Friday, November 20, 2015

Did Geena Davis tell Maureen Dowd the name of the male Hollywood director who hugged her every day on set "because I like feeling you up?"

UPDATE: But Maureen does not ask Geena Davis -- or did she? -- the name of the male director who once told her on set that he enjoyed hugging her each morning when she came in to work "because I like feeling you up!" He said that to her, and Geena told him point blank to his face that she did not like the remark and to never do and say such a thing again, and the guy defended himself by saying he was a longtime feminist yada yada yada but to this day Geena won't  tell reporters who the man was even though she did tell Elizabeth Day at the Observer in the UK about the incident and the quote. Why not name the man? He did wrong. UPDATE: He is said by observers now looking into this that he is likely to be the director of one of four possible and specific movies starring Geena Davis as the list has been narrowed down to just these four men.


The Women of
Hollywood Speak Out

Female executives and filmmakers are ready to run studios
and direct blockbuster pictures. What will it take to dismantle
the pervasive sexism that keeps them from doing it?

Colin Trevorrow’s Hollywood fairy tale started at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. The bespectacled, bearded director, then 35, came to Park City, Utah, with an endearingly quirky time-travel romantic comedy executive-produced by the endearingly quirky Duplass brothers, Mark and Jay, and starring Mark. The $750,000 indie film, ‘‘Safety Not Guaranteed,’’ went on to make $4 million in theaters.
The young director soon found a mentor in Brad Bird, who became famous at Pixar directing ‘‘The Incredibles’’ and ‘‘Ratatouille.’’ Trevorrow started hanging out with Bird on the set of his big-budget George Clooney movie, ‘‘Tomorrowland.’’ Bird called his pal Frank Marshall, a producer of ‘‘Jurassic World,’’ to give him a heads up.

‘‘There is this guy,’’ Bird said, ‘‘that reminds me of me.’’
Marshall was so impressed with Trevorrow that he took him to meet Steven Spielberg. That’s where Trevorrow hit the jackpot: He was tapped to direct and co-write the $150 million ‘‘Jurassic World.’’ The movie went on to make $1.6 billion, and Trevorrow was signed to direct the ninth ‘‘Star Wars.’’
That kind of leap — from indie to blockbuster — is almost exclusively reserved for young guys in baseball caps who remind older guys in baseball caps of themselves. Kathryn Bigelow, a unique figure in Hollywood, got a big budget for ‘‘K-19: The Widowmaker.’’ The director Patty Jenkins’s ‘‘Wonder Woman’’ will arrive in 2017. No other woman in Hollywood has directed a $100 million live-action film.
In August, Trevorrow drew ire by suggesting that the dearth of female directors making films involving ‘‘superheroes or spaceships or dinosaurs’’ was because not many women had the desire to direct studio blockbusters. He had already drawn a backlash for portraying Bryce Dallas Howard’s character as a cold career woman running away from dinosaurs in high heels. ‘‘Would I have been chosen to direct ‘Jurassic World’ if I was a female filmmaker who had made one small film?’’ Trevorrow mused in an email to ‘‘I have no idea.’’
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Top row, from left: Miranda July, Jessica Elbaum, Helen Hunt. Middle: Jennifer Lee, Mimi Leder, Kathleen Kennedy. Bottom: Shira Piven, Linda Woolverton, Anjelica Huston.
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Slide Show|63 Photos

