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Male Privilege Watch: Man With No Directing Experience to Direct Film With Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett

Male Privilege Watch: Man With No Directing Experience to Direct Film With Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett

Women and Hollywood is on vacation this week. While our lights are out, we’ll be reposting our most popular posts of the summer.

I was going to tweet this up, but then I paused, because I think it is important to have these examples written out in more than 140 characters.

Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett are set to star in Truth based on the book Truth And Duty: The Press, The President, And The Privilege Of Power written by former CBS producer Mary Mapes. The book is based CBS scandal regarding whether George W. Bush received special privileges to get out of Vietnam and into the national guard. The upshot is that Dan Rather who was CBS’ lead anchor at the time was disgraced, and Mary Mapes who was his producer, lost her job. Blanchett will play Mapes and Redford will play Rather.

Writer James Vanderbilt will be making his directorial debut on the film. He will also adapt Mapes’ memoir. Vanderbilt has written The Amazing Spiderman 1 and 2 as well as White House Down and Zodiac. HE HAS NO DIRECTING EXPERIENCE. (See earlier piece – The Unbelievable Privilege of Being a Male Director.)

To say that this will be a high profile film is an understatement. Deadline reports that they are eyeing a fall start, and with such high profile actors like Redford and Blanchett attached, the film will undoubtedly get awards attention.

The question this raises is, would a female writer be given this kind of opportunity? 

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Ms. Silverstein, first name a woman writer with that much history and box-office draw, then ask the question that need not be asked.


A man is doing something! Quick, sound the sexist alarm! I, for one, am so against men doing things. Sometimes I do things and I'm like, "Why? A woman is so much more suited for this task." Well no more!

Fat Connie

the whole premise of this piece steps over (or more likely is ignorant of) how projects come together in Hollywood. Not saying male privelige doesn't exist in different forms but working screenwriters w/ strings of produced films – bonus if they're hits- make the leap to directing, irrespective of gener – all the effing time


I'll make a bet that the DP on this film has three initials after his/her name and a host of producers and experienced ADs breathing down his neck on every setup. This guy is more likely walking into something of a meat grinder than a ticket to the Oscars. That said, it's a great issue to raise.


Would a female writer be "given" this opportunity? No one in Hollywood is "given" anything. You earn your opportunities, take them or create them. As a woman and a lifelong feminist, I am appalled by this assumption that James Vanderbilt got bumped up to director due only to his penis, and not any semblance of talent. Do women get these opportunities to transition from writer to director? Yes, women transition from screenwriter to director all the time, and do so with no experience, usually by *creating* that opportunity for themselves. And, if you are a women in this business, you should know them by heart.

Did someone "give" Gillian Robespierre OBVIOUS CHILD? Was Sarah Polley begging on a street corner for a directing gig? Kimberly Peirce? Nicole Holofcener? Diablo Cody? Lena Dunham? Let's go back to Nora Ephron, whose first film flopped. And yet, her second was a huge hit with big stars who were made huge stars after that. Were any of these women "given" anything? No. Like everyone else in this industry, they worked for it. What people are complaining about here is that a smart writer created a smart deal for himself. He didn't get a woman director fired from the project to steal this is as his directorial debut. He wrote, and produced, successful films and made a smart business move. Bravo to him, for making a big step that will hopefully open doors to more writers. And that includes women.

What about Cate Blanchett? After her being vocal about female-driven movies being bankable, she chose to work with *gasp* a male director. Which is her absolute right to do. I'm not bashing her for that, I'm trying to illustrate a point. We aren't talking about women making a conscious choice to work with more women, and the very real way we could work together to get more films made. What we are talking about here is men getting the jobs. It seems a little futile, if you ask me.

Yes, there is a gender gap in Hollywood. There's no doubt about that. But, if you think Hollywood is unfair to women, name me any industry that does treat women as equals, that hires as many or more women as men and also pays them an equal wage. It's tough to be a gal anywhere. But, we work hard and we succeed. And, when we succeed, we need to help another lady into the ranks.

No one gives anyone anything in Hollywood. Our job, as filmmakers, is to create. And, if we want, I'm sure we can create an opportunity that will put many women to work.

Rachel Feldman

The question this raises is, would a female writer be given this kind of opportunity?

While I'm sure Mr. Vanderbilt is a highly skilled filmmaker, waiting to but out of his seams to direct, and that he'll deliver great dailies, your question is a great one.

