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Hollywood doesn’t trust women
April 28, 2012 1:42 AM   Subscribe

Name all the female movie directors you can in one minute, right now. No Google. I’ll wait. This movie gave me cooties why there are no female directors.
posted by patrick54 (91 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
No mention of Ida Lupino, Penny Mashall, or Penelope Spheeris?
posted by ShutterBun at 1:51 AM on April 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


The two names which I thought of first were Jane Campion ("The Piano") and Mary Harron ("American Psycho").
posted by WalkingAround at 2:05 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


"[Norah] Ephron doesn’t make challenging films, what she does is the filmmaking equivalent of Staying In The Kitchen."

Ouch. He makes a lot of good points here, but the author has no empathy for successful female directors who don't fit his model of what a female director should be.
posted by LMGM at 2:11 AM on April 28, 2012 [18 favorites]


I would like there to be more successful female directors, but Catherine Hardwicke can fuck right off and take Twilight with her. After making that movie, it's impossible to see her as some sort of feminist hero, and that's before even considering how objectively bad it is.

Oh, and no love for Floria Sigismondi? The Runaways was pretty great.

And yeah, Norah Ephron is successful, but her stuff is incredibly bland and uninteresting. She's like a female Ron Howard.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:19 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out who 'we' in this article is. I just realized I don't really know who green lights movies. I assume it is something-something investors and studios, but I don't know much more than that. Can anyone recommend a resource on that?

If 'we' is the movie buying public, I'm at the upper age limit for the demographic. I pick movies based on the venn diagram of my preferences and the preferences of Mrs. Poe. Nothing that triggers my PTSD or her hatred of triteness and pandering will get our money. Basically anything that looks good and doesn't have too much 'romance' or gore is a candidate. I'm almost never overtly aware of the director of a film, unless it is Hayao Miyazaki or (recently) Ridley Scott, who are both men.

So I guess a female director would have to build up a large body of work that is distinctive and within our preferences?

I think this also sucks on a broader level. I can't think of ten rockstar computer programmers, physicists, fashion designers, authors, artists or even musicians that are female.

The majority of the best managers and team leaders I have had were female, both in the making of art and the discipline of computer programming. Maybe the world would be more fun to live in if we all went out of our way to support films, companies and efforts that are matriarchal? I'll give it a shot.
posted by poe at 2:20 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


but the author has no empathy for successful female directors who don't fit his model of what a female director should be.


I dunno, why should he never his standards simply because the directors are females? Boring and predictable films are boring and predictable films no matter if the director is a man or woman.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:28 AM on April 28, 2012


Look up the career of Amy Holden Jones for a quick dose of "OK, what is it that "we" are supposed to expect from female directors"?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:28 AM on April 28, 2012


Somewhere along the line, a myth started that Hollywood is liberal and progressive. No one quite knows why, maybe it’s because film studios don’t hate gay people enough.

Those two sentences were enough to display that the author does not know what he (Martin is a boy's name, isn't it?) is talking about. The reasons for the labeling of Hollywood as Liberal is a complex and interesting subject, one that would make for a much more interesting essay than this disjointed rant. If you go back to the origins and founders of what we call "Hollywood", it probably started "because film studios didn't hate Jews enough." But there are many more factors, including its status as a convenient target for moralistic Conservatives to blame many of the more popular sins of American society on. That's one. And the factors that make it inaccurate are also numerous. Again, a much more interesting topic than this, which falls squarely in the THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN OBVIOUS TO ANYBODY FOR A LONG TIME department. Call me when somebody does a better job on the subject than this.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:39 AM on April 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Extra bonus: No talk of the female directors who have been pulled off projects they started, such as Brenda Chapman, who directed The Prince of Egypt but has gotten yanked off of Brave. (She's still at Pixar but all the little animation-industry-gossipy sites I read say this is to ensure she gets royalties/fees from Brave's release.)
posted by jscott at 2:39 AM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Alongside Bigelow and Campion I think of Antonia Bird: Ravenous and Priest and Cracker on telly. I always look out for her stuff but it's thin on the ground these days. I see on IMDB she's got a new one coming out.
posted by communicator at 2:43 AM on April 28, 2012


So the reason for not liking Nora Ephron is because she is a middle aged woman making movies for middle aged women? I'm not a fan of hers, but that is one of the insulting lines I've ever read in something purporting to be a progressive post. Yes, I am aware there are precious few female directors out there, but those who are out there are under no obligation to make the movies you want them to make. Nor are they automatically worthless because they've realised that women don't suddenly fucking vanish as an audience when they hit 30.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:45 AM on April 28, 2012 [30 favorites]


His argument isn't that Nora Ephron sucks because she only makes movies for middle-aged women. His argument is that if Hollywood were to suddenly spawn a bunch of Nora Ephron clones, and held them all up as "proof that there are lots of successful women directors, see?" that it would not solve the problem.

