand up."Wise found a classic example with Crawl or Die, "a micro-budgeted horror film with a female lead, totally badass. From start to finish she is the centre of the story. [The filmmakers] established an audience, they did an amazing job with an extraordinarily small amount of resources and the earnings they were able to generate were incredible. After it aired on the BBC pretty much every studio in town hunted them down to strike a deal."
Hollywood functions almost 100 percent based on personal relationships, so all you have to do is piss somebody off and you'll get on some kind of a little blacklist.
Watch: Rose McGowan on Sexism in Hollywood"Every studio that approached them, their edict was that they had to write in a male character from beginning to end. So here is somebody who went out and made a movie, actually built their own damn audience, and then the studio came and said, 'Oh, women in action don't sell.' Well I'm sorry, but have you not been paying attention in the last two years?"The filmmakers behind Crawl or Die confirmed this account to Broadly.The recent Hunger Games and Star Wars series all had strong female leads and performed incredibly at the box office. "Whenever Tom Cruise releases a movie, that's usually the biggest seller of the year. [In 2014] women outsold him. We have anecdotal data that it's a sellable, marketable, profitable genre, and still keep getting excuses. You can only shake your head and say what the fuck?"Other women—like director Maria Giese—have turned to the justice system to combat widespread prejudice in the industry. "Regardless of how competent you are or how gifted you are, if you're a woman and you want to direct studio features, unless you're a movie star or related to a movie mogul, your chances are zero," the independent filmmaker says.
The reason is as simple as it is deplorable. According to Giese, Hollywood doesn't feel obliged to hire women because it's led by big business rather than government regulation. There's no real scrutiny over unfair hiring practices, even if this disregards Title VII, the Civil Rights Act that forbids employment discrimination based on race, age, and gender.
The truth is most people hire who they know and what they're used to and it's never conscious.
Because of this, more and more actresses are making their own films and setting up production companies. Reiner co-produced, co-wrote and starred in Equity, the first ever film about women in Wall Street. The movie was bought by Sony Pictures Classics, received widespread critical acclaim, and is now on DVD and video on demand—hardly a flop. However, Reiner says of its director Meera Menon, "were she a man she'd have a three-picture deal by now."Reiner is on the board of We Do It Together (WDIT), a non-profit film production company that also counts Jessica Chastain, Juliette Binoche, Zhang Ziyi and Freida Pinto as members, with the aim of producing films and TV programmes that have empowering roles for women."If I was a journalist right now, I'd try not to tell the negative stories," she says. "I'd give examples of how we can make a change. When we talk about WDIT it's a great example. I think that's what it's about, we need affirmative action. That's what's necessary."For these women and many more, the only way to change the status in Hollywood is to speak out, create their own roles, and ultimately pursue justice."If we can get the most powerful leaders in politics and law in the United States to tackle this issue," Giese says, "all the other issues from reproductive rights, pay equity, etc, will become better supported."