Waiting for the Green Light

Waiting for the Green Light

CreditArt Streiber for The New York Times

Every woman who has ever had a film at Sundance has an idea, because they have watched male peers at the festival vault with ease across the chasm to Hollywood studios, agents, financing and big paychecks. ‘‘If they make a $150 million movie with women directing or starring, and it bombs, they take it a little harder,’’ says the director Adam McKay, who is Will Ferrell’s writing and producing partner. ‘‘You can trace that to the old-school guys in the boardrooms.’’
Leslye Headland is a 34-year-old writer and director who was in the same 2012 Sundance class as Trevorrow, with the movie version of her scorching Off Broadway play, ‘‘Bachelorette.’’ She bristles with ambition to do everything he is doing. Sitting in a red leather banquette at the Monkey Bar in New York, Headland told me she wants to be a Martin Scorsese, and ‘‘not just the female Martin Scorsese.’’ She wants to direct a James Bond movie, ‘‘even if I have to marry someone to get British citizenship.’’ She wants to make films in which women behave badly and are not held to a higher moral standard or seen as ‘‘less than.’’ She wants to look cool in magazine pictures so that ‘‘little girls will put female filmmakers on their Pinterest boards.’’
In her black-and-cream miniskirt and black Balenciaga hightops, Headland was a magnetic presence with a throaty voice and a booming laugh. She had a Nicki Minaj ring tone, ‘‘Truffle Butter,’’ and several movie tattoos: ‘‘redrum’’ from ‘‘The Shining’’ on her lower back; a line from ‘‘War Games’’ — ‘‘The only winning move is to not play’’ — on her left forearm; ‘‘How would Lubitsch do it?’’ in script on her right. Harvey Weinstein, for whom Headland worked as a receptionist and assistant, calls her ‘‘wildly talented.’’
Headland made this fall’s ‘‘Sleeping With Other People,’’ a raunchy rom-com starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie, in 25 days for $5 million from a script she drafted in two weeks, chronicling her obsession with a ‘‘lame’’ ex-boyfriend. ‘‘Quentin Tarantino can make ‘Pulp Fiction’ for $8 million and you can slap him on any magazine,’’ Headland said. ‘‘He’s the poster boy. He was for me. I want to be that guy even though he looks like a foot. God bless him, and he can do whatever he wants to my feet. But with a female director, you’re just not celebrated the same way.’’
Female directors are in what ‘‘Girls’’ creator Lena Dunham calls ‘‘a dark loop.’’ If they don’t have experience, they can’t get hired, and if they can’t get hired, they can’t get experience. ‘‘Without the benefit of Google,’’ Headland said, ‘‘ask anybody to name more than five female filmmakers that have made more than three films. It’s shockingly hard.’’
The problem is so glaring that in 2005, the actress Geena Davis, who would go on to start her own gender institute, commissioned Stacy Smith, a researcher at the University of Southern California, to study the issue and help push the studios beyond Dude World. From 2007 through 2014, according to Smith’s research, women made up only 30.2 percent of speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing fictional films.
But the most wildly lopsided numbers have to do with who is behind the lens. In both 2013 and 2014, women were only 1.9 percent of the directors for the 100 top-grossing films. Excluding their art-house divisions, the six major studios released only three movies last year with a female director. It’s hard to believe the number could drop to zero, but the statistics suggest female directors are slipping backward. Prof. Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University reports that in 2014, 95 percent of cinematographers, 89 percent of screenwriters, 82 percent of editors, 81 percent of executive producers and 77 percent of producers were men.
‘‘It’s kind of like the church,’’ notes the actress Anjelica Huston, whose father, John Huston, helped set the template for macho directors. ‘‘They don’t want us to be priests. They want us to be obedient nuns.’’
Hollywood’s toxic brew of fear and sexism has kept women even more confined than those in legendary male bastions like Silicon Valley, where 10.8 percent of executive officers are women; corporate America, where about 16 percent of executive officers at S.&P. 100 companies are women; and Congress, where 20 percent of the House and Senate are women.
But a series of events over the past year finally put the issue in the spotlight and gave a cascade of women the courage to talk about it. First, there was the Sony Pictures hack, which revealed the crazy fact that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams received less money than Jeremy Renner for ‘‘American Hustle.’’ Below the level of the studio head Amy Pascal, it turned out that the top executives at Sony were nearly all white and male. After the hack, Manohla Dargis, co-chief film critic for The New York Times, wrote a three-part series on the plight of female directors, calling the imbalance ‘‘immoral, maybe illegal.’’ And in May, the A.C.L.U. in Los Angeles and the A.C.L.U.’s Women’s Rights Project in New York petitioned state and federal agencies to look into the matter, which spurred the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to open an investigation.
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Top row, from left: Rose McGowan, Catherine Hardwicke, Frankie Shaw. Middle: Cathy Schulman, Hannah Fidell, Lisa Cholodenko. Bottom: Geena Davis, Karyn Kusama, Maggie Carey.

There had long been a strange sort of omertà on talking about the gender disparity. Even though women watched things getting worse, said Helen Hunt, the actress and director, it was hard to speak up: ‘‘Women who say it’s not O.K. are wet blankets or sore losers.’’ When I began reporting this article several months ago and asked some male moguls in the entertainment industry for their perspectives, they shrugged the issue off as ‘‘bogus’’ or ‘‘a tempest in a teapot.’’
‘‘Not that many women have succeeded in the movie business,’’ one top entertainment boss told me, while insisting on anonymity. ‘‘A lot of ’em haven’t tried hard enough. We’re tough about it. It’s a hundred-year-old business, founded by a bunch of old Jewish European men who did not hire anybody of color, no women agents or executives. We’re still slow at anything but white guys.’’
When I phoned another powerful Hollywood player to ask about the issue, he said dismissively, ‘‘Call some chicks.’’
So I did. I talked to more than 100 women and men at all levels of Hollywood. What I heard was an avalanche of previously pent-up fears, regrets, recriminations and recommendations. Beyond the bad numbers were a lot of raw emotions.
Even though I grew up in the shadow of the Washington Monument, the jutting symbol of a capital under male dominion, I knew long before Sheryl Sandberg that women could lean in. I learned it from film-noir vixens with guns in their purses, who never worried about being called bossy and never hesitated to pursue happiness — in all directions. At their best, movies can be instructions in how to live and how not to live, and can help us invent the verbal and visual vocabulary with which we engage the world.
When my older brother took me to the American Film Institute to see old movies with Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Ida Lupino — the first actor to write, produce and direct her own films — my imagination was fired by smart, powerful women. Carole Lombard made me dream of being funny and glamorous.
‘‘I’ve gotten into watching old movies on TCM,’’ Jennifer Lee, co-director of ‘‘Frozen,’’ told me. ‘‘And what kills me is the female characters are fantastic, complicated, messy, and they aren’t oversexualized, and I love them.’’ Actresses were second-class citizens then too, but at least they had juicy parts. The dictatorial and crass Hollywood moguls actually cared about art. They would take all the literary best sellers, throw starlets into them and make prestige movies.
Although the pioneers’ names have been forgotten in modern Hollywood, female filmmakers started out with gusto. Alice Guy Blaché, who worked as a secretary to Léon Gaumont, a Frenchman who sold cameras and film, picked up a camera in 1896 and helped invent narrative filmmaking in France and Hollywood. ‘‘It is true that I passed for a phenomenon,’’ she wrote in her memoir, adding that she knew it was an ‘‘unfeminine’’ career but didn’t care. In 1910, she became the first woman to found and run her own film studio, along with her husband and a partner. Over her career, she would oversee nearly 750 films, including cross-dressing comedies, movies playing with the gender roles in marriage and action films featuring heroines.
In 1914, Lois Weber, who was mentored by Guy Blaché, became the first American woman to direct a full-length feature, ‘‘The Merchant of Venice,’’ in which she also starred as Portia. Infused with the conviction that film could change culture, she made movies about contraception, capital punishment and poverty. She ran a production company with her husband’s help, but he often deferred to her judgment. She had great taste and said her ideal picture entertainment was ‘‘a well-assorted shelf of books come to life.’’
Dorothy Arzner, a screenwriter and director who worked in Hollywood from 1922 to 1943, had her technicians rig a microphone to a fishing pole, essentially inventing the boom mike. She helped Katharine Hepburn get her start and still has the largest body of work by a woman director. ‘‘No one gave me trouble because I was a woman,’’ she said in 1974. ‘‘Men were more helpful than women.’’ The veteran director Allison Anders tells boom operators on her projects that their jobs were created by a woman.
So given such remarkable trailblazers, how did women in Hollywood start reeling backward?
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Top row, from left: Dee Rees, Shonda Rhimes, Gillian Robespierre. Middle: Jamie Babbit, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Rebecca Miller. Bottom: Lake Bell, Sarah Gavron, Denise Di Novi.

