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No More Excuses: Hollywood Needs to Hire More Female Directors

No More Excuses: Hollywood Needs to Hire More Female Directors

German-born director and former World Point Fighting and Karate Champion, Lexi Alexander worked as a stunt woman before directing her first film, the short “Johnny Flynton,” which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003. Her first feature, “Green Street Hooligans” won both the Audience Award and Jury Award at SXSW. She later directed “Punisher: War Zone,” which became a cult hit following its 2008 release. She wrote and directed “Lifted,” and has been working on a variety of other projects.

Aware that she’s taking a risk of being labeled a “difficult bitch” if she voices any complaints, Alexander took the bold move of excoriating Hollywood for not hiring more female directors on her blog. She’s tired of hearing people say that women don’t want to direct and that there are no women directors out there. “I swear, if anyone near me even so much as whispers the
sentence “women probably don’t want to direct” my fist will fly as a
reflex action,” Alexander wrote.

Yesterday, “Women and Hollywood,” an Indiewire blog, re-published Alexander’s blog post, but given that Alexander complained that mainstream outlets don’t cover the issue, we felt it’s worth republishing here (with her permission, of course). Read it below:

There are only two kinds of people who are successful at this social
media thing. Those who are funny and those who get real. I am not that
funny, and I have yet to get real publicly. 

Today is a good
day to change that. Since funny is not an option, I am going to take a
deep breath, muster up all the courage I can, and talk about an issue I
have long observed despairingly from the sidelines. 

Over the past
three or four months I have been contacted by a civil liberties
organization regarding this issue, I have spoken to several reporters
anonymously, I’ve had lawyers call me to inform me that my forty-minute
Academy Award-nominated short film somehow uniquely qualifies me for
something I never, ever wanted to qualify for (it has to do with an
excuse showrunners like to use when turning down feature directors for
episode gigs), I even attended two DGA Women’s Steering Committee
meetings, and the best part, I have met many fellow women directors.

Read More: Gender Inequality in Film: In Infographic Form

Facts:

1)
The media has never covered the lack of women in film and television
more extensively than right now (skip the links if you must, just trying
to make a point):

“Because We Need More Kathryn Bigelows: Segregate the Oscars by Gender!”

“Only Two of the 100 Top-Grossing Movies of the Year Were Directed by Women”

“The Bigger the Film, the Fewer the Women: Nominations for This Year’s Oscars Will Prove Hollywood’s Sexism”

“Golden Globes by Gender: Where Are All the Women?”

Quote of the Day: Manohla Dargis: ‘The Movie Industry is Failing Women'”

“Hollywood Sexist? Female Directors Still Missing in Action”

Those are just from the past few weeks. The list goes on and on.

2)
There is no lack of female directors. Repeat after me: THERE IS NO LACK
OF FEMALE DIRECTORS. But there is a huge lack of people willing to give
female directors opportunities. I swear, if anyone near me even so much
as whispers the sentence “Women probably don’t want to direct,” my fist
will fly as a reflex action.

Side note: The previous statement labels me as “difficult”.

If
I would instead have ended the sentence with, “I don’t know what I’m
going to do,” I would be labeled as “indecisive.” By letter of the law,
all female directors must fall in one of two categories: Difficult or
Indecisive. Bitch or Ditz. Hello, my name is Lexi Alexander, Difficult
Bitch. Nice to meet you!

3) Despite the fact that plenty of
outlets love to cover the “Women in Hollywood” issue, not one mainstream
journalist has had the balls to really get to the bottom of the issue.
(There are rumors about a prominent investigative journalist circling
the story, but I’ll believe it when I read it.)

4) Gender
discrimination in Hollywood goes far beyond women simply not getting the
gig. It is reflected in movie budgets, P&A budgets, the size of
distribution deals (if a female director’s movie is lucky enough to
score one), official and unofficial internship or mentorship
opportunities, union eligibility, etc.

5) Women in Hollywood have
no male allies. There are some who pretend to be on our side, but yeah,
not really. They may say the right thing because, after all, they’re
liberals and that’s a public image they’d like to keep up. Others may
actually believe in gender equality, but are not willing to put up a
fight for it that could sacrifice their own status or relationships.

