Kasi Lemmons Talks to Women & Hollywood
Kasi Lemmons is one of the few female African American women directors working in Hollywood. Her most recent film Talk to Me is out now on DVD. Check out the review here: Talk to Me (Huffington Post)
Women & Hollywood: This film is a love story between two men, which is rarely seen on film. Why was it important for you to tell this story?
KL: One of the most important films for me growing up was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which was a movie about male friendship. It helped shape my feelings about film relationships and I realized I didn't see that. I wanted to get inside a relationship between two men where they could be vulnerable and need each other. I feel that it's real, and yet men are very afraid of showing emotion and being demonstrative. It helps us to understand men more when we realize they are capable of these friendships.
W&H: When did you know you wanted to make the switch to the directing chair? (One prominent role Lemmons played was Jodie Foster's roommate in Silence of the Lambs)
KL: It happened very organically. It was the late 80s and I was into politics. I went to film school thinking I would put a camera on my shoulders and make documentaries. The first film I made was about being homeless in NY. But, I had a tendency to dramatize. Bill Cosby then hired me to write a screenplay (which was never produced) and that's how I got into the Writer's Guild.
The storyteller part of me was always very alive. I wrote plays all the time. At a certain point I had a story I could tell from the beginning to end and I realized I had to write it down. I wrote a part that I could play when I was 40. It happened faster than that. I met an agent and he said we had to put it together and find a director. People passed on it. One day I woke up and realized that I had to direct it (Eve's Bayou). I didn't suddenly decide that I was a director, and even after I directed Eve's Bayou I thought I was done.
W&H: It's unacceptable how few women and African American women directors there are working in film today.
KL: In every other field there are women. There are women in high levels of politics. There are women in high levels of management at the World Bank. There are women in high levels everywhere. Why is it that there are not more women directors? It just doesn't make sense. It's a particular backwards industry in this country. I can't speak for other countries because they seem better.
Storytelling is not like running the World Bank. Storytelling has a masculine and feminine side. We're dealing with humanity. As artists, women are wonderful at telling men's stories, as men have been wonderful at telling women's stories. Yet at the same time you need the push and the pull. You need the other side of the coin.
W&H: Why does this continue to be such a problem?
KL: It doesn't make much sense that they wouldn't be interested in women's visions. Look at television. They are always looking for women's stories to tap. I think it might have something to do with the concept of what a director is -- a white man between 30-50 with the hat on backwards in sneakers with a little scruff.
W&H: You lobbied for this film. Did you have to work harder to get this film?
KL: I had to get the meeting. I had to wait until they had gone through meetings with the usual suspects. I made it known that I wanted to do the movie and then the only moment of self consciousness I had was before the first meeting and it wasn't just that I was a woman. I went in super prepared and super passionate and I got through that meeting. I was half way through my second meeting and Mark Gordon said ok.
W&H: Is this Mark Gordon who produces for TV?
KL: He believes in the power of women. It's something he believes in and enjoys doing it without thinking. It's not that he is making a political statement, its just the guy he is. Mark saw my passion, heard what I had to say and said ok.
W&H: How important is it to tell African American stories?
It's very important but there have been stories I have been attracted to that have not been African American stories. I've written all kinds of things, however I am attracted to characters. African American stories have such a dynamic history, and it's my people so it's special to me. I think we occupy an interesting place in American history - very violent, very strong and triumphant and so I am drawn to those characters. I am drawn to stories.
W&H: What advice would you give a young woman director?
KL: Find a way of telling a story that represents an aspect of you, so you can use it as a calling card to help shape your identity so someone else doesn't put you in a box. Create something or find a piece of material that is a love letter to yourself.
W&H: What are you working on next?
KL: I'm writing a pilot for Mark Gordon and CBS. I am also writing a piece for Picturehouse on the civil rights movement.
Talk to Me is available on DVD now.
Julia Roberts is basically the only female "star" today and she really hasn't toplined a movie in three years. In a new interview with Vanity Fair timed to come up with her new film Charlie Wilson's War, Roberts talks about her wish to stay at home to knit and compost. Here's a quote: "The highest high would be growing our food that I then make, and then composting and growing more -- that kind of circle." Wonder why they don't take us more seriously? (Vanity Fair via Miami Herald)
Day one of the writer's strike has already claimed a casualty - the premiere of Cashmere Mafia. Show was set to debut November 27. No new date has been announced.
Patrick Goldstein has an analysis of the failure of art-house films this fall. Could it be that TV is actually better than what's playing in theatres?
Interview with War/Dance co-directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine (IndieWIRE)
Angelina Jolie on her upcoming film Beowulf.
Beowulf Aroused Jolie's Maternal Feelings (ABC News GMA)
Profile on up-and-coming English actress Ruth Wilson
You Fight for Your Luck (The Guardian)
Brick Lane the films based on Monica Ali's novel and directed by Sarah Gavron has caused controversy in the Bangladeshi community in London. It opens there next week.
Controversial Brick Lane Film Hits Theatres (Reuters)
Jeanne Tripplehorn joins the cast of the HBO drama Grey Gardens as Jackie Onassis. Pic stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.
Turkish filmmakers have taken up the cause of honour killing.
Can Film Help Put an End to Honour Killings? (The Guardian)
Judith Ivey will direct a revival of the musical Vanities on Broadway. "Set in the 1960s and '70s, "Vanities" follows the lives of three women who were best friends as high school cheerleaders in Texas." (Variety)
DVDs releasing this week
Blame it on Fidel: "Nina Kervel-Bey stars as 9-year-old Anna, a privileged young girl living in Paris and comforted by a simple life filled with order and routine. But over the course of one year, Anna's structured life is thrown into turmoil when her parents are drawn into Paris's turbulent and radical 1970s political scene. Julie Gavras (daughter of famed French filmmaker Costa-Gavras) directs this 2007 Sundance Film Festival competition entry." (Netflix)
Run Granny Run: "At age 89, Doris "Granny D" Haddock walked across the country in protest of big-money influence on elections. Five years later in 2004, she got a chance to run for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. Learn her unlikely story in this engaging documentary. Chronicling the charismatic activist hero in her colorful travels, director Marlo Poras took home the Audience Award for Documentary Feature at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Festival." (Netflix)
November 6, 2007
Kasi Lemmons Talks to Women & Hollywood
Posted by Melissa Silverstein at 10:20 AM