October 11, 2007

October 11

Women Continue as the Topic of Conversation in Hollywood

In an industry that pays scant attention to women, this week seems to be girls week in Hollywood thanks to Jeff Robinov and his alleged and pretty much confirmed (see Nikki Finke follow-up below) comments that Warner Brothers is out of the business of women leads onscreen. The story has legs not because it has resonance with women in Hollywood (not that this is anything new to them), but because it has resonance outside of Hollywood. My mother even commented that she saw it on the local news. Big question: is there any momentum for change other than the typical grumbling?

Rebecca Traister continues that conversation over at Salon with a roundtable discussion conducted (for an issue of Elle) a couple of months ago with 10 Hollywood female bigwigs to discuss the state of Hollywood and women.

Producer Lynda Obst moderated and the other included: Nora Ephron (writer and director, "This is My Life), Laura Ziskin (producer, "Spider-Man"), Callie Khouri (writer and director, "Thelma & Louise,"), Patty Jenkins (writer, director, "Monster"), Cathy Konrad (producer, "Walk the Line,"), Kimberly Peirce (writer, director, producer, "Boys Don't Cry"), Andrea Berloff (writer, producer, "World Trade Center"), Margaret Nagle (writer, producer, "Warm Springs"), and Universal president of production Donna Langley.

First off, big problem, I'm pretty sure that none of these women are women of color. How can anyone convene a roundtable to discuss women's issues about anything, anywhere and not have some women of color. Not Cool.

Here are some excerpts of note:

From Traister's overview

It's not, as Finke's source suggests, that the women are going to be kicked out of their studio offices, but it's no secret that Hollywood has always been a dicey industry for women, and that recent years have seen it grow increasingly inhospitable.
More women than ever write, direct and produce movies. But we're in a period in which their on-screen stock is falling.
But if Hollywood isn't doing much for female moviegoers, it's in part because female moviegoers have not, of late, been doing much for Hollywood. They haven't been showing up to multiplexes, at least not on the first weekend, which is all that counts. And in Hollywood, money has always been a bigger motivator than visions of equality.
Amen sister. Women, nothing is going to change until we demand change with our pocketbooks. If we go to certain movies they will make more. It's not rocket science in Hollywood. If one movie hits, five more will be in the pipeline in a week. We need a movement to make this happen. Anyone want to join me?

Comments from the panel:
Kimberly Peirce: I think the indie world is actually great for women, and for gay people. Because if you have a story, you're going to be able to [tell it]. That's where a lot of women get their start. But you get into your second, your third movie, and you're building a career, and it's hitting smack up against those years when you want to have a child. I mean, you can't get bonded if you're pregnant.
For those who don't know what getting bonded is- it's insurance for movies. So pregnant women are now in the category of repeat drug offenders (I remember when Robert Downey, Jr, couldn't get bonded.) Can this be legal?
Ziskin: But the truth of the matter is those teen boys are less reliable because they have way more choices, and in fact the most reliable moviegoing audience -- and also the dirty word in the movie business -- is "women over 35." Because we have the moviegoing habit. I would go to the movies every weekend if there was something for me to see. The studios, if they were smart, would have a geriatric division.
I have been saying this all along. If you make good movies, we will go. The thing nobody mentioned in this piece is that most of the movies made in Hollywood are crap.
Ziskin: But there are movies in general, and then there are women's movies. We're still the other -- we're still a secondary audience. When they made "Little Women," my daughter was 11, she went five times in one week. That was because as a young woman, she never got to see herself and her experience on the screen. We know so much about the male experience because it's been fed to us through the literature that the men wrote and the world that the men created; it's a relatively new phenomenon in the modern world that we have power to say what we think and to express ourselves and our sensibility. But we're still considered an alternative class.
Laura Ziskin, you are so right on and are my new best friend (has someone slipped you my book proposal?)
Khouri: It's more in the business than in the relationships. You're more likely to feel less-than in your business relationships. What we were talking about a little while ago, the fact that we still are defined as women directors or women producers, it still feels that as long as the studios see the female audience as a secondary audience or not as easy to get into the theater on the first weekend, then there's going to be a lid on us.
Ziskin: I want to say one thing. What is extraordinary is that the movies are arguably the most powerful medium ever in history so far. And there are so many of us that you could get a quorum at this table. You don't have to have the intention of influencing your work by your gender, but you're going to. That's a really good thing. It's really good for the culture that women are a real voice more and more, even though we're not the final say, like those guys who really control all the media in the world. We're still influencing.
Ziskin clearly gets it, good thing she's one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. She produced the Oscars and Spiderman in the same year.

Nikki Finke continues her story about Jeff Robinov
The Reality Behind the Robinov Denial

Nikki also gets interviewed in the Elle issue
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Around the Web
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Tube Today
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