Marielle Heller recently received some well-deserved love from the DGA for her critically acclaimed directorial debut, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.” Heller, who also penned the script for the female-centric coming-of-age dramedy, has been named one of the DGA nominees for best first-time feature-film director. But it’s been far from smooth sailing for the filmmaker.
In an interview with Vogue, Heller shared, “I went to Sundance Labs, and I definitely watched my male peers from there have very different meetings than I was having, very different outcomes.” She elaborated, “You could tell there was a feeling that a young male director had this exciting potential and a young female director was risky. That different perception of someone being risky versus someone being: Oh! The future!”
Sundance Institute research shows that female-helmed projects that receive Sundance Lab support are completed at the same rate as male-directed ones, and female narrative directors exhibit their films at the same rate as their male counterparts. They’re also as likely to receive domestic theatrical distribution as male participants. But — and this is a major but — female participants are more likely to receive distribution from indie companies than “the more lucrative or prestigious Studio Specialty/Mini Major distributors.” And for “the few females” who are picked up by these flashier, more powerful companies, the “gap widens even further at the highest level of distribution where women [are] underrepresented by a factor of six to one.”
These same research findings support Heller’s assertion about how female filmmakers are viewed differently on account of their gender. The Sundance Institute suggests that “perceptions of profit potential disintegrate the pipeline for female directors” and “a view of a gendered marketplace limits the perception of women’s career potential.”
We hailed “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” as one of the best films about girls and women last year. You can catch it on DVD as of today.
Listen to our podcast with Heller, where she discusses the process of adapting “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” which was originally a graphic novel, into a play and later, the film. She also addresses the film’s subversive take on young female sexuality and receiving the equivalent of an NC-17 rating in the U.K.
Heller’s interview with Vogue is worth checking out. She talks about being the only female nominee in her category for the DGA awards, the opportunities for women directors in TV versus film and much more.