In 1998, “Deep Impact” left a serious impression at the box office, earning nearly $350 million dollars on an estimated $80 million budget. But we haven’t seen much of its director Mimi Leder’s work in theaters since. In a new interview with The New York Times, Leder gives a frank account of what happened to her career after her follow-up to the blockbuster disaster film, “Pay It Forward,” was a critical and commercial failure. “I went to movie jail for quite a long time,” Leder explained.
“I excel in television,” she added. “I’ve directed nine pilots and six of them went to air, so my television career was flourishing, but I couldn’t get arrested in features. Saying this sounds like sour grapes, but it isn’t: It’s very different for women filmmakers than it is for male filmmakers.”
Leder described “Pay It Forward” as “a mark against [her] by the industry.” She elaborated, “I know you’ve done your research and I know you’ll see that this is true: Most women who don’t have a commercial success are not asked back to the party. It did not hurt me in television, but it did in features.”
As Elizabeth Banks conceded in a recent interview with us, as a woman director, “the minute you mess up, you might not get another shot.”
Leder did, however, continue to work steadily in television, the medium she began her career in. In 2006, she was nominated for an Emmy for directing an episode of “The West Wing” (Leder is a two-time Emmy winner for her work on “ER”). She has recently helmed episodes of “Nashville,” “Shameless” and “The Leftovers.”
When asked whether the barriers facing women to direct features are higher than the barriers in television directing, Leder said, “[B]udgets are higher [in features]. And it’s mostly males hiring. And they mostly hire males. That may sound controversial, but I can’t figure it out. Why aren’t there more talented women directing features? Why are women clawing to be directors when there are male directors who have made two or three $200 million failures and get to make another one? That doesn’t happen with women. Never.”
The interviewer observed that one unsuccessful movie “would not kill a man’s career,” which Leder agreed with: “No. They give a man three more movies and that’s the truth. I’m sure the statistics would bear that out. Look at the percentages of women directing in television and women directing in features.”
[via The New York Times]