Film News

VOTD: Catherine Hardwicke, Nisha Ganatra, Nicole Holofcener, Shira Piven & Anne Fletcher Interview to Direct a Hollywood Blockbuster

Yesterday was National Women’s Equality Day, and in recognition of that the women of Broadway posed as Rosie the Riveter all across social media.  I’m a little late the party, but for my own small part on this, the day after National Women’s Equality Day, I’ll direct you to this recent Funny or Die video:

http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/de5cb041f6/can-you-make-it-go-boom?_cc=__d___&_ccid=qocc08.ntqryr

Statistical report after statistical report confirms that Hollywood is run by affluent white guys (surprise, surprise), and as such the people hired to produce, direct, write and/or star in the biggest American movies and TV shows are predominantly of the white guy persuasion.  In some areas, things are slowly getting better, in other areas they aren’t.  Of particular concern has been the near complete lack of women getting the opportunity to direct live-action big budget movies.  Every couples of months some new list is published (like this one and this one and this one) suggesting so-and-so female director for the high profile job of the moment (e.g., Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel), online commentators clearly attempting to advance the cause and present Hollywood-types with lists of qualified female candidates.  However, such lists always carry the caveat that they’re written under the assumption that any of the women listed are actually interested in the job.  That’s a pretty huge assumption to make, although Jurassic World Colin Trevorrow recently discovered it’s dangerous to assume women aren’t interested in those types of job.

Still, some of the women who end up on such lists are, in fact, not interested in making either those kinds of movies (comic books, insane action, etc.) or having their unique vision for the material diluted by a corporate structure which favors the producer over the filmmaker (as was Ava DuVernay’s reason for pre-emptively walking from Black Panther).  Lake Bell is one such female director who’s landed on many a list, thanks to her directorial debut, 2013’s In a World, various episodes of Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital, and an upcoming Jeff Bridges movie she’ll helm.   However, she recently told More magazine, “If I campaign to direct some humongous studio picture, it will take me years, and that takes away from the five other projects I want to write and direct and make with my friends.  To me, it’s just not as sexy as making what you want with the people you want and not having to operate in fear. No creativity is ever birthed through a canal of fear.”  Counter to that, Punisher: War Zone‘s Lexi Alexander is so in love with the brilliant Kamala Khan version of Ms. Marvel in the comics right now she joked on Twitter that she’d direct a Ms. Marvel movie for free.

What’s interesting about the Funny or Die video is that it actually gathered together many of the female directors who end up on the various lists I mentioned and showed them having a bit of fun, play-acting every female director’s nightmare pitch scenario in which casually sexist white male studio suits have no clear idea what they want or are too stupid to clearly communicate what they want.  The women featured in the video are Catherine Hardwicke (the first Twilight movie), Nisha Ganatra (multiple indie movies before directing 3 episodes of Amazon Prime’s Transparent), Nicole Holofcener (Friends With Money, Please Give and most recently Enough Said), Shira Piven (Welcome to Me) and Anne Fletcher (choreographer-turned director responsible for 27 Dresses, The Proposal, The Guilt Trip and Hot Pursuit).  Bringing his signature New Girl bravado to the part of the head white studio suit was Max Greenfield.

When Lake Bell says she has no interest in campaigning for a humongous studio picture, that nightmare scenario with Greenfield and pals is probably the type of meeting she’s hoping to avoid for the rest of her life.  Additionally, even thought this is just a funny video with an exaggerated scenario, one does wonder how many meetings Hardwicke, Ganatra, Holofcener, Piven and Fletcher have had which weren’t too dissimilar.

5 comments

  1. I think Ava DuVernay walking was a good thing for the movie. I am sure Marvel picked her because they wanted to ensure that the topic was handled race sensitive and perhaps add some social commentary to the story. But she is the kind of director who puts the social commentary first and everything else second. But in the MCU the thing which always has to come first is the MCU itself and the source material. Everything else is a bones.