The
majority of people think exactly like those anonymous commenters that
pop up under any of the above linked articles. Check them out, they’re
easy to recognize: White male, oblivious to the affirmative-action bonus
that came with the cradle? Yup, that’s him. He will shout and scream in
capital letters about reverse discrimination and argue that people
should be hired based on merit and not gender, revealing that his
three-hundred-thousand-dollar education really isn’t worth a dime.

I’m
going to get a lot of heat for the above statement, but I promised to
get real. “What’s that? You’re saying this is not true, that there are
many men in Hollywood who have tried to change the status quo?”

Okay. Let’s be fair and really dissect this. (I would love, love, love to be wrong about this).

This
past Saturday I went to one of those Women’s Steering Committee
meetings at the DGA. To be honest, after the first meeting I went to a
few months ago, I swore I would never go again. It just seemed weird and
kind of upside-down. The people with the most intelligent things to say
were bullied into silence, and the bullies were applauded. One fairly
prominent female director actually stated several times in a row: “Let me make this very clear: I am not here as one of you. I am one of the boys, okay?”

Don’t ask me to explain it. I still don’t understand it. It was surreal, to put it mildly.

But
when it was announced that our new DGA president Paris Barclay,
National Executive Director Jay Roth and Western Executive Director
Bryan Unger would attend the next meeting to inform us how the
negotiations with the studios went and what they had achieved in regards
to diversity hiring, I had to go.

Also, I do have the sticker on my fridge about “being the change you want to see in the world.”

Read More: Chicken & Egg Pictures: The Force Behind Women Directed Documentaries

Here are the points of the negotiation they shared with us:

1) The number of female directors working in film or TV has decreased and everybody finds this abysmal number embarrassing.

2)
There were heated arguments about who’s responsible. The studio tried
to put the blame on the DGA and its own small number of female members,
but the negotiation committee reminded the executives that a woman can
only become eligible to join the guild if she gets hired by a signatory
company.

3) A Warner executive stated, “I am not embarrassed about
what my company does, but I am frustrated by the lack of progress when
it comes to gender equality.”

4) TV continues to hire 80% white
males. The number of first-time directors breaking into TV is actually
acceptable. Unfortunately, it’s only white males who do it.

5) The
hiring process or the qualifications/skill-set needed to book an
episode cannot be defined. (Is there an animated “jerking off” emoji?)

6) Shonda Rhimes gets it.

7) CBS doesn’t.

8)
It was decided during the negotiations to change the wording regarding
diversity hiring from “best efforts” to “work diligently.” [Editor’s note: Maria Giese also wrote a Women and Hollywood column regarding this mild-seeming but crucial shift in word choice.]

9) Nobody knows how to implement a successful diversity program. Many have tried and failed. SONY may have a plan that works.

10) The DGA needs to come up with ideas and present them by July.

Sigh.

Look, everybody who was present during these negotiations reported
back to us that Paris, Jay, and Co. fought and argued passionately for
diversity and the women’s cause. That’s not up for debate here.

But
can we please, please stop pretending that everybody is trying their
best and that it’s just an impossible task to accomplish?

It’s this type of fake activism that drives me fucking crazy. JUST STOP!

Do you know who Kellan Elliott-McCrea is? No? Well let me introduce you:

He is the CEO of Etsy and someone who decided to make diversity a core value.

Because
Etsy’s customers are 80% women (hello, TV audience), gender diversity
became a priority. His efforts in the first year to increase the number
of female engineers failed. As a matter of fact, they saw a 35% decrease
in gender diversity. He realized, “Something wasn’t working, this was
deeply broken.” So he and his team put their heads together, reevaluated
their plan, identified potential road blocks, came up with a new plan,
and voila:

Etsy increased their female employees by 500%.

Now,
Kellan may rock a hair-do reminiscent of a famous genius and clearly he
must be wicked smart, but as far as I know he’s not uniquely gifted in
the IQ department.

But you know what he is? Sincere. He actually
meant what he said, rather than having some mental masturbation session
about gender equality.

