This morning, the Tribeca Film Festival hosted a brunch celebrating the female filmmakers of the 2015 edition of the event. Women comprise about 25 percent of the directors at Tribeca this year, with 32 films in the feature length categories and 16 in the short film categories directed by women.
Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal opened the brunch by telling the story of attending the revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s play “The Heidi Chronicles.” “I remember thinking, this play is so strident, it’s going to feel really dated. But I sat through it and got emotional and all of a sudden I got fucking mad,” Rosenthal said. “Because as I’m listening to a play that a woman wrote in ’89 about women’s issues and guess what? It was all the same… nothing has changed.”
In attendance at the event (sponsored by Coach) were notable female directors, producers, actors and distributors all present to emphasize the importance of supporting female filmmakers throughout their process. Indiewire spoke with a few directors and jury members throughout the rest of the morning to get their take on the state of women in the business.
Jennifer Morrison (“House,” “Once Upon a Time”) is premiering her directorial debut, a short film called “Warning Labels,” at Tribeca this year. She was proud to express that the film was female directed, female written and centers on a female protagonist, but noted that it was sort of accidental.
“When you’re a driven, strong woman, you naturally gravitate to other driven strong women. So it was sort of just a natural flow of collaborating without even realizing that you’re heading in that direction.”
Morrison’s “Warning Labels” screenwriter, Jenelle Riley expressed that, since her collaboration with Morrison, she’s noticed a change in her writing.
“I would definitely say that I didn’t [focus on women’s stories] in the past, and it’s something I’m becoming more and more aware of as I find my voice. I used to have a very different writing style. Now I really feel like, god at my age I’m finally telling the stories that I want to tell.”
Carolina Groppa, whose documentary “Autism in Love,” premiered in competition at Tribeca addressed the struggles she’s faced. “I’m a female filmmaker on top of that I look younger than I am. I’m a tiny person. They don’t take me seriously and that’s fine. I have to prove myself, way harder than if I was just a dude,” she said. “But I’m a fighter and I’m a hustler and that’s what I’m here for. Everything in life is hard, and you’ve got to pick your hard.”
Women on the jury were also in a celebratory mood, but noted that celebrating female filmmakers often comes with conflicting baggage.
“I feel like women need to stop feeling so hamstrung by being women,” said Minnie Driver, who is on the Best New Narrative Director Jury. “I wish that women felt more confident in their voice as filmmakers and didn’t feel like they had to tell ‘women’s stories.’ This is something that Kathryn Bigelow talks about a lot, and arguably she makes ‘male’ movies, but I wish that there didn’t have to be a differentiation. I wish we could just make fucking films and it not be: this is skewed towards women, this is a guy movie, this is a date movie. Can’t we just be filmmakers and artists?”
Driver then noted in particular Talya Lavie’s film “Zero Motivation,” which won the Nora Ephron Prize last year at Tribeca, for being genderless in that she couldn’t tell if it was directed by a man or a woman. Lavie is on the jury this year for the same prize, and detailed her approach to judging.
“Basically I don’t want to judge women’s films differently than I judge men’s films. I wouldn’t want to be judged in a different way,” she said. “But for now I think the most urgent thing is that I want to see 50 percent women directors. That’s all I want to start with. Than we can discuss the content.”
Actor Rachael Harris, who is also on the jury for the Nora Ephron prize, had a different approach. “I think with the Nora Ephron, in particular, and I’m speaking for myself, I think it’s a shame that we even have to have a Nora Ephron prize, do you know what I mean? Because [filmmaking] is so male driven that we have to be like wait, wait. So in a sense, if this is creating this dialogue, then it’s a stepping stone to equality. “
Driver and Harris both noted that there’s a definite problem with categorization and compartmentalization when it comes to marketing, studio decisions and even audiences. “The reason why we think ‘women filmmakers,’ ‘male filmmakers,’ ‘gay filmmakers,’ is because we put everybody in a box,” Harris said. “Men write female driven things all the time and nobody says, ‘Wow, that’s a man writing a female story.'”
So how can we celebrate female film directors and yet strive not to be compartmentalized anymore? Driver said that it’s like good parenting.
“You celebrate where your kid is at, and you make them feel good about that and you don’t diss them and make them feel bad. But you remind them of their potential. You don’t just leave it at that or sit there and congratulate them. You give them that feeling of now let this fire up your potential to expand into everything that you can be. We need to celebrate how far we’ve come without putting down our fighting sticks.”