Filmmakers Naomi Foner (“Very Good Girls”) and Andrea Arnold (“Fishtank”) participated in the Story Creation and the Artistic Process panel as part of the NYFF Live series of filmmaker conversations, making the panel’s gender balance 50/50 (the other two panelists were Larry Gross and Henry Bean). When the inevitable audience question about the challenges of being a female filmmaker arose, the two filmmakers responded quite differently.
“I never thought I was any different than any blokes growing up, and I still don’t,” said Arnold, who is the NYFF’s inaugural Filmmaker-in-Residence. “I don’t feel discriminated against particularly as a women writer.” Arnold added that she only chooses to work with men and women who treat her equally.
Foner’s take on the issue is that society has yet to catch up with laws about discrimination and that the culture still undermines women even when it comes to family dynamics such as child-rearing.
“We have all kinds of legal equality, but I’m not sure that inside our
personal lives we have quite achieved the emotional equality. One of the
reasons it may have taken me 30 years [to direct a film] is because I also felt incredibly
responsible for my kids. I thought I had the kind of marriage where my
husband felt the same way, but when push came to shove, I was the one
who always stayed home,” said Foner, who was previously married to director Stephen Gyllenhaal.
Foner’s directorial debut, “Very Good Girls,” starring Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Clark Gregg, Richard Dreyfuss, Peter Saarsgard and Demi Moore, debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
She said part of the reason it took her so long to direct was because she was too self-critical and lacked the confidence. “It took me fully 30 years before I directed a film because I didn’t think I knew what I needed to know, which was also bullshit. I think this is something women do more than men, but definitely self-doubt and this desire to judge yourself before you even start and to think there’s only one way to do it,” said Foner.
Foner said that she hopes that her daughter’s (Maggie Gylenhaal) generation “feels empowered in a way that I had to fight for….I’m hoping you guys are better off at this than I am and it won’t take you 30 years to direct your first movie.” In response to Arnold’s comment about not feeling “any different than any blokes,” Foner said, “I don’t think I’m any less than any bloke either, but the problem is that sometimes the blokes sometimes do and then when you stand up for yourself, you’re all the things they call you for standing up for yourself.”