Hollywood's Top Editors Reveal Why Film's Gender Problem Goes Way Beyond Directors

You have to really, really want to be in the business.

The situation for women in Hollywood is dire, and more eyes are on the issue than ever, thanks to a civil rights investigation launched by the ACLU earlier this year. However, as the statistics show, the problem extends far beyond who's sitting in the director's chair.

In the top 100 highest-grossing films of 2014, 27 movies did not have a single woman credited as a director, writer, editor, producer (above the associate level) or cinematographer. That's more than a quarter of movies that didn't have a single woman in any top-level position.

No one is more aware of the real-life effects of these shocking stats than the women who have had to fight to get jobs in the industry. Two top editors, who worked on two of the only 17 films of the 100 top-grossing movies of 2014 that had a credited female editor, told MTV News about the challenges they face.

Laura Jennings, who edited the effects-heavy and critically acclaimed "Edge of Tomorrow," told MTV News that Jennifer Lawrence's recent essay about getting paid less than her male co-stars rang true, and that she especially feels the effects of gender bias as an editor of mostly action films.

"Jennifer Lawrence talked about it specifically, and I think it's applicable, that you have to [make] yourself appealing -- and that one obvious place to do that is by making yourself a little more value for money," Jennings said. "I've been much more of a technical editor and visual effects editor for a long time and the amount of times it's just an immediate assumption that you're never going to be as technical as your male kind of counterparts, even if you're far senior to them, it's rife."

Shelly Westerman, who co-edited "About Last Night," pointed out that editing before the digital era was seen as more of a woman's job, because it involved literally cutting and physically pasting film into sequence. However, as filmmaking technology advanced, men, who were seen as more tech-savvy, were relied upon to do the work.

Westerman cited strong mentors and networking as reasons for her success.

"I think it's about making a connections and its about luck and timing and it's about finding the right people who are going to support you," she said. "I've certainly worked with some women who weren't supportive, and I've worked with others who were, same thing with men...I think a lot of it is you know really taking the time to build the network and establish contacts, you keep in touch and it really has to do with finding your tribe, or finding the people who you click with and the people you can be the most creative with, and who let you be your strongest self, and really nurturing them."

Jennings agreed, and said that women in film need to fight to make themselves heard and to take opportunities as they arise.

"Early on in your career the opportunities are afforded to young males or males of the same age of you, they will be offered up more opportunities within technical roles, editorial, there's an immediate assumption that as a woman you're just not going to be as interested in it," she said. "You have to really sort of have to sort of make yourself heard all the time but be careful that you don’t also get a reputation for being too bossy, which is awful."

Most importantly, you have to want it more than anything. No one is going to advocate for you more than yourself.

"You've got to put a lot of hours in, it's Friday night, 9 p.m., I'm still at work," she said, talking on the phone from an editing bay in London. "You've got to really love what you do, really love it. You've got to have it flowing through your veins because it does overtake your life. Sometimes, not all the time."

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