As expected, the initial reports of the Lynne Ramsay departure from Jane Got a Gun were very sketchy. More details are coming out, among them the important detail that Ramsay did not just NOT show up for work, she had actually quit over the weekend when terms and budgets and schedules were not agreed to.
It also says that Natalie Portman was not informed of Ramsay’s departure over the weekend. Isn’t she one of the producers? Why wouldn’t they inform her in that capacity? When Ramsay opted out, because there are opt outs when terms are not met, the other producers hiding from Portman, went about getting another director. When Monday arrived with no Ramsay, the shit hit the fan and a story need to be created.
So Ramsay became fickle and difficult. And people like to heap on this film the fact that she left The Lovely Bones. My understanding from speaking with her is that she was pushed off The Lovely Bones once Peter Jackson wanted to direct it. She worked for years developing it and then was told sorry, Peter wants to do it, goodbye. So let’s not put these two films in the same category.
I wish we lived in a world with rational people who won’t extrapolate and use this unfortunate situation to hold it over other women directors heads. No matter where the truth lies, it is something that the folks who don’t want to hire women will use as a stick maybe saying something like “I hope you don’t pull a Lynne Ramsay” or some other shit similar to that.
But language matters a lot. And putting pejorative terms onto women is something done really easily and those terms stick. How about bossy? How about difficult? Both are code words for shutting women down.
We might talk about these issues on Women and Hollywood all the time, but there are very few others, especially men, who try to unpack the gender baggage on these issues.
My new hero is Calum Marsh a Toronto-based film critic and columnist for Film.com, MUBI and Slant Magazine. He wrote a post on film.com yesterday Lynne Ramsay, and Why We Need to Talk About How We Talk About Female Directors — which I want you all to read — and he deserves a lot of credit for taking on this topic. Here’s a section from his post:
The point is not to what degree Lynne Ramsay is culpable in this case—not that it’s really the purview of bloggers to decide what is or is not ethical on a movie set anyway—but the degree to which our discussion of Lynne Ramsay’s actions, and in particular actions perceived to be damaging to her career, is steeped in the language of sexism and oppression, even if quite unintentionally. This story’s lede is not “female director causes drama”; it shouldn’t even be “female director leaves job”. We don’t tend to say “male director leaves job” in cases where this happens with men, so why bother with the gendered dimension here?
I asked him why he wanted to take this on and this was his response:
I wanted to write about this piece of news not because it interests me, but because the attitudes and biases its coverage reflects very much does. Talking about film can be quite esoteric, which makes people, and especially men, hesitant or even unwilling to think about the language we use in a broader way, to think about the realities which inform the language of criticism and reporting and to maybe question what it is we’re saying even when we don’t intend to.
I’ve seen dozens of responses, exclusively from men, insisting that I’m reading too much into the situation, or that “drama” is not a gendered word in this context. Someone on twitter told me that I’m “full of shit” for assuming that this story even has a gender dimension. It’s baffling to me that men can be so passionate about defending the status quo even in the most seemingly simple matters.
Part of the issue again is that we still live in the world where Lynne Ramsay even getting the gig is a big deal. She and all women at her level are highly scrutinized. That doesn’t mean she should stay in a sucky situation so that the people who still don’t want to hire women won’t have any more ammunition. These people get their ammunition from anywhere and everywhere.
For me, I’m sad for Lynne Ramsay. I want to see more of her movies. Her people will have to figure out how to get a story out there that will make sure that this won’t hinder her next project. Because that would be the great tragedy of this ridiculously unfortunate clusterfuck.
‘Jane Got a Gun’: Inside the Turmoil on Natalie Portman’s Troubled Western (Hollywood Reporter)