Now that The Fault in Our Stars has grossed $166 million on a $12 million production budget — thanks to the irrationally underestimated loyalty of fangirls — Hollywood is looking to adapt another novel by the author and Internet celebrity John Green.
Coming up next is a big-screen treatment for Green’s award-winning debut book, Looking for Alaska. Green confirmed yesterday via Twitter that Sarah Polley will be writing and directing the film adaptation. Alaska will be Polley’s highest-profile project to date and her first studio movie.
Set in an Alabaman boarding school, Looking for Alaska centers on a teenage boy’s crush on a popular but deeply unhappy girl named Alaska. Kaya Scodelario is rumored to be in the running to play the female lead.
Paramount optioned the book back in 2005, but it has sat in limbo until the wild success of The Fault in Our Stars quickly pulled it off the shelf.
We’re big fans of Polley, who has quickly distinguished herself as a director to watch with Take This Waltz and Stories We Tell. And we are very happy that she has been hired to adapt the novel, not least because our infographic this week illustrates how the studio system so routinely and perniciously discriminates against female filmmakers.
It’s not just numbers that bear out this situation, but individual cases too, like the hiring of Josh Boone to helm The Fault in Our Stars. Information has come to Women and Hollywood telling us unsurprisingly that “every high-profile female filmmaker” was gunning for the job of adapting the teen cancer romance. The (male) candidate who ended up getting the job, Josh Boone, had just “a couple of writing credits to his name and the one film he wrote and directed [Stuck in Love] was a major box office flop.” The source continued, “It flopped so bad that his people have removed the budget from every website, so people can’t see how much money he lost in his one time directing effort.”
It’s not that male directors can’t make fine, true-to-life movies about women (though many, many seem to prefer not to). It’s that Hollywood’s glass ceiling is all too evident. Manohla Dargis has previously pointed out with incredulity the fact that Mark Webb got to ascend to the top of the studio food chain from the $7.5 million-budgeted (500) Days of Summer to the $230 million-budgeted reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man. Webb is joined in the Glass Elevator Club by Colin Treverrow, whose $750,000 indie Safety Not Guaranteed led to the $150 million Jurassic World, and Gareth Edwards, whose $500,000 Monsters led to overseeing the $160 million Godzilla reboot. (For more evidence see our The Unbelievable Privilege of Being a Male Director.)
Men get handed the bat for that chance to hit a home run regularly, and they get help all along the way to be a success. And then, even if they are not successful, there is still the mechanism for them to come back again. It is not an exaggeration to say that women just don’t have those opportunities. So, we must remember that each time a woman gets a major gig at a studio is a gigantic big deal because so many things are working against women, especially at this high level.