The more I talked to people, the clearer it became that if the luminous Hollywood of my childhood was obliterated for good, it all started with ‘‘Jaws’’ in the summer of 1975, which would devour half a billion dollars at the box office. America fell in love with the blockbuster, and Hollywood got hooked on the cohort of 15-year-old boys. It has never wavered in this obsession, even though girls and women buy half the movie tickets and watch more TV series, and even though teenage boys are increasingly fixated on gaming.
In the ’80s, the paradigm that ‘‘Jaws’’ helped create shifted yet again. Studios began being swallowed by conglomerates, and as Norma Desmond predicted, the picture business became small. Box-office revenues would eventually go from 70-30 domestic/international to 30-70, which meant foreign markets were calling the shots. Dialogue and women who weren’t in leather cat suits became superfluous. Crunching data, foreign sales companies started providing the presale estimates for the value of a movie and its stars outside the United States, and producers would borrow money against those estimates. They often want the male players attached before the female ones because men tend to have more value in foreign sales. ‘‘The moment you mention it’s a female director to foreign companies, you can see the eyes roll,’’ said one woman leading a studio. ‘‘Buyers want action films, and they don’t see women as action directors.’’
Over a gin martini, asparagus, foie gras and gluten-free bread at dinner in Boston, where he was directing a reboot of ‘‘Ghostbusters’’ with actresses, Paul Feig talked about trying to break through all the macho myths that suck up creative oxygen. Feig, the creator of ‘‘Freaks and Geeks’’ and the director of ‘‘Bridesmaids’’ and ‘‘Spy’’ with Melissa McCarthy, was called an ‘‘honorary woman’’ by Jezebel. He confessed that he had had a terrible time persuading studios to let him make movies with female leads for fear they would flop abroad. ‘‘ ‘Spy’ was my response to it,’’ he said. ‘‘It made 125 million overseas.’’ But there are still barriers. ‘‘We can’t get ‘Spy’ released in Japan,’’ he said. ‘‘Russia has tended to be resistant to female leads.’’
Penny Marshall, the director and actress, told me in that hilarious nasal whine: ‘‘All they like is ‘Superman,’ ‘Batman,’ those kinds of things, because it sells foreign, because it doesn’t have a lot of dialogue. Even the comedies are sophomoric. They remake things that are lying there while the people who have done it already are still alive. I’ve read and seen horrible stuff. Sometimes the people who are in charge of things are a little dumb.’’
There is plenty of evidence — from ‘‘Mamma Mia’’ to ‘‘Bridesmaids’’ to ‘‘Frozen’’ to ‘‘Hunger Games’’ to ‘‘Maleficent’’ to ‘‘Fifty Shades of Grey’’ to the summer’s ‘‘Pitch Perfect 2’’ and ‘‘Trainwreck’’ — that movies aimed at women or directed by women can make a ton of profit. And women like the Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, the ABC powerhouse Shonda Rhimes and the Universal Pictures chairwoman Donna Langley are minting money. But Hollywood continues to treat those successes as anomalies.
‘‘The world of movies is fascinating to me because everyone has amnesia all the time,’’ Rhimes told me. ‘‘Every time a female-driven project is made and succeeds, somehow it’s a fluke. Instead of just saying ‘The Hunger Games’ is popular among young women, they say it only made money because Jennifer Lawrence was luminous and amazing. I mean, you go get yours, girl. But seriously, that’s ridiculous. There’s a very hungry audience of young women dying to see some movies. They came out for ‘Titanic’ and ‘Twilight,’ 14-year-old girls going back to see those movies every day. I find it fascinating that this audience is not being respected. In the absence of water, people drink sand. And that is sad. There’s such an interest in things being equal and such a weary acceptance that it’s not.’’
From Nora Ephron to Dee Rees, women who write their own material may have a better chance to direct it. But even in the writing phase, women must contend with Hollywood conventions that women on-screen must be likable or cleave to Madonna-whore-catfight stereotypes. ‘‘I’ve had male executives say that my lead character was unlikable because she slept with a lot of guys,’’ says the director Julie Taymor. Liz Meriwether, the 34-year-old creator of Fox’s ‘‘New Girl,’’ says that before this show, she received notes from executives saying, ‘‘I don’t understand how this character can be smart and sexy.’’
Female writers in Hollywood told me they are used to hearing things like ‘‘Can you insert a rape scene here?’’ or ‘‘Can they go to a strip club here?’’ or ‘‘Can you rewrite the fat friend for Eva Mendes? She has high marks for foreign distribution.’’ They trade stories about how a schlubby male studio head mutters that he doesn’t want to look at ‘‘ugly actresses,’’ and how schlubby male directors, caught up in their fantasy world, choose one beautiful actress over another simply because she has a hair color that fits their customized sexual daydream. ‘‘I still see storytelling for men by men that is always reinforcing the male gaze,’’ says Jill Soloway, the Emmy-winning creator of Amazon’s ‘‘Transparent,’’ which is based on her own parent, a trans woman played by Jeffrey Tambor. Karyn Kusama, who directed ‘‘Girlfight’’ and ‘‘Jennifer’s Body,’’ told me that ‘‘the No. 1 script motif I read is a woman chained to a wall. It’s almost de rigueur now. I look back nostalgically at slasher films. At least then, the girls were main characters in speaking roles.’’
Lena Dunham laments that, instead of creating space for women to tell stories they are naturally good at telling, the studios just keep trying to wedge them into narrow, clichéd concepts. After her debut feature, ‘‘Tiny Furniture,’’ studio executives pitched her film ideas about a tooth fairy with an evil agenda and kids on a crazy holiday adventure. ‘‘If you watch my movie,’’ she says, ‘‘you understand I am perverse and weird and angry and not looking to direct a film that ends with a bunch of teenagers exploding into glitter.’’
On Oscar night, Meryl Streep leapt to applaud Patricia Arquette when she pleaded for equal pay for women. She followed up by funding a writing lab for Hollywood’s untouchable caste, women screenwriters over 40. ‘‘It’s harder for men to imagine themselves as the girl in the movies than it is for me to imagine myself as Daniel Craig bringing down the building,’’ the ‘‘Suffragette’’ star said, curled up on a couch in the Greenwich Hotel’s restaurant in TriBeCa. ‘‘Boys are never encouraged to imagine what it is like to be female. The reason I know this is because when I made ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ it was the very first time men came to me after the film and said, ‘I know how you felt.’ ’’
Streep isn’t the only player investing in women’s voices from the start of the filmmaking process. Amy Poehler, Reese Witherspoon, Paul Feig, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner; J. C. Chandor and Anna Gerb; and Adam McKay and Will Ferrell have all started production companies aimed at showcasing women. ‘‘I don’t think it’s a moral issue,’’ McKay said. ‘‘It’s just a stupid artistic and business decision. If everyone’s gonna pass on all the strong, ass-kicking lady directors and writers out there, we’ll take them.’’ (As Jenji Kohan, creator of “Orange Is the New Black,” told me, “Talent with all sorts of genitalia’’ can make money.)
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Top row, from left: Letia Clouston, Liz Meriwether, Leslye Headland. Middle: Lena Dunham, Marielle Heller, Maryam Keshavarz. Bottom: Jennifer Getzinger, Allison Anders, Lucy Fisher.

