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Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Jill Soloway
August 16, 2013 11:41 AM
55 Comments
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17 Reasons Why Chicks Actually Make Better Directors

Jill Soloway, the director of this year's Sundance breakout "Afternoon Delight," took home the Sundance award for Best Director.  She's also a member of the board of the San Francisco Film Society.  Earlier this week, Soloway took to the blog of SFFS Executive Director Ted Hope to explain why women make better directors than men.  Check out her reasons below, and visit Hope's blog for this post and more great content for the film industry!

1) We grew up playing dolls.

No one believes me, but honestly? Making a movie is closer to playing dolls than ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD. As children we sat on the floor, gave the dolls names, dressed them up in hot pants and pleather belts and gave voice to scenarios. And yes, we also smashed them together and made kissy sounds so they could make sweet, sweet, plastic love. I did that with Kathryn Hahn and Josh Radnor in my movie too!

2) We put on Thanksgiving

Women can make a space in their brain big enough to plan a seven-course dinner for thirty friends or a twenty-three day shoot for a crew of forty. Shopping list, shot list – they’re more or less the same thing. What do I need? Go get it – by taking your Subaru to the market or your camera to the actor’s face.

3) We can delegate.

Jill Soloway

I know what you were thinking with that shopping metaphor – that you know how to drive a Subaru but maybe not so much with operating the Alexa. Fear not that cameras are boy things — you never even have to touch it (unless you want to), your cinematographer does that. And of course, your DP can be a girl too!

4) We’re so into feelings.

Sure, some movies are about exploding fighter jets or planetary warfare – but the movies that really matter make us feel things. Men have to get past their fear of feelings; women are always trying to get people to go into the ladies room to talk it out, and then it ends in tears – just like an awesome movie!

5) We know how to attract.

Okay, I’m a feminist, so don’t get mad — but chicks spend their whole lives exploring the art of attraction. We were taught from an early age that men get spooked if you run at them at full speed – so we perfected the art of covering our faces in makeup and batting our lashes. Raising money for your indie is the same – if you act desperate or like you want it too much, investors run in the other direction.

6) We know how to apologize.

I hereby would like to apologize to any gender queer, third gender or trans people who find the gender binary herein repressive. I find it repressive too! I just wanted to think of a title that would be sticky and clicky, as they say. I’m sorry I’m so sorry I’m really really sorry.

7) We’re flexible.

It’s scientifically proven that women naturally have stronger and more flexible lower backs than men. There were intimate moments on the set of my film Afternoon Delight when Hahn and Radnor and my DP (Jim Frohna) and I were physically entangled on the bed supporting each other to get the right shot. It was sweaty and painful and everyone was afraid they were going to fart – just like yoga! So get downward facing, you boy dogs, you have some muy serioso catching up to do.

8) We’re willing to ask for directions.

As a director, a million people asked me a million times a day what I thought. I just turned the ol’ switcheroo on them and asked ‘what do you think’? They almost always had something better to add than whatever I was going to say. And if they didn’t, I used the time while they were talking to come up with my own thoughts.

9) We’re tough.

You guys think making a film is hard? Try making a human being. Filmmaking is nada compared to childbirth. And I had two c-sections, so I hung around on a table fully conscious while someone else reached into my guts and pulled aside my spleen so they could get a small person out. Twice. Also, men, try bleeding for five full days out of your vagina but going about your business with a straight face ONCE A MONTH for thirty years. That is bad-ass.

10) The vagina’s got a lot to say.

While we’re on the topic of said vaginas, please note that yes, the vagina has been oh-so-silenced for nigh on eons. Women experience the world differently than men. Did ya notice? So few women have gotten a chance to share their vision of this world onscreen, it’s inevitably going to be a new take. Isn’t that what everyone wants? New new new? We got it!

11) We have wombs.