Now, before you spit fire and release smoke
out of your ears, just do me a simple favor and educate yourself about
the history of diversity in Hollywood, because before I decided to take a
stand on this, I did exactly that.

If you read only one thing, please read this report from 1978, when the EEOC investigated equal-employment practices in the motion picture industry.

Okay,
so we know that people have seriously acknowledged that there is an
problem back in 1978, thirty-five years ago. Promises were made even
back then to “work diligently” to fix the imbalance.

The fact that there has been no improvement in thirty-five years can only really mean two things:

1) Those who have promised to bring about change were insincere.

or

2) Those who have promised to bring about change were not very smart.

You choose.

Can
we all just be real for a second here? Ask yourself this: If diversity
hiring were a sincere core value in Hollywood’s studios, do you honestly
believe they’d fail?

I’m going to end this with a personal
opinion. Only this month, I received two meeting requests from companies
whose mandate in 2014 is to hire more women, so the tide maybe
shifting. And I do appreciate their effort so very much.

Truth: I
loathe the idea of being hired because of my gender and I shudder at the
thought that one day I show up on set and half of the crew thinks,
“Here comes the quota hire.”

When I was still fighting
competitively [in world point fighting and karate], one of the best
tournaments I ever attended was the Dacascos Open in Hamburg. They had a
ranking system going on all year, but because I hadn’t attended any
other tournaments within their organization, I was given “wildcard”
status, which meant I had to fight everybody, while their top fighters
are automatically placed in the semi-finals. If I lose, I am out. Those
were literally impossible, ridiculous odds, invented to discourage
outsiders. It was also the best tournament I ever fought, and yes, I won
it all. I thrive on impossible odds, always have.

I don’t care if
Hollywood dishes out the same impossible odds, I don’t care if they
built a wall as thick as the commies did in East Berlin, and I don’t
care if I have to be ten times as good as a male director to get 1/8th
of the opportunities he gets… as long as people are honest about the
game we’re playing, the tournament we’re fighting.

But don’t tell
me I’m not a wildcard when I so obviously am, and don’t tell me you’ve
been working diligently to eliminate the wildcard system, when in
reality you’re not.

Because then you’re not only jerking me off, you are also dehumanizing me by not extending even an ounce of respect.

For
future generations of girls, who may get the crazy idea that they too
have stories to tell, it should become our core value to stop handing
out wildcard status based on gender. 

To those who have promised
to “work diligently” on increasing those abysmal, embarrassing
statistics, I’d like to say this: If you find yourself stuck, hopeless,
seemingly willing but utterly unable to remedy this gender disparity,
head to this website the Swedes generously created for the public called
Include Gender.

An entire toolbox full of ways to create a successful plan. Who knew?

This Article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit and tagged , , , ,


Comments

Georgia Malloy

Lexi is a known difficult person to work with in the business. She is a very bitter person and is notoriously miserable to be around and work with. She even threatens violence (even in this interview) and feels it is justifiable. She is not talented (see the box office performance of Warzone and how that film was a jumbled hot mess) yet she thinks she has a say in the business. She is out and is not going to be invited back behind the curtain anytime soon. Good riddance to bad and toxic attitudes.

Melody

This is so on time for me to read today, as a screenwriter who keeps thinking the only way to get my work done is maybe to direct it myself (that old adage). I was up half the night in pure anxiety panic mode after reading several articles and book chapters about how hard it is for women behind the scenes as directors, writers, and in production. I felt like all the awards and praise and hard work has really been for naught. Then I took a deep breath and remembered AFFRM and Ava Duvernay and the need for us to create our own opportunities and distribution models. If directors have it hard, you know how bad it is for writers…especially women writers like me, who write action, sci fi and horror with strong female characters and protagonists. My grandmother used to to say (re: black folks getting ahead) "We need to to stop putting our hand out to Charlie." Which means stop expecting the hand that denies your worth to give you what your worth. I know it’s easier said than done, and we want our big old piece of the major pie NOW because we’re just as good and hell, we deserve it. But for my liking, a strong, solid independent, self-sufficient build-up of something outside of this system that doesn’t seem to want us, seems saner. Yeah, we’ll all keep raising the ladders over the moat to the castle wall. But I’m throwing my weight into building our own home, brick by brick, supporting the women who are out there hustling, doing it for themselves and making it happen, because there’s no time to have our hand out, waiting, when we can band together as the writers, directors and crew that DO exist, and make it happen ourselves. (I am aware that I may still be dreaming, but it’s sweet for now, so careful waking me).