I visited the West Hollywood offices of McKay and Ferrell’s Gloria Sanchez Productions. In the middle is a life-size wooden horse, a thank-you gift from Melissa McCarthy for her comedy ‘‘Tammy.’’ I sat down with Jessica Elbaum, who started as Ferrell’s assistant and is now the head of production, and Shira Piven, a director who is the wife of McKay and the sister of Jeremy. Elbaum produced Piven’s dark comedy, ‘‘Welcome to Me,’’ with Kristen Wiig.
‘‘I think there’s a fear that females can only tell female stories, like if they’re given free rein, they’ll just write stories where everyone’s braiding each other’s hair and crying,’’ said Elbaum, 38. The soft-spoken Piven said: ‘‘I feel that there is something going on underneath all of this which is the idea that women aren’t quite as interesting as men. That men have heroic lives, do heroic things, are these kind of warriors in the world, and that women have a certain set of rooms that they have to operate in.’’
As Dana Calvo, the creator of the new Amazon drama ‘‘Good Girls Revolt,’’ about the 1970 class-action lawsuit by women at Newsweek against the magazine, puts it: ‘‘I may be wrong, but I get the sense that the worst fear of men in Hollywood is that there’s going to be crying, that women will turn everything into ‘Beaches’ and ‘Terms of Endearment.’ And even if there is sex, what if there’s crying after sex?’’
Unlike writing, ‘‘directing is an invisible art,’’ says Leslye Headland. But it has a very visible impact. Martha Lauzen of San Diego State noted in a recent study that films with female directors employ ‘‘substantially higher percentages of women in other key behind-the-scenes roles.’’
But if only 1.9 percent of the top 100 films are helmed by women, there is virtually no trickle-down effect. ‘‘What struck me the most was how blatant and out in the open some of the discrimination was,’’ says Ariela Migdal, who initially helped oversee the A.C.L.U. gender-discrimination case. ‘‘Agents openly say, ‘I’m not putting you up for that because this guy won’t hire a woman director.’ The list for directing big films is five plausible dudes and Kathryn Bigelow. And Bigelow is not going to direct ‘Jurassic World.’ You can’t have a list with no women.’’ Executives have been known to say, ‘‘Oh, we hired a woman once, but it didn’t really work out that well.’’

