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Lexi Alexander Explains Why #HireTheseWomen is More Than Just a Hashtag

By Lexi Alexander | /Bent June 27, 2014 at 5:35PM

Oscar-nominated director Lexi Alexander explains why she got involved with the #HireTheseWomen hashtag... and why it matters
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All the good stuff has already been said about the wonderful hashtag movement started by Miriam Bale and it's really good to see so many people rally behind it. After I added that first list of women filmmakers to the #HireTheseWomen chain and a few bloggers mentioned it, I received a couple of calls from people asking why I didn't included "so-and-so" on the list. I realized that I should probably explain how that specific list came about. 

Lexi Alexander on set
Lexi Alexander on set

Because I believe in doing more and talking less, I've been trying to come up with some kind of a solution, some type of platform for female directors and writers. People talk about crowd-funding, Indies, alternative distribution, etc. and that's all great, but I don't believe it does much for equality in the film industry. If women choose guerilla style filmmaking or new media productions etc., all power to them. But if they're there because "Big Hollywood" won't let them in, then we're moving further and further away from equality.

What do we say to a twelve-year-old girl who watches Star Trek for the first time and says: "I want to make movies like that".  Do we say: "Yeah, try to reduce your vision to something that's crowd fundable, you're a girl after all"? There are many, many women whose visions are more comparable to those of a J.J.Abrams, Chris Nolan, or Guillermo Del Toro's than to those of David Lynch or Spike Lee. (And for those specialists who keep insisting everything I write must be about me: I am not a tent-pole, big popcorn visionary at all, even if you see my name pop up in blogs as soon as one of them is announced.)

People around the world want all these movies, the big ones and the small ones, the loud ones and the quiet ones, but we can't have one production line with a big fucking "NO GIRLS ALLOWED" sign. I tried to explain this to somebody the other day who kept arguing with me that women and minority filmmakers should just create their own opportunities rather than bitch about Hollywood. "Grab your iPhone, make a movie, post it on Amazon, self-distribute, become a distributor" and so on.

First of all, every female filmmaker you have ever heard of has already done this ten times over, otherwise you would have never heard of them.  But more importantly, if we accept this as a permanent situation then we participate in creating the most screwed up, discriminating environment of the Western world, in the 21st century. Imagine telling all young women who dream of opening their own restaurants that only Food Trucks are realistic possibilities.

Director Tamra Davis
Director Tamra Davis

So, if both mainstream and guerilla filmmaking are out, then all that's left as a possible platform is TV. US folks probably think: "TV? Weren't you just talking about women who wanted to make movies, maybe even big, loud ones?". Yes. But since women don't ever get pulled from semi-Sundance fame to blockbuster filmmaker status and no crowd in the world will fund a bigger sized action or sci-fi movie for a new filmmaker, the options for our young, female J.J. Abrams are somewhat limited. The only chance she's got is by putting out some work that receives critical acclaim and most importantly, gains her a fanbase.

As someone who grew up in Europe I don't look  at TV and automatically think of a primetime network series, created by a staff of writers.  I think of 90-minute movies that can break talents out or a three 90-minutes-an-episode mini series that can introduce a fantastic new series like The Blechtley Circle. While this is not a very common format here in the US, there are some places like HBO, IFC and the Sundance Channel who have ventured into short form series or a new and classier version of what used to be known as "movie-of-the-week".

Long story short, a couple of months ago I met with my managers and told them I'd like to pitch an anthology of 90 minute mysteries/thrillers, each one directed and written by different women, that serves as a platform for female writers and directors (obviously there's more to this pitch, but I'm trying to keep this post at a readable length).

I fully suspected my managers to object with all kinds of "let's-not-mix-activism-with-showbiz" talk, but instead they loved they idea and helped me develop that pitch. One of their suggestions was that I should create a list of female writers & directors who fit this genre, whose names will be recognized by most Execs and who could start off this anthology with a bang, so that eventually, when it is a success and a brand,  it becomes a platform to for new female talent. That's how that particular list came about. The other list with the comedy directors, that really was created solely because an Executive told me that they've been asking all the agents  in town for names of women who could direct a female-driven comedy and ended up with one name only.

I'd hate the idea that somebody who's already being sidelined felt even more excluded by this list I created. Frankly I don't personally know most of the directors and writers on those lists, so this was not a personal preference. I merely went through the same process the agents go through when submitting their clients, which is pull a list of names of people who have a body of work similar to the project in question.

Women are under represented and neglected in all aspects of the entertainment industry, so naturally, those of us who want to make a change use any opportunity to shine a light on someone when we can. But it's tough to find the right balance between drawing attention to someone, yet not excluding the many other, equally deserving women.  I am often overwhelmed by it. I want to throw in the towel on this battle on a daily basis, especially when I watch much higher profile women stubbornly stay silent and refuse to get involved.

It's only because my loveable but very annoying mother keeps reminding me during every Sunday Skype call of my favorite quote from this fable I was obsessed with a child:

"There are things which you must do, even if they are dangerous, because if you don't you are not a human being, but just a little shit".

Astrid Lindgren (The Brothers Lionheart)