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It’s Your Set, You Can Cry If You Want To: Jill Soloway Redefines ‘The Rules’

It's Your Set, You Can Cry If You Want To: Jill Soloway Redefines 'The Rules'

READ MORE: ‘Transparent’ Creator Jill Soloway on How Her Life Lead to Jeffrey Tambor in a Dress

“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway delivered a stirring keynote at the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women short film showcase last month.

Founded in 1974, DWW is a hands-on, tuition-free program dedicated to increasing the number of working female directors in the industry. Given the A.C.L.U.’s announcement that it plans to press state and federal agencies to investigate Hollywood’s gender-biased hiring practices, the timing of this year’s showcase couldn’t have been better.

“When I have spare time I’m happy to get together with women filmmakers and remind them over and over again that even three years ago, I was waking up in the middle of the night before a shoot thinking, ‘don’t do it, you’re not good enough, what are you doing?, what are you thinking?,'” Soloway told Indiewire during the private filmmaker reception that preceded her opening remarks and the screening. “It’s very natural for people who have been other-ized — for women, or for queer people or for people of color — to question whether or not they have the right to hold the camera. So the activism is a hugely important part.”

A few minutes into her onstage remarks, Soloway pulled out a copy of “The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right,” the notorious 1995 self-help book for single women looking to get married, and proceeded to draw a lengthy, but hilarious comparison between the rules of romance and the rules of work.

Below, we recount three, incredibly powerful lessons that emerged out of Soloway’s version of rewriting “the rules.” While we tinkered with the organizational presentation of Soloway’s points, in an effort to respect the integrity of certain nuances in Soloway’s original speech, we chose to publish a selection of excerpts that have been transcribed word-for-word (to the best of our ability).

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“The Rules” says, “be a creature unlike any other.”
Jill Soloway says, “You have to fucking do me a favor and fuck some shit up.”

“Forget everything you’ve been told about how to make it. Everything guys, seriously. You know how they used to tell women that if you have to cry, to go to your car, to go to the bathroom? On my set I say if you can’t cry, you’re a liability. If you can’t cry you can’t feel and if you can’t feel you better not be holding my camera for me. The camera is recording images of humans — skin and water moving over muscles and bone — that is feelings. And I’m just curious, how did the world of men convince us that feelings are their specialty? Feelings are our thing. They’re our thing. There are so many status quo filmmaking supposed norms — this really questionable militaristic language, like, point and shoot and cut and capture — but the truth is, I came into most of my power as a filmmaker when I realized that all I needed to do was make a safe space for people to have feelings. And that is feminine energy, that’s mommy energy, that’s our birthright, that’s our wombs, our space-making, our crucible-containing bodies. As a newly politicized member of the gender fluid revolution, I will remind you that you don’t need a female body to have a womb. You can have a spiritual womb, you can have a conceptual pussy if you wish. You don’t need to be born with a female body, you just need the idea of a womb, the idea of a pussy.”

“The Rules” says, “Don’t expect a man to change.”
Jill Soloway says, “Don’t expect the industry to change.”

“Men are holding on so tightly to male protaganism because it perpetuates male privilege. From their subject seats they can point. They like to point from their seats — they go, ‘she’s hot, she’s not, she’s fat, she’s old, I want to bone her, she’s past her prime, that person’s black, that person’s queer. […] They’re like in a lifeguard chair, in a watchtower, they’re way up high naming things and they’re not going to give up those lookout spots easily. In fact, most of the time they won’t even cop to the fact that they have that privilege. Instead of waiting for the industry to change or the guys to change, storm the gates, grab hands with each other, run like red rover to those lifeguard chairs, snarl at the bases of those watchtowers like starving beast dogs, boost each other up the fucking things and tear those motherfuckers down.”

“People on sets have gotten so used to operating under this fear, this masculine idea [that] time is money. It’s a worshiping and a privileging of equipment and cameras and cranes and numbers and schedules and money and I don’t know, who ever decided that right before you’re supposed to start filming emotions you’re supposed to go, ‘alright, quiet everybody, last looks, action.’ You don’t do that actually. It was like shockingly, frighteningly easy for me to realize that I could invite actors into their risk spaces by leading with, receiving, gathering, feminine, space-creating energy.”

“The Rules” says, “Always end phone calls first.”
Jill Soloway says, “Please, just focus on your art. Your art, your art, relentlessly your art, until you find yourself so busy making stuff that your agent is having a really hard time trying to get a hold of you.”

“Yes, we can agitate for gender parity, and I’m so glad we are agitating for gender parity, [but] I do want to remind people that gender parity is not like 50/50. Gender parity would mean that for the next hundred years, women direct 95% of the movies and then in year 101 we go to 50/50. That would be gender parity. In the mean time, we can activate, advocate and agitate — and we can sue Hollywood, yes ACLU, sue em’ all, just keeping suing everybody — but the only way things are really going to change is when we are all wilder and louder and riskier and sillier and unexpectedly overflowing with surprise. So invite that surprise into your art by bringing all of that feminine allowing to the set, to your filmmaking. And soon, what everybody is going to say is, we have to find a woman director to make this because women are just so much fucking better at it.”

READ MORE: Watch: Jill Soloway’s 7 Tips for First-Time Directors from Her Rousing Film Independent Forum Keynote

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