NO WAY. Not only that, no female DIRECTOR would be given this opportunity unless she had already directed a boxoffice blockbuster or two. Good luck, Mr. V and all power to you. But yes, terribly unfair and a great story to illuminate the persistence of gender bias. ARG!!!!!



Jennifer Lee came on to Frozen as a screenwriter for a couple of weeks between her contract and finishing up her work on Wreck-It Ralph. Disney was so impressed with her story contributions they picked her up to co-direct.

Peter Machen

A woman absolutely would not be given the same chance. Proven by the inequality in the industry!


As soon as I saw that most of the commentaries were trying to veil and silence Melissa Silverstein, I stopped reading them. I don't have time for misogynistic rants. Keep speaking out, Melissa.


I read this with interest until I could out you were talking about James Vanderbilt. The guy is an established, successful screenwriter who has well and truly paid his dues in the industry. Its a common thing to have writers make the jump to directing. Good on him.


How about Nora Ephron having five years of screenwriting credit before directing When Harry Met Sally? How about Sophia Coppola going from zero to working with Kirsten Dunst in her first directorial effort? How about you scratch the feminism from the menu and look a little more objectively and reasonably before making unfounded statements that this guy was hired strictly on the basis of his gender?


I read the article and checked out his imdb credits. It is not uncommon for someone who direct a major production if they adapt the script and/or option/own the rights on the script. He alo has a strong producing background so I bet he probably optioned the rights to script and got Robert and Cate to sign on although he never directed anything. From a actors prospective he has a successful track record of being a good writer. From the studio prospective he has been successful not only as a writer but as a producer as well. Have I heard opportunities like this offered to women? Yes. The key is leverage. Owning what the studios want and having established talent attached to the project.


the problem is that he is man or that he's unprepared? if it were an unprepared woman would you be happy?


God the comments of the article are hilarious. I agree that this article is just poorly documented, and it's presented as info when is not, well I doubt indie wire has many real journalists working for them… everything works in the online world anyway… and damned! I read it! Stupid me! LOL

Blue Angel

I always say that you can put a monkey with a 40 people crew on a set and he'll make a great piece of crap looking good, and even the story might be fair, and the editing amazing.
On the other hand, there are few people that can direct well, contrary to popular believe… The rest of them are kids with contacts and money that take credit (also the credit of brilliant actors' work with a poor direction)…
Furthermore I agree that the article is made around the gender issue in an unnecessary way, for the main deal here is "How can the world work like this?" Right? Well, now the second problem has to pop up too, in my opinion, because if you are a woman… you won't even smell the pages of the draft…
However, I think that Vanderbilt has been in this industry for a while and he must know about it more than the writer of the article thinks. Will he be a good director? We don't know it yet. Maybe, maybe not, though normally writers are not precisely good directors… just on TV, but TV writers are really creators with their crew of writers, not a writer in the literal sense. Definitely this man has been persevering for some time now, and the opportunity came up.

Anyway, that's too much of an explanation… but once again, the problem that the article talks about is… A writer is offered this… and no wonder they complain because that happens in Hollywood every day with people with family in the EI. So articles like this are written for that reason.
So the deal to me is: "Not everybody can be a director in order to make it right, while at the same time, in those arenas that we are referring to, even a handicapped monkey with minimum communication capacities could do it (and a lot of patience and valium)". This is ridiculous…

Blue Angel has said… Cheers!


I have to agree this is another ill-thought out article, albeit with a good heart at its core. Yes, gender-bias is an issue in the industry and more needs to be done to both raise awareness and change the underlying problem. Unfortunately, this article is doing nothing to actually draw attention to that issue and is instead taking a rather arbitrary observation and trying to turn it into something more profound.

Everybody is a first time director at some point, so the whole observation is somewhat moot. Granted this film is quite an audacious first-time gig, but James Vanderbilt is not some precocious brat. He's been a professional Hollywood screenwriter for over a decade and has cut his teeth working alongside some of the biggest directors on some of the biggest productions of the last ten years. This article could have been written about Wally Pfister. It could have been written about Roberto Orci. It could have been written nearly a decade ago about James McTeigue or perhaps even about Barry Sonnenfeld. All have somewhat 'jumped the queue' in terms of getting to direct a feature film, if you want to think of it that way.

As for whether women get the same opportunities, the problem answering that question is the very rocky foundations upon which the initial observation lie (namely that somebody – a male- who has limited directing is now directing a film). I mean, it's arguable that Sam Taylor-Wood was somewhat privileged with the opportunity to direct Nowhere Boy, she had been an artist and had perhaps dabbled in film, but it would be a stretch to have called her a director at the time and her 'industry' experience was far less than Vanderbilt's. She is now directing '50 Shades…'. It's a similar argument for Sofia Coppola. Both, I hasten to add, talented at what they do. But then so is Vanderbilt.

