Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative last year published a comprehensive study looking at representation on screen and behind the camera in 900 popular films released between 2007 and 2016.
They found that in films made in 2016, female characters only made up 31.4 percent of the 4,583 speaking roles. That figure was up from 29.9 percent in 2007. And over the course of that 10-year stretch, only 4.1 percent of the directors were women.
But in 2017, the three top-grossing films of the year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast and Wonder Woman, all had women in the lead role. So clearly, there is something of a disconnect to what stories are being made and what audiences want to see.
This was a gap that filmmaker and producer Tosca Musk sought to fill with her latest venture, Passionflix. It's a $5.99-a-month subscription streaming platform for original movies and other digital content adapted from best-selling romance novels -- as well as a licensed library of romantic movies.
So why romance? Well, for one thing, it's a genre that brings in more than $1 billion every year that resonates with a wide demographic with a decent amount of disposable income.
But more than that, Musk and her co-founders Jina Panebianco and Joany Kane want to make stories that empower women, with well-rounded, strong characters on screen and accomplished female directors behind the camera.
Click through the slides to get Musk's insights about the challenges of running a creative enterprise, the skills you need to solve problems in love and at work, and what it was like growing up in a family of innovators.
1. On making an impact in the film industry
“So far we've made four features. I've directed three of them. The other one was directed by another woman and we also worked with female producers and we work very closely with our female actresses to make sure that obviously they're all getting paid the same as the men and that the characters are seen as strong, empowering inspiring women as well. I'm hopeful that the work that we do can equalize the playing field a little bit more.”
2. On balancing business and creativity
“I just locked picture on another movie two weeks ago and I start another movie in March. And in the middle I'm doing all the business side of things. And while I'm doing this business of Passionflix, which is updating our deck and projected cash flow and projections for things that we're going to be doing over the next few years, and solidifying our slate for the books that are going to be turning into movies. I'm also reading and rewriting scripts, working with the authors and then I'm going to cast the movie and find locations. From 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. I'm using [one part] of my brain. And then I get a 30-minute lunch. And then from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. I'll do this brain. That's basically the only way that I can think of switching it and making it work. But it does work.”
3. On what romance can teach you about problem-solving
“[In all of these films the couples] realize that there is compromise and communication that goes into making a relationship work. All of the content that we do has these characters talking about [issues] and figuring out what words to use in order to strengthen their relationships.”
"My mother was a very big influence on all of us and she worked all the time. She worked mostly from home. She was a model but she also had a dietetics practice at home. And so we saw her work all the time. She was always around us and if we needed something she was always there. Then she had us work for her. Our chores were not take out the garbage, our chores were write doctor's letters [and considering] what would you do in this business case? So we had a little bit more of a impact on her work. If she needed help, I helped her.
I hope that my children will see that. They come to set all the time. I work a lot from home. They always see me work. Sometimes they ask if they can help with work. Now my daughter's picking up an iPhone and she'll turn on the video and she'll say action and she'll direct my son. Which is awesome. I saw that my mother worked and I saw that there's a passion in her work. And hopefully my kids will have the same passion.”