Well, many of us, anyway. I was taught this really cool technique by Joan Scheckel (http://www.joanscheckel.com) that she might call ‘directing from the feminine’. It’s about imagineering the rehearsal space or the set as one big ol’ womb where the warm, moist safety allows everyone else to do their best work. This means letting go of a tightly held vision that you may (but probably will not) be able to will into existence. Women understand from their relationship to womb theory how to receive what is going on, how to listen to what their instincts tell them in the moment and allow what is happening to happen.

12) We have pretty good hygiene.

Eighteen hour days on set breathing down your neck? No problem. Ladies are often way more diligent about the whole deodorant wearing and teeth brushing than some boys we know. When I was directing Afternoon Delight, if we were shooting near our house, I went home to take a bath at lunch! (Okay, I also needed to get my bra off!)

13) We like community.

We make book clubs, writing groups, mommy groups, co-ops and even curated web video groups. Women love to create communities. Women are masters at creating make-shift families who are loyal to each other, support each other and all work towards a common goal. Whether the cast and crew become a community during a production or remain a group of individuals who happen to work long hours in the same place will show in your final product. And speaking of communities, your audience is yet another huge, unwieldy community that needs tender loving care.

14) We are:

Andrea Arnold, Catherine Breillat, Lena Dunham, Jane Campion, Kathryn Bigelow, Agnes Varda, Nicole Holofcener, Sofia Coppola, Miranda July, Lisa Cholodenko, Ava DuVernay, Lynn Shelton, Diablo Cody, Valerie Farris, Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron, Nancy Myers, Catherine Hardwicke and who else?

15) We’ve got maternal instincts.

A film crew is essentially a large family. A director must constantly cuddle and coddle and keep everyone on task… especially the actors. Who can be sort of like children. That doesn’t mean I don’t love actors. I would be one if I could lose around fifteen pounds. Oh, but for the gluten, which calls constantly…

16) We’re detailed-oriented.

That’s why your mom was able to scope out the one dirty corner of your room where you hid your cigarettes and the secret pleather belt and hot pants you changed into after she dropped you off at school.

17) We’re awesome.

So, yeah. There’s that too.


55 Comments

  • 21st Century Female. | March 24, 2014 6:40 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century Female. | March 24, 2014 6:22 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century Female. | March 24, 2014 6:22 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:22 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:21 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • 21st Century. | March 24, 2014 6:20 PMReply

    Creepy gender separatist. Quit encouraging gender competition and comparison- Especially listing reasons like having a Vagina and being in charge of Thanksgiving. How do you get wifi in your cave?

  • Christen Kimbell | August 31, 2013 2:56 PMReply

    How about this: let's not let any of the insults below, or other people's (male or female) preconceived notions of what we're supposed to be, get in the way. Let's just make great movies. Sincerely. No one gives a crap if you're male or female, where you come from, what your skin color is, what you eat from breakfast in the morning. They want to see a great film, that's it. Let's stop caring about all this other junk and just make the best possible films we can. Full stop.

  • bev kolbe | August 30, 2013 11:36 PMReply

    #14.......Jodie Foster!

  • Jay | August 29, 2013 1:07 AMReply

    Okay, I guess this is a joke. Which is unfortunate. My roommate just posted on her blog how women are not good directors because they are not expected to be. It's true. This silly article underscores the coddling women receive in our society when they aim to raise the bar. "Oh, that's so good... for a girl". They need the straight dope, not smoke up their arse.

  • ShelleyT | August 22, 2013 4:32 PMReply

    Huh?

  • PWF | August 22, 2013 6:09 AMReply

    Oh you brought up a really unoriginal menstruation comment.

    Cut there.

  • Eric | August 21, 2013 11:31 AMReply

    Oh please. This is such BS. Guys don't have feelings? Guys can't delegate? Guys played with dolls too... GI Joe for one - those little army soldiers, heck I had ALL the ninja turtle figurines.

    Get out of here with this bullshit hyperbole!

  • Nepodance | August 20, 2013 7:10 PMReply

    6) We know how to apologize.

    Who will apologize for 'Afternoon Delight'?