My concern with this article is the unfair light it inadvertently casts on James Vanderbilt, and the arbitrary observation you've used to highlight a salient but ultimately different issue. Gender bias exists, and you're right to try and highlight it and generate debate. I just don't think this case study is really drawing attention to anything pertinent. The male privilege problem we face is not connected to James Vanderbilt getting this gig, and I think in a way trying to force the two together weakens what should be an inherently strong argument.

This is not 'Male Privilege Watch' and it's a bit concerning that an article would be constructed that way, especially with so little substance or research at its core. Yes, we need people holding those who enforce male privilege upon the industry to account – but it needs to be done properly, or what is a very important issue will devour itself and become an easy target. If you want to hunt down male privilege in Hollywood you will have to dig a lot deeper into the power structure of Hollywood and put it into better context in order to really be illuminating. This kind of thing has happened literally countless times – producers, writers, 1st ADs, cinematographers moving sideways into substantial directing gigs. Pulling this one out of the hat, unfortunately, doesn't prove or highlight anything. I do appreciate the spirit of this article, but we need to be smarter about this issue if we're to get anywhere in solving it.


"The question this raises is, would a female writer be given this kind of opportunity?"

YES…..we already have affirmative action for sub par journalists, (this article for instance) writers, artists, musicians, comedians, who invariably use their pussy pass and/or minority status and/or female privilege and/or faux manliness (lean-in/ you go girl-ism) and/or faux victimhood to get what they want.
There is strength in being weak. That's what feminism has thought women. If a woman fails it is because of patriarchy. If a woman suceeeds it is because she is a strong independent woman. I fear we're only gonna see more male dominated positions in the future as women cannot be trusted with power if they blame their failings on men and attribute their successes to themselves. Confirmation bias en masse (aka krazy)


this movie will bomb anyway so what difference does it make?

Good Lord

This could very well be the most ill-informed article to ever grace the pages of Indiewire. While there's no doubt that gender bias exists in the film industry, this article is clearly written by a report who has little-to-no understanding of how the industry works, the qualifications necessary to become a director, or the career of the director-to-be in question. Rather than exposing bias, you're compromising your own argument and exposing your own ineptitude. The fact that Indiewire would publish such nonsense brings their entire website and editorial staff into question.

arlan godthaab

My guess is that your reliance upon the phrase, "directing experience" is somewhat starved for experience, itself. A Director's job is to understand, establish and guide actors and crew through the labyrinth of: story, theme, character and performance, while working in a harmonious way with the collaborative production and post-production mechanism long in place for feature film production. A seasoned screenwriter's experiences on multiple major motion pictures constitutes an incredible body of production experience (ask Sophia Coppola), one that gratifies all of filmmaking's real requisites, especially its well established system for metriculation and advancement – one that's well understood and seriously regarded by the founder of Sundance, and not likely snuck-by the likes of an Academy Award-winning actress of Cate Blanchett's caliber, either. Relax. Breathe. Do the hard work of writing some successful screenplays, and you'll come to know what I mean. Gender-whining, alone, won't cut it.


I hope Ms. Silverstein and Indiewire do a series called 'Male Privilege Watch: Directors Without Experience' every time someone with experience in the industry (though not specifically in directing) and who happens to be a man gets to direct a film. Can they also, please, go back in time to include Tony Gilroy and the more recent Wally Pfister? Maybe even as far back as Hitchcock…'Hollywood would rather let a corpulent foreign Art Director with little non-art directing experience direct than…'

Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly think there's a dearth of non white male directors doing bigger projects in the industry which is incompatible with the 21st century and against our general development as a society / civilization. However, this article (if I can call it that) takes a justifiable and urgent sentiment and pushes it to a self-parodical limit. Choose your targets better Ms. Silverstein – indiscriminate fire will only hurt your valid cause.


This guy's a Vanderbilt. If there *is* inequality…it's social pedigree.

He's earned his chance…

Besides, it's not a first for the Vanderbilt name to cross tracks with Sundance.

Melissa Silverstein

The reason why I wrote this piece is because this happens all the time. This is not a one time thing. Bottom line – Men are given opportunities that women are not.


