‘The Crown’ director Philippa Lowthorpe: A male-heavy movie industry leads to abuses of power

The only female director of the Netflix hit show "The Crown" said that a movie industry dominated by men leads to abuses of power.

Philippa Lowthorpe, who directed episodes five and six of the royal series, told an audience at the Advertising Week Europe conference in London that more women directors would help redress the power balance.

"We need many more women directors, we really do, as has been highlighted by the #MeToo and Time's Up movements in the last few months, the culture of a male-heavy film industry is not healthy and it leads to imbalances of power and abuses of power. We need more women directors," she said Monday at an event organized by Bauer Media Group and networking organization Women in Advertising and Communications London (WACL).

When asked why there are so few women directors, she had no answer. "I don't know. In the last 15 years I think only 14 percent of films have been directed by women and if you look back further it's even less."

Movie and TV director Philippa Lowthorpe
Xavier Leoty | Getty Images
Movie and TV director Philippa Lowthorpe

"It's quite shocking really, isn't it, since there is such an appetite for women's stories, and I often feel that men are allowed to tell women's stories, they are allowed to write them and direct them and direct female actors in those roles. Women are very rarely if ever allowed to tell male stories," she said.

Her comments come as reports suggest that Claire Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth II in "The Crown," was paid less than co-star Matt Smith, who played the Duke of Edinburgh. Executives from production company Left Bank said this was due to his fame from U.K. TV series "Doctor Who," Variety magazine reported last week. But Left Bank Creative Director Suzanne Mackie said this would be rectified. "Going forward, no-one gets paid more than the queen," she told the INTV Conference in Jerusalem.

Lowthorpe, who was not involved in pay discussions for "The Crown," also welcomed actor Frances McDormand's suggestion at this year's Academy Awards that movies should have "inclusion riders," a clause in a contract requiring that cast and crew reflect the demographics of the world today.

The Crown, Netflix original series
Source: Alex Bailey | Netflix
The Crown, Netflix original series

"I think all films should start off and productions and workplaces should start off with the premise that you can do 50-50 (men and women) and that you should be inclusive to all ethnicities and people of different class backgrounds as well. So I think it's a good thing, it makes people think," she said.

The most difficult thing for her as a woman director is to be taken seriously, Lowthorpe said. "I think men are accorded more authority than women and we have to find other ways of using authority and maybe wearing it much more lightly than our male counterparts perhaps, but I think that's one of the biggest challenges."