pamela vitale

I alway wanted to direct but it’s been so hard I kinda gave up and now have a hard time even getting a decent job in my career of creative / marketing / video. To many risks and not enough reward or support has made me so gun shy. I never felt that women supported each other either thought out my entire career at all. As a artist I always wanted to direct a film that was the ultimate goal.

Neens

All of this is, unfortunately, very true. Sad thing is, it's not just Hollywood. Getting directing jobs in Germany as a woman is just as hard if not harder 'cause the market is really not all that broad anyways. I love my job and I'm not willing to give up but if I wasn't willing to still work as a 1st AD or script/continuity between directing jobs I wouldn't be able to pay my bills.

I don't favour the idea of a 'girls' club' to support female filmmaking (which I don't think should even be a thing. Filmmaking is filmmaking…). However, this is exactly what we seem to be needing to get jobs.

Obviously, you shouldn't hire someone just because they share your gender. But I can guarantee you that the woman you hire will often times work twice as hard and good as any man because they know that in most cases a male colleague would've gotten the job.

Sad truth.

veal hatred

Hollywood will never let itself be anything but a boy's club. Feminists need to quit fooling themselves, stop sucking up to male power and stop playing by the sexist rules, because it only reinforces their secondary position and men are not going to willingly give up their spot. The best a woman could hope for is an uncle tom position like Katherine Bigelow or Leni Reifenstahl, but now we are leaving the realm of gender politics and entering into another one altogether…

Truth Sayer

The problem with this whole "we need more women in Hollywood" rant is that what is really meant by that is that there needs to be more white women in Hollywood directing.Yes,yes,because white women usually don't take part in anything that Hollywood creates.Yes men do dominate the director world,and just because she wants to direct,does not mean there are like thousands of women wanting to direct.Most of the people that do produce films are woman and they trust only directors with a certain following in addition to proving themselves bankable people like Katheryn Bigelow.Some people in the industry need to realize that there are women in the industry that want to be directors but they have to work for it first and not just be handed the opportunity just because they are a women.Write an original screenplay like Lake Bell or Debra Granik then complain if you don't get picked up.

Yazmin Ortiz

Absolutely Lexi! Girl power all the way!

Jared

My biggest problem with this article is it does not acknowledge the fact that the ratio of males to females is very skewed towards males in the industry. I'm a male currently in film school, and out of 80 freshman students there are maybe 10-15 girls. Gender shouldn't be taken into account with jobs, skill should. But let's say the industry is only 15% female and 85% male, 15% of movies should be directed by females and 85% by males. That seems fair to me, women shouldn't direct 51% of movies because that's their percentage of the population, it should be the percentage of people applying. There just simply aren't as many females interested in film, as males.

@TheDirectorList

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective as a working woman director! Our favorite part is, of course, where you remind people that indeed women directors DO exist. To say otherwise, is just a convenient way to let oneself off the hook for being ignorant about gender dynamics in the industry. It's the reason we started thedirectorlist.com (and @TheDirectorList on Twitter) — there are many women directors with experience!

Tara

As a young woman & aspiring director, I can say this article was the most up-lifting & best thing I've read on the issue of gender inequality in Hollywood. Just being a junior in college I see it everyday in my film courses….and this is just freaking college! NOT EVEN A FILM SCHOOL. I appreciate these words of encouragement and will use them everyday. This article cuts straight through the BS, and that's exactly what needs to happen SOON. The wildcard status, and the faux-femnisits needs to end, and this is just the type of thing I needed to read to carry on in what I can only imagine will become a tougher struggle as I actually make it into the "real world" of movie making…

Jon

She can direct my movies any day.

CrazyxCrazy

Lexi Alexander making films is a reason to STOP women from making films

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