Imagine if the argument was about a lack of black filmmakers, and someone held up Tyler Perry as a counter argument. Obviously that would be a poor argument, because even though he is wildly successful, his movies tend to be hyper-targeted to a segregated audience. There's nothing daring or "barrier-removing" about that. It's no indication of "trust" by a studio. Tyler Perry is not going to be tapped to direct the next "Historical Oscar-bait Biopic" by one of the studios, just as Ephron is probably not going to be tapped to helm the next Comic Book Action Movie.

He's not saying that Ephron and Perry don't have important parts to play, just that they are little more than the exceptions that prove the rule. Hollywood is historically reluctant to trust women to direct "general appeal" movies.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:08 AM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


This probably wasn't the point of the article but I'd have appreciated a few more examples of good directors-who-are-women. There are some good recommendations in this thread, though, so I'll add three of the ones who came to mind for me, all of whom are British:
  • Lucy Walker makes documentaries. Waste Land is terrific and shows working on the biggest rubbish dump in the world.
  • Andrea Arnold directed Red Road and Fish Tank, both of which won the Jury Prize at Cannes. She also directed last year's Wuthering Heights, although I haven't seen that.
  • Clio Barnard's The Arbor is one of the strangest and most affecting films I've seen. It's about the family of the British playwright Andrea Dunbar, particularly the traumatic life of her eldest daughter, and it's completely lip-synched: while the people on screen are actors, the audio is from the actual people involved.
posted by smcg at 3:21 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lynne Ramsay was the first person I thought of.
posted by Summer at 3:29 AM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mimi Leder directed one of the best non-Bond Bond movies ever, The Pacemaker.
posted by kandinski at 3:35 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I submit Kelly Reichardt, director of Meek's Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy, and Old Joy. Not that this disproves anything about the state of female directors vis-a-vis Hollywood, but that they're great movies and you should watch them.
posted by The Michael The at 4:14 AM on April 28, 2012 [6 favorites]



Mimi Leder directed one of the best non-Bond Bond movies ever, The Pacemaker.


One of my favorite films ever, with some of the best directed action scenes. Highly recommended.

How many female directors are there in American television? Are there more female directors in other countries?

How are things in the writer or producer or sound or special effects fronts, for women?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:18 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lost in Translation

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Produced by Ross Katz
Sofia Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola
Written by Sofia Coppola


Lost in Translation is a 2003 American film written and directed by Sofia Coppola; her second feature film, after The Virgin Suicides (1999), it
posted by Postroad at 4:26 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: "The reasons for the labeling of Hollywood as Liberal is a complex and interesting subject, one that would make for a much more interesting essay than this disjointed rant. "

I never gave the claim that Hollywood is Liberal much thought. I agree that it doesn't really seem to be true. Perhaps - and this is just a guess that many of the actors tend to be liberal for various reasons. The public being what they are sees the public face of the actor and says all of hollywood is that way. They ignore the often times very conservative producers, executives, corporations, etc because they don't seek out the publicity.
posted by 2manyusernames at 4:30 AM on April 28, 2012


"According to statistics compiled by Martha Lauzen, the executive director of Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, just 15 percent of all narrative films made in the United States in 2011, and 5 percent of the 250 with the highest grosses at the box office, were directed by women." [Source]
posted by blucevalo at 4:42 AM on April 28, 2012


Lynne Ramsay was the first person I thought of.

Me too. Criminally unknown (in the US at least). Ratcatcher is one of the best films of the last 15 years.
posted by Falconetti at 4:44 AM on April 28, 2012


His argument isn't that Nora Ephron sucks because she only makes movies for middle-aged women. His argument is that if Hollywood were to suddenly spawn a bunch of Nora Ephron clones, and held them all up as "proof that there are lots of successful women directors, see?" that it would not solve the problem.

I get what you're saying but if you look at the exact words of his quote, I think he betrays a quite remarkable failure in understanding what films studios want to make and how hard it is to get certain types of films made:

"What we don’t need is another Norah Ephron, a middle-aged woman who is fairly successful because she makes movies exclusively for middle-aged women to watch. This is basic logic: If you only make teen movies, you become a teen movie director. If you only make action movies, you become an action director. However, what Ephron does is essentially what studios want women to do: make quaint little romantic comedies that placate their female audience members. Ephron doesn’t make challenging films, what she does is the filmmaking equivalent of Staying In The Kitchen. What we need, from both genders, are filmmakers who aren’t afraid to take risks and work outside their comfort zones."

