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Female Director Says Hollywood Isn't Actually Trying to Hire Women

Illustration for article titled Female Director Says Hollywood Isnt Actually Trying to Hire Women

Director Lexi Alexander received an Oscar nomination for her short film Johnny Flynton in 2003. Since then, she's directed movies like Green Street Hooligans (which she also wrote) and Punisher: War Zone. And this week, shortly before no women were nominated for Best Director, she took to her blog to write about the sexism she sees in the film industry.


Alexander's post, which was republished on Women and Hollywood, alleges that studios talk a lot about the importance of hiring women, but in reality, if they wanted to make things different, they would have done it already. "There is no lack of female directors," Alexander writes. "Repeat after me: THERE IS NO LACK OF FEMALE DIRECTORS. But there is a huge lack of people willing to give female directors opportunities."


Over the weekend, Alexander attended a Women's Steering Committee meeting for the Director's Guild of America. The Women's Steering Committee is one of several organizations in the DGA devoted to improving the diversity of directors hired for film and television products. At the meeting, Alexander found herself dejected; there was infighting between studios present and the DGA about whose fault it was that not enough women are working, and though things seem better in television with regards to available opportunities for new directors, most new directors are still predominantly white men:

The people with the most intelligent things to say were bullied into silence, the bullies were applauded and one fairly prominent female director actually stated several times in a row: "Let me make this very clear: I am not here as one of you, I am one of the boys okay?"

To Alexander, this type of "conversation" is just that: all talk and no action. She calls it "fake activism," writing, "Can we all just be real for a second here? Ask yourself this: If diversity hiring would be a sincere core value to Hollywood's studios, do you honestly believe they'd fail?'"

Though Alexander says she's gotten a few requests for meetings this month from places she knows are focusing on improving the diversity of their directors, it's a little upsetting to her to realize know that she's being approached mostly because she's a woman.


But it's still better than being rejected for being a woman. Alexander acknowledges that she's known as a "bitch" and "difficult" for being vocal about these issues. In the edit note before her republished piece, Women and Hollywood reminds us that Alexander wrote this piece "at great peril." In the fall, she made news when she alleged that she'd been refused a meeting with one of the producers of the upcoming film ExpendaBelles because she wasn't considered hardcore enough to direct the action film, despite her extensive experience with martial arts and fighting, plus the fact that she was a favorite of fans and Expendables original Sylvester Stallone. Though that movie is still in development and has yet to announce a director, they're likely to a pick a woman – just not Alexander.

Image via Koji Sasahara/AP

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Part of the problem and part of the explanation for the barrier of entry for anyone (women, minorities) to being a director is that it's a weird job that you can't really work your way into. I'm a film school grad, female, and I remember asking in college, but how do you get to be a director? All of my teachers said well, you have to direct stuff. And I asked the all important follow up question - but how do you afford that? ... This was in the days before Kickstarter of course, but that's still the most difficult thing. If you're an aspiring director, you have to do something (even a short film) and unless you hit it out of the park on the first try, you're going to have to do multiple things. Of course, if you have money to make multiple films, or money to go to a grad school like AFI, or both, you're in a pretty good position to keep making things until you make something that garners attention. Of course, if your husband or father or brother or etc, is high up in the Hollywood system, you will be given a chance to direct, possibly without having to make anything first. But if you're not in either of those situations, it's rough.

I have a dream one day of creating a film school/production studio geared toward women and people of color, (and poor people of all races and genders.) It'd be based on a system of meritocracy, in which you could work your way out of the college portion and into an actual job in the production company. You could also work your way into the job of director, by directing short films, then features, slowly increasing your knowledge, putting in your 10,000 hours, etc. But yeah, if I still, 10 years out of film school, haven't found enough money to make a feature, I probably don't have enough to create a film school. :) But hey, if I win the lottery!

Oh, and just to share my own experience a bit. I went to one of the top 3 film schools in the country and it was an amazing experience, but I had NO IDEA what to do after I graduated to pay my bills. That was my #1 concern by far. Making a film was so far behind that it was laughable. I ended up working in reality TV (which is actually an incredibly diverse field, in terms of gender, race and class) and it's been interesting. I'm just now, at the ripe old age of 33, trying to get back into writing and directing film, since it took me about a decade to get my confidence back after not understanding "how to make it" as a writer/director. Hopefully, one day it'll be easier for everyone outside the system to get in.