By Shannon Mullen
Hollywood has brought us some great films written by women this summer, including RUBY SPARKS, by writer/star Zoe Kazan, and CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER, by co-writer/star Rashida Jones. In the pipeline for August and fall release are several films directed by women.
The LA Times has a great feature article including Q&As with Julie Delpy (2 DAYS IN NEW YORK), Ava DuVerney (MIDDLE OF NOWHERE) and Leslye Headland (BACHELORETTE).
The story points out that “these women are forging their own cinematic paths even as the going for female filmmakers in Hollywood seems to be getting even tougher. Only 5% of the directors of the top 250 highest-grossing movies last year were women, compared with 7% in 2010 and 9% in 1998, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.”
Here’s an excerpt from the excellent Times interview:
Does the environment for female filmmakers appear to be getting easier, or is it the same struggle?
Julie Delpy: It’s still complicated. When my friends that are aspiring women directors tell me they walked into a room and didn’t get the job and say, “I don’t know what I did wrong — they didn’t go for it. I was passionate, I was telling them how much the project means to me.” I always tell them, “Don’t do that. Don’t be passionate! Ever! Be an accountant.” Because I think being a woman director, being this person in charge, [they think] we are weird, crazy animals. We can’t have this kind of calm — they really want people that they feel have no emotions. So I think emotions and women, it’s always been kind of a scary thing, I think, for a few financiers. I think they need reassurance that women are unemotional, because they feel that a good director should be kind of unemotional. They don’t make movies because they like movies — they make movies because it’s a business. So you have to be a businesswoman.
Ava DuVernay: I think for female filmmakers a big issue is making their second and third films. You see the statistics, and the dropoff on the second and third [films] are dire. I think women are finding a way to kind of circumvent a lot of what you’re talking about and get that first film made but the big question for me is, where do you go after the first and second? You know, who has the longevity?Woody Allen had the opening-night film at L.A. Film Festival, and I was really just struck that this is a 70-something-year-old man. Where’s his American woman equivalent?
Leslye Headland: I felt when I was shooting my first movie, I had to really appear to be in control of something that’s equivalent to herding cats or wrestling clouds. And I would go home and just cry — not because I was upset but just because I would just need to let go of everything that had happened that day and didn’t feel necessarily like the film set is a conducive place to be feeling those emotions. I am very passionate about my script, but you feel like you want to present the best director version of yourself. And then I would go home and just let it all out.
Delpy: Maybe on my first film, I was a little bit stressed out, but I usually stress out about logistics and stuff like that. I try to detach myself emotionally from the film when I’m directing it…. And I think it reassures people.
I think there is some invaluable advice here, particularly from Julie Delpy, for those of you who are looking to get your projects financed. I can personally attest to what she says above about the effectiveness of passion versus practicality when pitching. I’m in the process of closing a round of development financing for my first feature and so far I’ve pitched the project only to male prospective investors.
This is a project I’ve been trying to get off the ground for six years, and when I think back on the evolution of my pitch I can say for sure that it came together only when I developed a solid command of the project’s accounting side. It’s not that passion isn’t important – I don’t think you can sell a project without it – but I believe you have to be able to explain why your project is so great from a business perspective, too.
Bottom line, Julie really nails it here: “They don’t make movies because they like movies — they make movies because it’s a business. So you have to be a businesswoman.”