Studios don't want women to make films for their female audience, especially their middle-aged female audience. They may make them, but it's not easy to get them made, and the budgets are going to be low (generally). They want to make movies for teenage boys, which is why this seems a silly comparison. Twilight is a good example: the studios badly wanted more action, which is one of the reasons Hardwicke got dumped. Whatever you feel about Twilight as a series or a movie (and I think it's quite a lovely looking film in some ways, especially in the shots of the Pacific North-West - and it's, IMO, the best film you could wring out of that book), if it had made that much money from boys 18-25 a raft of similar films would have been made. Because it's a girls' movie...they just filmed the rest of the books and made some more superhero films. (For the record I love superhero films.)

Plus there's is nothing wrong with making films for a female audience, if that's what you want to do and that's what interests you. No more than there is in making documentaries or war movies if that's where your interest lies. The assumption that films that middle-aged women watch can't be challenging is just...well, insulting. The fact that Nora Ephron does not make challenging movies does not mean that you just assume that such films as a genre are not worth pursuing for any director. And there aren't that many of them that aren't costume dramas and have female oriented casts, not in comparison with other sorts of films.

In short, there's some good points here, but overall iI found really dismissive of any film that doesn't have a male appeal, thus ironically repeating the studios' own biases about moviemaking.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:08 AM on April 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


Lisa Cholodenko anyone?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:14 AM on April 28, 2012


So according to the stats cinema attendance is roughly equally split between the genders. So can anyone tell me why pursuing young men is more profitable than women (of all ages) in the studio's eyes?

Is it because girls go to boys' films, but boys won't go to girls' films?
posted by Summer at 5:21 AM on April 28, 2012


So according to the stats cinema attendance is roughly equally split between the genders. So can anyone tell me why pursuing young men is more profitable than women (of all ages) in the studio's eyes?

(Statistics speculation:)

If males all went into one film and the interest of females was split over several films you could have an equal gender split but the one film EVERY male saw will be vastly more profitable.
posted by patrick54 at 5:37 AM on April 28, 2012


Adding both Catherine Breillat and Lucrecia Martel to the list, although both spring from the arthouse side of cinema.
posted by Mintyblonde at 5:39 AM on April 28, 2012


Because up until Titantic, it was cant that Everyone Knows Girls Don't Go To Movies By Themselves. They only go on dates and thus you don't really have to market to them. This was very widely believes until the success of Titantic which is still seen as a Girls Movie despite everyone in the hemisphere having seen it.
posted by The Whelk at 5:43 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Studios don't want women to make films for their female audience, especially their middle-aged female audience.

They DO want that. What they (apparently) DON'T want is for women directors to make any films that aren't typecast as "Women's films." And yeah, as the article says, there may be a certain hypocrisy associated with rewarding Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker." Let's face it, what's the first thing most people thought when they saw that? Hollywood was "taking sides" in Bigelow & Cameron's divorce, and trying to "stick it" to Cameron. (and let's face it, "The Hurt Locker" was good, but was it honestly "best picture of the year" material? Or could it be that the Academy saw a better story in "screwing Cameron" and venerating Bigelow for directing a "guy movie" and this proving themselves to be totally open to female-directed action films, despite the fact that it very rarely happens, and the fact that "Hurt Locker" was one of the most highly pirated movies of all time basically says "Nobody had even heard of this film until it won the award."

The author is right: studios want women to "stay in the kitchen," and they choose to hold up the occasional aberration as some kind of proof that they're totally cool with women directing "not necessarily women's movies."

This kind of comparison always comes up in these kinds of threads, but let's look at Denzel Washington and Halley Berry. The big talk of the day was that there were too few Oscar winning actors of color. What does the Academy do? BAM! Two awards for best actor/actress in the same year. Granted, they were both great performances, and I don't doubt that Denzel could have/should have won in any year, but having them both win the same year just screams out "The Academy is trying to shut up their detractors by throwing them a bone" doesn't it?

They are not suddenly giving more leading roles to black actors, or allowing women to direct "mass appeal" movies. They're letting segregation remain in place, while giving the occasional award as a way of saying "See? We're liberal, we're progressive!"

I really enjoyed "The Hurt Locker," but honestly, I can't tell you a single detail about that movie, as far as a character name, or a line from the film. Not to say that it wasn't deserving, but it sure seems like more of a case of Hollywood writing its own narrative than simply recognizing the best picture of the year.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:46 AM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


If males all went into one film and the interest of females was split over several films you could have an equal gender split but the one film EVERY male saw will be vastly more profitable.

