Diablo Cody on Women in Film

Diablo Cody talks about motherhood and directing:

The Hollywood Reporter: A new study showed that only 9 percent of the 250 top-grossing movies last year were directed by women. What do you think are the main obstacles for women who want to be writers and directors?

Diablo Cody: This is a question that I’ve been pondering for years. I don’t really know. First of all, obviously most of the people in leadership positions in Hollywood are male, and they’re the gatekeepers, and that’s why I always say that when the women that do happen to be in positions of power, they need to be advocating for other women. I feel that women are still in the position that one of us gets our foot in the door, we need to let in a bunch of our ladies with us. To me, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s just women not helping other women, or if it’s just men who are reluctant to hire women for high-profile positions. I still don’t know exactly what’s holding women back.

I actually have two children now, and sometimes I wonder if that’s it. Because they do make writing and directing more complicated and more difficult, especially now that they’re very young. I had the experience last year of directing my first feature while I had a 1-year-old son and while I was also pregnant, so I am now well aware of the difficulties women who are rearing children face when they’re also trying to make headway in mainstream of film.

On the other hand, promising things are happening in the indie scene. Look at Sundance. Jill Soloway won best director, Lake Bell won the Waldo Salt Award — that’s very exciting.

THR: What was the most difficult part of directing your first film?

Cody: Difficult for me was balancing my responsibilities as a mother with work. The fact that I couldn’t just come home after a night shoot and crawl into bed, like any other director would do, or prep for the next day. I would come home from the night shoot and my toddler would come at me like a little Tasmanian devil, smacked into my pregnant body, and then I would give him a bath, give him dinner, and it was very exhausting. And then the challenge for me as a filmmaker — I’m not an actor, I can’t act, and I don’t think I really understood the actors’ process until I directed. And I still don’t fully understand it. For me that was new, understanding how do you motivate people to get to a certain place, to give you a certain performance.

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A commenter too-snidely (it is a comment) makes a fair point. There are more male directors because there are…more male directors.

Roughly only 25% of entries into the Nicholl Screenwriting Contest are women.  This is a contest (and the most prestigious) that *anyone* can enter.  I think that gives you a good indication of interest.  Is it sexist and are there barriers that there are more male plumbers, janitors/sanitation employees, and electrical engineers?  Those positions are dominated by men.  Are women complaining about that lack of diversity?  How about teachers, nannies, and interior designers?  Substantially more women than men.

Except this isn’t entirely true. From The Guardian, which asks: Why are there so few female film-makers?

Once, the dearth of women directors could be traced to the small numbers entering film school. These days, that’s not the case. Lauzen says women are now well represented in US film schools, while Neil Peplow, of the UK training organisation Skillset, says women make up around 34% of directing ­students in Britain. That translates into a large number of female ­graduates making short films, but few moving on to features.

So it is something deeper. One reason is that women may be more inclined to make smaller, character-driven movies, and those are not films that Hollywood is making with any regularity. Also, general sexism:

Over the years, this failure to progress has often been blamed on a chauvinist culture; and certainly, talking to ­established directors, it’s easy to ­uncover tales of overt sexism – from the mildly disconcerting to the downright illegal. The British film director Antonia Bird (Priest, Mad Love) says dryly that on her first directing job, “I was the only woman there, and all the guys just ­assumed I was the producer’s PA. That was good.” Director Beeban Kidron (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) once sacked a male assistant director who called her “the little lady”. At the extreme end, US film director Penelope Spheeris, who made the $100m-grossing Wayne’s World, remembers meeting an executive at the Beverly Hills Hotel when she was at the start of her career. “And the guy was pretty drunk, and he ripped some of my clothes trying to take them off me, and when I got up and started screaming he said, ‘Did you want to make this music video or not?’” She pauses. “You say sexist, I say felony.”

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