On Saturday, I’ll be moderating the annual Amazing Women in Film Panel. I’ll have the honor of having three female directors on deck – Debra Granik, Susan Seidelman and Nancy Savoca, as well as critic Lisa Rosman, philanthropist Meera Gandhi, and trailblazing activist Robin Bronk. Given that brain trust: what big questions about the state of women in cinema do you have?
Here are some questions raised by FB and industry friends:
B. Ruby Rich: Why is it still so bad?
Thelma: I was going to try to start off diplomatically — what have the gains been, and why are we still falling short? In a summer where Bridesmaids and The Help bookended the mainstream box office, why were execs and crix (mostly male) so surprised….
Also, what does it take to get a woman’s narrative arc on screen? What do we have to change to get more there?
Laurie E. Boris: Where are the great stories about older women?
B Ruby Rich: and why have we still not caught up with the silent-film era, where women were kingmakers? or with France, for that matter?
Thelma: The Iron Lady? I’m thinking Ida Lupino, @B Ruby Rich. I’ll raise that question. One reason vis a vis France is that they are more state-funded — isn’t that correct? I also believe, and argue please, that actresses have to step into producing in a major way a la Pitt & Clooney. Creating their vehicles, building them from the ground up, surrounding themselves with smart, savvy people. True? Not true? Partially true?
Lynn Zuccarelli Austin: I think it’s true. Someone like Lynn Novick who produces & directs docs with/for Ken Burns …is a power in her own right but doesnt have the name recognition that KB has…despite his consistent and best attempts to always point out to audiences/interviewers when it’s her work vs his.
Lynn Zuccarelli Austin: Jodie Foster seemed to be building a solid portfolio as a producer and then seemed to take a break…Who is on the cusp/horizon now? It seems that smaller, indie films have ja stronger/larger female director or producer pool …true/false?
Thelma: It does seem that way … I’ll ask the three indie directors if that’s true.
Michelle McCue: I appreciate a raunchy comedy (BRIDESMAIDS), horror, sc-fi (Marti Noxon’s FRIGHT NIGHT) and all sports movies (including the recent MONEYBALL). As I may not be in the minority anymore, what are these women’s opinions of the 3 genres I mentioned vs the superfluous “chick flicks.”
Lynn Zuccarelli Austin: By “smaller” I mean budget…and distribution, not importance. And could you get them to sign a pledge to not make any more Sex in the City sequels? 🙂
Kaitlin Sansoucie: Oh so many questions…. But firstly, I think things come down to a major set of money problems. Women don’t have money (not that most men have much more…). Where do we look for connections when we want to make a project happen? Men. Meanwhile, in Sweden the government says “hey, we are giving scholarships equally to men and women – why aren’t women making as many movies? How can we get them to create?” what a dream! Here, there’s that level of competition to get funding that puts women off. How do we change that?
Also, the US barely takes its own business seriously… And art? It’s entertainment. It’s entertaining to watch women suffer their mistakes and relative independence! Some moms buy their daughters shirts that say Allergic to Algebra – they are the same moms who don’t take the movies their kids watch to be anything more than entertainment…yet their sons are learning how to have relationships by watching porn and their girls are failing math thinking they’ll just end up like Katherine – and that’s Heigl not Hepburn.
Kim Voynar: Kaitlin, among the many things you say here that I agree with, for me the most relevant point you make is “the US barely takes its own business seriously.” This is true in more ways than art vs entertainment, or the dumbing down of girls. We don’t take art — real art — seriously anymore. I think most people haven’t an inkling what art is, or what art means to them. And unlike many countries, our government really does not support filmmaking financially, or really even much to do with art generally.
Unfortunately, in a tough recession, the reality is that most people (not all, but most) are more interested in going to the movies to be entertained and escape for a couple hours from their crappy reality, not to ponder or appreciate art. This is clearly evident by the box office numbers I look at every week on MCN. Easy-to-digest entertainment sells and makes a profit, so that’s where much of the investment goes.
Back to the question, Thelma: I would love for you to ask each of them whether they feel there is a real indie film community in the sense of people supporting each other. And whether any of them have ever (or would ever) donate to a friend’s or colleagues’ film through a crowdfunding site.
Kate Sansoucie: Are there any male feminist filmmakers? I would love to hear what they have to say about that. What women in film do they look up to – theorists, writers, directors… Which voices are in their heads when they’re working?
Thelma: Thanks for all the good questions….mulling, mulling. The feature director, Lisa Albright, who I talked to yesterday at Woodstock’s Colony Cafe and has the Bernadette Peters film in the festival, Coming Up Roses, had this question to contribute: How will the digital distribution affect what we can make and how we tell our stories? Who’s going to watch a 90 minute film on an iPhone. how is the format going to dictate how we tell our stories?