  • thedirectorlist | August 18, 2013 3:38 PMReply

    Who else? Here are nearly 700 women directors with film and/or tv experience: thedirectorlist.com

    I think Jill's post is funny. There are many sides to feminism and gender dynamics. In my opinion, I think she happens to be tackling the negative stereotypes about women who adhere to traditional female gender roles and saying, "Hey, if you're already going to see these common characteristics as a bad thing, let me point out a different way of looking at them!" She's not saying it's the only thing that makes a great director. She's just addressing one aspect of the problem (sexism in the film industry). And she's doing it with humor.

  • R. A. | August 18, 2013 4:59 AMReply

    This article is meant to degrade women, not men. Playing with dolls, cooking big meals, and keeping shopping lists in her head helped make her a better director? These are all stereotypes and assumptions based on traditional female gender roles. She is a fine director, but if any of her reasoning for her success is REALLY based on these life lessons, I think she is coming from a very shallow place.

  • Eric | August 21, 2013 11:32 AM

    AGREED. So sick of Indiewire man. They keep putting up these trash articles. I'm beginning to think they're more interested in being a tabloid monger than actual journalists!

  • MAM | August 17, 2013 8:20 PMReply

    I think everyone needs to relax. Jill Soloway is a comedian (in addition to a writer, director, etc). This is meant to be funny, not a dissertation. I think there is some truth in her jest, but it's not the whole story. OBVIOUSLY.

  • CAM | August 18, 2013 5:06 AM

    I didn't get a single chuckle from her insulting remarks. Sounded a lot like stereotypical assumptions, snide remarks and I didn't see a shred of "truth" to what she said. Sarcasm and blanket statements are not funny, nor are they helpful.

  • Raj | August 17, 2013 1:10 PMReply

    Feminism should be about breaking those gender structures down; this just plays right into them by vilifying men and painting them all into one corner.

    http://rajjawa.blogspot.com/2013/08/men-vs-women-feminism.html

  • Tommy | August 17, 2013 12:58 PMReply

    "17 Reasons Why Chicks Actually Make Better Directors" is nothing but a potential setback in the progress women have made to be taken seriously as directors (but probably won't affect any careers other than Soloway's.) For a person who was arguing on the behalf women directors just last week, I'm rather put off. Maybe one of the women under #14 should have written this list...oh wait, none of them would have because it's UNPROFESSIONAL.

  • Maria Giese | August 17, 2013 12:02 PMReply

    There are about 1,140 women director members of the Directors Guild of America. To become a DGA member, one must have worked professionally, and that almost always requires a great deal of hard work (often including film school and graduate film school) in one of the world's most competitive fields. Because of discrimination and misogyny, most of us are not frequently employed: only about 14% of TV show episodes and less than 5% of feature films are directed by women. Only about 35 women DGA members make a decent living doing the work they were trained to do. We will not know if women actually make better directors until women make up 50% of the directing workforce. The American film and TV industry is currently in egregious violation of American civil rights laws including Title VII.

  • Rob | August 17, 2013 9:40 AMReply

    I dont think she was entirely serious about all of this, maybe it was a finger in the eye of men who scoff at female directors. If so then I say bravo. If she was entirely serious then I have to say thanks for the laugh. If a male director came up with a list he would immediately be labeled sexist...so I am going to apply the same categorization. Talent is rare in directors and should be nurtured (especially when you look at the drivel we get nowadays) whether its a woman or a man, anyone assuming that they are better suited to an artistic role because of their gender is chauvanistic...period. Oh and by the way men don't freak out if you come at them full speed, it's only if you're holding a knife ala fatal attraction that we get defensive. Jill maybe it's not that men don't like strong women...perhaps the ones you've met just don't like you.

  • Peter Nellhaus | August 16, 2013 11:54 PMReply

    Hong Kong's Ann Hui has won more Best Director awards than anyone else mentioned, a record of four wins.

  • Cirulian | August 16, 2013 11:24 PMReply

    Directories=directors. Sorry about the typo,auto correct, what have you.