Couldn't that work the other way though?
posted by Summer at 5:47 AM on April 28, 2012


Barbra Streisand has won a Golden Globe for Best Director for Yentl and was nominated for Prince of Tide. Sam Taylor-Wood directed Nowhere Boy, the biopic about the young John Lennon.
posted by das1969 at 5:47 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


was nominated for Prince of Tide

She was famously NOT nominated for the Best Director Oscar for Prince of Tides, however. (the film itself was nominated for best picture) Same thing happened a year or two later with Rob Reiner and "A Few Good Men."
posted by ShutterBun at 5:50 AM on April 28, 2012


Lost in Translation is a 2003 American film written and directed by Sofia Coppola; her second feature film, after The Virgin Suicides (1999), it

[citation required]
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:02 AM on April 28, 2012


Kathryn Bigelow. There's also a fair number of women working jn episodic, like Dennie Gordon and Jessica Yu because of the more regular hours of tv and commercials. Feature film directing isn't remotely family-friendly.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:16 AM on April 28, 2012


Kathryn Bigelow

Have you read ANYTHING that's been posted in this thread, other than the teaser?
posted by ShutterBun at 6:20 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has anyone mentioned Kathryn Bigelow?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:27 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


The female gigolo?
posted by ShutterBun at 6:29 AM on April 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Seriously tho folks, just looked up Mary Harron's career after the amazing triumph of American Psycho and yeesh. She's been remaindered to lady-horror movies and straightto-cable sex kitten pictures (though the Bettie Page movie was actually great). Like she hadn't proven she could helm big time male-centric movies? Way to go Hollywood.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:30 AM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Finally, we need to offer female directors the luxury of failure.

Tellingly, she does not choose Elaine May as an example.
posted by Trurl at 6:57 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh SNAP.

(incidentally, I believe the author of the article is a male)
posted by ShutterBun at 7:06 AM on April 28, 2012


incidentally, I believe the author of the article is a male

Yeah, sexistly, I assumed that only a woman would complain about this.
posted by Trurl at 7:10 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Five movies by five separate female directors are opening in Manhattan this coming Friday.

Make of that what you will. On the other hand, number of female directors in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival: zero.
posted by eugenen at 7:19 AM on April 28, 2012


Look up the career of Amy Holden Jones for a quick dose of "OK, what is it that "we" are supposed to expect from female directors"?

What's even more bizarre is that she directed Slumber Party Massacre with a screenplay by Rita Mae Brown, of Rubyfruit Jungle fame.
posted by jonp72 at 7:23 AM on April 28, 2012


"[Norah] Ephron doesn’t make challenging films, what she does is the filmmaking equivalent of Staying In The Kitchen."

Ouch. He makes a lot of good points here, but the author has no empathy for successful female directors who don't fit his model of what a female director should be.


It's not his model. It's the audience's. Young men buy movie tickets. Hollywood makes movies for them. He's saying there's no reason they can't direct those movies.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:24 AM on April 28, 2012


Seriously tho folks, just looked up Mary Harron's career after the amazing triumph of American Psycho and yeesh. She's been remaindered to lady-horror movies and straightto-cable sex kitten pictures (though the Bettie Page movie was actually great). Like she hadn't proven she could helm big time male-centric movies?

The "amazing triumph" to which you refer made $35 million worldwide. That's not a big-time movie by any stretch of the imagination -- "Dude, Where's My Car" made $45 million just in the U.S.
posted by Etrigan at 7:24 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I am not buying any of this Nora Ephron relativism. She makes bad movies, invariably, objectively, regardless of what gender you are or she is or anyone is.
posted by eugenen at 7:32 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


a screenplay by Rita Mae Brown, of Rubyfruit Jungle fame

In fairness, also of "those 'Cat Who' murder mystery potboilers" fame. Rita Mae Brown contains multitudes!
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:43 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not his model. It's the audience's. Young men buy movie tickets. Hollywood makes movies for them. He's saying there's no reason they can't direct those movies.

There's a difference between "movies marketed to young men" and "challenging movies". I think you're reading what you want to read.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:49 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


What, no love anywhere for Martha Coolidge?
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:49 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not his model. It's the audience's. Young men buy movie tickets. Hollywood makes movies for them. He's saying there's no reason they can't direct those movies.

So do women. And men of all ages. It's just that if a film makes a huge amount of money by appealing largely to women (like the Twilight series) it's discounted as an aberration. If a film makes that much money catering to young men, then it is imitated until no more can be extracted from the concept (and even beyond that). (The Hunger Games will almost certainly be treated the same way, even though it has a cross gender appeal.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:50 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I assume it is something-something investors and studios, but I don't know much more than that. Can anyone recommend a resource on that?