Dee Rees was in the Sundance class the year before Headland and Trevorrow. At 38, she has a ruefulness in her voice when she talks about what she calls her ‘‘struggle’’ to get where she is. The screenwriter and director premiered her first movie, ‘‘Pariah,’’ a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story about an African-American lesbian in Brooklyn, at Sundance. She also wrote and directed last summer’s ‘‘Bessie,’’ a stylish HBO biopic about the blues singer Bessie Smith, starring Queen Latifah, that garnered some great reviews. She is currently working to develop a limited series on the Great Migration with FX and Shondaland, Shonda Rhimes’s production company.
The Nashville native started out in marketing, selling panty liners, bunion pads and wart removers, before going to film school at New York University and finding a mentor in Spike Lee. It took her 12 years to get two features in the can. ‘‘I look at Woody Allen’s prolific career of 30 or 40 films, and I’m watching the clock,’’ she says. ‘‘I’d love to work at a clip of a film a year. We don’t get the benefit of the doubt, particularly black women. We’re presumed incompetent, whereas a white male is assumed competent until proven otherwise. They just think the guy in the ball hat and the T-shirt over the thermal has got it, whether he’s got it or not. For buzzy first films by a white male, the trajectory is a 90-degree angle. For us, it’s a 30-degree angle.’’
She wonders if the problem extends beyond the studios. ‘‘Is it also a problem with critics, that there are not enough female or African-American critics to sound the bell that this is great work?’’ (On her ‘‘Suffragette’’ tour, Meryl Streep counted the number of male critics versus female critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and found a ratio of 760 to 168 on the Tomatometer.)
Matt Damon proved Rees right on the first episode of HBO’s reality show ‘‘Project Greenlight’’ this season when he interrupted another producer, a black woman named Effie Brown, after she urged hiring a female director who might bring more sensitivity to the tale of a prostitute. ‘‘When we are talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film,’’ he told her. ‘‘Not in the casting of the show.’’
Rees cites the upside of Fox’s ‘‘Fantastic Four’’ tanking domestically last summer. It was directed by Josh Trank, yet another young guy in a Bubba Gump baseball hat who made the instant leap from debut feature to big franchise. ‘‘It proves that risk is risk,’’ Rees says, ‘‘so you might as well take a risk on people with a different perspective.’’ Instead, Hollywood continues to push the archetype that feels familiar: white, male, ball cap. ‘‘The people that run studios get to anoint people and make them kings,’’ says the writer and director Nancy Meyers.
The actor Alec Baldwin, who has worked with Meyers, notes that the ‘‘clichéd paramilitary nature’’ of directing runs deep. ‘‘They call it shooting,’’ he says. ‘‘Its groupings are called units. They communicate on walkie-talkies. The director is the general. There is still the presumption that men are better designed for the ferocity and meanness that the job often requires. I’ve worked with so many [expletive] male directors. They should open a window and let more women in.’’(Jill Soloway prefers not to yell ‘‘Action!’’ because it sounds too much like ‘‘Attack!’’)
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Top row, from left: Leigh Janiak, Abi Morgan, Jill Soloway. Middle: So Yong Kim, Amy Heckerling, Callie Khouri. Bottom: Nina Jacobson, Victoria Mahoney, Kimberly Peirce.

The image of a director as swaggering general is deeply embedded in the Hollywood brain even though it has nothing to do with ability. I watched the director Lesli Linka Glatter on the ‘‘Homeland’’ set in Berlin, charging up and down the street getting ready to blow stuff up while she reapplied her Cranberry Cream lipstick. And on the Paramount lot, I watched Marielle Heller direct an episode of ‘‘Transparent,’’ talking to Jeffrey Tambor with her arm around his shoulders. ‘‘You have to be really nurturing to everyone who works for you and see everything that’s happening around you,’’ Heller says. ‘‘In some ways, I think women are perfectly primed to be directors.’’
But while Soloway has been publicly urging women to cry on a set if they want to, studio heads and many female directors cringe at that thought. ‘‘Part of being a director is burying your emotions in some ways,’’ says Sarah Gavron, the British director of ‘‘Suffragette.’’ ‘‘You also have to be the adult in the room at all times, always appearing to be in control, knowing your own mind. If I change my mind, I do it decisively so you carry the crew with you.’’
Catherine Hardwicke made $400 million for Summit Entertainment when she cast Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson and conjured the misty universe of the first ‘‘Twilight’’ movie. She did it so well partly because she emanates a passionate adolescent spirit in a 60-year-old’s body. But her sensitive nature has affected her reputation. (Several male studio executives who have worked with Hardwicke told me that she could be overly emotional.) She says that while filming ‘‘Twilight’’ she went behind a tree and cried one day when several things went wrong, and that she has been penalized for that.
‘‘I worked for 20 directors as a production designer, most male,’’ said Hardwicke, whose latest movie is ‘‘Miss You Already,’’ with Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette. ‘‘I was on the set to witness firsthand a range of sometimes atrocious emotions — well-documented firings, yellings, fights between directors and actors, hookers, abusive things, budget overages, lack of preparation. A man gets a standing ovation for crying because he’s so sensitive, but a woman is shamed.’’
Even if she doesn’t cry, studio heads ask, what if the woman in charge turns out to be some dizzy dame who is indecisive? Men in Hollywood still joke that Barbra Streisand conferred over each frame of ‘‘Yentl’’ with everyone from Spielberg to her gardener, and female directors obsess over how much advice they can seek from the crew about lenses and cranes before they are seen as vacillating flakes.
The Orson Welles model still stands. Male directors who act out are seen as moody, eccentric geniuses. Women are dragons. ‘‘There’s an assumption that directors, showrunners, creators can be, and somehow benefit from being, tyrants,’’ Karyn Kusama says. ‘‘The assumption is that a man is a much better monster.’’
Although women have found ‘‘a little bit of an oasis’’ in TV, as Sarah Treem, the showrunner for Showtime’s ‘‘Affair,’’ puts it, the numbers there are dispiriting, too. With thousands of new episodes premiering each year, a recent Directors Guild of America analysis of 277 television series found that women directed only 16 percent of episodes. Women are hoping the web may disrupt the good old boys’ club, but — except for Soloway’s 100 percent record of female directors on ‘‘Transparent’’ during its first season — the streaming numbers are not great, either.

