When Getting A Woman In The Executive Suite Isn't Enough

A third of the films accepted for the directors' fortnight portion of the Cannes film festival were directed by women. That this counts as a respectable ratio is sadly par for the course when it comes to directing. And Cannes includes films from around the world; the proportion of Hollywood movies directed by women is 7 percent.

This fact was discussed in a recent LATimes interview with Jodie Foster:

"I don't think it's a plot and these guys sat around and said let's keep these women out," Foster said. "I think it's like race psychology. When a producer hires a director, you're hiring away your control completely. You're bringing on somebody that will change everything. When you give that amount of power up, you want them to look like you and talk like you and think like you and it's scary when they don't, because what's gonna happen? I'm gonna hand over $60 million to somebody I don't know. I hope they look like me."

This is plausible as a partial explanation; it dovetails with the idea that hiring exclusion can arise out of an unstated desire to surround yourself with people like you who make you comfortable. But it gets more interesting:

When it was mentioned that many studio executives do, in fact, look like her — a 48-year-old white female veteran of the industry, Foster nodded. "And name the lists that come out of the female studio executives: guy, guy, guy, guy," she said. "Their job is to be as risk-averse as possible. They see female directors as a risk."

With this, the interviewer acknowledges both Foster's privileged status in the industry, including being white, as well as the fact that female studio executives aren't doing a particularly good job of moving the needle. (Update: And, we should add, Foster isn't particularly helping the status of women in the industry with her support for Roman Polanski and the fact that she's promoting a movie starring Mel Gibson.) This is more complex than cliches about "girl on girl crime" — female studio executives likely face even more pressure to show how they're one of the guys or to go with what's considered a sure thing for the bottom line. But it's another reminder that just getting women in the executive suite isn't enough.

Jodie Foster: Even Female Studio Execs See Female Directors As A Risk [LAT]
Cannes Directors Fortnight 2011: The Women [Women And Hollywood]
Earlier: Hollywood Insiders Admit Hollywood Hates Women
Big Budget Hollywood, Still A Man's Game