The Business
on KCRW is a good resource for this.

And there are female actors turned directors (why has Streep never done this?) like Drew Barrymore and Angelina Jolie, and sometimes this happens in tv, but not always.

Story from The Guardian, before Oscars two years ago.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:52 AM on April 28, 2012


FWIW, I'm not arguing that the Twilight series is a good movie series, but it certainly has made a ton of money and yet its imitators are noticeable by their absence. Just as I am pretty sure that the lesson the studios will take away from The Hunger Games' success is that we need more movies about dystopias, and not that one can make a ton of money from films with female protagonists.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:52 AM on April 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Feature film directing isn't remotely family-friendly.

Oh geez, where to start with this one...
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:55 AM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why don't you go ahead and try instead of being dismissive.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:57 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I'm not arguing that the Twilight series is a good movie series, but it certainly has made a ton of money and yet its imitators are noticeable by their absence.

The imitators are all over the place...in book stores.

For visual media, there's a smaller stable. The Vampire Diaries, the Kristen Stewart Red Riding Hood, the Kristen Stewart Red Riding Hood movie, and the upcoming adaptation of The Host.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:05 AM on April 28, 2012


Why don't you go ahead and try instead of being dismissive.

The assumption that the domestic family demands placed on women in particular in any way accounts for them being overwhelmingly underrepresented in a high-profile career? Do I need to? What decade is this?
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:08 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just as I am pretty sure that the lesson the studios will take away from The Hunger Games' success is that we need more movies about dystopias, and not that one can make a ton of money from films with female protagonists.

There was some political cartoon a while back when Titantic was released that had two panels

WHAT STUDIOS SHOULD TAKE AWAY FROM TITANIC:

Maybe we should respect passionate filmmakers and let them do the kind of movies they want to do and not ignore half the audience in the process

WHAT STUDIOS WILL TAKE AWAY FROM TITANIC:

BOATS! PEOPLE WANT MOVIES ABOUT BOATS!
posted by The Whelk at 8:10 AM on April 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


WHAT STUDIOS SHOULD TAKE AWAY FROM TITANIC:

Maybe we should respect passionate filmmakers and let them do the kind of movies they want to do and not ignore half the audience in the process

WHAT STUDIOS WILL TAKE AWAY FROM TITANIC:

BOATS! PEOPLE WANT MOVIES ABOUT BOATS!


Wha? But Cameron's next movie was Avatar, which was another expensive flight of fancy. I don't remember any other boat movies, although do I remember a few (but just a few) movies intended to capitalize on Leo as a cutie-pie, e.g. The Man in the Iron Mask.

And for every successful flight of fancy like Titanic or Avatar, you wind up with several box office bombs like John Carter or Toys. Like it or not, expensive passion projects don't always pan out. Plus, they're expensive.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:15 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leni Riefenstahl?

OK I admit, I had to Google her just to make sure I was spelling her name right. I always want to spell in Reichenstahl, no idea why....
posted by davros42 at 8:19 AM on April 28, 2012


The article uses Amy Heckerling as an example, saying that one bad movie derailed her post-Clueless career.

Clueless had a short-lived spin-off television show and a series a spin-off books. That's a huge win for something that didn't have any film sequels.

But Heckerling followed that up with not one bomb, but five bombs, many of which she wrote, produced and directed. Loser, A Night at the Roxbury, I Could Never Be Your Woman, Vamps, and Molly.

This is not "doomed to DVD by a single failure." This is "taking the Clueless money and making a series of tough choices, staying independent, but not having things pan out."

I mean, fer Chrissakes, I Could Never Be Your Woman starred Michelle Pfieffer and Paul Rudd, not exactly a bottom-of-the-barrel cast. We should all be so lucky.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:28 AM on April 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lina Wertmüller too.
posted by cazoo at 8:33 AM on April 28, 2012


This interview with Lexi Alexander (from the How Did This Get Made podcast) about her movie Punisher War Zone is lots of fun and has some thoughts about the issue of a woman directing the kind of movie women don't usually get to direct.
posted by straight at 8:34 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Plus there's is nothing wrong with making films for a female audience, if that's what you want to do and that's what interests you. No more than there is in making documentaries or war movies if that's where your interest lies. The assumption that films that middle-aged women watch can't be challenging is just...well, insulting. The fact that Nora Ephron does not make challenging movies does not mean that you just assume that such films as a genre are not worth pursuing for any director.

I don't think there is an assumption that films made for middle aged women can't be challenging (though Nora Ephron's are not). I think you're making an assumption that good movies must be challenging.