Many of the female film directors I interviewed got off to a fast start but then stumbled and had a long hiatus before they were able to get a great project again. They don’t think it is a coincidence that this turbulent trajectory is more common for women. Mimi Leder started her film career with a literal bang with the 1997 George Clooney action film ‘‘The Peacemaker,’’ followed a year later by a Spielberg-produced comet-hurtling-toward-Earth movie called ‘‘Deep Impact.’’ Then she had a flop with ‘‘Pay It Forward’’ and, as she recalls, ‘‘went to movie jail and stayed there for a long time, which hurt like hell.’’
Headland says she is wary of falling into a similar purgatory. ‘‘These dudes, man,’’ she told me. ‘‘Spielberg and Cassavetes and Woody Allen have all made some unwatchable movies. But it’s Elaine May and ‘Ishtar’ you remember. It’s not Elaine May’s fault. Poor Elaine.’’
The women I interviewed often brought up a question: Why didn’t things change when women began helping to run studios? There have been a sprinkling of women at the top — always with a male overlord — ever since Sherry Lansing became the first woman to head a major studio when she became president of 20th Century Fox in 1980. Women now head two of the Big Six Hollywood studios, though one is co-chairwoman.
Often, as women explained it to me, these are women who care about the problem, but self-preservation comes first, so they feel they can do little except to ‘‘keep chipping away,’’ as one of Hollywood’s top female executives put it, hoping that ‘‘our children and grandchildren will have an easier time of it.’’
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Top row, from left: Rachel Morrison, Dana Calvo, Patricia Riggen. Middle: Sherry Lansing, Debbie Allen, Jenji Kohan. Bottom: Jenni Konner, Reed Morano, Whitney Cummings.

Some female executives lay some of the fault on women. ‘‘Many women come in unprepared and with a chip on their shoulder,’’ said one. ‘‘They’ll say presumptuous stuff like, ‘If this is the movie you choose to make, let me tell you how to make it good.’ ’’ Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm, told me: ‘‘Until I waved the flag at the Fortune women’s conference recently, I had not had one single phone call from a woman telling me that she really, really wants to direct a ‘Star Wars’ movie. They need to be the ones picking up the phone and saying, ‘Hey, let me tell you what ‘Star Wars’ means to me and how much I could do with it.’ ’’
Teachers in film schools I spoke to said that many women self-select out of directing by the end of school and that they are not as interested in the business part of show business as they should be. But as Dunham argues: ‘‘I feel like we do too much telling women: ‘You aren’t aggressive enough. You haven’t made yourself known enough.’ And it’s like, women shouldn’t be having to hustle twice as fast to get what men achieve just by showing up.’’
Dunham offered the perfect distillation of the anthropology of women running studios: ‘‘I believe a lot of these women were like, ‘I’m here, I worked my ass off to get this job and I’m not gonna make hiring women directors my mission because then I’m going to get [expletive] fired. And I need to make a difference. This is how I can make a difference, by being the woman who has this job.’ It’s the metaphor of: You are on a raft, you got away from the sinking ship, are you gonna pull everyone onto the raft with you? What if that sinks your raft and you all die? That’s the sympathetic read. The nonsympathetic read is they want to impress their upper bosses and make money.’’
When considering women in powerful positions, it’s also important to remember the male-dominated terrain they have to navigate. ‘‘When male Hollywood executives make decisions, they are in touch with their 15-year-old self — that’s who they’re making movies for,’’ said one top Hollywood woman. ‘‘They don’t really want to hear women’s voices because that reminds them of their mothers bugging them to clean up their rooms, or their wives whining at them to come home when they want to be with their young girlfriends.’’ One top actress was even more explicit: ‘‘I think it has to do with dominance, with sex, with getting and maintaining an erection. It’s sort of aligned to the ‘manspreading’ phenomenon on the subway. Men want to walk into the boardroom and take credit for a muscular movie because it reflects on their own muscularity.’’
Linda Woolverton, who wrote the screenplays for ‘‘The Lion King,’’ ‘‘Beauty and the Beast,’’ ‘‘Maleficent’’ and ‘‘Alice in Wonderland’’ believes that it ‘‘comes down to this mythic fear that we can’t handle ourselves. Or maybe the fear is that we can handle ourselves, that we are powerful, that we could run the world better.’’
I think Miranda July, the director, writer and artist, best captured the maddening, nebulous nature of the sexism in the boardroom when I talked to her at the funky house she uses as an office in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood. ‘‘There’s this ickiness associated with women that I think is the real misogyny always at the edge of things,’’ she said, looking off into space. ‘‘It’s certainly tied to how women can’t get older. There’s a very short time span when a woman can get into the world of power and be a delightful treat. There’s a fear, when women make things, not just that it’s going to be a flop but that it’s going to be annoying and embarrassing and somehow incriminating. You picture Spike Jonze, the Duplass brothers, Wes Anderson — can I call them my peers? They might have a flop, but they will never have that ickiness.’’
Perhaps this explains why many successful women do not want to talk on the record about the issue or push the cause. Some journalists who cover Hollywood note that female executives there are more girlish and geisha-ish than their counterparts in New York. As one woman, a veteran Sony producer, puts it: ‘‘It never hurts to have a great pair of legs in Hollywood.’’
Rebecca Miller, the writer and director of the Greta Gerwig, Julianne Moore and Ethan Hawke comedy ‘‘Maggie’s Plan,’’ opening this spring, says that for too long, many top women in Hollywood have prized the ‘‘specialness’’ of being tokens. ‘‘We all have to embrace the idea not to be worried about there being other women in the room,’’ she says. ‘‘Gay men work with such solidarity.’’
I had coffee with the former Sony chief Amy Pascal in her trailer last summer when she was in Boston producing the ‘‘Ghostbusters’’ reboot. Pascal was the only person fired after the Sony hacking scandal that gripped Hollywood last summer. (Pascal’s husband, Bernard Weinraub, worked with me in The Times’s Washington bureau and remains a friend.)
The Jane Austen fan started her job as a Sony executive wanting to do women’s movies and had success with Penny Marshall’s ‘‘A League of Their Own’’; Gillian Armstrong’s ‘‘Little Women’’; ‘‘Girl Interrupted,’’ which won Angelina Jolie an Oscar; ‘‘Sense and Sensibility’’; and ‘‘Charlie’s Angels.’’ But it is a measure of the town’s values that she was vilified for it. ‘‘I loved those movies, but all anyone said was that I made chick flicks,’’ she recalled. ‘‘And then I got co-opted because everyone made me feel ashamed. I felt like, unfortunately, I was being categorized, that I could only make this one kind of movie, and it wasn’t going to make the kind of money that people wanted. I had to prove I could do anything.’’
So she turned her attention to Spider-Man and James Bond, casting Tobey Maguire and Daniel Craig and making billions for the studio, while still fighting to make movies like Nora Ephron’s movable feast about Julia Child, ‘‘Julie & Julia.’



