The New York Times convened a panel of women who work in Hollywood to talk about the barriers they face.
For the top 250 domestic films of 2011, only 18 percent of behind-the-camera positions, including producer and director, were held by women. Hollywood is still mostly men making movies for men. Manohla Dargis recently said that one problem was Hollywood’s lack of faith in movies for women, “which paints women as fickle instead of reliable repeat customers.’’
I especially liked the comments of Melissa Silverstein, who points out that studio executives are too quick to attribute the failure of any women-focused films to a lack of audience rather than treating them as evidence of poor quality of the product like “John Carter” or “Battleship.” She says, “Men fail up in Hollywood and women fail out.”
Hollywood is one of the only industries that does not take the female consumer seriously. It does not cater to or produce nearly enough content for women, who make upwards of 80 percent of all consumer-spending decisions. Forget trying to find movies if you are in your 40s and female. It’s like you don’t even exist. But the reality is that women in midlife finally have time to go to the movies when they are freed from raising the kids. Honestly, if Hollywood could wrap its collective brain around the fact that women want to see and talk about movies just as much as men do, then more jobs for women in film would follow.
“Brave’s” Brenda Chapman spoke candidly about how difficult it was for her to be replaced as director of the film, which would have been the first Pixar movie directed by a woman and which was her original idea.
It has been a heartbreakingly hard road for me over the last year and a half. When Pixar took me off of “Brave” – a story that came from my heart, inspired by my relationship with my daughter – it was devastating. To keep my name attached to ‘Brave,’ I was persistent and stuck to my principles. Animation directors are not protected like live-action directors, who have the Directors Guild to go to battle for them. We are replaced on a regular basis – and that was a real issue for me. This was a story that I created, which came from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother. To have it taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels. But in the end, my vision came through in the film. It simply wouldn’t have worked without it (and didn’t at one point), and I knew this at my core. So I kept my head held high, stayed committed to my principles, and was supported by some strong women (and men!). In the end, it worked out, and I’m very proud of the movie, and that I ultimately stood up for myself, just like Merida, the protagonist in “Brave.” Sometimes women express an idea and are shot down, only to have a man express essentially the same idea and have it broadly embraced. Until there is a sufficient number of women executives in high places, this will continue to happen.
There is some talk of a female “Expendables,” but I am pretty sure that is not what these women have in mind.