The following speech was originally delivered on April 21 to the Sisterhood of Traveling Producers, a small, invite-only group of young female executives and producers founded three years ago by Stacy Keppler.
To the wonderful women in this business of film: Your welcoming kindness last night meant a lot to me. As an actress, I’ve been treated as property or as a competitor. There is very little camaraderie on my side of the business. Your warmth was a new experience for me. How wonderful that you women have each other, and how wonderful that we got to meet.
I’ve been thinking about what I said last night. I feel inspired to expand on last night’s topic, that of Being Progressive.
Historically, artists have had patrons to finance and shepherd their work. To me, that is what anyone working on your side of the business is: a patron of the arts. We artists need you to be our protectors and our warriors. Not that we need coddling — quite the opposite — but we need fighters. Washington, D.C., accuses us of having an agenda. Damn right we do. We have a responsibility to push for our world to be better. We all know the power of media. Let’s use it to our benefit. As I said last night, we count as audience members, too.
WE ARE THE PUBLIC.
Here are a few actions you can take to improve and change the role of women in film and the role of film in society.
–Just because a writer or director “succeeded” at something before doesn’t mean they should do it again.
–If you know certain directors (men) behave reprehensibly, fight against their hire and offer up alternatives. BE BOLD. If someone is a known dickhead, stop their hire. If they are misogynists, stop their hire. These are not the people we need to reward. Stand up and stop perpetuating the cycle. We are responsible. Stop protecting evil. We didn’t join the Mafia when we joined this business. We owe no one our vow of silence.
–Suggest traditional men’s roles be turned into ones for women. It will instantly make your work more layered. Anyone from the lead to the sidekick to a character with one line — turn them into women. It is imperative that we start seeing women on film in other roles than The Wife or The Sexpot. How boring. Let’s reflect on film what society ACTUALLY looks like: 50% female. Women are in all kinds of jobs and have complex lives, so put that on the screen. I’m curious about the plumber who says two words on film if she’s a woman. What’s her story? How’d she get there? People love relating to othe rpeople onscreen. So why aren’t we women allowed to relate to our own lives? Where is our representation? Let’s take action to change these tropes. It is time.
–Put female writers and directors on the TOP of your lists. Do it every time. If asked why, say why not, smile and walk away. Give them something to think about. It’s about time to see women in films as equals. This is a simple way to start. Remember: Just because it’s been done a certain way doesn’t mean it should still be done that way. The sad fact is, Hollywood is out of date. Let’s bring our town into the modern world. Dwindling ticket sales are a reflection of how largely passé Hollywood films are. Let’s be better, let’s do better.
–Stop rewarding males that do half-ass jobs. Hire women instead of men. Be bold when you hire. Go with your gut. Go with someone interesting and not someone “safe.”
–If someone yells at you or puts you down, stop them in their tracks. Retrain them. If someone says your name wrong, you correct them, so why don’t we do it when mistreated? Correct bad behavior as it happens. If Scott Rudin throws a phone at your head, throw one back and throw it harder. No one gets to abuse you. If someone is a misogynist, an abuser of talent and crew, or worse, DO NOT LET THEM GET HIRED.
–Finally, please stop viewing film and TV as product. It is not product. You and I are making documented history. We are creating a time capsule. Choose what you put in it wisely.
We can be the change we want to see. Let’s go, let’s have an agenda, and let’s do this.