Houston 11 hours ago
i wish women with VC money would fund female directors to make movies from a female perspective that THEY and other women would like to see! Leave men (and male approval) out of the process entirely; That's what men do! (And it's what Lena Dunham has already done, which is why she is a leader on this front, in spite of her young age.)
This movement may have to start small and gather momentum but the potential audience, after all, is huge--at least 50% of the population.

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Maine 10 hours ago
‘‘We are influencing culture, which is why it’s so dangerous..."

Yes. And while the general premise of this article is clearly true, and seemingly eternal, perhaps directors and producers of ANY gender could try to make movies which are maybe actually interesting beyond pop culture? I almost never go to movies, and it's not because I'm female and don't see myself "reflected". I did go to the latest James Bond flick and enjoyed it enough, because it's a trope which basically stays the same, isn't too graphically violent, and makes me laugh.

But I would go to more movies if they were more literate, interesting, less violent, and made me think sometimes instead of just pulled at the obvious strings. If women can make these movies, great!

Until then, I will read a book.
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10 hours ago
This was an issue that was, possibly unintentionally, highlighted by HBO's Project Greenlight this season - or, as I like to think of it - Effie versus old white men. It was so incredibly clear that women have no admittance to Hollywood, and have to imitate men, be aggressive, scrap and fight, to even be heard a tiny bit - heard and ignored. It was crazy! On the one hand, Effie - with excellent skills, creative instincts, practical ability - and on the other hand, a bunch of men who basically fawned over each other in an almost sexual way - and the result, a big bomb of a movie, so so bad. Kudos for HBO in showing a fairly honest look at the behind-the-scenes, and major kudos to Effie Brown for having the self confidence to speak her piece! There was one man who didn't act like a jerk, out of a whole bunch of men; it was so illuminating! Women should rule, not as imitation of men who have run their course, but as women, creative, accepting, loving, smart, careful, adaptive.
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Deborah Meinke

Stillwater OK 10 hours ago
Just make sure that women of color filmmakers are valued and employed once the door is broken in this siege on traditional male Hollywood.
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Brooklyn, NY 10 hours ago
This article is lovely. It exposes a serious problem in the film industry, and I commend the female filmmakers trying to break through. However, let's be honest, when this article refers to "women," it doesn't mean ALL women. It means white women. There is one mention of a black director in the article, and the photographs of these actresses and directors are predominantly white. The tendency to assume whiteness under the term "woman" is problematic and dishonest. While white, middle class women still face adversity in multiple arenas, this article refuses to look at the systematic forces which shape the film industry to oppress women of color. Do you think the next director of a summer blockbuster will be a black lesbian? No, probably not. The next female director of a huge budget film will look and behave as similar to the "white male in the baseball cap" as possible. Even within this article's plea for progressive change are remnants of an exclusive system that grants only a narrow range of bodies visibility.
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Illinois 10 hours ago
Fabulous article but it leaves the big question unanswered: Why hasn't anyone sued the studios? An outrageous level of blatant discrimination at play in 2015 and not one class action? Use some "Moneyball" tactics. The numbers are there. Based on this article, it is the ingrained misogyny that is creating the problem.
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Europe 10 hours ago
Just as women are less interested in the tech industry (less than 20% of computer science majors are women), women are also less interested in the technical side of the entertainment business (production, technician, director, producer). "Interest" is defined as the proportion of women putting themselves forward in these areas, compared to men. This is a fact, backed by evidence.

And no, you're not going to tell me its more subtle, covert etc etc. Would you like men to hold your hand? It's a tough business, if you want it, you go for it. Many women just don't want it. That's what the evidence confirms.
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Sasha Love

Austin TX 10 hours ago
I've noticed for over 15 years now that there's hardly anything I want to see at movies because they almost all star men, while the female is relegated to being the wife, or hot girlfriend who smiles adoringly at her man. BIG YAWN!

