(This article was originally published in The Indie Chicks 7/30/15)
“Women don’t go to movies.” “Women aren’t interested in making movies.” “Women are too emotional to be directors.” Oh, and my personal fave: “Women can’t hold cameras because their breasts get in the way.”
It’s exhausting talking about the sexism that pervades Hollywood. It’s not up for debate, look at the statistics, it’s a thing:
Out of 87 Oscar ceremonies, how many women have taken home Best Director trophies? A whopping grand total of 1. In 2013 of the 16 biggest paychecks earned by actors per film, how many were women? Zilch. But at least we have a ton of female protagonists on screen these days, right? Funny you should ask: Of last year’s top 100 films, only 12 featured female protagonists.
Hollywood is a boy’s club.
Personally, I never set out to carry a torch as a female filmmaker. I came to LA simply to be an actor/singer. I fell into writing and producing when I realized that being an actress can be soul sucking, depressingly competitive and demeaning- EVEN when you “make it.” Maggie Gyllennhaal was keeping it real when she admitted that at 37 she was told she was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55.
Maybe laugh instead of cry, right? Either way, this town doesn’t seem to be changing. Not quickly, anyway.
When my writing and producing partner, Sara Fletcher, and I created our short film, “The Girl in the Green Dress” about 2 isolated 1950s housewives experiencing a bit of a taboo connection– we thought, “Wouldn’t it would be cool to do a period piece and dive into a world that is nothing like our own?
The truth is, the confining world of a fifties housewife is not as far a cry from my own world as I’d like to think. I’ve been bullied by male filmmakers into submission. I’ve been sexually harassed during auditions. I’ve played parts that have made me feel dirty and cheap. As a woman in Hollywood in 2015, I, too, have felt isolated.
In fact, our director, Johanna Goldstein was right there with us. “ As a woman director I’ve had my judgment and abilities questioned in a way that I’ve never seen my male counterparts experience. The issue could be as small and seemingly innocuous as an assumption that female directors are more inclined toward drama and romance than sci-fi and thrillers (my favorite genres).”
So what do we do?
I’m not going to claim to have the magic fix. But here’s what I’m going to say:
It’s not a fluke that the female driven Hunger Games franchise kills it every time. It’s no mistake that Sandra Bullock’s performance and star power pulled in over $716 million for Gravity.
It’s not a revelation that comedy heavyweight Judd Apatow’s most successful film is Bridesmaids.
We, women, are half the damn population of moviegoers! We are half of all film students! We have the innate ability to tell stories about well-rounded female characters who aren’t there simply to serve a dramatic function relating to love and sex. We have perspectives uniquely our own because we are mothers and daughters and sisters and grandmothers. We have stories inside us that are poignant and epic and life-changing.
So to all our female filmmakers out there: keep fighting, keep muscling your way in. Continue telling your stories, even if it means shooting it on your phone or some camcorder you found in the garage. Don’t let the stats deter you.
And female moviegoers: please support your female filmmakers. As Martha M. Lauzeen says, vote with your dollars. A win for one of us is a win for all of us.
Right now, more than ever, we need each other. Hollywood needs us.
They not only need us, they WANT us. They just don’t know it yet.