Today, Salon has the transcript of a roundtable discussion between a group of the most powerful women in Hollywood. The panel was moderated by producer Lynda Obst (Contact, Sleepless in Seattle). Included in the conversation were (among others) writer/director Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally), writer/producer Laura Ziskin (To Die For, Spider-Man), writer/director Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise), producer Cathy Konrad (Walk the Line), writer/director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry), and a female studio head: Universal president of production Donna Langley. (Part of the discussion appears in this month's Elle magazine, but Salon has the extended version.) The group touched on a number of subjects, including whether or not women — other than Julia Roberts, that is! — can "open" films. Some of the highlights, after the jump.
Women don't pursue producing and directing careers because they would rather have kids.
Ms. Ziskin says, "I think it's harder for women whose peak career-making years coincide with their peak baby-making years. Directing is a job that requires 100 percent of your time and energy and it's therefore hard to have children." Ms. Peirce points out, "I think the indie world is actually great for women, and for gay people. Because if you have a story, you're going to be able to [tell it]. That's where a lot of women get their start. But you get into your second, your third movie, and you're building a career, and it's hitting smack up against those years when you want to have a child. I mean, you can't get bonded [insured for the film] if you're pregnant." Callie Khouri admits that she chose her career over giving birth. "I didn't have kids because I felt like, I'm not going to be able to do both things. I'm not going to fail at two things," she reveals. "I'm the kind of person — it's hard for me to leave my dog. And my dog I can bring to the set and I don't feel so guilty about it. So I made a conscious decision... I'm going to give that up because I want to have a career." Margaret Nagle thinks that there's a double standard for working moms and working dads: "I was working with this producer, and his kid would have an ear infection and he'd leave the meeting, and everybody would go, 'Oh, God, he's so great,'" she says. "And I went, 'If I took that call and left this meeting because my kid had an ear infection, I'd be fucking vilified.' It would be over. There would be a call to my agent. I remember just thinking, 'You're probably going to see your mistress. You're not going to the kid with the ear infection.'
Women don't direct as many movies because the scripts don't come their way.
Cathy Konrad claims, "The material that gets made at studios is a function of the culture: what is branded and what makes money. I'm not saying that women only want to make dramas, but I do think that you'll find a lot more women that want to tell stories about people than cars." On the other hand, Ms. Khouri, despite writing Thelma & Louise, says she would love to do a movie about cars. "The stuff that comes to me is still way girlier than I would go after on my own," Khouri says. "I spent years trying to get a baseball movie made, and that didn't happen. I wanted to make a NASCAR movie. The stuff that comes to me, I'm always like, 'I don't want to do this. There's crying in this.' That's what sifts down to me, and it is frustrating. I would like to work outside of the female-centric world. But if it's got a woman in it, I'm going to have a better shot at [getting] it." Big action movies make money, but, Ms. Nagle says, "I've never wanted to make anything blow up. That was something my brothers did, and I never wanted to watch movies where people blew things up." Kimberly Pierce, on the other hand, is pro-explosions. "I love blowing things up," she admits. "I just did Stop-Loss, a war film, and there was nothing more exciting than when they set those cars on fire."
Women would go to the movies more if there was something worth watching.
The panel discussed the success of the Bourne movies, which appeal to women even though they have "all that testosterone." Also, though it was marketed to women, men went to see The Devil Wears Prada because "Everybody's had a scary boss," says Ms. Nagle. In addition, Spider-Man was an action-packed movie with emotional heart, so it had a broad appeal.
If Hollywood won't help, you have to do it yourself.
In the end, the women admitted that while there are only one or two women (Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon) that can get a picture green-lit by a major studio, Ms. Khouri and others just end up making their movies independently, with other actresses. Says Ms. Nagle, "There's more than one way to skin a cat. If you can't take one path, we're learning to take another path. And that's a very good path for chicks like us to learn."
Chicks Behind The Flicks [Salon]