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Name: Alan Morton

PhD: Film Studies

Thesis Title: ‘Women’s Style’ and American Independent Cinema: Gender Politics and Women Film Directors


Thesis Description:

American cinema is often highly gendered for women directors, yet de-gendered for male directors. The gender of male directors is rarely referenced in either academic or popular writing, yet is frequently evoked when discussing women directors. By highlighting the gender of women directors or suggesting that women directors make ‘women’s films’, there is an argument that can be made in that these films have an audience and set of formal expectations that are gender specific. This research aims to assess how this gendered discourse effects the opportunities for women directors in American independent cinema as well as the reception of their films. Scholars such as King (2005) and Levy (1999) suggest that American independent cinema offers greater accessibility to filmmaking than mainstream cinema, yet according to the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, just 29% of the top 100 American independent features of 2016-17 were directed by women, compared with just 17% for the top 100 mainstream features. This suggest that the obstacles that women directors face are based on their gender, even in the more accessible sphere of American independent cinema.

By examining the impact of gendered discourse on the opportunities for women in American independent cinema, my research aims to better inform how we speak about gender and aid the furthering of gender equality. Through case studies of Kelly Reichardt, Julie Dash, Sofia Coppola and others, this thesis will explore how essentialist divisions have affected the reception of these films, and how this relates to these directs’ perception of their work.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Dr Claire Jenkins (University of Leicester)

Ms. Laraine Porter (De Montfort University)


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

  • Forthcoming


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • Peter Baxter Prize - Awarded for the best dissertation in Film Studies (University of Leicester)
  • R M Banks Prize - Awarded to the Film Studies student graduating with the highest overall mark (University of Leicester)
  • Arthur Humphreys Memorial Prize - Awarded for outstanding performance in the final undergraduate examinations in the College of Arts, Humanities and Law (University of Leicester)


Other Research Interests:

  • Music and Sound
  • Art Cinema
  • Quality Television


University email address:


Twitter: @OrganisedCrisis


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