Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects


School of Journalism and Broadcasting

Document Type



The film industry is a male dominated field. This is not new information. Directing, cinematography, and musical composition are the most heavily male governed above-the line crew positions, with women only making up 12% of directors as of 2018 (Quick, “The data…”). There is an unfortunate hesitation in support for female filmmakers from the part of studios. Melissa Silverstein of “Women and Hollywood” writes that there are quite specific visual expectations of a director to be a “white male with greying hair,” as this is what people are used to (Smith, “Female trouble…”). To go along with this, only 35% of speaking roles in film are given to women, and that decreases further to 24% in terms of actual leading protagonist roles (Quick, “The data…”). One of the larger contributions to this is the disparity of language between men and women, and how such differences can affect perceptions of strength. Women are more likely to use apologetic language, or tones of hesitancy (Zhukovsky, “Speaking Up…”). While one’s use of language does not negate the credibility of their ideas, an apologetic approach is not normally associated with expectations of a strong director. Women in filmmaking ventures can use language to their advantage, but those with a tendency to sound apologetic are usually less likely to be taken seriously as an authoritative figure. While it differs from its original intention, the short film “Come Up for Air” displays weakness in both males and females, as it follows a young female protagonist that does little to change her situation outside of lashing out in bouts of selfishness. When faced with the same unapologetic selfishness from her father, however, she finds the strength to forgo her pride and go to her sister as a form of her own apology. In this way, the protagonist recognizes her own flaws through seeing the same flaw in someone else, yet she chooses to overcome it, showing growth and strength.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Sara Corkern Thomason, Ted Hovet, Chris Keller


English Language and Literature | Film and Media Studies