    But I am sure that there are at least some female directors which would be delighted to take on a big franchise. I hope that they will pick one soon, preferable for a movie which isn’t Captain Marvel. Because a female lead Superhero movie directed by a female is nice. Having a female director for any other movie simply because she has the right style and not because of her gender or skin colour is even better.

    1. When Ava DuVernay was first rumored as a candidate for Black Panther FilmSchoolRejects (if I recall correctly) ran this big thinkpiece arguing that Marvel was going to have to change the way it does things to accommodate DuVernay. In other word, to get the best Black Panther movie Marvel would have to change, not DuVernay. I remember thinking that just sounded hopelessly naive because Marvel’s not going to change the way it does things for anyone. Why should they? If you’re a filmmaker who can work within their system, then you can prosper, even if you have to fight for your vision harder than you’ve ever fought before. James Gunn got to make a James Gunn movie. He just had to convince them the tone and jokes were worth it (same with Shane Black on Iron Man 3), and he had to work in a way to tie everything to the MCU and explain the Infinity Stones. He said that was the hardest part of the movie – getting to Thanos and the Infinity Stones and not having everything just screech to a halt – but he did it, just as Ant-Man worked in that fight with The Falcon whereas Edgar Wright had been unwilling to try and shoehorn in any kind of MCU connection. It is what it is, and DuVernay did the right thing to walk away and realize that wasn’t going to work for her.

      You are right, though – there is a part of this that feels like babysteps. A female director to make a female superhero movie is a first step. However, it always oddly suggests an oddly segregated future where only African-Americans can make movies about race, males make movies about male superheroes, etc. But I guess it’s a one-step at a time kind of thing and if a female-directed female-starring comic book movie does well then we can think about letting a female make one about a male hero.

      There’s a quick joke in the final episode (and, indeed nearly the final scene) of Community where both Alison Brie and Joel McHale’s characters whisper about how much they dislike “those awful Marvel movies” but admit they are under immense pressure to pretend to love them. In fact, in the real world Brie was up for the part of Sharon Carter in Winter Soldier. I took the joke as Dan Harmon’s way of slyly saying that no one in Hollywood right now wants to say anything bad about the superhero movies because they might need to work on those types of movies at some point, God-willing. As such, I don’t really see a whole lot of female directors who are willing to publicly burn bridges and confirm that they don’t want to make a big budget movie, unlike Lake Bell who was honest about it. On the other end, I don’t see many who are actively campaigning for the jobs, outside of Twitter conversations, as with Lexi Alexander. So, I don’t have a really good read on which female directors want these jobs and which don’t (although I might be looking in the wrong places). That’s what made the Funny or Die video all the more surprising because they actually got a bunch of real directors to come in and have a good laugh at the situation.

      1. I have a really low opinion about actors who are campaigning for jobs in the social media, and I don’t think that it would endear me to any director either. Things like this should be between the studio and whoever they think fit their vision.

        And I don’t think that Marvel should accommodate the “vision of the director” too much. I think they are open to ideas, even controversial ones as Iron Man 3 proofs, but they need to put the MCU as a whole above everything. That’s why this works. They audience expect character driven movies from them, they shouldn’t pick a director who would put the message above the characters.

      2. I agree. Traditionally, the reason we might not know who wants and who doesn’t want those kinds of jobs is because that should be going on behind the scenes between the studios and the talent. I think the recent situation with Colin Trevorrow’s “some women just don’t want those jobs” comments sparking a debate about the issue might result in that changing ever so slightly. In other word, Trevorrow simply said what a lot of studio people have been saying off the record for years, cited as “insider sources” by publications like THR and EW. We might see more female directors actually put themselves out there as being interested in certain jobs just to combat the belief that why bother offering them to women since they clearly don’t want them. Then again, Sean Young and Batman Returns has forever given the world the worst-case scenario of what can happen when a woman is overzealous in her pursuit of a role in Hollywood. So, that might be on the back of their minds even though that was a different situation (actress, not director).

      3. I think it is enough to clarify that yes, they are interested in doing action and/or blockbuster movies without specifying which projects they are interested in.

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