Melissa Silverstein's articles are routinely poorly-written, reactionary, and ill-informed with no sense of journalistic curiosity whatsoever to find out anything beyond the headline. Despite being featured on a site called "Indiewire," she has a myopic obsession with Hollywood, where only the women directing multi-million dollar pictures actually count as directors. Shall we guess what type of privilege she has to continue at her current job?


Callie Khouri. But you got me to click, so job well done I guess.


You're creating a mountain out of a molehill, putting a problem with no solution; in other words, talking absolute sh1t!

Lazy, reactionary and feminist-for-hire journalism.


Was he "given" the opportunity willy nilly or was he on the ground floor of developing the project etc. A lot of assumptions here…


I won't comment on the article but on the sexist disturbing comments. Asking for equal opportunity is a fair argument people. It is disturbing that companies (in the film industry or any other industry) discriminate against a worker on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race or disability. SO NO. We won't "get over it" because silence is compliance. This is not about male/ female, is about human, civil and equal rights. So you get over it. To say that women have to stop complaining because in other countries like Syria they would have it worst is truly despicable. This is America and unlike in those places women have a voice so it's our duty to use it. Here's to the cavemen below…


The REAL problem here is that a self-serving book that attempts to exculpate a proven liar is getting the star treatment. This will undoubtedly turn into a glowing hagiography glorifying the legacy media which has failed the public so many times, it's now one of the least trusted and respected institutions in the world.

As for James Vanderbilt's bona fides — his Spider-Man movies are widely considered inferior to the Sam Raimi versions. The only reason they made money is due to the good will built up by decades of popular Spider-man comic books and the Raimi movies — not Vanderbilt's mediocre scripts. And his White House Down, an unabashed valentine to Obama, is the worst of the two "White House takeover" movies released in 2013.

But hey, Vanderbilt's a fan of leftist media fossil Dan Rather, and his new movie will smack that old, now-irrelevant punching bag Bush, so of course Hollywood will give him whatever he wants, including an Oscar for what is sure to be an unwatched but critically raved-about clunker.


Oh go and play with you're vagina #Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Same old crap, oh poor women so repressed in hollywood. try living in Syria, Palestine or Iran then you'll find out what f#cking repressed is.

Mr. Roberts

When a comment smacks with as much palpable resentment as yours do, JCausey, it is impossible to take seriously–or at least with a bowl of sodium. Funny you cautioning others to know the facts, when your diatribes supply none–just your angry, dare I say misogynist-tinged perspective.


Wait a minute, is this for real?

You're complaining about a proven screenwriter being given a chance to direct a film based on his adaptation? What's the problem here? Oh, because the book was written by a woman, it should be directed by one? Bullshit.

This annoys me so much – plenty of films are being directed by women, but it should be the best person for the job, not based on their gender. It's not the fault of male directors that there are more of them who are actually in the industry (it's a traditionally male industry, which can't be helped.) and therefore they're more likely to get the job.

Seriously, female writers who live sheltered lives really grind my gears. Get into the industry and you'll realise that studios want someone who isn't a risk, and with Vanderbilt they're getting a great screenwriter and a director who has proven himself with short films, who's also worked with a lot of high-profile directors. He's hardly "untested" now, is he?

Who would you suggest to direct it then? Kathryn Bigelow? Diablo Cody? Because if you're going to start making films based purely on gender then you're not going to be able to make many.


A woman would very likely have not been given the opportunity. I see this shit all the time. I just wrote about how Michael Douglas's film company admitted to seeing women directors as a risk. The producer i spoke to tried to say that how directors get picked is based on their work history but that's bullshit. It's just a boys club.


I am so sick of sheltered, privileged, out of touch female writers who live in a bubble wasting our time writing BS articles like this. Have you ever thought it might be a privilege issue, not a gender one? Oh wait…You're so cut off from the real world that you don't even realize that there are a TON Of male filmmakers who will never get this opportunity either, because they weren't born in white upper middle class/upper class families, and therefore they aren't put in positions like Vanderbilt.

BUT NO WAIT! Its not a class issue, its a gender one! Get off your high horse. Its almost like you're life has been so easy that you find problems where they're aren't ones and make it about yourself (or should I say the female gender) because you have no idea what real problems are in the real world. Ever think that male's in the film industry get more opportunities because there are actually MORE MALES in the industry going for these positions?

Seriously, get a check with reality.


No Female would have been given this opportunity and due to Cate Blanchett absolutely NO Black Female or Male


Ridiculous. Would never be given to a novice woman writer. Gillian Flynn anyone?

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