Film and television producer Mynette Louie (“California Solo,” “Land Ho!”) has taken to the web to pen an eye-opening rundown of the various ways in which Hollywood gives women “a raw deal.” Over at Vulture, the Independent Spirit Piaget Producers Award winner and president of Gamechanger Films provides an alternately enlightening and infuriating insider’s look at how female professionals are forced to function inside the industry. Louie’s piece includes insights from both her own experiences and those of other female filmmakers, much of it inspired by the recently launched (and almost immediately viral) Tumblr account Shit People Say to Women Directors.
Louie’s sources were asked to sound off on the kind of sexism and discrimination they have faced in their working world — as Louie notes, “These minor offenses are often committed by people who have no idea that they’re doing it, but they can add up, contributing to the cloud of sexism that will continue to choke Hollywood female filmmakers” — ultimately finding a number of examples that fall under four umbrellas.
The first example that pops up is the so-called “Babysitting Barrier,” in which female professionals — even directors! — are all but babysat by male collaborators. Louie spoke to director Karyn Kusama, who shared an experience of “arranging a meeting with a potential cinematographer and then having her male producers insist that they be present, too.” Insulting enough, but Louie continued on, “Kusama’s meeting with the cinematographer went from bad to worse, though, when the man told her, ‘How terrible for your child that you’re leaving him behind to direct this movie.’ Never mind the fact that this man had kids of his own!”
Louie also turns an eye on “The Mini-Me Problem,” which sees “key players’ desire to seek collaborators who are similar to themselves — not just in terms of taste and perspective but also culture, background, and, yes, gender.” Louie specifically points to the hiring of the relatively green Colin Trevorrow to helm major blockbuster “Jurassic World,” as Brad Bird touted his talents to producer Frank Marshall because of how much he saw of himself in Trevorrow’s work. That same idea also ties into the chummy feeling that dominates so much of studio Hollywood, a “who you know” style of working that seeps into so many parts of the industry.
The Vulture piece gets more and more horrifying as it winds on, with Louie’s third example enough to make anyone’s head explode: It’s called “Knee-Jerk Disrespect,” and it speaks to the common assumption that a woman who is on-set isn’t in a position of power. Louie herself shares, “The first time my crew meets me on set, they rarely assume I’m the producer and treat me with little regard. I’ve been called ‘doll’ and ‘sweetheart’ by crew who should’ve been calling me ‘boss’…This happens off-set, too, at cocktail parties and networking events where I’m either ignored or gritting my teeth through a whole lot of windbaggery and mansplaining before I even get to introduce myself.”
Still, Louie is optimistic about the future, noting that “there’s been a recent surge in women-run production companies that are dedicated to investing in female filmmakers,” along with more mainstream interest in snagging talented women for big jobs. Her entire piece is an essential read, so head on over to Vulture to for the full — and very smart — read.