You can make a case for that proposition, but true or not, the author doesn't give a flying fuck about it. He's arguing that we need to break the glass ceiling in Hollywood which excludes female directors from being given mainstream, megabudget films, because it's those directors who have power within the system.

I have some sympathy for that argument --- it's all very well to sniff "you just go ahead and keep your big dumb movies with 'splosions and stuff, we'll be off in the corner, doing interesting, complicated movies for thoughtful people, thank you very much." I'd say to the studios the art house is a ghetto, and having access to power is required for true equality. There are directors out there who get to make pretty much any interesting project that they want to make --- because they have a proven track record of producing moneymakers (soderbergh and Nolan come to mind). Whereas most directors have to scrape and scrounge and hustle for funding to do one film in a decade. If the chicks never get a chance to do a big dumb blockbuster, they'll never win the clout to do a whole shelf of interesting projects.

(presuming of course, that the studio system survives the next decade or so. If it doesn't maybe Felicia Day will be the new model.)
posted by Diablevert at 8:35 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Female movie directors invited to presidential gala dinner in celebration of Women's Day

attending:

Ana Carolina Soares
Ana Luiza Azevedo
Ana Maria Magalhães
Betse de Paula
Bia Lessa
Carla Camurati
Daniela Thomas
Eliana Fonseca
Eliane Caffé
Flávia Moraes
Georgia Guerra-Peixe
Izabel Jaguaribe
Katia Lund
Lina Chamie
Lô Politi
Lucélia Santos
Lúcia Murat
Maria Mathilde Mourão
Mariana Caltabiano
Marina Person
Monique Gardenberg
Patrícia Pilar
Rosane Svartman
Sandra Werneck
Suzana Amaral
Tetê Moraes
Tizuka Yamasaki
posted by Tom-B at 8:39 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The imitators are all over the place...in book stores.

That's true, and that's why initially I thought a huge amount of those would be optioned and a certain number would actually become films. And then it turned out that what they decided to make was "I am Number Four"...which well, you could see someone thinking there "IT WILL MAKE EVEN MORE MONEY BECAUSE THE LEAD IS A BOY! BUT IT'S GOT THE LOVE STUFF TO0 AND GIRLS WILL JUST GO ALONG WITH IT."

I guess I just get tired of whole 'success only counts if something is successful among men 18-25' (or whatever the age bracket it), because it not only excludes so many people it is seriously bloody dumb reasoning. As someone who likes superhero movies and things with giant explosions it would be nice if they would occasionally be a bit more diverse. (One interesting thing is to look at trailers for these films and see if they actually bother to give the women any lines at all, or just flash to them so you can see there is one there.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:39 AM on April 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's true, and that's why initially I thought a huge amount of those would be optioned and a certain number would actually become films.

The studios may be wise to the fact that the audience for Twilight doesn't want to see Twilight knock-offs - they want to see Twilight.

For better and for worse, I think the true legacy of Twilight-as-a-film-franchise is to be found in things like the new Spider-Man, which appears to be going for some of the same mood and will-they-won't-they kissery. Of course it also has a male main character, so there's no victory for feminism there, but then again, it's not like Bella had been the draw for Twilight.

The true victor may be technically independent studios like Lionsgate, who probably bought the rights to The Hunger Games for relatively cheap. If they can think outside the box and profit handsomely from it, the studios will fumble and crumble in their wake.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:45 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously tho folks, just looked up Mary Harron's career after the amazing triumph of American Psycho and yeesh. She's been remaindered to lady-horror movies and straightto-cable sex kitten pictures...

The "amazing triumph" to which you refer made $35 million worldwide. That's not a big-time movie by any stretch of the imagination


According to box office mojo, the average income for a Wes Anderson film is 23m; for david lynch it's 12.3 - seems like it's possible to get green-lighted even when you don't make a huge amount of money. And even if American Psycho wasn't a huge box office hit, isn't it fair to say at least that it was a striking movie that showed a director with strong potential?
posted by mdn at 8:57 AM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I never gave the claim that Hollywood is Liberal much thought. I agree that it doesn't really seem to be true. Perhaps - and this is just a guess that many of the actors tend to be liberal for various reasons.... They ignore the often times very conservative producers, executives, corporations, etc because they don't seek out the publicity.
In general, the entertainment industry leans Democratic in its political giving. In 2008, Democrats received 78 percent of the industry’s contributions. This continues the trend of the entertainment industry contributing more to Democrats during the past two decades with 70 percent of donations going to Democrats compared to 29 percent for Republicans.
Note that this list is diluted by cable companies. Studios and production companies, like Dreamworks and Carsey-Werner, give almost entirely to Democrats.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:31 AM on April 28, 2012


