When I was a little girl my mother worked in an unheated factory five days a week and cleaned houses on weekends. Never once did anyone tell her, “Well, that’s too big a job for a woman.” Nor was she told, “You need a self-sacrificing partner at home to do that job.” She certainly never heard, “Oh, you can’t combine that with raising children.”
People are always happy to hand a woman a mop, frying pan or sewing machine for a minimum wage job. They never ask if it’ll be “too much” for her to handle.
I’ve had a luckier life than my mother — largely thanks to my amazing mother — and I have a much better job than she did. I write and direct feature films for a living. It’s a really cool job. Think of what directing is — it’s your imagination being made real. What could be more fun than that? But the fun doesn’t end there.
I don’t even make big-budget movies, but when we’re filming, I get a driver. Yes, a driver. If I want food someone brings it to me. Food that I didn’t have to cook. When we’re not filming — and filming is only a tiny part of the long process of making a movie — my hours become really flexible. And the post houses put out snacks for the director. They ask me if I’d prefer different snacks. Again, cool job. Lots of fun. And so much easier than my mother’s grueling jobs, where no one ever asked her if she’d like a cappuccino.
The first time I directed — a micro-budget movie, so no driver, but snacks and coffees — my daughter was 12. I was home schooling her. I was worried about doing both. Would I become a bad mother? Would she be damaged for life?
My daughter sat in a corner reading. She met new, interesting people. She was bored sometimes, couldn’t stop laughing other times and learned how grownups work. And in a few weeks filming was over. The flexibility of postproduction worked beautifully for parenting. Today she’s a happy constitutional lawyer, so I can say with confidence that being the daughter of a woman director did not damage her for life — though she does hate the film business because it’s so sexist.
I’m not saying that directing is easy. You have to work hard and sometimes things go wrong and people run around and panic until the crisis is fixed. But women face issues like that everyday in all kinds of jobs where no one brings them snacks or asks them what their vision is.
And yet what do I read and hear? I read and hear people saying those statements about my job that they never said about my mother’s job. “Well, that’s too big a job for a woman.” “You need a self-sacrificing partner at home to do that job.” “Oh, you can’t combine that with raising children.”
So many young men on set — sometimes I fear it’s 100% of them — are convinced they can be the next Orson Welles. Yet when I ask smart, capable young women working on set, “Hey, why don’t you think about directing?” most of them immediately reply, “Oh I could never do that.”
Why do they think that? They think that because too many people are saying women can’t do the job. Or can only do it when the circumstances are perfect, or if it’s a certain kind of movie, or if they don’t have children….
Well I’m here to say that they can do it, and we have to fight the propaganda that tells women that directing is not a job for them. So yes, women, it is a job for us. And it’s easier to combine with having a family than most jobs.
You will have to give orders to people, which many women have been raised to find uncomfortable. And occasionally — very occasionally, in my experience — that makes somebody, usually but not always male, a little pissed off. But as my daughter says, “We can’t let being called a bitch stop us from doing the cool jobs.” And overwhelmingly when I’m giving instructions to the crew and cast the response I get is respect and friendship.
As for what movies women can make? Make anything. (I’m not talking financing here; that is a whole other topic.) Make everything. Don’t let anyone else puts limits on you or define you.
I choose to make morality tales about women’s lives that are erroneously labeled rom-coms, but since the films do have some romance and some comedy I’m not going to nitpick, especially as the audiences themselves seem able to see beyond labels.
I am moved beyond words when I read the comments on Netflix, Amazon and other sites from real women — and a lot of men — about how much my movies mean to them.
Directing is a really cool job — and one where you get to touch the hearts of strangers. Let’s not leave this gig to the men. I just wish my mother had been as lucky as I am. She would have been a great director.
Joan Carr-Wiggin’s newest feature, “Happily Ever After,” will be be released digitally on March 15. You can find it on Amazon, BestBuy/CinemaNow (rovi), Blockbuster, Google Play, Hoopla, iTunes, MGO, Sony PlayStation Network, Vudu, Xbox, iNDemand, Dish Network, AT&T, VuBiquity and DirecTV.
Joan Carr-Wiggin is a writer-director who specializes in films with great roles for women. “Happily Ever After” is the fourth feature she has written and directed.
Her last film was “If I Were You,” starring Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden, Aidan Quinn, Leonor Watling, Joseph Kell and Valerie Mahaffey. In a play within the film, Harden played several scenes from Lear as Lear — the first time a woman ever played the iconic role on film.
A former economist who only entered the film business in her forties, Carr-Wiggin currently resides in Toronto with her husband and partner David Gordian