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What I Learned From Finding My Lead Actress Through ‘Women and Hollywood’

What I Learned From Finding My Lead Actress Through 'Women and Hollywood'

In January 2013, I wrote a guest post for
Women and Hollywood 
about my difficulties casting a curvier woman for my low-budget indie film. I had decided to Kickstart my first feature, “Bread and Butter,” the previous year. I had never made a long-form fiction
project, but had dreamed since I was a young girl of being a director. I couldn’t
afford a casting director and, because I had some limited experience casting at USC
Film School, I opted to cast the film myself, along with the help of my
entertainment lawyer/lead producer Tiffany Gray.

While reading Melissa Silverstein’s original article about Romola Garai being “too fat” for Hollywood (which inspired my response to her post), it
became apparent to me that the problem of casting our lead actress was bottlenecking
our entire production. And it was all my fault. I was too close to the
character and kept looking for mini-me’s in the casting room. My very specific
vision of our lead was keeping our entire production from getting off the
ground.

Feeling desperate, I reached out with my guest post and was
grateful that Melissa published it. Almost immediately, because of this
article, miracles began to happen. At the tail of my article I put out a call
for help. I asked for curvier actresses with credits to contact me if they felt
they were right for the role, and I got a lot of responses from women who
themselves felt disenfranchised by the industry. The thing is, I wanted a curvy
girl as our lead, and that posed a problem because, as you may have noticed, in
the world of Hollywood, they are a rare breed. 

Christine Weatherup read the article and emailed me: “The more that filmmakers stand up for curvy
women, the more I hope we get to seem them depicted.” We found
each other because of Women and Hollywood. I posted the article on a USC Women
of Cinematic Arts listserv, and Chrissie happened to be a member of the group. We
found our lead actress (Weatherup) because of these resources. We were lucky to
have everything else in place, but as artists, sometimes we can’t proceed
without things feeling “right.”

This experience jumpstarted an incredible
realization in me, and the time has only confirmed it: The more we utilize
and support resources for female filmmakers, the more powerful we are. This
may seem like an obvious realization, but I believe there’s more to it. 

Going back to Jay Sherman’s famous speech from “The Critic,” “if you stop going to bad movies, they’ll stop making
bad movies!” If we start saturating the market with stories for women, by
women, the noise will not be ignored. It’s only logic.

It seems that every time I get together with another woman in the
industry, we cannot help but get excited about what is happening around us (or
exchange horror stories). I had drinks a few weeks ago with a female DP whom I
respect wholeheartedly. She described a few instances in which she experienced
obvious discrimination because of her size and gender. I introduced her to the amazing groups that Melissa had introduced
to me: the WIMPS (Women Intersectional Motion Pictures Salon) mailing list, Film Fatales, the Alliance of Women Directors, The Director List, Seeking Our Story, Barbara
Ann O Leary’s Directed by Women. There are a lot more, but those are some of
the ones on my radar. We started to discuss the most effective way of
empowering women without getting lost in bureaucracy. We have some ideas and
practices we will implement, but the overall philosophy is that things can only
get better by forming relationships of mutual empowerment with a direct
exchange of resources.  

Complaining and making noise helps. Taking action is even louder. 

We will always be paranoid about competition with other women for
pieces of the pie. I’ll paraphrase one of my favorite pieces of advice from my good friend Mike Greischar. Even though it sometimes feels like it we’re not all fighting for the same slices of pie, we need to all
work together to make the pie bigger. 

At first, in 2013, because of my passion for casting women of all
sizes in film, I reached out to the female-filmmaking community. Now I am reaching
out to our community for a larger question: How can we all work together most
effectively to make it better for female filmmakers? If I need help, and I do,
can I just ask for it?

Yes.

Let’s not be afraid to produce content. If making that big-budget film is not in the cards for the next few
years because of financing, do your best to produce content that is within your wallet’s reach until
then. Help saturate the market and help make a change. I love this revolution
we are in.

I hope we can all work together to affect each other’s careers.
Whether it’s hiring your lady neighbor or empowering her with suggestions and
resources (vendor/crew/social-media recommendations), this can only work in a
relationship where we are giving back to each other. We cannot just take.

So, I offer this to my fellow women and my fellow filmmakers
anywhere on the gender-sensitivity spectrum: let’s continue on this path
of mutual appreciation. Reach out to me, request what you need of me and let’s work out our own symbiotic
relationships. Do the same for your colleagues. Hold each other accountable. A
like is free, a share is free, and a recommendation of a good filmmaking
teammate is also free (and invaluable). Let’s directly affect each other in the
way that Melissa Silverstein and Women and Hollywood have directly impacted our
film, “Bread and Butter.”

We are grateful and want to continue to pay it all forward. Let’s
make that pie huge. 

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