Just stopping by to say: Gurinder Chadha. Bend it Like Beckham grossed about $75 million worldwide. Bride and Prejudice didn't do that well but makes me happy every time I watch it.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:36 AM on April 28, 2012


Agnès Varda was the first to come to mind, followed closely by Sofia Coppola.
posted by schyler523 at 9:44 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Claire Denis is another. Beau travail is one of my favorite movies ever.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:51 AM on April 28, 2012


According to box office mojo, the average income for a Wes Anderson film is 23m; for david lynch it's 12.3 - seems like it's possible to get green-lighted even when you don't make a huge amount of money. And even if American Psycho wasn't a huge box office hit, isn't it fair to say at least that it was a striking movie that showed a director with strong potential?

True, all that. That said, Harron does have a very successful TV career, which should not be denigrated as mere TV work.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:56 AM on April 28, 2012


Gale Anne Hurd.

Jeez, some of the biggest movie franchises were created by women.

Perhaps this issue is more a problem of the ignorance of the article author.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:17 AM on April 28, 2012


Charlie, the article is about directors, which Hurd isn't.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:31 AM on April 28, 2012


Hollywood is realizing what we all should have learned by college: That women are not a separate species whose brains evolved differently to like cuddly stuff and hate movies about people punching people.
As long as those people are Ryan Gosling.
posted by deathpanels at 11:00 AM on April 28, 2012


This far in and no mention of Julie Tamor?
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:02 AM on April 28, 2012


According to box office mojo, the average income for a Wes Anderson film is 23m; for david lynch it's 12.3 - seems like it's possible to get green-lighted even when you don't make a huge amount of money.

Possible, yes. But Hollywood doesn't owe Wes Anderson or David Lynch their next movie, any more than it owes Mary Harron another chance after what can charitably be referred to as a minor success at the box office. Potomac Avenue asserted shock that she was never given the helm of more "big time male-centric movies" after the "amazing triumph" of American Psycho, which was neither big-time nor a triumph from the bean-counter standpoint.
posted by Etrigan at 11:14 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Charlie, the article is about directors, which Hurd isn't.

In many cases (like this one) producers are more powerful than directors. Just as an example, Kathryn Bigelow's power in Hollywood largely came about due to her signing a multi-picture deal as Producer.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:43 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sarah Polley directed one of my favorite films, Away From Her.
posted by dorkydancer at 11:58 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since a lot of folks have read my complaint about the Norah Ephron diss in really ways really divergent from my original intent, lemme clarify. When the author claims that:

[Norah] Ephron doesn’t make challenging films, what she does is the filmmaking equivalent of Staying In The Kitchen.

I am NOT arguing that:
- "oh hey, her films are actually good and/or important and/or praiseworthy! How dare he besmirch her work by comparing her to a housewife!"

Instead, my problem here is that:
- the author is asserting something like "[films I don't like] and/or [films that don't fit my definition of feminism] = the Uncle Tom of gender relations."
- the phrase "Staying in the Kitchen" (capitalized in the article) has a particular history in second-wave feminism, which included the unfortunate effects of: 1) blaming women working within a system that is unfair to them, which smacks of a kind of political purism that is only the luxury of the privileged [e.g., see a some of the racial/ethnic critiques of early feminism]; 2) tended to be used as a convenient bat to knock down "heretic" women whose way of being a woman doesn't match with your particular notion of correct, politically-enlightened, feminism.
- also, I'd like to think that, much as modern feminism should have no time for slut-shaming, there should also be no time for housewife-shaming, so the underlying insult is a problem in itself.
- and so, this author takes the rhetorical equivalent of a sledgehammer to a saltine cracker to vilify a female director whose prime crimes seem to be making shitty movies and not making the kind of films the author expects from female directors. [what does he expect/demand/etc from male directors, if anything?]

whoo. That was longer than I expected.
posted by LMGM at 2:12 PM on April 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


^from above: subtract one "really". My kingdom for an edit window.
posted by LMGM at 2:13 PM on April 28, 2012


Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry, Stop-Loss, the Carrie reboot that's filming now) also not on the list.
posted by catlet at 3:46 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how easy it is to get a hold of, but interested parties should definitely seek out Marzieh Makhmalbaf's The Day I Became a Woman.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:14 PM on April 28, 2012


Are you done? Now, let me make some predictions here, tell me if I’m wrong. You probably mentioned Sophia Coppola

Ooooh, got me there. But at least I know how she spells her first name.
posted by malocchio at 5:22 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Margarethe von Trotta !
Deepa Mehta!

Then I thought "Studio D" (Canada's NFB's old division for women directors) and was a bit sad (it was closed in 1996 during Canada's last round of major budget cuts).