  • Cirulian | August 16, 2013 11:22 PMReply

    I think the point of the list is that woman are actually better suited to the job of director yet for some reason every one thinks of directing as being a mans job. It's making the claim based on physical & emotional gender bias, yet all the stereotypical things being listed that usually are used *against* women are actually why we are the logical choice to be directories, yet the "more logical" sex is dominant & most don't see anything wrong with it. I think it's kind of brilliant. But go ahead & get pissy because she forgot to list talent. (BTW, talent isn't gender specific. Why would it be added to a list for why women are better suited if both men & women can be talented?)

  • M | August 16, 2013 10:29 PMReply

    I am insulted as a director, as a woman, and as a person.
    I certainly hope that Ms. Soloway is better at making movies than she is at making lists (and also at playing into the hands of men who are sure that 'chicks ain't funny', because sis, funny is one thing you're definitely not).

  • MAM | August 22, 2013 3:17 AM

    She's actually really good at making movies. Her new film (feature debut, I believe) is fantastic. Knocked my socks off, in fact.

  • R.A. | August 18, 2013 5:08 AM

    Very intelligently said. I agree!

  • CarolAnn | August 16, 2013 5:12 PMReply

    I think everyone needs a wee bit of a sense o' humor here. The vast majority of comments below are so politically correct it is making my head hurt. FACT: If you write a script with a male protagonist you have something like a 93% better chance of getting your film made than if you have a female lead. FACT: Sales of spec scripts by female screen writers are lower at this moment than at any other time in two decades. FACT: Women make up only about 16% of all directors, and, FACT: the ratio of male to female speaking roles is roughly 3:1. The reality is that films are largely made by men, about men, financed by men and then critiqued by men. With of course, some wonderful and notable exceptions. Not that mean are bad. Of course they're not. There is just plenty of room in there for other perspectives. So let's celebrate Jill Soloway's success against some pretty steep odds. And if she feels that making better shopping lists and having a creative life that was made possible, in part, by being able to play with dolls as a child, why not? Artists are distinctly unique beings. Jill doesn't need to embody everyone's version of what a female director looks like - only her own. Way to go, Jill Soloway.

  • Theo Marshall | August 16, 2013 4:56 PMReply

    DGA winning Director Patty Jenkins

    Monster (2003)
    Arrested Development (2004) ("The One Where They Build a House")
    Entourage (2006) ("Crash and Burn" and "The Release")
    The Killing (2011) ("Pilot" and "What I Know")
    Five (2011) ("Pearl")
    Betrayal (2013) ("Pilot")

  • MovieGirl | August 16, 2013 3:33 PMReply

    As a female director, I very much agree we need more female voices out there but this list was silly. There is no "better" gender for directing. Some people are good at it, some people are good as aspects of it. Truly the voice and approach does change based on gender, background, personal life experiences, but nothing is "better" than another, just different. Really, we just need differences in the field.

    Reading the article, I kept imaging an overly smiling, sweet lady in a pink froo-froo dress and pumps telling me what it means to girly direct. "What quaintness women bring to the field!" Personally, I'm a rough and tumble type willing to work through the muck to get the shot/scene I want.

    Please, don't over generalize the profession and any gender's place in it. A person is a person. A voice is a voice.

    (FYI: My dolls didn't make "kissy" noises and bump up against each other. They were too busy helping my Ninja Turtles battle the Transformers.)

  • big d | August 16, 2013 2:19 PMReply

    i would love to see more female directors, but lets be serious. talent makes you a better director. not a vagina. and when you have to include such watered down bubblegum directors like Nora Ephron and Penny marshall on the list, you're reaching. not to mention Diablo Cody, who last time i checked, directed one film that hasnt even been released yet.. although in all fairness, kathryn bigelow and Sofia Coppola are amazing filmmakers.

  • Big D | August 16, 2013 2:21 PM

    and where is Amy Heckerling? how did diablo cody make it onto your list and not her?

