Producer Heather Rae may have a series of indie hits and festival favorites under her belt – from “Frozen River” to “Ass Backwards” to “I Believe in Unicorns” – but that doesn’t mean that getting her films made has ever been easy. One reason why? Well, Rae has been told to her face it’s because she traffics in films about women.
At a special screening last night of her newest film, Sian Heder’s Sundance premiere “Tallulah,” hosted by Variety, the Sundance Institute and fashion label Kerig, Rae and a panel of other female producers got real about their experiences in the industry and how it’s made their work that much harder to do.
Heder’s film, based on her 2006 short “Mother,” stars Ellen Page and Allison Janney and tells the story of what happens when the pair collide over a stolen (and perhaps neglected) baby. Seder’s short was a hit on the festival circuit, earning accolades at Oxford, Seattle and Florida, and even placing third in Cannes’ very prestigious Cinefondation category. And yet even that wasn’t enough to fast-track a feature version into production.
As Rae tells it, it took a decade to make the film because executives just didn’t care about films that focus on women.
“This film was deemed not commercially viable, because it was a woman’s story, and it wasn’t about getting the guy,” Rae said of the reaction of various executives to the film.
Rae’s panel also included producers Lydia Dean Pilcher (“The Namesake”) and Alix Madigan (“Winter’s Bone”) and Variety reports that all three agreed that “despite increased noise about the need for diversity…it is still hard to get pictures driven by, starring, and directed by women financed.”
Broad Green exec Madigan, who has also produced films like “Laggies” and “The Age of Adaline,” shared some of her own experiences. She told the panel, “The past seven movies I’ve worked on, five of them were directed by women, and it is still a very daunting marketplace for women. I hope that our business can change, but our business is an economic one and we have to find ways to make female films be perceived as profitable.”
“Tallulah,” of course, went on to not only get made with an all-star cast, but it was picked up by Netflix for $5 million before it even premiered at Sundance. The online outfit will release in on their platform and select theaters on July 29. Turns out, maybe stories about women really are worth a look. What an idea!
Check out a trailer for another one of Heather Rae’s productions below, with a look at “I Believe in Unicorns.”
Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Festivals newsletter here.