Canada's 2012 budget cut both NFB and telefilm canada, wondering ho this will impact less prominent voices in film up north.
posted by chapps at 5:43 PM on April 28, 2012


I would like there to be more successful female directors, but Catherine Hardwicke can fuck right off and take Twilight with her. After making that movie, it's impossible to see her as some sort of feminist hero, and that's before even considering how objectively bad it is.

In defense of Catherine Hardwicke, her first two films: Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown.

Blaming her for the problems with Twilight is pretty laughable. The story is terrible. The script is terrible. The actors are terrible. Okay, some of the blame should fall to her - but I actually think the indy look of that film is one of the very few upsides to it.

She was also kicked out of the franchise for being "difficult", which is something women are often penalised for - even in the world of filmmakers, whose male directors are often difficult (ie. James Cameron, Michael Bay) but they are given a pass. Maybe not just because they are men (their films make shitloads of money) but they are certainly never penalised for their egos or for being "difficult".

And this is a prime example of what female directors face: they can make a shitty populist film and they are lambasted for it, but male directors make shitty populist films all the time and they keep making film after film.

Female filmmakers I thought of that haven't been mentioned: Jocelyn Moorhouse, Gurinda Chadha, Gillian Armstrong.
posted by crossoverman at 9:51 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mira Nair, who directed Monsoon Wedding and some other famous ones. Maybe she's too international for the list in the article, which seemed to define 'Hollywood' somewhat narrowly.
posted by librarylis at 10:04 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


crossoverman: "Blaming her for the problems with Twilight is pretty laughable. The story is terrible. The script is terrible. The actors are terrible. Okay, some of the blame should fall to her - but I actually think the indy look of that film is one of the very few upsides to it."

I think it's completely reasonable to blame a director for accepting a project where he/she knows all these things are terrible and that he/she won't be given a lot of freedom to fix it. Also, the same actors have been at least decent in other things, so that also falls on her.

So, yeah, if you accept a project with a bunch of unfixable problems and a grievously anti-feminist philosophy because you know you'll make a bunch of money on it, don't expect too much sympathy.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:51 PM on April 28, 2012


Late to the party, but I'd like to add this, from cockeyed.com: "After compiling a list of the most famous movie directors, there was no escaping the fact that no women made the list. Women movie directors do exist. Behold their list of achievements." Rob Cockerham made a list of directors he regularly confused, and then noticed it had no women on it. So he made a second list, just of women directors. (Note: The links on the page go to amazon.com . This page is to some degree just a big advertisement. But it's also useful as a reference.)
posted by themanwho at 11:18 PM on April 28, 2012


No love for Nancy Myers? She's like Nora Ephron with more funny.

I went to a screening of It's Complicated, where Myers spoke after about the making of the film. She talked about how hard she had to fight to get the movie made, even with a Big Star like Streep firmly attached. She made the point that one of the reasons that there are so few female directors is that many get discouraged by the resistance to female-focused material, and by the long slog to get a film into theatres. Many female directors go do something easier.

I have personally noticed that as the barrier to entry drops with digital filmmaking, more women are making indie films.

A couple of other data points from Hollywood:

Catherine Hardwicke is a badass. She clawed her way out of the art department into the director's chair without doing anything else in between. Even Ridley Scott can't claim that. She took Twilight because she dug the books, and saw a way into the Big Time. In this town, that's the way you become a Bankable Commodity™ who can get things financed just by saying you want to do the movie. She's not there yet, but she may be soon.

Want to see the real CH? Watch Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown.

Next, the filmmaker clearly doesn't know a thing about Hollywood. The Studios are run by women. Oh, sure most of the jefes are guys, but there are plenty of women in the executive suite running the show. Generally, I find the women in the studios to be easier to work with than the men. In part, because they tend to take their work more seriously and care about the projects, and also because they lack the male-dominance-challenge behavior that screws up many business relationships.
posted by ScarletPumpernickel at 12:26 AM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


She clawed her way out of the art department into the director's chair without doing anything else in between.

That's a good thing...when it works. Otherwise it looks like the people on the money switch don't know what they're doing.

I'm in a unique position of having some kinda inside-ish knowledge about her next project, and based on what I've seen and heard so far, it's gonna be god-awful. (the people I know were hired specifically to make sure it's not god-awful, and reports from them indicate that they've got their work cut out for them)
posted by ShutterBun at 2:36 AM on April 29, 2012


This is a real, very irritating issue, and duh, the Bechdel test, but the author needs to do a little research, because this reads like a whiny blog post and is Not Helping.
posted by desuetude at 11:09 PM on April 29, 2012


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