  • Jeremiah Cress | August 16, 2013 2:16 PMReply

    This article only helps to further the gender divide. How anyone could justify writing it is beyond me. "Why men make better directors" would definitely not go over well, I'm sure, but in this ridiculously tiresome age of PC madness most people will not bat an eyelash. How about the equality everyone's been talking about for decades?

  • Mam | August 17, 2013 8:40 PM

    The reason why it would be sexist if a male director wrote the male version of this is because men are the privileged group in this scenario. It's not about being PC. Jill's list is poking fun at the prevailing (idiotic) belief in Hollywood that men make better directors. She's using the negative stereotypes about women to show how they can actually be positive attributes. This can also be applied to a larger societal context where traditionally feminine traits are seen as "lesser than." That equality you speak of probably won't come around until everyone respects the strength in the feminine and stops making it "lesser than" that which is traditionally masculine.

  • B.W. | August 16, 2013 1:23 PMReply

    Guys play with action figures, which is essentially playing with dolls. We had huge scenarios that we devised and played out by ourselves or with friends utilizing the entire yard and house as the setting. The only difference is instead of having them kiss and make smoochy sounds, we had them blow things up, had comrades fall thereby making emotional scenarios for revenge and betrayal, they each had their own character that we made their own dialogue for. To say that women playing with dolls is the number one reason why they're better is just absolutely asinine.

  • Dick Mays | August 16, 2013 1:19 PMReply

    Debra Granik, Winter's Bone.

  • Mary Jane | August 16, 2013 12:41 PMReply

    I find the use of "chicks" to be flat out degrading to our gender. Maybe a "chick" is appropriate for said female who pays attention her whole life to attracting men. Not my life experience. I get the importance of it though and I admit my resistance to being more soft. Yet...it feels very one-sided from one hetero woman's successful baby making point of view. I pray movies created by women will address codependency of families and communities. All in all, I appreciate this list, I congratulate Jill, and know it is good to encourage women film makers.

  • Todd Kennedy Mattson | August 16, 2013 12:22 PMReply

    I'll tell you who else...you forgot Amy Heckerling! "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" and "Clueless" - both AWESOME films. As a writer/producer/director, I agree there should be more women at all levels, especially hands on, skill based. As such my DP is a woman, UPM as well, and also my editor. There should be female sound recordists and gaffers!

  • L. | August 16, 2013 12:15 PMReply

    Everything wrong with mercantile postmodernism and shallow gender studies in 17 points (including the contrived tongue-in cheek humor).
    I laughed at 4 and 10... Oh things are so not going to change anytime soon. With friends like this, who needs enemies.

  • FrustratedHypocrite | August 16, 2013 12:14 PMReply

    Oh, gosh. I hope this is all tongue-in-cheek and I'm just not "getting it". A feminist who advances 17 bullet-points, each reenforcing gender stereotypes as basic as "women play with dolls", "women write the best shopping lists", and "women are good multi-taskers because they cook big meals"?! How idiotic and embarrassing. That tired old trope will surely win the "war of the sexes" that indiewire suggests is inevitable, won't it? "Women are what we've been taught they are since time began... so they're better filmmakers". If that messaging was a film I'd walk out 20 minutes in.

  • KLN | August 16, 2013 12:12 PMReply

    While we're at it, why not go even further and create a column on why woman of color are better directors than privileged white female directors? Come on, I support female directors out there, too, but this creates a sense of division and is just flat out pointless. Let's advanced without all the unnecessary comparisons.

  • Stephen van Vuuren | August 16, 2013 11:55 AMReply

    Brilliant! As a male film director who's desperately tried to encourage more women to direct, this is a much better list of reasons that what I had which was mainly #10 and #4. As a film watcher as well, we just flat out need a greater variety of filmmaking approaches other than Transformers 27.

  • Tg Watkins | August 16, 2013 11:54 AMReply

    Why is Indiewire so obsessed with Women directors? would be the better question

  • Phil | August 16, 2013 5:10 PM

    Once quality is dropped as the guiding principle, and anything can be come the editorial obsession.