On May 9th, an audience of six hundred people gathered at the Director’s Guild Theater in Los Angeles to ask the question, “Are women directors better suited to explore the subtle nuances of human emotion?” The obvious answer is, of course, “Who cares, THEY HAVE BOOBS!” Sure, that is true, and boobs are awesome. And just like boobs, the short films presented that night by the eight up-and-coming female directors were all remarkably different and entertaining, and people couldn’t get enough of them.
I am talking about the AFI Directing Workshop for Women 2011 Showcase. Since 1974, the AFI Directing Workshop for Women has been nurturing the talent of the next generation of female directors with their annual fellowship granted to just eight women a year, and this last time around, I was lucky enough to be one of them. When I would tell people I was going to spend a year studying and working closely with a small group of driven, smart, lady directors, they would invariably meow, and then ask if I was going to grow out my fingernails to improve my odds in the cat fights. No, but thank you for perpetuating the idea that only bitchy, competitive women would pursue a career in directing, a stereotype that has surely contributed in keeping the number of women who are members of the DGA to under 15 percent. Thank you so very much. Please, let me buy you a drink. Oops, I left my wallet in the car. Sorry.
My experience at the AFI DWW couldn’t have been better. Through a careful selection process that involved alumni from previous years, the tireless people who run the program managed to compile a select group of accomplished women, all of whom had spent at least ten years pursuing their dreams of directing while enjoying grown-up careers in everything from TV production to biological engineering. Not only that, but since we all included with our application the script we would eventually shoot, as well as a director’s reel, the selection committee was able to put together an assortment of unique voices and styles and stories, none of which were stepping on the others’ toes. It seems not all women want to make movies about fairy princesses who are victims of sexual abuse. I know, shocker. My point being, that even if I wanted a reason to pull on some hair, I had no arch rival. Instead, we all ate cookies and giggled a lot, applauding each others special gifts, while sharing freely of our advice and ideas in a supportive workshop environment.
Judging from what was up on the screen last week at the DGA, each film became better through this process, and I believe each filmmaker grew stronger and more singular, too. To return to the boob analogy (you’re welcome), my AFI experience gave me the confidence to wear plunging necklines and white chiffon blouses, proud of what I’ve got goin’ on, and even showing it off a little. In a world where sexy girls are sluts and determined women are hostile, I am incredibly grateful for this phenomenal program, which reminds us to make more movies, tell new stories, and write bolder characters, walking resolutely into the future with our heads high and our tits out.
Amy French is an actress, writer and director of average height, living and working in Los Angeles, California.