A minor tweet storm controversy erupted tonight when “Jurassic World” director and upcoming “Star Wars: Episode IX” filmmaker Colin Trevorrow responded to a fan on Twitter asking him about gender inequality in Hollywood. The query specifically centered on if the blockbuster helmer would have been afforded the same opportunities to direct “Jurassic World” — after making one small indie film, “Safety Not Guaranteed” — if he was not a white male. Trevorrow responded on Twitter, but the response, which he subsequently later called “muddled,” ruffled a lot of feathers, including those of actress Jaime King (who coincidentally has a “Star Wars” connection too; her husband Kyle Newman directed the “Star Wars”-inspired “Fanboys“). Tanya Wexler, the director behind the TIFF-premiering indie “Hysteria,” also responded. See the tweets and his initial comments below.
“Many of the top female directors in our industry are not interested in doing a piece of studio business for its own sake,” Trevorrow wrote. “These filmmakers have clear voices and stories to tell that don’t necessarily involve superheroes or spaceships or dinosaurs.” His initial tweets on the subject are below.
— Colin Trevorrow (@colintrevorrow) August 21, 2015
— Jaime King (@Jaime_King) August 21, 2015
@colintrevorrow I appreciate that on behalf of all female filmmakers. We love your work – don’t underestimate the power of your voice. Xo
— Jaime King (@Jaime_King) August 21, 2015
@colintrevorrow I cannot begin to tell you how naive & wrong it is. I have all the desire in the world. I would kill to make a blockbuster.
— Tanya Wexler (@TanyaWexler) August 22, 2015
— Colin Trevorrow (@colintrevorrow) August 22, 2015
These comments, plus earlier statements he made to the LA Times this week about hiring practices within Hollywood further fueled the backlash on Twitter. “But it hurts my feelings when I’m used as an example of white, male privilege,” he told the Times. “I know many of the female filmmakers who are being referred to in these articles. These women are being offered these kinds of movies, but they’re choosing not to make them.”
I think I know what Trevorrow was trying to say. I personally was pretty happy when Ava DuVernay turned down Marvel‘s “Black Panther.” Not because I don’t want to see her tackle a blockbuster, but because DuVernay making a Marvel movie means one less personal DuVernay picture (I said this exact same thing on Twitter, she favorited it and then unfavorited it not long afterwards). The Marvel machine is becoming pretty homogenous of late and I’d hate to see her unique voice lost in that kind of filmmaking-by-committee atmosphere. Likewise, I want to see Sofia Coppola make auteur-driven Sofia Coppola movies, not studio-managed blockbusters (but hey, if she, or any other female filmmaker choose to make a film like that, great, more power to them).
But there’s no denying Trevorrow’s is a potentially troubling response and it doesn’t address the clear lack of opportunities afforded to most female filmmakers. Angie Han at Slashfilm does a good job of breaking down some of the problems inherent the remarks. Still, I had spoken to Trevorrow earlier this year and found him to be smart and thoughtful, so I reached out to see if I could get him to clarify or expand on his Twitter remarks. Here’s what he sent to me, and full disclosure, he told me he sent Slashfilm the same statement:
The last thing I’d want to communicate is that I don’t acknowledge this problem exists. I think the problem is glaring and obvious. And while it does make me a little uncomfortable to be held up as an example of everything that’s wrong, this is an important dialogue to have, so let’s have it.
Would I have been chosen to direct Jurassic World if I was a female filmmaker who had made one small film? I have no idea. I’d like to think that choice was based on the kind of story I told and the way I chose to tell it. But of course it’s not that simple. There are centuries-old biases at work at every level, within all of us. And yes, it makes me feel shitty to be perceived as part of this problem, because it’s an issue that matters so much to me. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t talk about it in the first place.
I do stand by the idea that a great many people in the film industry want this to change. I have made attempts at every turn to help turn the tide, and I will continue to do it. When I got the script for “Lucky Them,” released last year, I advocated hard for my friend Megan Griffiths to direct. She did, and she made a wonderful film (see it please). On my next project, “Book of Henry,” nearly all of my department heads and producers are women. Will I give a female filmmaker the same chance Steven Spielberg gave me someday? Let’s hope that when I do, it won’t even be noteworthy. It will be the status quo.
I came home from New York tonight and saw my daughter again after a week away. This had come up earlier in the day, so it was on my mind. I did think a lot about how vital it is for me to empower her now, even at age 3. To encourage her to go out and grab whatever it is she wants in life, to lead. It starts with the constant, steady assurance that the top job is attainable.
Becoming a filmmaker is not easy. It’s years of rejection and disappointment and it’s very hard, often grueling work. The job takes insane levels of endurance and sometimes delusional amounts of self-confidence. All I can do is raise one girl with that kind of fearlessness, then let her choose her path. That’s my contribution. The rest is up to her.
(Should I mention we need more female chefs? Different article.)
Trevorrow didn’t address his comments about “desire,” or lack thereof of the part of female filmmakers. But it’s late in New York, he’s with his daughter (as am I) and this is all we have to parse at the moment. The underrepresentation of women in Hollywood is a topic that’s rung loudly all year and has become increasingly scrutinized in all quarters For a more detailed look at this issue, there’s the disconcerting Female Filmmakers Initiative, Sundance Institute and Women in Film report published earlier this year (a study which our own Katie Walsh was part of). Based on their findings, Jessica King wrote an editorial titled, “Why Female Directors Almost Never Get Blockbuster Gigs,” which I encourage you to read. Thoughts? Weigh in below.
8/22/15 Update: Trevorrow has one final thought.
I have seen that Sundance study. I thought it was clear that I was pointing out one component in a complex issue, not making some blanket statement. I’ve had conversations with many female filmmakers on this subject, and the lack of interest in making a large scale corporate-driven tentpole (or a mainstream studio romantic comedy) was a pattern I noticed. I also had lunch with the director of one of this year’s biggest hits, and she was dead serious about making exactly the kind of blockbuster in question. And I know she will.
Look, I know I’ll get beat up a bit for venturing into this debate at all, but I’m okay with that if it generates more discussion. If I’m not welcome in the dialogue, I’ll shut the hell up. But this is something I genuinely care about, and I ask questions about it all the time because I want to know what the damn problem is.