I used to see over 30 films a year and now that is down to 4 or 5 films a year, if that. Thank goodness for television, which has at least a few shows featuring women in complex roles, especially on cable, Netflix and Amazon.

My favorite film period was the 30s, with great stars like Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo, and Katherine Hepburn, who starred in feature films. Films hardly ever feature women anymore and I've certainly noticed it for many years. Shame on you Hollywood.
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Wilmington, Del. 10 hours ago
Hollywood is a business. If you are able to show them the money, why should they refuse? It is easier than ever to put out your own show. If the major studios refuse, you can always go on Network TV, Cable, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Youtube etc. JK Rowlings is the most successful author in the world today. I don't think the publishing houses are doing her any favors. They line up because she delivers. You have to come up with something the paying customer will actually pay for. Granted Hollywood has gatekeepers, but there are many other gates you can knock on.
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Connecticut 10 hours ago
It's so true. The discrimination against women in the workplace, including the movie workplace, is veritably palpable. I have spent 42 years in corporate life so far and the discrimination against women is almost unconscious. It is built in; ingrained. And all of the Diversity & Inclusion lip service is window dressing an ugly truth. I have two adult daughters; I know. Moreover, I have written a six novel series, with four screenplay adaptations, that include strong, highly educated, multi-racial, independent, entrepreneurial women, among other characters. I have pitched that work until my eyeballs bled. No publisher for the books, no streamer for the serial rights, no production company for the feature films. I worry for my daughters.
NYT Pick

The Buddy

Astoria, NY 10 hours ago
As the middle class continues to erode, I think it's going to be very hard to enlist the concern of the average moviegoer on this issue. The industry is generally perceived as being obsessed with glamour, as well as being elitist and out of touch. Few will lose much sleep over the plight of movie big shots, when they're struggling for a few crumbs at the office, or their employer has the right to thwart affordable contraception.

Hopefully, a lucky few will be somehow able to put a few cracks in the glass ceiling, and entertain us with amazing stories in the process.
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Rome 9 hours ago
The same unequal situation is across every cultural area, fine art, architecture, classical music, dance and even fashion. Literally every sector of our culture is dominated by 31% of the population, White men. Of course this does not represent the American population but it is the default setting in our culture right now. How to change that? You organize the 69% of people that are not represented and you demand change together.
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OR 8 hours ago
We all, any of us, are fortunate to have any kind of job at all in these early years of the 21st Century. Millions are out of work. Hollywood is just another sector of America that is not working. Hollywood especially is not working since it has failed to produce products that the mass of Americans want to buy. French films are probably more popular now than anything out of Hollywood. When Detroit built shoddy products Japan stepped in and took the marketplace. Hollywood is just another Detroit. A place where the production of "dreams" has evolved into a nightmare. No one in the Industry is exempt. America as a whole is no longer a country, & it is no longer even a nation. America has become a full-scale conglomerate, company, business, industry, enterprise, corporation; & that entire structure has failed. Hollywood & its employees are part of that overall failure. We are indeed all equal in that women, even high stationed Hollywood women, share unemployment, too. Their share of unemployment is not equal. But we all know that life isn't fair; it never has been & probably never will be. It is the nature of our existence. Another factor regarding Hollywood is that the "Arts" fare poorly. We are no longer in ancient Greece, Rome or Egypt. Spending on arts, culture, humanities, is largely discretionary. Putting food in one's mouth, medicine in one's body or some kind of energy in one's vehicle takes precedence. Any career choice in the Arts is risky.
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MEX 6 hours ago
At the end of the day, it IS the studios's money and they don't have to heed people's complaints. If the people complain and want to show their disagreement, then simply don't go see the movie. If I had a billion dollars and wanted to make a film, I sure wouldn't want people telling me what I should or not include, or that I must include women or men of color in my film, after all is MY money and would do whatever I wish with it. So, these women or the ones that complaint about their treatment is like biting the feeding hand: they wouldn't work in certains films where their present wasn't at all necessary and were just accepted to follow the flow of social 'correctness'. Sure, some of them kept going on their own, and that's cool, but it's like a girl crying because a boy didn't pick her for his football team when the guy only wants men and it's not made to chose a female. So, sure, it's not the ideal world, but you can't tell how a person whould behave or what should do with their own resources.
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Los Angeles, Ca 5 hours ago
As a child of three generations of Hollywood women and men, I can relate to, (and relate a lot more of) these stories of discrimination and just plain indifference to women's abilities. But the bottom line is something my father said decades ago; more often than not the choice of which movie to see is made by a woman on a date. Big explosion, shoot-em-up blockbusters are usually not that choice, when there is a choice. In a stupid two-fer, Hollywood is definitely missing a huge audience and wasting valuable talent. What other industry so stubbornly writes off half its customers and tosses out half its human capital?
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San Francisco 5 hours ago
I worked in feature film production from age 19 to 30. In those 11 years, there were a handful of female producers, about 25% female crew, and NOT ONE female director. One of the reasons I left film production, right at the crux of my early career, was because too many woman looked like the Ghost of Christmas Future to me. I definitely had some brilliant and forceful female mentors, with whom I am still close today even as I work in nonprofit communications, but the ones who were miserable and beaten down still figure prominently in the history of my career choices. I hope that this kind of reporting (and I was dubious MD could pull this off, but she wore her reporter's hat well) continues to empower women in filmmaking to STAY, and that it inspires girls and women who want to make films to START.’

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